I sort of wish I’d started this blog back in June, when the Infinite Summer project began. At that time, a grassroots effort was launched to encourage people to read the approximately 981 page (plus a ridiculous amount of endnotes – seriously) postmodern novel during the three-month summer period. Since it was one of my “I’ve always meant to read that” books, and my local library and some Twitter friends were encouraging me to do so, I decided that surely I could read ten or so pages a day by September 22nd. And so I did.
I’ve been asked if Infinite Jest was worth my while. I find that a difficult question to answer. There are pages of pure brilliance and magnificence. There are also portions of the book that made my eyes go glazed. Mostly, there are a lot of things that will stay with me, which means that the novel certainly had an impact. I’ll remember Hal Incandenza and Don Gately, Madame Psychosis, Mario, Mike Pemulis, Lenz (a character I actively hoped would die), John “No Relation” Wayne and Steeply and Marathe. Turns of phrase, like “howling fantods”, “eliminated his map”, and “The Entertainment”, have entered my own vocabulary.
The toughest question, of course, is “what is Infinite Jest about?” It’s about junior tennis, drug addiction and recovery, lethal entertainment, friendship, antagonism, competition, ghosts, secessionism, advertising, Boston, filmmaking, gamesmanship, and beginnings and endings (though not necessarily in that order). There’s a lot of Hamlet in it, and it’s a book that rewards over time rather than immediately.
Having finished the book, I know now I have to go back and read the first 20 or so pages. Perhaps that’s the “trick” of Infinite Jest. It doesn’t allow you to let it go away.