Friday, December 24, 2010

Infinite Friday: Friday No. 1

I have been reading the multiple-pound Gen X trophy "Infinite Jest" by DF-Dubs for about a week, sometimes even daring to lug this around in my purse for quickie reads at lunch tables, and for the increased shoulder strength. "Infinite Friday" is a weekly series chronicling the mental disaster of reading a book fatter than a slab of super expensive, family-sized beef. It's a wordy road trip. And yes, I am making a BFD over reading a book a zillion of people have read before me. Just like people who whip up a froth of baby batter, ingest it, and crap out a two-legged screamer make a BFD out of doing that. And double yes, I'm comparing reading "Infinite Jest" to giving birth because I'm naive. I probably should have compared it to running a marathon.

Progress: I'm on Page 278.

Here is the truth: This book is divided into hearty chunks of seemingly unrelated activity. Young tennis players, burglars, an NFL punter, and a wheelchair-bound dude on a hill in Arizona, trading information with a cross dressing agent. Whenever I am faced with a sliver of white space, I pause, wipe my greasy brow, take a deep breath and dive into the next skyscraper of text. (Later, while supplementing my DFW fiction with my DFW fact, I'll learn that he wrote this like this for that reason. Natural time out breaks). Sometimes these sections are super charming, super funny, super interesting. Sometimes they are written in dialect and I glean a fraction of what is happening, and that is when I begin referring to the book as "Infinite Gist" in my head. Sometimes I'm counting the words until I can get past the area in question, I'm just reading to get through it, and then I hope it never doubles back to that storyline ever again. But it probably will.

I have at least four times set the book aside and said: That was my favorite part. No, that was my favorite part. The current leader is a hefty chunk-of-a-scene where Hal Incandenza is having huge success clipping his toenails into a wastebasket positioned a few meters away, while talking to his estranged brother on the telephone about discovering their father had killed himself by putting his head in the microwave. For a good visual, imagine putting a potato in the microwave, sans slit. 

Chuck has read the book, and has stressed the trust DF-Dubs mantra enough that I'm not panicking over any of my own confusion. He's also said that reading this is about reading this and not about getting to that final page, slapping the beast shut and getting a celebratory-style shitfaced about it. I'm, of course, paraphrasing. There is a it's-the-journey-not-the-destination-ness about this.

This is a fun book. I mean, really fun. "Fun" is exactly a word that DFW uses about 900 times in the interview with David Lipsky. I also spend a lot of time flipping pages, like I'm waiting for animation to appear in the lower right hand corner. 

When I'm not reading "Infinite Jest," I'm reading about "Infinite Jest": Wikipedia, the NYT's book review -- curiously written by Jay McInerney, and interview Laura Miller from Salon had with him in 1996. Plus, Chas is reading Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallaceso I like to pick that up for snack-sized moments of DF-Dubs, IRL.

The unusualness of reading the candid dialogue of a 34-year-old long hair in the aftermath of this thing he made, while at the same time reading the thing he made. I have, at my fingertips, DFW's entire life: His resume, his discography, his love interests, and everything he wrote or will ever write, save for his posthumous whatevers. David Lipsky's Foreword, or actually Afterword that appears before the book starts, paints this thinned version of a once-hulking man, his medication isn't working, his mom is rubbing his arm aware that he is about to leave the planet. Lipsky quotes Franzen: DFW's death as his friend being sci/fi sucked from an airlock. His sister knows, just knows, that he kissed those dogs on the mouth before hanging himself. I'm finally crushed by something that I simply found tragic with a side of interesting before all of this.

This is pretty typical of me to develop an emotional attachment to the writer, instead of an intellectual attachment to the work. I never walk in the front door, I tend to check the windows first.

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