Friday, December 31, 2010

Infinite Friday: Friday No. 2

This is my favorite story that my friend moccasins tells: His daughter had received a gift of $20 from her grandparents, and didn't immediately fold it into a purse or wallet or whatever. The family dog, aged and going through a gnaw-on-important-things period in her life, ate the bill. This was not long after the dog had ripped apart my friend's own wallet and left his driver's license looking more like an ATM receipt that went through the wash.

They waited patiently for the dog to void the 20-spot, which she did in their yard on a cold day. Moccasins was able to extract the bill from its digested Purina casing. It was still intact. He washed it, dried it, and quickly got the money out of their home, and into public circulation.

This is an approximation of a metaphor for reading "Infinite Jest." It will do because I like the gruesomeness of the tale. When Michiko Kakutani reviewed the novel in the New York Times, there was an accusation that DF-Dubs simply tipped over his brain, and let all his words spill into it. According to "Although You End Up Becoming Yourself," an extended interview with DFW by David Lipsky, this is exactly what the writer did not want people to think. I'm trying to remember that every 20-page chunk of text was labored over, every sentence purposeful. But damn. That is a struggle. I've emerged from these chunks of text blurry eyed and defeated, having gleaned just the gist and a gem of a sentence, a phrase, or some bit fantastic humor. The proverbial 20 dollar bill rescued from the intestines of a precocious dog.

This week, for the first time, I wonder if I will finish "Infinite Jest." When I like it, I really really like it. When it just seems like a string of acronyms I start eyeballing everything else in our house that contains words. Something to save me from this book.

Progress: I am on Page 430. But I realized mid-week that I missed end note 110, and so I have to double back to that. I've been chiseling away at it willy nilly.

3:05 p.m. Sunday: I'm hiding from "Infinite Jest." I know it's coming. A 20-plus page section about a complicated game that the students at Enfield Tennis Academy play. There is an element of Math, I'm told.

I haven't avoided spoilers. I don't believe there is a spoiler in the world that can sully this book. It's too fine tooth combed for anyone to ruin anything with a casual "Oh, the Eschaton part ..." Reading this part is the only thing on my to-do list for the day. But here I sit on the couch, "Infinite Jest" in the kitchen, where I can't see it. On purpose. Once I get past this part, my resident spoiler has said, it is smooth sailing. Still ...


Sometime early Monday morning: It is still dark when I wake from the most amazing dream. In it, I watched an L-shape corner of light on the wall, as a corresponding L-shape slide into it like a puzzle. This, David Foster Wallace told me in the dream, was the answer to "Infinite Jest." I was euphoric. It felt the way walk-toward-the-light moments are described. For the entire day, I walk around glowing, but barely remembering the details of this dream.

"Maybe David Foster Wallace haunts the people who read his book," Chuck suggested. 
This book is fucking with my head.


Wednesday-ish: David Foster Wallace is at his best when he is describing physical deformities.


Thursday PM: The 2007 short-lived TV show "Hidden Palms" seems to be a generic version of "The O.C." Rich kids in California, plenty of mixers at the Country Club, a misunderstood hero with a six month stint in rehab after he got all whack with the booze because his father shot himself. I had planned to read until the words turned into one word and spun off the page. Instead, I stare mindlessly at 4.5 episodes of this show. 

Supplemental reading
"A Country Dying of Laughter," by Michiko Kakutani, Books of the Times, New York Times, Feb. 13, 1996: "Somewhere in the mess, the reader suspects, are the outlines of a splendid novel, but as it stands the book feels like one of those unfinished Michelangelo sculptures: you can see a godly creature trying to fight its way out of the marble, but it's stuck there, half excavated, unable to break completely free."


Futbol said...

i tried reading infinite jest last year. i was fresh off the broom of the system and my brain was filled with wittgenstein and Candy Mandibles and all sorts of weird dystopian present-futures so that, predictably, i gave up in exhaustion after a few pages.

but you have inspired me to try again. wherever you go, i shall follow, approx. 300 pages behind (currently on 85).

lastly, on the point of deformities: YES. to me, the musical incarnation of DFW has always been jeff mangum of neutral milk hotel:

Two headed boy, she is all you could need
She will feed you tomatoes and radio wires
And retire to sheets safe and clean


Two headed boy
All floating in glass
The sun it has passed
Now it's blacker than black
I can hear as you tap on your jar


And in the dark we will take off our clothes
And they'll be placing fingers through the notches in your spine

ok, i'm done.

Christa said...

Well, this is exciting. I envy you, still having the best part of the book (at least my favorite part so far) ahead of you. It starts on Page 242 and it is a scream.

You know, I've never really listened to Neutral Milk Hotel, but a lot of people I like like them. So ... okay. Since you picked up Infinite Jest again, I'll listen.