Friday, January 7, 2011

Infinite Friday: Friday No. 3

In the early 00s, during what I now refer to as "The Lost Years," I fell on a curb and probably broke my thumb. It was post-bar hours. If I had a cell phone at this point, the battery had died. If it was a land line, the phone had been disconnected because I flaked on the bill. Again.

I was living downtown in what I thought was urban Huxtable-style edginess, and now understand to be a row house. Two blocks away there was an outdoor telephone in the parking lot of a liquor store. I'd ditched out into the night to make one of those phone calls you only make when your 'faced, and you hope you forget you made when you're not.

I tripped on the curb on 4th St. and 6th Ave. E., and jammed my thumb. I don't remember if it hurt, but I'm guessing it didn't. When it healed, I had an extra bump on my right hand. A freakish bulge in the webbing where thumb meets hand. I can't lift moderately heavy things like a sauce pan. And now, reading "Infinite Jest," this thing has an arthritic throb. It's a heavy book.

I thought it was a weather thing. Like, now I could use my hand to predict snow storms and humidity levels and barometric pressure. Until I climbed into bed with the book, propped it in the way in which I was accustomed to reading things, and realized my thumb was being overworked.


Progress: I am on page 620, and struggling with the opposite problem I had last week: Instead of hiding from "Infinite Jest," I am damn-near turning the car around when I forget to bring it with me when I leave the house.

In the past week, a kid's head has gone through a computer monitor during a rowdy game of Eschaton, a man's eyeball was gouged with a giant spike, his brother impaled by the old broom-down-the-throat trick. Hal's mom gets caught in a situation with Enfield's star player, and the on-campus smartass and arguably one of my favorite characters in the book, delivers the best response:

"I probably won't waste everybody's time asking if I'm interrupting."

I am now in the early stages of a street fight, and I know that by the time I go to sleep, one of my favorite characters will be dead. (Stupid spoiler in the Lipsky book).


I found myself in a situation recently where I really wanted to say to someone "Have you read 'Infinite Jest'? Because I think that really applies here." This turned into a piece of inner fan fiction where I am able to tell if someone has read this book just by the way they talk.

This book, by the way, is applicable to everything ever.

Some day I'm going to be telling whacky stories from this book that I will confuse as things that have happened in my own life.


I like this part of a review by David Kipen that ran in the LA Times in 1996. "Half the time you'll want to pitch the damn book clear into the next room, with or without benefit of doorway, but the other half you can actually feel your attention span stretching back out to where it belongs."

The "attention span stretching" reminds me of part of DF-Dubs conversation with David Lipsky in "Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself."

DFW: "We sit around and bitch about how TV has ruined the audience for reading -- when all it's done is given us the really precious gift of making our job harder. You know what I mean? And it seems to me like the harder it is to make a reader feel like it's worthwhile to read your stuff, the better a chance you've got of making real art. Because it's only real art that does that."

And then:

DFW: "You teach the reader that he's way smarter than he thought he was. I think one of the insidious lessons about TV is the meta-lesson that you're dumb. This is all you can do. This is easy, and you're the sort of person who really just wants to sit in a chair and have it easy. When in fact there are parts of us, in a way, that are a lot more ambitious than that."


And then from the random files of things that people say about this book that I like, here is Ron Currie Jr., also in the LA Times: "It pretty much reconfigured my sense of what's possible in a novel, which is to say it made clear there's very little you can't do if you're writing with conviction and confidence. And it taught me that it's possible to be funny and playful and earnest and intensely cerebral all at the same time. I hadn't seen too many examples of that sort of range before, and have seen very few since."


I can't figure out which member of the Incandenza family is my favorite.


Allow me to get a little sentimental here, but there is this second in a chunk about Mario Incandenza where he admits that he hates florescent lights -- just like his father did. David Foster Wallace hated florescent lights, according to this Lipsky book. So much that he held class in his own home, instead of on campus under those florescent lights.

I like seeing these little DFWisms creep into the characters. Writer immortality, blah blah blah.


In summary, this is all a big mix of a shitton of characters doing a shitton of things and acronyms and dialects, and then all of a sudden a woman gets her naked keister stuck in a bus window, gets a settlement because of the embarrassment, hires a 24/7 pastry chef, and gourmet desserts herself to death.
So smart. So slapstick. DFW is like a guy explaining the physics of tennis, then asking you to pull his finger.


Amy said...

that thing on the base of your thumb is totally a ganglyon cyst.
-doctor amy

Christa said...

It's a gangl-something, that's for sure.

Futbol said...

I'm partial to Pemulis. Just kidding. I'm all about Mario, so far.

Unrelatedly, I wish DFW would stop using the words "howling fantods" every 10 pages.

Relatedly, I'm also getting tired of the "and but like"s and w/r/t and re.

Finally, I'd like to point out that me and Madame Psychosis have very similar interests in film.