Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Infinite Reading

Right now I'm reading a book described in the foreword as "Holy shit." It's called Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace, and it's a book I heard about as an English major, but was never required to read. At 1,079 pages (including footnotes), it also serves as a great doorstop. The author of the foreword (Dave Eggers, one of my very favorite authors ever...and I mean I even read this foreword twice because I love his style that much) guesses that the average age of this book's reader is 25, so I feel like I'm in a good place to pick it up and see if I can make it through.

I'll just quote the foreword again to try to explain what this book is and why it's important that I'm trying to read it now:

"...make no mistake that Infinite Jest is something other. That is, it bears little resemblance to anything before it, and comparisons to anything since are desperate and hollow...."

"This book is like a spaceship with no recognizable components, no rivets or bolts, no entry points, no way to take it apart. It is very shiny, and it has no discernible flaws. If you could somehow smash it into smaller pieces, there would certainly be no way to put it back together again. It simply is. Page by page, line by line, it is probably the strangest, most distinctive, and most involved work of fiction by an American in the last twenty years. At no time while reading Infinite Jest are you unaware that this is a work of complete obsession, of a stretching of the mind of a young writer to the point of, we assume, near madness."

"It demands your full attention....yet the time spent in this book, in this world of language, is absolutely rewarded. When you exit these pages after that month of reading, you are a better person. It's insane, but also hard to deny. Your brain is stronger because it's been given a monthlong workout, and more importantly, your heart is sturdier, for there has scarcely been written a more moving account of desperation, depression, addiction, generational stasis and yearning, or the obsession with human expectations, with artistic and athletic and intellectual possibility."

When asked if he thinks it is our duty to read Infinite Jest, Eggers responds, "Maybe. Sort of. Probably, in some way. If we think it's our duty to read this book, it's because we're interested in genius. We're interested in epic writerly ambition. We're fascinated with what can be made by a person with enough time and focus and caffeine..."

So. This book is immense. It's unlike other things I've read. It boggles my mind. But: I'm interested in genius and ambition. I want to read this book for the same reasons I want to read most of the books I've read. I'm fascinated by what we humans are capable of creating. If I'm not blogging as much as normal, it's because I'm still deep in this book, working out my brain.

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