Truthful speaking would be a simple way to tell the truth, if the truth were simple and could be told.

09 July 2009

Infinte Summer

Most people hadn't heard of David Foster Wallace until his sad sad death last fall. Like the departure of Michael Jackson the attention that went toward him helped garner interest, so perhaps it's because of that that the a group of readers decided to form Infinte Summer. Not only does Infinite Summer (do you italicize the names of websites or put those things in quotes?) offer a sort of memorial for readers who were fans of the man's work, but it also provides incentive, a group therapy reading session, if you will, to get through DFW's masssive tome (yes, that extra 's' is necessary), Infinte Jest.

Like a lot of other people I picked up my first copy of that book a couple years back, I think my sophomore year in college. I found the ten dollar tenth anniversary edition online and asked my friend, Nate, to buy it for me, with the promise to pay him back (I don't think I ever actually gave him that ten bucks, so thanks bud!). For the next few years it sat on my bookshelf, adding to the weight that sagged down the wood panels or whatever they were placed on. Other DFW books started to appear around it, including Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, both of which I read before his death, so I can claim to the uber-pretentious claim of discovering him before he recieved more attention (though let's be honest: anyone who pays attention to anything that's going on in the literary world, even with half a head turned, would know the name David Foster Wallace: Chuck Klosterman is a pale imitation; Mark Z. Danielewski swiped his excessive footnote use and while House of Leaves may seem fun the first time you've read it, after you discover other things you realize how silly it really is, apart from a few geniunely good moments) but I still never managed to get past page 10.

Actually my most gallant effort came over the Christmas holidays where I made it a whopping 130 pages into the tome (including like 5 pages of footnotes) before giving up.

Anyway, the people at Infinte Summer had proposed that we all read along, perhaps even participate in some discussion, the massive novel Infinite Jest, which is 1000 pages long plus 100 pages of endnotes -- which are very important to the story and if you think you can skip, you better think again. They plan to read 75 pages a week and already are in week three, but that's all right if you're just jumping aboard now because lots of people, if you pay attention to their constant lines of updates, are behind in the quota.

Me being me, I finished the book earlier this week and it did take me longer to read than a lot of other things. It's really a piece that demands your patience and attention. It asks you to make as many connections as David Foster Wallace plans to reveal. And it might be one of the saddest things you'll ever encounter, though the relentless depression is offset by the fanatic hysterics, giving you this amazing balance of emotions, which is a part of what fiction should do. The first 200-250 pages are the most difficult to get through, and DFW gets a little excessive in what he's trying to do, as if calling more attention to prose acrobatics and multi-paged paragraphs than giving us progression. Until page 500, things start getting more interesting and you're laughing and wincing and squirming and still finding bits of the excessivness, the overabundance that DFW probably was saying mirrored the events of the book but there's still a point. From 500 to the end, with only a few scenes that could have been reduced a bit, the book is breathtaking and exhilerating. Truly magnificent, I kid you not.

But this isn't a book report, is it? Or even a critical evaluation/review. I just wanted to tell you about this website.

It's a thing well worth your time and if you're the type of person who needs structure and communion to get through something huge, then it might be perfect for you. Or if you're just interested in seeing the different effects literature can have on different people, read a variety of opinions and interpretations and usually fairly well-thoughtout and reasoned explications, then check it out.