December 14, 2011 by NH
I’ve started reading Infinite Jest.
It’s a monolith of a book, 1000-pages plus, about (or so the reviews lead me to believe) our society’s obsession with entertainment.
Forty pages in and my mind is being blown.
I’ve been introduced to a pot addict waiting for a delivery, a tennis star who can’t speak without being strapped down and admitted to a mental institution, (seriously), a billionaire who doesn’t use cutlery, (he wears a special bib around his cheeks; his Korean wife places food and drink onto the plastic so it slides into his mouth), and a woman who is regularly and openly abused by her mother and the man of the house. She’s also illiterate.
I have been saving this book for years. After reading the genius that was David Foster Wallace in Consider the Lobster, I promised myself I’d read Infinite Jest when I finished my degree. It was a reward, a treat.
The day after I submitted my thesis, I walked to Folio Books and bought it.
(Side note: I’m one of few people I know who would consider reading a 1000-page tome a treat.)
When he died, I read a post on Twitter which went along the lines: “If David Foster Wallace couldn’t stand being in the world any more, we’re all screwed.” That’s when I knew I needed to read him.
Foster Wallace (should that be ‘Wallace’?) is known for bending the world so you can see its dark and often ridiculous underside. He spouts uncomfortable truths about people and our systems in prose so beautiful you have no idea you’re being laughed at. You get the feeling that while he might be laughing at you, he is, or was, laughing doubly hard at himself.
This trip in the world of Wallace (that’s better) is an important one for me to take right now. I’ve been saving up these things, these treats – like Infinite Jest – for the past couple of years. The phrase: “When I finish uni …” has been my ever-so-annoying catch phrase.
Lots of things have recently finished for me: university, writing my first novel, worrying about maintaining full-time employment, a debilitating bout of depression, my career as a paid writer… There’s been so much churn lately I’ve not had time to think past what’s happening in front of me, what I need to get done, when I need to get it done by.
But all those things have ended, and now the world is calm.
And the world is full of complicated, simple, delightful people.
And the world is full of light, and silence, and space.
And the world is full of infinite jest.
Also, this is true:
“Fiction is one of the few experiences where loneliness can be both confronted and relieved. Drugs, movies where stuff blows up, loud parties — all these chase away loneliness by making me forget my name’s Dave and I live in a one-by-one box of bone no other party can penetrate or know. Fiction, poetry, music, really deep serious sex, and, in various ways, religion — these are the places (for me) where loneliness is countenanced, stared down, transfigured, treated.”
― David Foster Wallace
*The title is taken from Infinite Jest.