Those who incredibly love the late (great, just to get out of the way which team I’m on) David Foster Wallace, and those who feel, in my experience, pretty darned passionate about not liking DFW. It’s interesting. As someone once said, “I don’t give a damn for just the in-betweens…”

Women, as a statistically invalid subset (not because of the N, but because of the POTENTIAL sample bias), by personal observation and interview, are not DFW fans. So I found out that one of my semi-distant nieces was a fan (and obvious weirdo), and I e-mailed her, immortalized below. But really the point is that people are not generally ambivalent about DFW. So if you hate him, move on.

I want to tell you that your love of Wallace has impressed me in a way much like [your sister’s] joining the Peace Corps. Like, “Holy shit! She’s not a moron teenager anymore!”

So, since I’ve figured you’ve slogged through Infinite Jest at least once, I thought I would pass along some secrets, since I’m about 200 pages from finishing my third read since it came out.

Did you know the first 17 or so pages are the chronological end of the book? I did not until I stumbled upon an online “book club” reading IJ over the summer, which included a lot of fairly public intellectual smart people as contributors.

As with the movie central to the book’s plot, the idea of the book is just to keep reading it over and over again. Obviously, the thing is too much to inhale in one read, that’s the meta in-joke.

It gets better with each read. I’m totally engrossed again, because there is just too much shit going on, too many authorial conventions that need to be learned, to even get a hint after one read.

Another cool observation: The endnotes are VERY integral to the story, not in the least J.O. Incandenza’s filmography. I recommend they be read as a separate “book,” to further enjoy it if you’re up for another read.

There is no question that IJ is my answer to the question, “If you only had one book with you on a deserted island…”

Nobody crawls into the human psyche like Wallace did. I’m going to miss him a lot.

Hope you’re doing OK all in all, kiddo. […] I think of you often.

Love,

J

Update: Cultural maturity/progress may could be measured, if I may, by IJ replacing Atlas Shrugged as the most enduringly influential novel for smart young people of a generation or two from now. All you have to do with the Shorter summary of the two books is change it from, “Greed and selfishness are good, especially if you’re Jesus-ethics pure” to, “Everyone is fucking nuts, except for their (traditionally defined) functional capacity.”

A man can dream.

Advertisements