Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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The Inficratic Oath: first, post no spoilers. Limit your I.J. discussion to only those events that take place on or before the page 981 (100%).



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 Post subject: Re: First Impressions?
PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2009 2:03 pm 
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"Any apparent similarity to real persons is not intended by the author and is either a coincidence or the product of your own troubled imagination"

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 Post subject: Re: First Impressions?
PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2009 7:29 pm 
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Hello everyone! So glad to have discovered this network, as I anticipate this to be a really special and moving experience.

I have loved it so far, particularly:

-- the references to linguistic conventions, phonics, diphthongs, monothongs, and oral-laryngeal placement. I like the novelty of reading certain passages out loud to myself in order to fully appreciate what he muses (p.6 "accelerate, accentuate, facilitate") and somewhat esoteric puns (p. 8 and on "Exit -- He Leaves") and then the reference to "dry sticky salivaless sounds". I'm beginning to notice that DFW is particularly concerned with how his words are produced, physically.

-- in the first chapter (is that what we are calling them?) when Hal gets to really speaks for the first time I was completely blown away. I had to look up Dennis Gabor and Hegel. And the reaction of the Director is hilarious, and the disparity between what Hal said and the perception of the others in the room leads me to believe that he is some sort of Savant.

-- there is a break in the chapter (p. 10) that ends with "Call it something I ate" which is an in-joke to Hal's earlier observation (p.6) that the Deans have an I'm-eating-something-that-makes-me-really-appreciate-the-presence-of-whatever-I'm-drinking-along-with-it.

-- the part about Erdedy's efforts to obtain marijuana has a very specific cadence that lends the chapter a very tense mood, in stark contrast to the first 15 or so pages. I think that the change into third-person is meant to underscore that he lacks the self-awareness to realize the neurotic and frenetic patterns of his marijuana-related behavior.

-- the description of Mildred Bonk was, to me, very Nabokov-esque, particular the end of paragraph 1, page 39 "A vision in a sundress and silly shoes. Mildred L. Bonk". Anyone notice that Mil-dred-Bonk follows the same meter as Lo-Lee-Ta?

I also need to confess that within these first 42 pages, I've cried twice. When I think about DFW -- so young and brilliant -- and that he was unable to extricate himself from the depths of his nightmarish depression; I can only cry.

More laughing and crying to come, I'm sure of it.


Last edited by helloitslaura on Thu Jun 25, 2009 10:46 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: First Impressions?
PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2009 7:38 pm 
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Location: Philadelphia, PA
[/quote]

I think this is really important. When you're standing outside looking in, it can seem like a lot of DFW's work is nearly impenetrable. But once you start reading, you realize that he isn't going to let you drown--not for a second. If any modern writer was acutely aware of the connection between the reader and the writer, it was DFW. Like Dave Eggers says in the foreword, the book is drum-tight; there are no lazy sentences. They may be long and complex at times, but they're so perfectly constructed you just glide right through them. For the most part, his writing is a breeze to read, and for anyone who's tried to write on their own, he's both awe-inspiring and jealousy-inducing. He has such an idiosyncratic voice, a tone that's relaxed and erudite and inviting and gorgeous. I can't get enough of the man's prose. Which works out great, because there's always so much of it! And that's what intimidates people. The quantity. Once they dip their toes in, though, they realize that that doesn't mean he ever sacrificed quality, and that having such an enormous pile of genius dumped in your lap is pretty awesome, after all.[/quote]

That was really beautifully said.


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 Post subject: Re: First Impressions?
PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:29 pm 
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Such a wonderful read so far. Great analysis by all in this thread. Laura's post really resonated with me in multiple areas of the book so far. Great breakdown Laura. I look forward to more sharing here as we proceed.
I had only previously read the Kenyon Comencement speech from DFW. This book is only confirming his genius to me sentence by sentence. Glad to be a part of this infinite summer!

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 Post subject: Re: First Impressions?
PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 11:37 am 
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I started IJ a few weeks ago, so I'm a little ahead, but I just wanted to say how much the section where Hal is physically restrained (pages 12-15) made me laugh. And like actually laugh out loud for real, which books very rarely make me do. The image of these powerful men becoming so flustered by Hal's precocity is so playfully rendered, you can picture the reddening faces and wringing hands. Some of the hyperbolic one-liners from the directors are great ("I believe I've seen a vision of hell" / "The integrity of my sleep has been forever compromised, sir.").

I also love how DFW makes a punchline of his use of italics in that passage, when they're describing Hal's actions. It's like a text equivalent of seeing someone slip on a banana skin or something, they just add a little flourish. Imagine some of these lines without italics and they just wouldn't be the same:

'But the sounds he made.'
'Undescribable.'
'Like an animal'
'Subanimalistic noises and sounds.'
'Nor let's forget the gestures.'

-or-

'Flailing. This sort of awful reaching drumming wriggle. Waggling [...] Yes they waggled.'

That little section was the first point where I knew for certain that I'd read the whole book. Not just for the fact that it made me laugh, but for the fact that, in a book of 1,000+ pages, I appreciated not just the words but how they were presented on the page. One of those very simple things that are instantly rewarding.

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 Post subject: Re: First Impressions?
PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 11:58 am 
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Bob Loblaw (great name by the way) - I also thought the bathroom scene was quite funny, although I didn't really explain why in my post above, but you've hit the nail on the head.

I also started early (due to the fear that I'll fall behind on some weeks) and I'm going to have to say my initial impression of portions of laugh out loud funny combined with portions of just amazingly beautiful descriptive writing that I felt defined the first two sections (Hal, then Erdedy) are still holding true as I near page 100. While more characters are introduced, I still find myself alternately laughing and marveling at the writing in this book. I am now firmly sure that this book will remain in my favorite list for probably my whole life.


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 Post subject: Re: First Impressions?
PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 2:07 pm 
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Oddly, I'd not heard of DFW before reading the excellent article on his life and passing in the New Yorker magazine - so reserved IJ from the library, started it, realized immediately I could not stop reading it - up all night that first night, unable to stop, unable to sleep, just so enveloped by his inimitable style and incredible bravery. Had to buy book - could not teach while reading IJ so reading IJ for the second time while reading everything else by him this spring and summer.


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 Post subject: Re: First Impressions?
PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2009 8:01 am 
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Not as tough as feared, although some sections are tougher than others - particularly Erdedy's jonesing rants - until I accepted that I didn't have to follow every broken thought of his.

I should start reading earlier in the evening though, to avoid nodding off when the going gets tough.

Only real problem is that my hand starts cramping about 10 pages into a reading session. Maybe springing for a Kindle would have been worth it compared to the orthopedic surgery I might need by the time september rolls around.

;)


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 Post subject: Re: First Impressions?
PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2009 2:53 pm 
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I am really enjoying how descriptive he can be, at first I thought he was being a bit too "wordy" but yet hwen he describes the hall as Elphant Grey concrete I know exactly what color he means.

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 Post subject: Re: First Impressions?
PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2009 4:29 pm 
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I'm noticing some things in the basic writing style that may or may not have some significance...for example, the fact that he DFW hasn't really been using " quotation marks but rather ' quotation marks. As if the quotation is in bedded in someone else's quote. Also, he's not very fond of paragraphs - which makes it difficult to follow in spots. Some of the passages are really hard to follow/comprehend, while others read normally.


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