Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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 Post subject: Why read Infinite Jest?
PostPosted: Thu Jun 04, 2009 12:05 pm 
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Joined: Thu May 28, 2009 7:59 pm
Posts: 37
An email I just received:

Quote:
I'm interested, but can someone tell me why I should devote so much time to this big book? If I'm going to tackle one so fat and perplexing, wouldn't it be more worthwhile to read Ulysses by Joyce?


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 Post subject: Re: Why read Infinite Jest?
PostPosted: Thu Jun 04, 2009 12:42 pm 
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Honestly, you could view this as a training run for something like Ulysses. I figure this book will be in language at least more scrutable (less inscrutable?) than Joyce's, and Wallace has always intrigued me as a contemporary author from his essays. After reading Bolano's 2666, and really enjoying it, I figured I'd give this one a go. Ulysses is on my list too, but I figured I save the time warp to Joyce until after I had proven to myself I could read a giant tome by someone who had at least heard of a Nintendo.


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 Post subject: Re: Why read Infinite Jest?
PostPosted: Thu Jun 04, 2009 10:54 pm 
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If the individual who sent the email is, by his/her own admission, interested, that should be reason enough. Life is long enough to read many books. Unless you're old.


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 Post subject: Re: Why read Infinite Jest?
PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 3:04 am 
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For me, it's a book that has been hyped up by several acquaintances, and one that I've been interested in reading for a while, so when I heard about Infinite Summer I thought it would be a good motivation for me to actually read the book. As for why you should read it in general, I think the previous poster pretty much summed it up - if you're interested in reading it, read it.

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 Post subject: Re: Why read Infinite Jest?
PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 10:14 am 
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It's a good book. It can be enjoyed on a number of levels. That's why.

Maybe it's just me, but I saw in that email an assumption that the defining equivalence between "important" books is their page count and the perception of the labor required to read them. If that's the mindset, I think it's unlikely that the reader will get as much out of the book as they might otherwise.


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 Post subject: Re: Why read Infinite Jest?
PostPosted: Sat Jun 06, 2009 4:15 am 
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A few reasons I think you should read it:
1. Challenge & Rewards - The structure, complexity and topics are unlike any book that I know of. I gather from watching and reading interviews with David Foster Wallace (DFW) that he believed a lot of art and life is handed to us on a plate. Good art and things of value often require work. This book not only makes you work, but it makes you think about and appreciate the value of putting forth effort to understand art, literature, etc. After reading it, you may find a greater sense of discipline and willingness to dig deeper for things that are 'real'.

2. Insights from a Brilliant Writer - There are numerous insights in the book. Current, useful insights. DFW was brilliant. I don't mean brilliant like a typical smart person. He's brilliant in a unique way. He had an in-depth understanding of math, philosophy, tennis, medical information, literature, and more. He's able to take pieces from these areas and combine them into a paragraphs and pages that somehow yield a compelling story or chapter. All I can say to explain this is I would get to the end of a chapter or section and think "he started with point A to get to point Z? I can't believe someone is capable of doing that."

3. Modern - The book is modern. The feelings are very current. You can relate to some of the people in the book. Their struggles with addictions, obsessions, stasis, and general what it is to be a person in today's world. You don't need to be an addict or tennis player to relate to them, but you can relate. A lot of great books took place in other times. Yes, they are relevant but it's nice to have a great book that feels like now. I think IJ has pieces of modern life for us to think about and feel.

4. Not Your Father's Post Modern - The book may not be post-modern like most post-modern you've read. DFW's work has been called "sentimental post-humanism", "post-scientific" and I am sure there will be more names used to describe it. I don't know what it is or what category it belongs in. I think you will find that it's about people being human with real feelings and thoughts. From what I've read, DFW hated the solipsism in current literature and modern life. IJ may gives insight into what he means. Read his commencement speech. It gives you some idea of where DFW coming from and what he trying to do with his writing. I am not saying he is trying to inspire with his IJ. IJ is a sad book. I am saying he seems to want to re-focus the author and reader from their "default setting".

5.Perspective - You will see things differently after reading it. I can't say why or how, but the book tweaks your perspective.

6. Something to think about - the book is not about closure and wrapping everything up in a nice bundle. Some people hate that about the book. You may hate it, but you also may end up with something to think about. The pot of gold is not always at the end and there may not be a pot of gold.


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 Post subject: Re: Why read Infinite Jest?
PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2009 8:27 am 
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Is this an easy read? No but you have to give this book a chance. I read it two years ago when I was challenged to do so in 30 days. Now I did make it in that time frame but I never got to enjoy the journey, It was only about finishing it and not really reading it. I am so happy that this time I can take the enjoy to READ this book.

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 Post subject: Re: Why read Infinite Jest?
PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2009 9:42 am 
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Mimi Smartypants tackles this question today: http://infinitesummer.org/archives/106


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 Post subject: Re: Why read Infinite Jest?
PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2009 10:25 am 
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I believe the most obvious and compelling reason to read Infinite Jest is because we all struggle with the kind of intellectual solipsism that the novel addresses. I mean, even the very concept of Infinite Summer is a nod to the kind of frantic escape from isolation that preoccupies all of the major characters. In that sense, if you are tempted at all to participate in any communal reading of any ambitious novel with a group of internet strangers, Infinite Jest is a good way to explore why.


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 Post subject: Re: Why read Infinite Jest?
PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2009 11:41 am 
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Ha ha, this is what I've been telling my friends to get them to do with me: BECAUSE ALL THE COOL PEOPLE ARE DOING IT THIS SUMMER.

'Nuff said.

:D


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