Infinite Jest: an infinitely beautiful challenge


About a year ago while caught in a link chain on Wikipedia, I came across the mention of a book. A book infamous for its length, scope and difficulty (though this last was always prefaced with the assurance that it was in fact very ‘’entertaining’’).
It was of course, the mammoth ‘Infinite Jest’ by the late, brilliant David Foster Wallace.
I was strangely hooked by the idea of a book that has been understood almost as a rite of passage for any serious fiction reader – a trial of patience, brains and commitment to a book; to the idea of the book.

In the foreword of the latest edition, Dave Eggers posits that in the undertaking of ‘Infinite Jest’, the reader must put in a certain amount of work in order to receive the (worthwhile) benefits.
And so I started reading, while behind reception at work and just before going to sleep; the result being that I got about 150 pages in and it was relegated to the bookshelf to serve as conversational fodder and a bit of unspoken credibility.
When I started ‘Infinite Jest’ a year ago, I was ignorant to the ‘work’ needed to appreciate, and ultimately finish the incredible behemoth. My mind was on my job, my friends, the pub, bills etc. but not granted enough free space to just sit down in a chair in a room free from a glowing laptop, a muted t.v. or an iPod turned low.

When I was choosing the 4 books I would take with me to University (Flybe has some serious weight charges), I took ‘Infinite Jest’ down from the bookshelf almost without thinking.
Was it that cliché sense that University is that proverbial room in which space for thinking and ‘work’ was king?
I suspect that it was more that unspoken credibility, ‘‘Here is a serious reader, thinker’’, more the idea of the book than the words themselves.

So, I start again. A week ago I opened Wallace’s 1,079 page examination of our relationship with pleasure and I am 87 pages in. Already, it is challenging me – it could be my imagination, but it is easier this time around. I have that room, I have (I hope) the patience and I want to be on the other side of the challenge. It is after all, a beautiful one.

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