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What is the worst thing in the world?

When the contemptible are not shown adequate contempt.

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August 9, 2009 Posted by | boredom | 1 Comment

On Reading Infinite Jest

I read a quote once that said the only way you’re going to be able to read Proust is if you want to be reading Proust. I think the same can be said for Infinite Jest. You don’t read it because you want to see “what happens,” but because you enjoy the book’s voice and texture and the weird world it’s creating.

I’ve dipped in and read some of the Infinite Summer posts when I’ve checked on the schedule, and this seems to be the difference between those who enjoy it and those who don’t: the latter want some kind of payoff, either plotwise (in which case they’re terminally disappointed) or, since the plot-based satisfaction so obviously isn’t going to happen, morality-wise (the whole “read it because it will make you a better person” line). The morality aspect seems like a stretch to me, but it might serve a valuable purpose of motivating someone to keep reading until they learn to enjoy the type of novel Infinite Jest is.

And if they don’t? Well, maybe it’s just not their thing. I don’t have any particular stake in whether big thick postmodern novels are people’s thing or not — for me, the value of Infinite Summer is that it’s exposing people to that kind of thing so that they can make an informed decision on whether it’s their kind of thing (even if the conscious goal of the project is more ambitious and therefore dubious than the humble goal of figuring out a way to get people to try something because maybe they’ll like it).

August 9, 2009 Posted by | books, David Foster Wallace | 9 Comments