Embarking on the journey that is “Infinite Jest”

Not one but TWO bookmarks required

At the beginning of this month I started a second challenge: reading David Foster Wallace’s 1,079 page treatise on… well, I’m not all that sure yet. I first thought about tackling this book last summer when I saw this site, which documented the process of reading the thing over the course of three months– from June 21 to Sept. 22. An “Infinite” summer. However, I stumbled upon it some time in July and knew I wasn’t going to be able to catch up. Instead, I am reading it this summer, June 1 until Sept. 1. It averages out to about 75 pages a week — in theory. The thing I don’t understand about that method is the darn endnotes.

The last almost 100 pages of the book are endnotes, which are made reference to throughout the first 900+ something pages, so you’ve actually got to keep two bookmarks with you– one for the book and one for the endnotes. One endnote I came across within that first 75 pages last week was ten pages itself. I feel like I can’t go on reading the main text until I’ve read any endnote I come across; some online readers I’ve heard from say this is the way to do it, while others say you can go back and read them later. As long as you do read them, because they swear they’re important later.

I read “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men,” a collection of DFW short stories and essays, last month. I felt that was good practice for “Infinite Jest,” getting used to those bizarre endnotes and all. However, with that book, the endnotes were at the bottom of the page they are referred to on (and in many cases, the bottoms of several continuous pages). That’s not the case with “Infinite Jest,” but I think I actually prefer IJ’s layout between the two.

I want to write a review of “Brief Interviews” soon, especially since I finally got to see the movie over the weekend. The movie, which came out last fall, may have solidified my interest in DFW. It was adapted and directed by John Krasinski, who said in an interview that he used his first paycheck from “The Office” to buy the rights to this book. If that was not going to pique my interest, nothing ever would.

I got through the first 75 pages in Week 1, which means I better somehow get to 150 before Sunday night. For some reason it feels like it takes several minutes to get through a single page. There’s a few words I don’t know so I either have to figure them out in their context or look them up. I keep making notes of pages with passages I want to go back to, or lines that I liked. It’s a surprisingly difficult book to read, and it’s only the beginning, from what I hear. Wish me happy reading.

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