09 July 2013

Infinite Jest, Day 09.

Before I leave for Australia, I made a note to blog about my progress with David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, as I have mostly been posting quotes that appeal to me throughout my reading. Typically, I dog-ear several pages, then go back through picking out the one quote or section I like the most to post.  My intention was to post an update that was more substantive, regarding my reading and my thoughts on the novel.

Well...I don't know how to tell you this, but at Day 09, I decided to that as much as I'm enjoying the novel. It is time to put it down. As I read the last pages (around 330), I found myself thinking about a number of things...and it was then I realized that the time to read this novel is not now. However, I do have a few insights, or in the least, thoughts I had about reading the novel.

For one, it was suggested to me when I was about 1/8th into the novel to purchase a companion book alongside the novel. Yes, this is absolutely necessary. I spent 1/8th of the novel reading into the dark. I had no idea what was happening. Given that I know very little about the style of the novel, I found myself completely lost, reading bits and pieces of narratives without any real insight into how these pieces fit together. Now, yes, I think this is the point of the beginning. Like a film that begins with short narratives of major characters that eventual weave together in interesting and complicated ways....however, Wallace's complexity left me completely lost. I kept thinking...Wait, I'm just not smart enough to read this. With the companion guide, I was able to understand the ways in which chapters and sections are organized, just what in the world this "Year of" ordering was, and the major characters. It allowed me to more clearly read the next 3/8ths of the novel much more successfully. So, yes, without a doubt, get yourself a companion guide to read alongside. However, also realize this generally adds about 700 pages to your reading of 1000 pages. Thus, I believe one of my reasons for stopping at this point is that trying to rush through the novel at this point is not desirable.

Secondly, I realized I have a dirty little habit of reading myself into novels. I'm looking for myself when I read. Yes, I am that egotistical. I found myself bored, yes, I said it, with all the technical details...and while I admire Wallace's ability to construct an entire new world-- in a sense; I found myself too quickly reading the technical sections to get to the more philosophical, narrative-based sections. As a sociologist, I can't help but be drawn to the narrative, to the relationships. And given some of my own personal experience, I was drawn more so to the issues of isolation, boundaries, and addiction. When I finished a section and turned to the companion to make sure I was following the correct thread, I realized I missed quite a bit by my quick reading. That in between the technical details, there was substance that I was not taking the time to explore. I do not want this to happen.

Third, one of the reasons I chose to read the novel was, ahem, because I watched the Josh Radnor movie Liberal Arts. I was so curious to find out how the novel provided the backdrop for the characters in the movie and I knew I always wanted to read some of Wallace's work (maybe now is the time to select another novel for the time being). As I was thinking about whether or not it was time to put the novel down for another time, I remembered a couple of scenes in the movie. There was the idea about having to "suffer through great art." In particular, there is a debate about whether art and culture is something to "enjoy" (in the case of the movie, they reference vampire novels) or rather, it is something that you "suffer" through because it is such a great work of art. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying reading the first third of the novel was suffering by any stretch of the imagination, but it was work. It is hard work. I commend those of you who have read the entire novel, particularly those of you who have read it several times. I hope to do this one day. But I realized that the novel began dragging me around, rather than operating as a treat, which is ultimately why I do my monthly projects. It seems to me that my enjoyment could be enhanced by reading the novel over a more expansive amount of time. Where I could enjoy each section over a month, dissecting, interrogating, reading each word, as opposed to trying to reach the end. This leads me to my next point.

Fourth, it seems to me that Wallace wants you to work for the pay-off. He wants you to live inside the characters. He wants you to understand the acronyms and technicalities in the way he did when he was writing the novel. This is not a book you can read quickly and come away with more than a cursory understanding or you know, in my case, a month full of quotes. Yes, they are damn good quotes. And yes, they move me. But again, I don't think this is the way to read this book. It is the long-con, the long narrative. Simultaneously, this reminded me of how I've learned to think in my academic work. What is the take-away? How can you describe your dissertation in one sentence? One paragraph? What is your elevator speech? I've been trained to think in these shorter narratives. And thus, it becomes difficult to allow myself to let a story unfold, no matter how messy, and realize that by the end, it will become clear to me. Incidentally, this is the way my dissertation took shape. It was messy. Everyone wanted to know my research question, my take-away, my one sentence description...and well, at first, it was messy, it was all over the place...and then it came together. While I appreciate this in my own work, I know this did not take place in merely one month. I also know it did not take place in two or three months. It took years. And, I think, I'd rather read this novel in a way that allows my mind to think in this way.

Lastly, I've learned in my personal life, there is a joy in knowing when to quit, when to call something off, when to just say, "Okay, I tried this. Let's stop now. Let's do something else." Because, well, I can come back to it. And trust me, I intend to return. But for now, it is time to turn my attention to the second novel on my list to read for July.

Besides, I have a phone date scheduled with my best friend in five minutes and well, sorry, but that takes precedence. In the film, Liberal Arts, there is the theme about reading about life versus going out and living life. By no means do I think these are polar opposites, but there is something about it that resonates at the moment.

I'll be back. I'll start again. Not at page 320, but rather, at the beginning. But this time, I'll go slowly and let it all sink in.

And tomorrow, I'll start 100 Years, just in case I also decide it is time to put it down before heading to Australia.

08 July 2013

Infinite Jest, Day 08.

"Marthe's chair squeaked slightly as his weight shifted. 'Always with you this freedom! For your walled-up country, always to shout, "Freedom! Freedom!" as if it were obvious to all people what it wants to mean, this word. But look: it is not so simple as that. Your freedom is the freedom-from: no one tells your precious individual U.S.A. selves what they must do. It is this meaning only, this meaning from constraint and forced duress.' Marathe overly Steeply's should suddenly could realize why the skies above the coruscating city were themselves erased of stars: it was the fumes from the exhaust's wastes of the moving autos' pretty lights that rose and hid stars from the city and made the city Tucson's lime nacreous in the dome's blankness of it. 'But what of the freedom-to? Not just free-form. Not all compulsion come from without. You pretend you do not see this. What of freedom-to. How for the person to freely choose? How to choose any but a child's greedy choices if there is no loving-filled father to guide, inform, teach the person how to choose? How is there freedom to choose if one does not learn how to choose?'"

-David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest, page 320

07 July 2013

Infinite Jest, Day 07

"'Day man you got the time maybe real quick?' Lenz. For the third time in half an hour. Patience, tolerance, compassion, self-discipline, restraint. Gately remembers his first six months here straight: he'd felt the sharp edge of every second that went by. And the freakshow dreams. Nightmares beyond the worst D.T.s you'd ever heard about. A reason for a night-shift Staffer in the front office is so somebody's there for the residents to talk at when-- not if, when-- when the freakshow dreams ratchet them out of bed at like 0300. Nightmares about relapsing and getting high, not getting high but having everybody think you're high..."

-David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest, pages 279-280

06 July 2013

Infinite Jest, Day 06

"Among pernicious myths is the one where people always get very upbeat and generous and other-directed right before they eliminate their own map for keeps. The truth is that the hours before a suicide are usually an interval of enormous conceit and self-involvement."

-David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest, page 220

Infinite Jest, Day 05.

"If you are an adolescent, here is the trick to being neither quite a nerd nor quite a jock: be no one."

-David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest, page 175

Infinite Jest, Day 04

"It was an illusion and the illusion was aural and aurally supported: the phone-line's other end's voice was dense, tightly compressed, and vectored right into your ear, enabling you to imagine that the voice's owner's attention was similarly compressed and focused...even though your own attention was not, was the thing. This bilateral illusion of unilateral attention was almost infantilely gratifying from an emotional standpoint: you go to believe you were receiving somebody's complete attention without having to return it. Regarded with the objectivity of hindsight, the illusion appears arational, almost literally fantastic: it would be like being able to lie and to trust other people at the same time."

-David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest, page 146

03 July 2013

Infinite Jest, Day 03.

"It occurred to Hal that although he lied about meaningless details to Orin on the phone it had never occurred to him to consider whether Orin was ever doing the same thing."

 -David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest, pg. 136

Infinite Jest, Day 02.

"'And so,' she said, 'but then I quit. And a couple of weeks after I've smoked a lot and finally stopped and quit and gone back to really living, after a couple of weeks this feeling always starts creeping in, just creeping in a little at the edges at first, like first thing in the morning when I get up, or waiting for the T to go home, after work, for supper. And I try to deny it, the feeling, ignore it, because I fear it more than anything.'

'The feeling you're describing, that starts creeping in.'

Kate Gompert finally took a real breath. 'And then but no matter what I do it gets worse and worse, it's there more and more, this filter drops down, and the feeling makes the fear of the feeling way worse, and after a couple of weeks it's there all the time, the feeling, and I'm totally inside it, I'm in it and everything has to pass through it to get in, and I don't want to smoke any Bob, and I don't want to go to work, or go our, or read, or watch TP, or go out, or stay in, or either do anything or not do anything, I don't want anything except for the feeling to go away. But it doesn't. Part of the feeling is being like willing to do anything to make it go away. Understand that. Anything. Do you understand? It's not want to hurt myself it's wanting to not hurt." (pg. 77-78)

-David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

01 July 2013

Day 01. Infinite Jest.

01 July 2013.

The first day of July. Time for a new monthly project.

This month, given my trip to Australia for half of July to present my research at the International Sociological Association's PhD Laboratory in Sydney, I decided to choose a monthly project that enables mobility. As some of you are aware, I purchased David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest a few months ago. Since, the large book has occupied space on my bedside table for months, I decided that the monthly project for July should be to conquer the novel. In addition, since the book is so huge (and not necessarily the best to pack for a trip to Australia), I've decided to schedule myself two books this month. Infinite Jest in the days of the month I'm in Nashville. And then, Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude for the days I'm in Sydney. I've been planning to read One Hundred Years for a couple of years now...and it relates to my research on the University of Puerto Rico. Thus, it is my intention to conquer both of these novels during the month of July.

As means of accountability and documentation, I plan to post a quote of the day from my reading.

Day 01.

"These worst mornings with cold floors and hot windows and merciless light-- the soul's uncertainty that the day will have to be not traversed but sort of climbed, vertically, and then that going to sleep again at the end of it will be like falling, again, off something tall and sheer" (pg. 46).

-David Foster Wallace