Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Infinite Stupidity For Agreeing To Do This

It's a long twisted tale as to how I got here, but I got goaded by my brother into reading Infinite Jest.
  


I had heard of the book. I had heard of the author. I knew the author committed suicide a few years ago.  


That's about it.  


When my brother told me the book had 1,000+ pages, I didn't really think much about it. After all, I've read The Stand. I've read Gone with the Wind countless* times. A thousand pages is merely a few books strewn together, right?   


Right.  


There are books.  


There are epic books. 


And then there are books that come accompanied with essays on how to read it, blogs and wikis. 


Blogs.


Wikis.  


I think it's enough to know that one of the how-to guides suggest you "brush up on your Hamlet" before reading it.


That's right. 


Fucking HAMLET. Only a what? Six-hour play? Yeah, let me go ahead and "brush up" on that.  


I've no doubt liberal arts colleges the country over devote entire semester classes to this one damn brick book, and I have the nerve to pick it for fun.  


Here's a list of words I've had to look up: 

Agnate
Aleatory
Amaneusis
Aphoristic
Fulvous
Leptosomatic
plosivity**
Quincunx
Teratogenic
Uremic
Pedalferrous


And then there are the acronyms: 


ATHSCME
ETA
ECT
ENT
CT
ONANCAA
ONANMA
NAAUP
RICO
TP
PIT
VIP
DSS
RISC
YDAU***


And I'm only on page 95.


Did I mention the footnotes? Footnote #24 is, I'm not kidding here, 8 pages long. I have been reading the footnotes, as advised, because some of them are kinda funny****. But I did not read #24. And I have no guilt about that. 


By the way, I'm convinced the man simply made up words.  


For example, have you ever seen the word "locomotival" used in actual writing? Have you ever HEARD anyone utter that word? 


No.


Know why? 


Because DFW***** simply made it up. Go ahead. Google it. Look it up in the dictionary. It's not there. He just decided willy-nilly to throw a noun together with a suffix and call it an adjective and then use it to describe the noise made by a herd of feral hamsters.  


I think I'm going to do that.  


Not make noises that resemble a herd of feral hamsters, that is, but make up words. 


Kinda like mad libs, only I'm going to use them in a serious context. 


To wit:  


The author was kazoocy when he wrote this novel and I was kamekasiferous for agreeing to read it.


For the record, this is the same brother I spoke of here.  


I'm thinking of disowning him. -> 


*And I do mean "countless." At last check, I own four copies of the book: my original tattered paperbook copy which I wrote and highlighted in for years and is now bound in rubber bands, an anniversary copy The Geek bought for me that is falling apart because The Boy read it and he's awful on books, plus they don't make books like they used to any more, a vintage copy printed in 1937, and a new one I bought this summer. An old boyfriend has the copy that once belonged to my mother and I remain bitter it never got back to me. I also have a notebook devoted to all my favorite quotes and words I had to look up last time I read it. 


**No, that's not a typo. PLosivity. The "L" belongs there. BTW, this one can't be found on Dictionary.com either. More evidence he made up words.


***Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment


****Footnote #2 about Orin, a character in the book: "Orin's never once darkened the door of any sort of therapy-professional, by the way, so his takes on his dreams are always generally pretty surface-level." p.983, 10th anniversary paperback ed.


*****David Foster Wallace, the author. As opposed to Dallas/Ft. Worth, the metropolitan area. Or the airport code for said metropolitan area. 

7 comments:

Deirdre said...

And the best part is that since you've picked up the book - if nothing else to shush your brother - you'll be damned if you'll NOT finish it! My only concern is if any of those words are real I'm doomed in future games of Words.

Tanya said...

Quincunx is most definitely real: an arrangement of five objects, as trees, in a square or rectangle, one at each corner and one in the middle.

Apparently the author was a math geek and a junior tennis star.

My challenge to you: Use that word in a sentence today.

Tanya said...

And you're right: It's out there. I have to finish it.

Carolyn said...

Just what did you do to your brother to make him want to punish you like this. Put the book down. Step away from the book. Now!!!! (And do let us know from all the blogs and wikis what the purpose of the book is, other than to drive people mad).

Hey, you know that word verification? Maybe that's how he made the words up.

Baysage said...

Funny you should mention this. I was having a conversation the other day with Bernard about this guy and then with a grad school friend. I vowed after these conversations that my life would not be complete without reading just about everything David Foster Wallace ever wrote. If you get the chance, google the guy's picture, and then read the commencement address he gave at . . . some fancy private school. I thought it brilliant.

Christine said...

Good luck! My brother Karl's favorite author and favorite book. I have started it a couple of times and not got anywhere. Maybe one of these days...

Baysage said...

And a point of order: "Hamlet" is nowhere near six hours long--even with commercials.