the germ of everything

IMG_2092Following from yesterday’s Shakespeare quote, it’s interesting to note that the first two words of Hamlet are “Who’s there?” and the first two words of Infinite Jest are “I am”. I didn’t catch this. I read it on the Infinite Summer website. If you’re planning an Infinite Autumn, or Winter for that matter, here’s the link to the schedule, where you would just need to change the dates. It translates to 11 pages a day for a season (92 days). Doable. And some non-spoiler reasons to do it:

David Foster Wallace‘s ability to describe:

“Troeltsch comes over and sits down and saws at the back of his neck with the towel…”(199)

“…this isn’t like a normal adult place where everybody coolly pretends a fart didn’t happen; here everybody had to make their little comment.” (279)

“…the no-sound of falling snow.” (342)

“post-storm sad” (389)

“My mother made a mustache of her finger to hold back a sneeze.” (499)

His use of metaphor:

“Destiny has no beeper; destiny always leans trenchcoated out of an alley with some sort of Psst that you usually can’t even hear because you’re in such a rush to or from something important you’ve tried to engineer.” (291)

How he can extend a moment:

At the top of p. 335: “…Hal’s leaned way over to spit but has gotten lost in a paralytic thought-helix and hasn’t yet spit, even though he’s right in bombing-position over the NASA glass.” Then two pages later, “Hal finally spits.”

IMG_2254Random great lines:

Hal: “It’s funny what you don’t recall.” (10)

Marathe: “Choose your attachments carefully.” (107)

Hal: “Nothing brings you together like a common enemy.” (113)

Hal: “It’ll help your attitude to look for evidence of design.” (113)

Ortho Stice: “…it’s about how to reach down into parts of yourself you didn’t know were there and get down in there and live inside these parts.” (119)

Hal: “I want to be like that [Lyle]. Able to just sit all quiet and pull life toward me, one forehead at a time.” (128)

Himself: “…that books aren’t just dropped with a crash like bottles in the trashcan they’re placed, guided, with senses on Full, feeling the edges…” (161)

Hal: “…the Game is about managed fear.” (176)

Patricia Montesian: “But then so how come I can’t stop, if I want to stop, is the thing.”

Narrator (?): “That no single, individual moment is in and of itself unendurable.” (204)

Narrator (?): “That other people can often see things about you that you yourself cannot see, even if those people are stupid.” (204)

Did anyone else like at any time while you were reading want to tear the book apart and put it in the right order just to read it through once that way, just to get it straight, so then you could go back and just enjoy the beauty coming from the juxtaposition of the moments?

Lyle: “Do not underestimate objects!” (394)

Steeply: “The kid has to learn by his own experience how to learn to balance the short- and long-term pursuit of what he wants.” (429)

Gately: “Gately can’t even start to guess what it would be like to be a sober and drug-free biker. It’s like what would be the point.” (444)

I’m beginning to think that the germ of everything that can be written can be found in Infinite Jest.

Gately: “Use less words.” (535)

From page 535, until tomorrow…

[3rd in a series of 5 posts on finishing IJ]

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5 thoughts on “the germ of everything

  1. Yes! I was acutely aware of structure after I’d been reading for a while and at one point it did occur to me that I’d love to tear the book apart and rearrange everything so I could see it in a more linear fashion. I’m so glad you chose to show so many examples of the great writing in the book. There is so much to Infinite Jest that I sometimes think that we almost take the writing itself for granted.


  2. A torn up and re-assembled copy would be a lovely bit of book art…conceptual project…tempting! Greg Carlisle included a section in “Elegant Complexity” (p.493) that rearranges parts of IJ and establishes a chronology of sorts.


  3. I’m loving your posts on Infinite Jest. I so relate to the feeling of needing to process about a book ending – even though I finished 2666 months ago, and even though the same group of people and I are moving on to another shared read, I still feel some sadness that the final group posting on Bolaño’s tome is coming up at the end of September. It’s been a great ride!

    I’ve been avoiding Infinite Jest for years – not because of the length, but because I have past issues with alcohol & drug stuff myself, and haven’t felt up to re-opening that can of worms. But the beautiful posts by you and others are making me reconsider. So thanks! I’ll probably pick it up one of these days. 🙂


  4. That’s a fun joke in the opening, but it would be hard to catch. I sometimes write in little jokes figuring only some people will get them, but they’ll enjoy them all the more. As long as it doesn’t confuse the reader who isn’t in on the joke, it’s fun to have a book work on several levels.

    Your excerpts give a sense of the book, but I don’t think it’s one for me.


  5. Lisa-I love the writing! Re tearing apart to put in chronological order, I figure I’d have to have 3 copies: 2 for the tearing up b/c of backs of pages belonging to other parts and then 1 to keep the way it is. Maybe one day.

    Walt-Of course you would see such a project as art! Or miles and miles of graffiti on a wall… I did read the chronology in Elegant Complexity, but that didn’t do it for me. After the post I just wrote, I have a somewhat better sense of chronology. So I suspect that the second time through, that would be easier to grasp. Was it for you?

    Emily-Thank you! I know some of the sadness at finishing IJ has to do with length of time spent with the book and characters and also with trying to grasp what it is in fact that I have finished. But reading your comment, I wonder if it also has to do with the group read coming to a close as well. Interesting.

    Sarah-Yes, it is fun when I’m writing to put in different layers for people to discover. It adds to the writing and to the reading experience. Thanks for your comment!


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