Wednesday, 21 November 2018

How to Read “Infinite Jest”

1. Buy hardcover copy of “Infinite Jest” at brick-and-mortar bookstore. Touch paper and feel connected to hundreds of years of printed language. Flash cashier knowing, learned smile. Commend self for protecting bookstores from onslaught of crass digital commercialism.

2. Walk home and experience heft of text as bag handles dig into palm. Embrace heaviness as evidence of import. Thumb nose at pedestrians who aren’t carrying impressive, heavy books. Feel smug.

3. List book on Goodreads as “current read,” along with “Team of Rivals” and “War and Peace.” Accept accolades for being superior to rest of TV-watching generation. Refer to reading as “yoga for the mind.”

4. Go out for drinks with friends. Talk endlessly about book. Reiterate “yoga for the mind” thing. Accept new role as group sophisticate. Warn friends about dangers of bar limes.

5. Remove book from bag. Prepare to begin journey by watching three episodes of “Westworld.” Feel confused by multiple time lines. Reward self for sitting through hours of perplexing prestige television by watching one episode of “Jersey Shore: Family Vacation.”

6. Take selfie with book “accidentally” in background. Post on social media. Respond to dazzled commenters with “I guess size does matter. ;)”

7. Tuck book into public-radio tote and carry around town. Offer Kindle readers on subway opportunity to smell real paper, like orphans smelling fresh bread.

8. Develop lower-back pain from literal, not figurative, weight of book. Visit chiropractor. Suggest change of waiting-room reading material from People to multiple copies of “Infinite Jest.” Respond to doctor’s request for details about book with generic facts about David Foster Wallace’s use of unconventional narrative structure and endnotes.

9. Brush up on book on Wikipedia to corroborate thin claim of readership. Begin reading Wikipedia entry multiple times, but repeatedly get distracted by need to research use of CBD oil for dog anxiety.

10. Have smartest friends over for intellectual dinner party. Invite guests to take turns saying favorite things about book. Commit to memory for later use. Retreat to bedroom. Open diary. Write, “I am a FRAUD.”

11. Go on beach vacation. Intend to finally make progress on book during cross-country flight. Take too many barbiturates. Cry while watching documentary about “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Use book as coaster for beers on beach.

12. Spend years wondering what inability to finish book says about ability to lead successful, happy life. Yell at book for eating away at confidence. Destroy all relationships.

13. Come home late one night. Stare at self in mirror. Repeat: “You are the book and the book is you. You are nothing if not someone reading ‘Infinite Jest.’ ”

14. Start claiming to be on third read.

15. Become novelist and frequently discuss monumental influence of Wallace on own work.

16. Use proceeds from own writing career to open literary foundation dedicated to hero, Wallace. Skip ribbon-cutting ceremony to dodge questions.

17. On deathbed, position book on bedside table. Ask spouse to bring up devotion to text in eulogy. Insure that Times obituary mentions enduring passion for “Infinite Jest.” Be buried with book.

18. Get to heaven despite lifetime of lies. Find Wallace. Express love for book and subtly inquire what book was really about. Zone out when explanation is long and complicated. ♦

Source: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/11/05/how-to-read-infinite-jest

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