Thoughts on rereading Infinite Jest

Or, wow, how did I miss so much the first time?

The bigger themes of choice vs. fascism, the paradox of infinite choice, the cycles of pleasure/satisfaction and pain/craving, the whole Marat-Sade angle, Hal as Hamlet paralyzed by indecision, the glorious hilarity of the Eschaton section, the incredibly satisfying Gaudeamus Igitur (i.e., Mario’s ONANtiad section), the heart-stopping tragedy of Joelle’s self-immolation, the theme of being caged (by desire, by addiction, by deformity), how a police lock would work to help one stand relatively upright, the whole looking and mirrors and light and reflections and film and angles, how the act of sticking with it, especially at the beginning when everything is all so new and a little perplexing and makes you want to chuck it just perfectly mirrors AA’s Keep Coming Back and Trust Us It Works, the deeper knowledge I now have of Boston informing descriptions and settings (before, I kind of chuckled at the Storrow 500; now, I can visualize the neighborhoods where the lowlifes and privileged and in-betweens make their way).

Other confluences:

  • Having seen the World of Warcraft documentary “Second Skin” (why can I never recall that title on my own?), I can’t help but connect WoW addiction with The Entertainment.
  • Having gotten a secondhand TiVo and completely loving how freeing it is (from having to sit still for a prescribed period of time at a specific date and time as well as from having to view advertising) as well as how beguilingly enslaving (I think I’m watching a lot more TV now than before). And the connection to InterLace and TPs and such.
  • And of course every mention of self-demappings of course reverberates and haunts.

I have had a tough time since David Foster Wallace killed himself. For months afterward, I’d glance at the fat faded-orange spine of IJ and kind of long for it, but feel too raw to even take it off the shelf. Matthew Baldwin’s Infinite Summer project seemed appealing but way too scary when it first kicked off, so now I’m interspersing sections of the novel with the amazing commentary and ideas from Infinite Summer, making the experience that much richer. I’m still deeply saddened that such an author is no longer here, but much of the fury about his suicide has dissipated from having re-immersed myself in his writing. As Mario Incandenza said when Madame Psychosis’ MIT-radio “60 Minutes +/-” radio show suddenly left the airwaves, “It’s weird to feel like you miss someone you’re not even sure you know.”



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