Several years ago, way back when I was in college for the first time, a class of mine went to participate in a round table discussion with David Foster Wallace. He was spending some time on campus terrorizing young writers with his particular brand of arrogance and whatever else. I know he’s dead, but even to this day I can’t separate him from that experience, when I found him to be such an assholey asshole. Sometimes writers take themselves far too seriously. This was, after spending several minutes calculating the time line with Janie, not too long after his book Infinite Jest had come out and he’d received the MacArthur Foundation’s “Genius Grant.” I guess he was feeling proud of himself for cranking out his great American novel and being referred to as a genius. Or some shit. I don’t know. The bitterness is clouding my memory.
In my attempts to get past this image of an arrogant genius that has kept me from enjoying his epic novel, I decided to participate in a project called Infinite Summer. It’s a group of people who are dedicated to reading Infinite Jest over the summer, about 75 pages per week, and then discussing it, as a community.
Last night Janie brought the book home from the library. She read me the first paragraph as I chopped up some vegetables. I have no idea what it was about. Something about someone in a room with some people?
Anyhow, if you’re interested in reading this book in much the same way you were interested in following that Oprah 21 day cleanse with me, meaning you want to torture yourself for weeks, join me…join us all…let us read this book and talk about it and then feel smug for having done so. Maybe after all is said and done, in the wee hours of a September morning, we will forgive David Foster Wallace for that afternoon in 1997 when the only thing memorable he ever said was that he didn’t watch TV except for the episodes of Ally McBeal that his friends taped for him.