Infinite Jest: By the numbers

Size: 9.3 x 6 x 2 inches

Weight: 2.4 pounds (shipping weight according to Amazon)

Pages: 981

Notes and Errata: 96 pages; 388 endnotes, some of which run to chapter length

Chapters: 28; but don't let that fool you -- there are over 189 scenes in this book

Time Spent: 92 days (June 21st to September 22nd; 75 pages a week) w/a little help from my friends at Infinite Summer

Necessary Bookmarks: 3; one to mark your page, one to mark your endnotes, and one to mark the following:

"Chronology of Organization of North American Nations' Revenue-Enhancing Subsidized Time, By Year"

(1) Year of the Whopper

(2) Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad

(3) Year of the Trial-Sized Dove Bar

(4) Year of the Perdue Wonderchicken

(5) Year of the Whisper-Quiet Maytag Dishmaster

(6) Year of the Yushityu 2007 Mimetic-Resolution-Cartridge-View-Motherboard-East-To-Install-Upgrade For Infernatron/Interlace TP Systems For Home, Office, or Mobile (sic)

(7) Year of Dairy Products from the American Heartland

(8) Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment

(9) Year of Glad

Yes -- I'm finished; yes -- I'm happy I read it; no -- I'm not sure what to read next...For a more elegant summary, read the original NYTimes review.


RBOC: Fall TV, 2009

The new fall season's shaping up to be one of the worst in quite a while. Thus far, I've only found 1 new show worthy of my time:
  • Modern Family, Wednesdays at 9pm on ABC, gets my winning nod. It's a look at an extended family: Dad's remarried a (much younger) Colombian woman w/a child; his adult son is gay and just adopted a child w/his partner; adult daughter has a 16-year old and two others -- just add water; watch the hilarity ensue. Actually, the Lion King bit is pretty funny.
  • Cougar Town, starring Courtney Cox, is not even worth my mention. Save 22 minutes for yourself and read a book -- remember those?
  • HIMYM: Ted's lapse in front of the class, whilst trying to remember how to spell "Professor," is a terrifying moment that will haunt my dreams from now until whenever I'll have to do that in the (hopefully near) future.
  • Glee, which I've talked about before is on probation -- as far as I'm concerned. I think it's a quality show, but the lip-syncing is making me a little crazy (I do like the a cappella intros, however). Granted, "I'll be auditioning for the role of kicker" is probably one of the greatest lines of the season.


I wonder if Aaron Sorkin ever read Infinite Jest?

'There's these three statisticians gone duck hunting,' he said. He paused. 'They're like statisticians by trade.'
'I'm with you so far.'
'And they gone off hunting duck, and they're hunkered down in the muck of a duck blind, for hunting, in waders and hats and all, your top-of-the line Winchester double-aughts, so on. And they're quacking into one of them kazoos duck hunters always quack into.'
'Duck-calls,' I said.
'There you go.' Stice tried to nod against the window. 'Well and here comes this one duck come flying on by overhead.'
'Their quarry. The object of their being out there.'
'Damn straight, their raisin-debt and what have you, and they're getting set to blast the son of a whore into feathers and goo,' Stice said. 'And the first statistician, he brings up his Winnie and lets go, and the recoil goes and knocks him back on his ass kerspalt in the muck, and but he's missed the duck, just low, they saw. And so the second statistician he ups and fires then, and back he goes on his ass the second one goes, from firing, and they see his shot goes just high.'
'Misses the duck as well.'
'Misses her just high. At which and then the third statistician commences to whooping and jumping up and down to beat the band, hollering "We got him, boys, we done got him!'"

Taken from Infinite Jest, p. 867.


RBOC: Breakfast-for-Dinner Edition

At the end of week 4, the dissertation steadily marches on -- like an ancient sea turtle that returns to nest, my dissertation mojo has returned. I get a solid 2.5 hours in every morning -- consistent, quality work that hasn't occurred for quite a while. The afternoons, well, they're another story...

Seeing as the intellectual parts of my brain today are pretty much exhausted, I am reduced to providing to you -- oh gentle reader, you -- Random Bits of Crap with which to subside until you (inevitably) stumble upon some other mind-altering, yet utterly useless, website.
  • My reptilian brain won yet once again today, in what looks like quite a lopsided battle between it and whatever else the other part of my brain looks like, as I bought sandwiches for a lunch date w/TW. As I stood there, waiting for my steak & cheese to get panini'ed, I was rendered inert -- staring at the baseball-sized arancinis sitting by the checkout register...delicious!
  • Did you watch "Fringe" last night? This delightfully kooky, 'did-they-just-do-that?' kind of show premiered their 2nd season last night, and they didn't miss a beat.* Survivor also premiered a new season (their 19th) last night, w/a record-high 20 people starting. Favorite lines included, "Everybody knows black men can't swim," which of course had to be followed by Jaison -- the Yale alum and water-polo team member -- torching his competitor in the swimming leg.
  • Breakfast for dinner, tonight. What more needs to be said?
  • See The Sports Junkie NY if any of you are dying for a POV of any NY-area games. This guy -- my college roommate of 4 years -- is probably the sharpest sports mind I've ever seen. Oh ya, and he sprinkles in discussions of the Real World/Road Rules Challenges too!
  • Finally, I can't end a post w/o any reference to IJ. I'm right at 100 pages to go and I still don't want it to end; at this point, trying to slow down feels like walking upstream -- but I'm determined to milk my initial reading of this book for all it's worth.
* See lines like, "Feel his anus. It's soaking wet."


What more can I say?

I might be changing my mind...

via kottke



Tomorrow -- Sep 12 -- marks the one-year anniversary of David Foster Wallace's self-inflicted death. I don't have much to add: I didn't know the man personally, but I do know his writing.

As my introduction, I read the New Yorker article about him in March along with the excerpt of his unfinished novel, The Pale King. I immediately went out and picked up Infinite Jest (IJ). Despite the reputation as his masterpiece, the book sat on my shelf for months. I was finally spurred into action when I stumbled across the online book club, Infinite Summer. Now I had a community -- albeit a virtual one -- to help me across the finish line of this monster tome.

Am I finished? No -- I'm on pg. 785 out of 980. But a strange thing has happened: I've stopped reading IJ. But that doesn't mean I've stopped reading DFW -- oh no, my friend. I've read Consider the Lobster -- a collection of his non-fiction writings, and I'm just discovering that a slew of his other non-fiction is floating around the internet (something I'm sure DFW would surely love).

Public Service Announcement: read the article DFW wrote for Harpers about a trip he took on a cruise line: it's called, "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again."

But I can't bring myself to finish IJ -- I don't want it to end; I've fallen hard for this book, and I've already told TW that I want to read it again, pronto. Those of you who know my reading habits, know that I tear through a book -- especially the final 1/4.

Ask me to give the denouement of any pop-culture book of the last five years and I couldn't do it -- "The Da Vinci Code" was set in Paris, right? Didn't "The Historian" have something to do w/vampires?

I just don't want this feeling, I mean book, to end...

I don't have anything moving to say: all I can offer you is to open yourself up to DFW; I think you'll be very happy once you've done so.

Here's a few other DFW-related links:
(1) One author's personal take on DFW
(2) How to write like DFW (this will be extra funny once you've read some DFW)


"Glee" roundup...

Hello all,
Don't forget to set your DVRs tonight! That's right, "Glee" is premiering right after the speech so if you're sick of all the post-speech spin you can get your saccharine fix filled.

For now, here's a couple of little nuggets you'll like:

Rachel Berry was Wendla, from Spring Awakening

"Gold Digger" -- what more can I say?


DFW's take on the Bricklayer/Workman's Comp story

As taken from Infinite Jest (p 139-40):

"Workmans Accident Claims Office
State Farm Insurance
1 State Farm Plaza
Normal, IL 617062262/6

Dear Sir:

I am writing in response to your request for additional information. In block #3 of the accident reporting form, I put "trying to do the job alone", as the cause of my accident. You said in your letter that I should explain more fully and I trust that the following details will be sufficient.

I am a bricklayer by trade. On the day of the accident, March 27, I was working alone on the roof of a new six story building. When I completed my work, I discovered that I had about 900 kg. of brick left over. Rather than laboriously carry the bricks down by hand, I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley which fortunately was attached to the side of the building at the sixth floor. Securing the rope at ground level, I went up to the roof, swung the barrel out and loaded the brick into it. Then I went back to the ground and untied the rope, holding it tightly to insure a slow descent of the 900 kg of bricks. You will note in block #11 of the accident reporting form that I weigh 75 kg.

Due to my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded at a rapid rate up the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor I met the barrel coming down. This explains the fractured skull and the broken collar bone.

Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulleys. Fortunately, by this time, I had regained my presence of mind, and was able to hold tightly to the rope in spite of considerable pain. At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel from the force of hitting the ground.

Devoid of the weight of the bricks, the barrel now weighed approximately 30 kg. I refer you again to my weight of 75 kg in block #11. As you could imagine, still holding the rope, I began a rather rapid descent from the pulley down the side of the building. This accounts for the two fractured ankles and the laceration of my legs and lower body.

The encounter with the barrel slowed me enough to lessen my impact with the brick-strewn ground below. I am sorry to report, however, that as I lay there on the bricks in considerable pain, unable to stand or move and watching the empty barrel six stories about me, I again lost my presence of mind and unfortunately let go of the rope, causing the barrel to begin a..."

And I imagine you can fill in the rest. Either way, a little workmans-comp humor to brighten your day, via DFW. See also the Mythbusters take on the urban legend...


Infinite Summer

"'...for the game's finest players frequently close their eyes entirely as they wait, trusting the railroad ties' vibration and the whistle's pitch, as well as intuition, and fate, and whatever numinous influences lie just beyond fate.' Struck at certain points imagines himself gathering this Wild Conceits guy's lapels together with one hand and savagely and repeatedly slapping him with the other -- forehand, backhand, forehand."

So, for the previous passage to make any sense, it might behoove you know that a certain male teenage tennis phenom named Oliver Struck is reading a passage about the history of a certain, 'chicken-like' game involving Canadian youths & a leap across train tracks w/a train en route. Wild Conceits, by the way, is a journal in which Struck is researching a connection between said 'chicken-like' game & a group of wheelchair-bound assassins infiltrating the lower 48 states in order to overthrow the Organization of North American Nations (O.N.A.N.). I am reading this passage, by the way, in a footnote that occupies 5+ pages.

The passage continues: "'They will jump athwart the tracks in front of its high speed nose at the final moment, each trying to be the last to leap and live. It is not rare for several of the le Jeu's finalists to be struck.' Struck tries to decide whether it'd be unrealistic or unself-consciously realistic to keep using his own name as a verb -- would a man with anything to camouflage use his own name as a verb?"

Two things: (1) the back & forth between Struck and his passage mirrors that between the reader & his footnoted passage; (2) I'm sure some readers have wanted to slap David Foster Wallace's face -- "forehand, backhand, forehand" -- but I've felt that way about other authors, of the academic stripe mostly.

This extended passage is particularly wonderful for many reasons. First, it's occurring in a footnote about 3/4 of the way through the text and he's (DFW) still giving us exposition -- the book is 900+ and he's still introducing material. But, he does it in the most roundabout way possible: believe it or not, the wheelchair-bound, Quebec Assassination squad is pretty vital to the storyline, and DFW introduces their whole reason for being chairbound in what turns out to be a secondary character reading an academic journal in a footnote that the reader is reading -- did you follow that?

I just realized that I'm on p. 740 (out of 978!) and still loving the book.


RBOC: Wanna bet edition

  • The Clintons got so tired of the persistent rumors about their daughter's upcoming (and fictitious) wedding that they bet $1000 against any so-called anonymous tipster that Chelsea wouldn't be married by the end of August? Of course, they got no takers...

  • As most of you know, I have a weakness for a good gamble every now & then. Heck, I've been in a doctoral program for the better part of my adult life IN THE HUMANITIES! That should be good enough proof that I'm always up for a challenge.

  • I'm already getting excited about some serious bowling on Saturday night...I'm looking forward to overcoming the 99-1 horse coming in for a push last time Al & I went at it!! That's right, I'm still sore about that...

Speaking of horses, I'm finally back on the dissertation horse. Week #2, day 4 of the final push has seen me settle into a pretty good routine: 9-12 in the morning, 12-2 for gym & lunch; after that, however, is a little harder. I'm still figuring out what's best for me...perhaps I'll try to recapture my old early grad school days of working from 8-11PM...who knows?