Interview: Reader Who Recently Finished Infinite Jest
1. So how long did it take you to read the book?
I set a starting date at May 1 and then actually began a week before so I would have a buffer. I finished around August 1. So a little over 3 months.
2. Did you ever read the book in public places or leave the book out purposefully when visitors were over?
Ha Ha. I certainly read it in public places but I wouldn’t say I purposefully left it out. It was out tho and people would see it. I also mentioned it a lot in conversation. I did this less to brag about the endeavor and more to make sure I backed up my talk about reading it. I had tried reading 2666 by Bolano and never could get past book 5, I think book 5…Whichever one deals with all the deaths in Mexico. I hate that, not finishing a book. And I tend to have ADD and while reading a book will sometimes pick up other easier reading books, articles, chick mags, periodicals…For whatever reason I stayed focused on this book. I didn’t so much as pick up another book while reading it.
3. How did you deal with the footnotes, I mean logistically? I know some people like to use two bookmarks.
Oh yea, two book marks. I almost never use book marks and actually, it was more one book mark: just for the end notes. I did the dog ear for most of the main section.
4. Have you read other DFW? How did this book compare?
I have read a bunch of his nonfiction, which I love. I had tried reading his short stories about 5 years ago and could not make it through them. I am currently on a DFW binge though so I plan on picking all that stuff up and rereading it. I love his nonfiction a lot, but this book…it had such a depth to it that you obviously are not going to get reading his nonfiction. You can feel the work put into it, and the way it all adds up. I remember reading somewhere to “trust” DFW while reading this book. Just know at some point it’s going to click; and it did.
5. Did you ever read the book while on drugs or alcohol?
I hope you don’t quote my name so my mom sees that I do drugs and alcohol…but yes.
Though with both: If I have had too much to drink forget it. And depending on the amount of bob hope consumed (Jest reference) it can be impractical to read. I may be going along at a fairly good clip but the next evening or whatever, I will have forgotten most of what I read and end up having to reread a bunch. It was summer so I drank a shit-load of mojitos, I know that.
6. What other “large books” have you undertaken?
Oh, I dunno. The Tolkien trilogy. I had just finished Savage Detectives by Bolano, which isn’t huge huge, but is still somewhat dense.
7. What type of training did you do to read Infinite Jest?
Ha ha. Well, for one, I did a lot of ab work. But I always do ab work. I am not sure about the interviewer, but I do a fair amount of reading in a horizontal, type position: head on pillow, legs out. This book did produce quite a weight on the abdomen section. A reader will need to place pillows under the book a lot, move around etc…And you can forget reading while laying on your side. What actually got me to decide to just read the damn thing was reading Tom Bissel’s collection “Magic Hours.” He mentions Wallace several times in the collection and also kinda of reviews the commencement speech Wallace did at Kenyon. I had always planned on reading Infinite Jest, and just said fuck it.
8. What type of pacing did you use? Did you read the same amount daily or read it in spurts or what?
I know I picked it up daily for sure but depending on what was going on there might just be a page or two here and there. I did the bulk of the reading on weekends or while bored at the local bookstore.
9. Did you ever think about quitting?
Never give up. Never, give, up.
10. Do you think everyone should read Infinite Jest?
Fuck no. Look, not everyone can handle reading…a lot of shit. You know? I work at a bookstore and at a certain point you start to get a feel of what people like to read. Um, my friends, acquaintances; I’ll cut the shit: people who actually read on a somewhat serious level? Yes, read it. There are a lot of reasons not too. It is extremely long, and not just long but dense. I have been reading stuff since then and it’s funny, 10 pages in Infinite Jest is like 30 in a normal spaced book. But I really think a reader will get a lot out of it. Once you start adapting to his style of writing and get over the length of the book and the lines and the paragraphs and the footnotes, it becomes a great work. It is entertaining on a basic level: There are identifiable character traits, exciting plot angles, but the book somehow dives deeper into the human psyche…I dunno. I don’t really do well at writing about books and the reading experience but there is just a lot there. I am all jazzed up on DFW so whatever happened in those pages I am still in a head space from it. And I can say I don’t get that from every read.
11. Did you feel a need to talk about “reading Infinite Jest” to others while reading the book?
Yes. But mainly just to again, make sure I kept reading it (this is especially true for the first two or three hundred pages. At a certain point that goes away). But I called my friend who had read it and spoke to her about it. A guy who works with me read it and spoke about it.
12. Where is the book now?
I am doing some bicycle work currently; brake work to be specific. I am using the tome to hold up my bike while the tires are off so i can change out the brake pads.
13. Well, you did it. What did you think of the experience?
It was a great experience. And also, it has given me the confidence to tackle other works that I may not so otherwise. It really did seem to elevate me as a reader, I shit you negative.
14. What are you going to read after this endeavor?
Well, so right now I am reading that Rolling Stone’ guys traveling interview with Wallace. The author is sorta a prick but I am enjoying Wallace speaking about Infinite Jest and his path from grad school through writing the book. I always like reading about the path of different artists. They also talk movies some which I enjoy. I am sorta researching what I want to read next. I may read “Gravity’s Rainbow,” by Pynchon. But I have also written down some other authors that I am gonna consider: Saul Bellow, Delillo, Roth. Of course, I must mention that all of these are authors that I have seen DFW namedrop so…yea, back to question 13. The book is still influencing me.