Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
I’m starkly self-conscious of my intellectual limitations, so when I decided to read this gigantean novel I put myself on a kind of literary training program. Did I arrive at an intellectual place where I felt ready? No. But I experienced clinical depression, addiction, and the existential loneliness we all feel. Perhaps trying to make sense of these feelings added to my resolve to finally begin. I’m not suggesting you need to be fucked up in order to enjoy Infinite Jest, but it helps.
Infinite Jest’s settings, Ennet Drug and Alcohol Recovery House and Enfield Tennis Academy, are communities that work as frameworks for the characters to navigate their own sense of selves, but they also highlight the somber realisation that we’re all alone regardless of who we are and what we’re doing. I think this book is representative of human experience. There are pages of dull and lengthy descriptions that feel as if you’re barely wading through, not to mention the footnotes, oh god the footnotes, but there are also sections that are completely addictive, like well, life. The fatal video tape so addictive it incapacities you is the kind of pleasure we’re all unconsciously searching for, complete oblivion but oblivion is unreachable (unless you count death), and the only way through pain is not avoidance but conscious acceptance, much like all those 12-step clichés that are annoying but turn out to be absolutely true.
I guess a big part of serious fiction’s purpose is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves,” says Wallace. Infinite Jest seems to have helped me reconcile my own resistance to life’s ordinary pain, and made me feel a little more comfortable with feeling marooned in my own skull, at least, for now…and when I feel so low that I consider “erasing my own map”, I will read it again because I already miss the company.