Infinite Sunday

I suppose that title works in two ways – my online nom (nom nom nom!), and probably a descriptor of my upcoming weekend.

During the summer of 2005, whipped into a frenzy by my friend Jake, I joined his Infinite Jest book club. If you’re not familiar with the book, it’s (roundabout) thousand pages are right up there in the list of often-unreadable books.

Jake’s resurrected the group for another read, and I decided to give it another go. I’ve not started, partially because I lent my copy to a friend who was going to be recuperating from surgery, and thought it would be a good time to read it (which is reminiscent of my friend who taught himself to play the banjo one summer while rocking a broken leg), and because I’m happily busy with my job.

An aside – I typically don’t start working till 10 a.m., and have found myself waking up at 9:30 regularly. I seem to be so reticent to get out of bed, that it’s starting to suck what is generally a couple of extra hours other people get at the end of their day out of my life. So, in addition to starting to read IJ, my goal is to do so in the morning, before work. Or at least do the dishes so I can spend more time reading in the evening.

This got me wondering if Infinite Jest was in audiobook form. Certainly, there would be issues with inserting footnotes. Then again, they managed to turn the Thursday Next series into audiobooks, and there are much weirder format issues there (a footnoterphone, and a character’s name that has no vowels.)

My job currently involves scanning book reviews. I’m seeing a lot of reviews for Gravity’s Rainbow that talk about how it’s known for the hard-to-crack aspect, but people who write seem overjoyed at finishing and seeing the big picture of visiting the book cover to cover (or are they smug and bragging?)

So I present to you, LibraryThing’s data on Infinite Jest. Why look at this? In addition to pulling MARC record data (the info libraries typically have), LT also has a “Common Knowledge” section, that allows LT members to add information typically not found in a MARC record – important places, character names, awards, publisher’s editors, etc.

LibraryThing also has a crapload of reviews (I say that because I’m reviewing lots of them for inclusion in LTFL) and 24 of them are for Infinite Jest.

To throw in the other aspects of LTFL, we can look at the tags associated with Infinite Jest, as well as the recommendations.

These are the most popular tags:
1001 1001 books 1996 20th century addiction america American american fiction american literature boston canada contemporary Contemporary Fiction David Foster Wallace dfw drugs endnotes entertainment favorite favorites fiction film footnotes humor humour literary literary fiction Literature metafiction novel own owned postmodern postmodernism read satire science fiction signed tbr tennis terrorism to read unfinished unread usa wallace wishlist

‘Own’ is a tag often found, it means that the member owns the book. In this case, it’s interesting to look at ‘read’ and ‘unread’. Not that it HAS to be statistically significant, but the number of people who have tagged this books ‘read’ is 36, while 50 tagged it ‘unread’.

LibraryThing (algorithms) say that if you like Infinite Jest, you’ll like:

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace
A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments by David Foster Wallace
Girl With Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace
Oblivion: Stories by David Foster Wallace
The Devil’s Details: A History of Footnotes by Chuck Zerby
David Foster Wallace’s Infinite jest : a reader’s guide by Stephen Burn
Amazing grace by Megan Shull
The Recognitions by William Gaddis
Winning Ugly: Mental Warfare in Tennis–Lessons from a Master by Brad Gilbert
JR by William Gaddis

I tried reading this giant book last time, and got 200 pages in. Environment factors Jake talked about – hating my job and general place in life, distracted by my hot boyfriend probably played a part. Hopefully this time I can bite down on this book and not give up so early.

At said hated job, had a coworker who talked about IJ as being DFW’s way of impressing people with his giant brain by creating a book that was just detached and abstracted enough to confuse you into thinking he was smarter than you, while wanking off for a thousand pages.

The two factors that brought me back to it were Jason’s enthusiasm for reading it again, and Jake’s fantastic blog posts that are acting in a professorial role – making me enthusiastic to take the role of a student (and a student’s guilt at not starting the assignment).

So I’m going to kick it up a notch – reading a library copy. Or taking the Fung Wah bus to NYC to retrieve my copy.

  1. It’s embarrassing how excited I am at the ways you and LibraryThing can contribute to the IJOSASa/oBC. Its tags and algorithms reminded me of another book-categorization system I stumbled upon recently called statistically improbable phrases, which basically compiles phrases that are occur in a given book but hardly any other. I think Amazon uses it.

    Here are some of the SIPs for IJ: say her momma, entertainment cartridges, dawn drills, waste displacement, annular fusion, professional conversationalist, feral hamsters, new bong, ceiling bulged, red leather coat, appropriation artist, red beanie, addicted man, littler kids, little rotter, land barge, veiled girl, technical interview, police lock, oral narcotics, milk dispenser, goddamn lie, sober time, his racquet

  2. I would really love Infinite Jest in audiobook format as I have a two-bus, one hour, commute to and from work every day and diobooks are keeping me sane. But, I can’t find it anywhere. Indeed, a Google search for “Infinite Jest audiobook” lead me to this page!!! It seems strange that it isn’t available in this format yet as Pale King is already on sale as an audiobook.

    You mentioned that there could be issues with the footnotes in the novel when in audiobook format. However, I just listened to this radio documentary about DFW ( and some excerpts from Infinite Jest are read out and the footnotes handled fine, I think.

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