Author: David Foster Wallace
Title: Infinite Jest
David Foster Wallace has done something really absurd.
Really, really absurd.
Let’s start by reviewing his cast. A child tennis-star protégé who moonlights as a walking dictionary with a mouthful of dip. A father who killed himself by carving out a head hole in a microwave. An older brother who went from star tennis player to expert NFL punter simply because he figured out how to lob balls. A woman so beautiful that she has no choice but wear a veil. A conglomeration of spies in wheelchairs fighting equally deadly spies who dress as women. A retarded, macrophalac homododontic who stands and walks at a 45° angle. To name just a few.
The premise, of course, as absurd as its characters. A video that is so wildly entertaining that it is impossible to turn off once viewed. Its viewers enter some sort of catatonic state instantly. Kind of akin to the Matrix.
Here’s the thing–in terms of absurdity,that’s all small potatoes.
The big potato?
Somehow DF-Dub has found a way to reach out of his book (and now, just as impressively but more tragically, out of his grave) to grab you and make you as absurd as everything else.
You see, for a truly a complete list of the dramatis personae in Infinite Jest, you must add yourself. The reader.
Our description: A man/boy/woman/girl sitting there with a massive book opened on his/her lap, reading. Page after page. 1,100 pages in all. 338 footnotes. Only the occasional paragraph break. Sentences that run on for, up to, pages. Stupid big words, like “macrophalac” and “homodontic.” Medical jargon, too. We wade through it all.
Yes, you smile at the retarded kid in the novel. Or the man dressed like a woman who is a deadly spy or the man who always stands northeast of everyone. Or Hal, a teenager who comes up with words you’ve never heard of, in between pot hits. You are right, it’s all very absurd.
But so are you.
I can imagine it easily enough. Him sitting on his bed. Knowing we’re all out there, patiently wading through his text—reading, parsing, debating, blogging. Absurdly so. Absurdly absurdly so. Yes, he’s out there somewhere. Sitting on his bed. Smoking his pipe. Smiling lovingly. Maybe laughing now again.
In the end, the joke’s on us.
Don’t believe me?
Maybe you’ll believe the author.
It is, after all, all very self-conscious. Undoubtedly so. His title is a sly not-so-sly wink to us–the reader. A recognition at the length of the book. An acknowledgment that the book is absurdly long. A wink that tells us, yes, it’s all one giant–infinite, in fact–jest.