OK, so… Infinite Jest is going to drive me into the ground.
I first tried reading it as an e-book approximately eighteen months ago. I managed to get about sixty pages in (much less in the e-book version) and gave up. I made it through a section where a man was waiting for his drugs, where his paranoia was so intense that it started affecting me. I put the book down and never got back to it.
I tried a second time with a library copy about six months ago, when my family went out of town. I made it slightly further (I had assumed it was close to two hunnerd and fitty pages, but upon looking at my new copy I think it was about a hundred and fifty pages in) and then got distracted by… well, video games, John Sayles’ A Moment in the Sun (another heavy-hitter that I didn’t complete), and sleeping. Lots of sleeping.
Now, I’ve set myself a daily goal. Between today (4/23) and the last day of May (5/31), I plan to read thirty to fifty pages a day. At that rate, I’ll be able to finish in somewhere between twenty-eight and thirty-two days, have enough room to not read a day, or read more per day… but without driving myself up a wall trying to finish the novel.
As I stated in a previous post, I was going to take the novel one-hundred pages at a time, for blogging purposes. I think that will still be a good idea. I’m going to keep the computer nearby when I read (or a notebook, I suppose) and make notes when necessary. I’ll note characters, themes, and whatever else seems important. In fact, I’ll probably be treating it more like an assignment than pleasure reading. But that’s ok because… I think that works out a lot better with a book of this size and magnitude.
And, despite Dave Eggers’ assertion in his excellent introduction, the computer will also be useful in defining the multitude of terms that I can’t define myself. Though much of the novel that I’ve read is indeed unprecedented (as stated by Eggers), there’s a lot of words that are either confusing, or just plain obtuse.
Will I finish it this time? I’m convinced that my hipster-lit street-cred won’t allow me to look at myself in the mirror if I don’t finish it. Plus… I feel like it’s almost my duty to finish at this point… after all… if I can finish The Instructions without much issue… surely, I can finish this one…
Passages like this one will help:
“I read,” I say. “I study and read. I bet I’ve read everything you read. Don’t think I haven’t. I consume libraries. I wear out spines and ROM-drives. I do things like get in a taxi and say, “The library, and step on it.” My instincts concerning syntax and mechanics are better than your own, I can tell, with all due respect. But it transcends the mechanics. I’m not a machine. I feel and believe. I have opinions. Some of them are interesting. I could, if you’d let me, talk and talk.”