How to read David Foster Wallace
If you've long been resolving to read David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest," but somehow have never gotten around to hoisting the 1,104-page behemoth, now may be your chance to do so. A group called Infinite Summer is proposing that an online community tackle the novel together this summer.
"Read 'Infinite Jest' over the summer of 2009, June 21st to September 22nd," they propose. "A thousand pages1 ÷ 92 days = 75 pages a week. No sweat."
The complex, lengthy novel is considered a masterpiece by many of its readers. (Although there are also quite a few who confess to never having finished it.) Time magazine included the 1996 book in its list of All-Time 100 Greatest Novels from 1923-2006.
The novel's sprawling plot is difficult to encapsulate but Salon once described it as the juxtaposition of "life in an elite tennis academy with the struggles of the residents of a nearby halfway house, all against a near-future background in which the U.S., Canada and Mexico have merged, Northern New England has become a vast toxic waste dump and everything from private automobiles to the very years themselves are sponsored by corporate advertisers."
Salon went on to note, "Slangy, ambitious and occasionally over-enamored with the prodigious intellect of its author, 'Infinite Jest' nevertheless has enough solid emotional ballast to keep it from capsizing. And there's something rare and exhilarating about a contemporary author who aims to capture the spirit of his age."
Wallace committed suicide last fall (he suffered severely from depression for much of his adult life) but his reputation has only continued to grow since, both from the release of "This Is Water" (taken from a commencement speech he gave at Kenyon College in 2005) and the anticipated posthumous publication of his last novel.
There is only one rule for the Infinite Summer reading project, the group's website states. Readers who become engrossed in the book are free to zip past the 75 pages/week goal. But in discussions on the website, they must adhere to the" Inficratic Oath: First, Reveal No Spoilers."
Otherwise, they say: "There ain’t no rules. Read 'Infinite Jest,' start around June 21st (if you want), finish around September 22nd (if you want), gloat about having completed the novel afterward (required)."