This is part of our Infinite Winter side project. Read on to hear Desiree’s thoughts on being 1/3 through the book and the project.
What is Infinite Jest about? After a month of reading, I still can’t give you a direct answer. It is about a family. It is about the life of a teenager. It is about the life of an addict. Finally, it’s about tennis.
The epicenter of the novel is a suburb of Boston called Enfield. In this small town, there is a drug rehabilitation center and a prestigious tennis academy. Hal Incandenza is a student at the Enfield Tennis Academy. His father, James Incandenza, founded the institution, and his mother, Avril, is a beautiful fracophone Quebecer who is having an affair with the Headmaster. Hal is the youngest of the Incandenzas. His oldest brother Orin is a punter for the Arizona Cardinals, and the middle child, Mario, attends the E.T.A. with Hal.
At this time, the countries of North America have united to become the Organization of North American Nations or O.N.A.N. All of the characters use the metric system to measure distances and weights. I am not sure if this is supposed to be an alternate universe and the USA always used the metric system. Or is it a tennis thing? I prefer to think the usage is a Canadian influence since there seems to be some animosity towards Canada, more specifically Quebec. With the uniting of the countries also came the standardization of the calendar year. Now the names of the year can be bought by corporations, hence The Year of The Whopper (Y.W) or The Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment (Y.D.A.U).
As I am reading, I keep reminding myself that David Foster Wallace committed suicide on September 12, 2008, which also happened to be my 27th birthday. It saddens me to think that such a talented writer was so tormented inside. Reading his descriptions of suicide and depression in the novel, I feel connected to him. From what little I know of him, I also see aspects of himself in Hal. He was a young tennis player as well as a fan of grammar and words as evidenced in his review of A Dictionary of Modern American Usage.
It’s too soon to tell if I like the book or not. It is not an easy read, but that doesn’t make it a bad book. The story jumps around between the many different characters; it reminds me of “Pulp Fiction.” There are pages and pages of descriptions and the characters do like to go on and on and on. The story seems to be coming together as I am approaching the 300 page mark. I do plan to keep up with Infinite Winter, if only to find out more about the cross dressing double agent.
Don’t forget to join us at Molly Malone’s in Forest Park at 8 pm on Tuesday, January 25th to discuss Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. And please stay to discuss Infinite Jest with the other intrepid few of the group.