Monday, September 14, 2009

I Am in Here

I have finished my second reading of Infinite Jest. I finished it exactly one year after David Foster Wallace's suicide and approximately thirteen months after finishing it the first time. When I returned it to my bookcase last year I did so with a feeling of accomplishment. Yet I claimed I would probably never read it again. I felt that it had been worth it. I loved the book and would tell anyone who asked how amazing it is, what a genius the author was, how it was, in short, just a mind-blowingly phenomenal book about addiction, love, relationships, depression, and tennis which just so happens to be set in the not so distant future when years are named for products and Canada has been alienated and there is a fight between US and Canada for a film they refer to as "The Entertainment" which is so beautiful and moving that upon watching the viewer becomes comatose. And there are feral hamsters. Because that seems like pertinent information. That's what I would say. You know, if forced to summarize. Though that hardly even touches upon the content of this book.

When I heard about Infinite Summer I found myself growing intrigued. It took me a year to get through the first time. Did I think I could finish it in three months? Would it be worth it to try again? Ultimately I decided that it would. I picked it up and started reading at the end of July. It was a lot easier this time around. I was able to make connections that were missed the first time. I followed the multiple story lines a lot more easily knowing that they would eventually converge. Much of it had been forgotten and so there were plenty of surprises. As people began to finish and complain about the underwhelming ending I was upset. I thought that I remembered being disappointed, but I didn't think it was as terrible as everyone was saying.

Then I got to the last page. I finished the last sentence and said out loud, "That can't be it!" I was distraught. In my head I had created a scene that didn't exist based upon hints of other scenes that had only been mentioned in passing. I had built an entirely different ending for the book and found myself again in slack-jawed disappointment. So I did what many others did. I opened it up again to the beginning as those first pages are really the end. Maybe my scene did exist, I thought. But it didn't. There is no real resolution. We never know what actually happens.

Or do we? This is where we find that the book is so aptly named. Because I know the answers exist in there somewhere. And as I realized that my scene was not in that section I wanted to keep going. To read the whole thing again to find the answers, to pick apart the clues and come up with a suitable, satisfying ending. But I set it aside again. Maybe next summer. Maybe every summer until I find what it is I'm looking for. Unless I wind up comatose on the couch, the book open in my lap, drooling and bleary-eyed.

Next - Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. Because I seem to be going through a masochistic phase in my reading.

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