kottke.org posts about Infinite Jest

Infinite Atlas and Infinite MapSep 06 2012

In July, we mentioned Infinite Boston, a project from William Beutler to map and photo the Boston-related locations in Infinite Jest. Today Beutler announced Infinite Atlas, which expands nationally on this project, and Infinite Map, a limited edition print featuring 250 "of the most interesting locations" from Infinite Jest.

Infinite Jest Map

Infinite Jest tour of BostonJul 16 2012

Infinite Boston is a photo tour of some of the Boston locations that inspired locations in David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest.

In July of what might have been Year of Glad, one year ago this week, I traveled to Boston, Massachusetts with the express purpose of visiting as many of the landmarks and lesser known precincts that appear in, or provide inspiration for, the late David Foster Wallace's 1996 novel Infinite Jest as I could manage on a Thursday-Sunday trip. My reasons for doing so will become apparent at a later date, but for now I am pleased to present what I am calling "Infinite Boston": a ruminative travelogue and photographic tour of some fifty or so of these locations, comprising one entry each non-holiday weekday, from now until sometime in early autumn.

Infinite Jest, the playJun 18 2012

A German experimental theater recently put on a production of Infinite Jest. They turned the 1079-page book into a 24-hour play that took place all over Berlin.

The play is Infinite Jest. Yes, the 1,079-page David Foster Wallace novel. Germany's leading experimental theater, Hebbel am Ufer, had the gall not only to stage the world theatrical premiere of an Infinite Jest adaptation, but to play it on the grandest stage possible: the city of Berlin itself. Over the course of 24 hours, the shell-shocked and increasingly substance-dependent audience is transported to eight of the city's iconic settings, which serve as analogs for the venues to which the discursive novel continually returns.

But so we're at this AA meeting in a Boston school cafeteria, which in this case is the cultural center of a city quarter that was drawn up from scratch in the 1960s in the far, far north of Berlin, like practically halfway to the Baltic, this sticks-of-the-sticks-type section of town. And the actor sharing his history of teen addiction to Quaaludes and Hefenreffer-brand beer is droning on far too long and starting to give me the howling fantods.

Every internet article about Wallace is required by law to include footnotes and this one is no exception. (thx, paul)

Plastic surgeon pushing iPhone FaceTime faceliftsFeb 27 2012

In Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace wrote that videophone technology wasn't popular due in part to vanity.

And the videophonic stress was even worse if you were at all vain. I.e. if you worried at all about how you looked. As in to other people. Which all kidding aside who doesn't. Good old aural telephone calls could be fielded without makeup, toupee, surgical prostheses, etc. Even without clothes, if that sort of thing rattled your saber. But for the image-conscious, there was of course no answer-as-you-are informality about visual-video telephone calls, which consumers began to see were less like having the good old phone ring than having the doorbell ring and having to throw on clothes and attach prostheses and do hair-checks in the foyer mirror before answering the door.

Now DC-area plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Sigal is offering what he calls the "FaceTime Facelift".

"Patients come in with their iPhones and show me how they look on [Apple's video calling application] FaceTime," says Dr. Sigal. "The angle at which the phone is held, with the caller looking downward into the camera, really captures any heaviness, fullness and sagging of the face and neck. People say 'I never knew I looked like that! I need to do something!' I've started calling it the 'FaceTime Facelift' effect. And we've developed procedures to specifically address it."

(via @timbritton)

Visual exploration of Infinite JestJun 06 2011

Chris Ayers is designing posters, logos, and magazine spreads for the fictional people, places, and things in David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, including movie posters for Himself's films, a magazine layout for an article on Orin, and this poster for the Whataburger Southwest Junior Invitational tennis tournament:

Whataburger Invite

(via @tcarmody)

Infinite Jest, blindly judgedApr 11 2011

Someone at Yahoo Answers posted the first page of Infinite Jest with the title "First page of my book. what do you think?" The crowd was not impressed:

No discernible voice/tone in this writing. Rambling descriptions. I, frankly, do not care where each and every person is seated. I don't care what shoe you're wearing. If you take out all the unnecessary details, you'd be left with about seven words.

See also what happens when a photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson gets critiqued on Flickr.

so small

so blurry

to better show a sense of movement SOMETHING has to be in sharp focus

(thx, timothy)

Infinite Jest infographicOct 08 2010

This infographic attempts to explain all the interpersonal connections in Infinite Jest. (via personal report)

David Foster Wallace on iPhone 4's FaceTimeJun 07 2010

The recently announced iPhone 4 includes a feature called FaceTime; it's wifi videophone functionality. In Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace wrote that within the reality of the book, videophones enjoyed enormous initial popularity but then after a few months, most people gave it up. Why the switch back to voice?

The answer, in a kind of trivalent nutshell, is: (1) emotional stress, (2) physical vanity, and (3) a certain queer kind of self-obliterating logic in the microeconomics of consumer high-tech.

First, the stress:

Good old traditional audio-only phone conversations allowed you to presume that the person on the other end was paying complete attention to you while also permitting you not to have to pay anything even close to complete attention to her. A traditional aural-only conversation [...] let you enter a kind of highway-hypnotic semi-attentive fugue: while conversing, you could look around the room, doodle, fine-groom, peel tiny bits of dead skin away from your cuticles, compose phone-pad haiku, stir things on the stove; you could even carry on a whole separate additional sign-language-and-exaggerated-facial-expression type of conversation with people right there in the room with you, all while seeming to be right there attending closely to the voice on the phone. And yet -- and this was the retrospectively marvelous part -- even as you were dividing your attention between the phone call and all sorts of other idle little fuguelike activities, you were somehow never haunted by the suspicion that the person on the other end's attention might be similarly divided.

[...] Video telephony rendered the fantasy insupportable. Callers now found they had to compose the same sort of earnest, slightly overintense listener's expression they had to compose for in-person exchanges. Those caller who out of unconscious habit succumbed to fuguelike doodling or pants-crease-adjustment now came off looking extra rude, absentminded, or childishly self-absorbed. Callers who even more unconsciously blemish-scanned or nostril explored looked up to find horrified expressions on the video-faces at the other end. All of which resulted in videophonic stress.

And then vanity:

And the videophonic stress was even worse if you were at all vain. I.e. if you worried at all about how you looked. As in to other people. Which all kidding aside who doesn't. Good old aural telephone calls could be fielded without makeup, toupee, surgical prostheses, etc. Even without clothes, if that sort of thing rattled your saber. But for the image-conscious, there was of course no answer-as-you-are informality about visual-video telephone calls, which consumers began to see were less like having the good old phone ring than having the doorbell ring and having to throw on clothes and attach prostheses and do hair-checks in the foyer mirror before answering the door.

Those are only excerpts...you can read more on pp. 144-151 of Infinite Jest. Eventually, in the world of the book, people began wearing "form-fitting polybutylene masks" when talking on the videophone before even that became too much.

Lost DFW profileMay 06 2010

A 1996 profile of David Foster Wallace from Details magazine. An early mainstream magazine interview with Wallace about Infinite Jest, it hasn't been seen since its initial publication. Craig Fehrman dug it up in the Yale Library.

Brought up an atheist, he has twice failed to pass throguh the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, the first step toward becoming a Catholic. The last time, he made the mistake of referring to "the cult of personality surrounding Jesus." That didn't go over big with the priest, who correctly suspected Wallace might have a bit too much skepticism to make a fully obedient Catholic. "I'm a typical American," says Wallace. "Half of me is dying to give myself away, and the other half is continually rebelling."

David Foster Wallace's archive acquiredMar 09 2010

The Ransom Center at the University of Texas has acquired the archives of David Foster Wallace, joining those of Don DeLillio and Norman Mailer.

The archive contains manuscript materials for Wallace's books, stories and essays; research materials; Wallace's college and graduate school writings; juvenilia, including poems, stories and letters; teaching materials and books.

Highlights include handwritten notes and drafts of his critically acclaimed "Infinite Jest," the earliest appearance of his signature "David Foster Wallace" on "Viking Poem," written when he was six or seven years old, a copy of his dictionary with words circled throughout and his heavily annotated books by Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy, John Updike and more than 40 other authors.

Materials for Wallace's posthumous novel "The Pale King" are included in the archive but will remain with Little, Brown and Company until the book's publication, scheduled for April 2011.

The web site currently contains some tantalizing examples of what the archive will eventually hold, including the first page of a handwritten draft of Infinite Jest, his annotated dictionary -- circled words included benthos, exergue, hypocorism, mendacious, rebus, and witenagemot -- and some heavily annotated books he owned, including his copy of Players by DeLillo.

David Foster Wallace's annotated DeLillo

This is really exciting and sad all at once. (thx, matt)

The films from Infinite Jest made realJan 29 2010

Someone sent this to me ages ago and I forgot to post it but luckily I ran across it again this morning: A Failed Entertainment is a show at The LeRoy Neiman Gallery featuring the films of James Incandenza...you know, the ones from the 8-page footnote in Infinite Jest.

Included as a footnote in Wallace's novel is the Complete filmography of James O. Incandenza, a detailed list of over 70 industrial, documentary, conceptual, advertorial, technical, parodic, dramatic non-commercial, and non-dramatic commercial works. The LeRoy Neiman Gallery has commissioned artists and filmmakers to re-create seminal works from Incandenza's filmography.

No word on whether any of the filmmakers made JOI's Infinite Jest...I guess we'll find out if anyone emerges from the opening reception tonight.

Mathematics in Infinite JestAug 11 2009

Those of you still plugging away at Infinite Summer may not want to read this (i.e. spoilers!), but Brian Barone finished early and found some interesting mathematical themes in the book.

Now, here's the part that really boggled me: the Consumption/Waste idea is a 1:1 correspondence (something in yields something out), what mathematicians call a linear function. The Parabola idea connects, pretty obviously, with parabolas -- now we're looking at x raised to the power of two. Annular Systems are modeled by circles which are given in analytic geometry by equations with both x^2 and y^2. Limits and Infinity, of course, become necessary in order to find the area of shapes under curves like parabolas and three-dimensional projections of circles.

Whoa. That is a tiny bit mind-blowing...do I really have time for a reread right now? (thx, nick)

How to read Infinite JestJul 15 2009

A few weeks ago, I wrote the foreword for Infinite Summer, a summer-long collective read of Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace's big-ass novel and one of my favorite books. That piece was actually my second draft. My first attempt was a list of advice on reading the novel...the submission of which prompted InfSum's dungeon master, Matthew Baldwin, to write back with a frowny face and a pointer to this piece published -- unbeknownst to me (I have the Time Machine backups to prove it!) -- the day before I submitted my draft.

Anyway, here's that first draft on how to read Infinite Jest:

1. If you haven't already, buy the book, get it from your local library, or download to your Kindle. I got my copy in 2001 at a local San Francisco bookstore; I bought it used along with a used copy of Don DeLillo's Underworld (which I started but never finished). I was upset at something that day and purchased the books as a sort of Fuck You to whatever it was that was pissing me off. "Oh yeah? Well, I'm gonna read both of these huge books. Fuck You!" Best $10.80 I ever spent.

2. Warning! This book contains several footnotes. Hundreds, in fact. They run on, at a very small point size, for almost 100 pages at the conclusion of the main text. One of the footnotes, which contains the complete filmography of a fictional filmmaker, goes for more than 8 pages and itself has 6 footnotes. Every single oh-my-God-this-thing-is-a-doorstop review of IJ since 1996 has trumpeted this fact so you're probably already up to speed re: the footnotes but I didn't want you to be caught unawares or pants down.

3. You're going to want to but don't skip the footnotes. They are important. Yes, even the filmography one.

4. Physically, Infinite Jest is a large book: 2.2 inches thick and, according to Amazon.com, has a shipping weight of 3.2 pounds. Some readers have found it useful to rip the book in half for easier reading on the subway or on the beach. If you do this, you also need to tear the footnotes from the back half and tape them to front half. This technique has the side effect of giving you the appearance of A Very Serious Reader of Infinite Jest, which will either keep onlookers' questions to a minimum or maximum, depending on the onlooker.

5. If you opt not to destroy your copy of IJ, you should use the three bookmark method. One bookmark for where you are in the main text, another for your current footnote location, and a third for page 223, which lists the years covered by the novel in chonological order, from the Year of the Whopper (which corresponds to 2002) to the Year of Glad (2010). To say that IJ skips around quite a bit chronologically is an understatement, so keeping the timeline straight is important.

6. Along with the footnotes, another thing that most reviews mention w/r/t Wallace is his use of words that appear rarely outside of dictionaries. If you get stuck, keep a dictionary handy or consult one of the following online collections: the David Foster Wallace Dictionary, Words I Learned From Reading David Foster Wallace, and the Infinite Jest Vocabulary Glossary.

7. Get a copy of Greg Carlisle's Elegant Complexity, *the* reference book for Infinite Jest. Reading EC's notes for each IJ section after you finish will greatly increase your understanding and enjoyment of the book. Here's an informative review of the guide. As a bonus: "The book is 99% spoiler-free for first-time readers of Infinite Jest."

8. Finally, you may have heard or read that Wallace committed suicide last year. He was 46 and left a wife and dogs and at least one unpublished novel and a vast literary legacy. This will be difficult, but try not to think too much about the suicide and Wallace's life-long struggle with depression while reading Infinite Jest. The book is undoubtably autobiographical in some aspects -- tennis: check; addiction: check; depression: check; grammar: check -- but a strict reading of IJ as a window into Wallace's troubled soul is a disservice to its thematic richness.

The great thing about Infinite Jest is that it begins at the end, so even though you're only a few pages in at this point, you already know how the whole thing is going to end. So get to it, it'll be easier than you think. I wish you way more than luck.

Infinite Summer is a goJun 21 2009

Infinite Summer kicks off today and while I'm not the world's foremost Wallace scholar, I was happy to provide a foreword to get it rolling.

So sure, it's a lengthy book that's heavy to carry and impossible to read in bed, but Christ, how many hours of American Idol have you sat through on your uncomfortable POS couch? The entire run of The West Wing was 111 hours and 56 minutes; ER was twice as long, and in the later seasons, twice as painful. I guarantee you that getting through Infinite Jest with a good understanding of what happened will take you a lot less time and energy than you expended getting your Mage to level 60 in World of Warcraft.

Infinite SummerMay 21 2009

Infinite Summer: on online book club which means to read Infinite Jest this summer.

You've been meaning to do it for over a decade. Now join endurance bibliophiles from around the web as we tackle and comment upon David Foster Wallace's masterwork, June 21st to September 22nd. A thousand pages ÷ 93 days = 75 pages a week. No sweat.

The Royal Tenenbaums and Infinite JestApr 14 2009

[Ed note: This is a piece by Matt Bucher, written a few years ago for the now-defunct andbutso.com. Reprinted with permission.]

The Royal Tenenbaums (RT) opens with a shot of a book, titled The Royal Tenenbaums, and immediately a narrator (Alec Baldwin) begins to read the opening paragraph of the book. Throughout the film, we are led to believe that this narrator is reading us the story of the book The Royal Tenenbaums. While that prose-form screenplay serves as the narration, I believe that another book, Infinite Jest (IJ), manages to influence the film in a number of general and specific parallels. In no way could I substantiate the claim that Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson have read Infinite Jest or that they are in any way aware of the specific connections between their film and Wallace's book (or even that Anderson and Wilson are the exclusive authors of the RT screenplay). {However, Anderson and Wilson are natives of Austin, TX and DFW wrote in a postcard to Rachel Andre [2001] that he loves Austin -- "especially the bat caves at sunset".} Taken piece-by-piece, it seems clear that any correlation between IJ and RT is coincidental at best. However, considered as a whole, the resemblances between the two reach the heights of the uncanny.

Rather than provide a close reading of all 1,079 pages of Infinite Jest, I will look here only at those sections pertaining to the mirror-image of the Tenenbaum family, mostly the Incandenza family.

"The Royal Tenenbaums" is the story of a family, and, as the movie opens, we are introduced to its members. The children -- all prodigies in their own right -- are Margot, the adopted, but award-winning playwright; Richie, the tennis champion; and Chas, the real-estate and business tycoon. The patriarch of the family, Royal, and his wife, Etheline, separated immediately after the children were born and two decades of betrayal, deceit, and failure, erased the brilliance of the young Tenenbaums.

In IJ, the parallel family of the Tenenbaums is the Incandenzas. When we meet the Incandenza family we learn matriarch and patriarch are no longer married, but unlike Royal and Etheline, who split for obvious personality differences, James O. Incandenza (JOI) and Avril M. Incandenza (AMI) are no longer married because JOI is dead. Like the Tenenbaums, the Incandenzas produced three offspring: Orin, the womanizing tennis-prodigy turned football punter; Hal, eidetic tennis prodigy; and Mario, kind-hearted, bradykinetic, homodontic dwarf. There are qualities of each Incandenza that correspond to qualities and traits found in the Tenenbaums, but also the correspondence falls outside of the two families to the extended families of in-laws and friends (Eli Cash, Dudley, Raleigh St. Claire, Pagoda, etc.). Here is a quick run-down.

Marlon Bain is a regular fixture at the Incandenza residence as a child, just as Eli Cash, as a child, is a regular fixture at the Tenenbaum residence. Eli admits that he always wanted to be a Tenenbaum, but one gets the feeling that Marlon Bain got away from the Incandenzas as soon as possible. Eli sleeps with Margot (Richie's sister and object of Richie's affections), but in IJ, Orin sleeps with Bain's sister (without there being any apparent affection involved -- witnessed by Orin's classification of her as just another "Subject"). Eli is eccentric at the very least, but Bain suffered from "the kind of OCD you need treatment for" (similar to Avril's compulsions).

Margot Tenenbaum loses a finger to an axe, just as Trevor Axford loses a finger (or two) to a fireworks incident.

Margot Tenenbaum is a long-term smoker, who hides this from everyone, just as Hal Incandenza is a regular pot smoker who hides this fact from almost everyone.

Richie Tenenbaum is a tennis prodigy, just as Hal and Orin Incandenza were; and Richie's on-court breakdown could be compared to Hal's near loss to Stice or Pemulis's dosing of his opponent or pretty much any other breakdown in the book.

One child in each family produces a drama: Margot Tenenbaum and Mario Incandenza.

The suicide attempt of Richie Tenenbaum seems reminiscent of Joelle Van Dyne's, as both take place alone in a bathroom.

Both JOI and Royal Tenenbaum have rival suitors (Tavis, for one, and Mr. Henry for Etheline) and both patriarchs die in the course of the book / movie.

Eli Cash is a drug addict of the highest type, much like Gately, Hal, and the varied addicts of IJ. Eli is nonchalant about his drug use, but also feels the need to hide it from those closest to him.

The Incandenzas have a dog loved primarily by a family member (S. Johnson and Avril) as do the Tenenbaums (Buckley by Ari and Uzi). Both dogs die.

Chas subjects Ari and Uzi to Schtitt-like physical-education routines. The sight of Ari and Uzi in their jogging suits, doing endless calisthenics, brings to mind the ETA students pushed to their limits during star drills.

There is incest (Richie and Margot Tennenbaum; Avril and Tavis). Although Royal would be quick to point out that Richie and Margot are not technically blood related since Margot is adopted, Richie feels the incest taboo. Avril's taboo is more Gertrude than Margot, one gets the feeling that Avril would find Etheline Tenenbaum to be a kindred spirit. Avril's misdeeds with John NR Wayne (off-screen except one illicit interruption) seem similar to Margot's being caught with Eli Cash in her bedroom. Although Avril isn't Wayne's teacher, Anderson did address that subject in "Rushmore."

The first article to address the relationship between The Royal Tenenbaums and IJ is this one. While Sidney Moody plays up some of the basic similarities, I take issue with his/her assumption that Avril "fends off many suitors after Dr. Incandenza's death" (and there is little evidence that Royal Tenenbaum was a "once-brilliant litigator"). Moody also equates Eli Cash to Don Gately because they both have drug problems and Cash's friends try to force him into rehab, but I see a closer comparison to be Eli Cash and Marlon Bain, despite Bain not having as prominent of a role in IJ as Cash does in RT.

Infinite Jest for the KindleApr 06 2009

Infinite Jest is available for pre-order for the Kindle. However, several reviews have mentioned that the Kindle doesn't handle large, footnoted fractal-like texts very well, so buyer beware.

Otherwise, people really seem to love Amazon's little device: Steven Johnson, Gina Trapani, Matt Haughey. (thx, adam)

A Student of the GameFeb 06 2009

In lieu of a book review, a writer shares her feelings about Infinite Jest.

Reading IJ is like forging a spiritual connection with a man who expresses my feelings better than I do. As someone who writes, I've often felt that language is so poor an instrument for communication or expression. I find it unyieldingly difficult to write an honest sentence. DFW exhibits otherwise. George Saunders, in his remarks at David Foster Wallace's memorial service, called Wallace "a wake-up artist." Yes. DFW's words, beyond creating solid smart sentences and solid smart stories, reach this part of you that you thought no one could reach, saying everything you've been wanting to say and hear, everything you've been thinking on your own but haven't been able to share with anyone else.

(thx, julie)

Infinite Jest Tour of BostonJan 09 2009

A photo tour of the Boston-area locations mentioned in Infinite Jest. From the photographer:

Perhaps most interestingly, although "Enfield" is not a real town, it seems to substitute for Chestnut Hill. We found a school at the top of one of the larger hills in Chestnut Hill, which we believe is the location for ETA.

Perhaps someday there will be IJ walking tours of Boston that same way there are Ulysses -based tours of Dublin or Sex and the City tours of NYC.

Infinite JestDec 10 2007

Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest once again proved finite, although it's taken me since August to get through it. This book was such a revelation the first time through that I was afraid of a reread letdown but I enjoyed it even more this time around...and got much more out of the experience too.

Right as I was finishing the book, I read a transcription of an interview with Wallace in which interviewer Michael Silverblatt asked him about the fractal-like structure of the novel:

MICHAEL SILVERBLATT: I don't know how, exactly, to talk about this book, so I'm going to be reliant upon you to kind of guide me. But something came into my head that may be entirely imaginary, which seemed to be that the book was written in fractals.

DAVID FOSTER WALLACE: Expand on that.

MS: It occurred to me that the way in which the material is presented allows for a subject to be announced in a small form, then there seems to be a fan of subject matter, other subjects, and then it comes back in a second form containing the other subjects in small, and then comes back again as if what were being described were -- and I don't know this kind of science, but it just -- I said to myself this must be fractals.

DFW: It's -- I've heard you were an acute reader. That's one of the things, structurally, that's going on. It's actually structured like something called a Sierpinski Gasket, which is a very primitive kind of pyramidical fractal, although what was structured as a Sierpinski Gasket was the first- was the draft that I delivered to Michael in '94, and it went through some I think 'mercy cuts', so it's probably kind of a lopsided Sierpinski Gasket now. But it's interesting, that's one of the structural ways that it's supposed to kind of come together.

MS: "Michael" is Michael Pietsche, the editor at Little, Brown. What is a Sierpinski Gasket?

DFW: It would be almost im- ... I would almost have to show you. It's kind of a design that a man named Sierpinski I believe developed -- it was quite a bit before the introduction of fractals and before any of the kind of technologies that fractals are a really useful metaphor for. But it looks basically like a pyramid on acid --

To answer Silverblatt's question, a Sierpinski Gasket is constructed by taking a triangle, removing a triangle-shaped piece out of the middle, then doing the same for the remaining pieces, and so on and so forth, like so:

Sierpinski Gasket

The result is an object of infinite boundary and zero area -- almost literally everything and nothing at the same time. A Sierpinski Gasket is also self-similar...any smaller triangular portion is an exact replica of the whole gasket. You can see why Wallace would have wanted to structure his novel in this fashion.

Some Infinite Jest fashion notes: an EnfieldSep 06 2007

Some Infinite Jest fashion notes: an Enfield Tennis Academy tshirt from Neighborhoodies and...

Was the designer of Infinite Jest's book cover influenced by the color palette of the Nikes that Andre Agassi wore in 1991? Compelling visual evidence is available at lonelysandwich.

A list of resources for my recentAug 22 2007

A list of resources for my recent dive into the deep end of an infinite pool. Wikipedia page. Search inside @ Amazon. A Reader's Companion to Infinite Jest. Reviews, Articles, & Miscellany. The Howling Fantods! A scene-by-scene guide. Hamlet. Act 5, Scene 1. Infinite Jest online index. Wiki from Walter Payton College Prep (incl. timelines, chars, acronym list, places, etc.). Chronological list of the years in Subsidized Time. Notes on What It All Means. Character profiles by Matt Bucher. Character guide. Vocabulary glossary. Various college theses on IJ. Elegant Complexity: A Study of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest (sadly not out until Nov). Not entirely unrelated: map of the overworld for The Legend of Zelda, which I've started playing again on the Wii. Suggestions welcome, especially looking for a brief chronological timeline of the whole shebang, something like the chronologically sorted version of this but covering more than just when the scenes themselves take place.

Update: Just to be clear, this is my second time through the book. (Last time was, what, 4 years ago?) Trying to make more of a study of it this time.

Update: Suggestion from Ian: "Get 3 bookmarks. 1 for where you are reading, 1 for the footnotes, 1 to mark the page that lists the subsidized years in order." I'm currently using two bookmarks...will get a third for the sub. years list.

I mentioned earlier the new paperback versionNov 16 2006

I mentioned earlier the new paperback version of Infinite Jest; here's Dave Egger's introduction to the new edition. "[Wallace] was already known as a very smart and challenging and funny and preternaturally gifted writer when Infinite Jest was released in 1996, and thereafter his reputation included all the adjectives mentioned just now, and also this one: Holy shit." (thx, nick)

A new paperback version of David FosterNov 14 2006

A new paperback version of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest is out. You get 1104 pages of Wallacian goodness for $10 (it's only $8 on Amazon) and I've heard it's physically a lot thinner than the previous paperback.

Amazon updates their online book reading interface...May 20 2006

Amazon updates their online book reading interface...here's David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. Matt has a screenshot and a bit about it. Coolest new feature: you can read some books online immediately after purchase (before the paper copy arrives) and use the reader interface to add notes and bookmarks to your online copy.

The Broom of the SystemMay 03 2006

The Broom of the System

Following a long tradition on this site, I'm going to make a prediction based on very little evidence: David Foster Wallace will never write another novel. My feeling after reading The Broom of the System is that it's basically a rough draft of the novelized "version" of his "life" that eventually became the lovingly polished Infinite Jest. (That's right, two is a trend!) Or if he does, it'll be 20 years from now, when enough time has passed for him to reflect on his experiences in long-format fiction as a writer, husband, teacher, famous personage, and (if he ever has kids) father.

As for Broom itself, I haven't read enough philosophy for a proper review. The best I can do is compare it to Infinite Jest. If you want to read IJ but just can't handle its 1000+ pages and 300+ footnotes, read Broom first. If you hate it, no big deal...it's only 480 pages. But if you like it, you can safely devour IJ.

1996 NY Times review of David Foster Wallace'sMar 14 2006

1996 NY Times review of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest and a profile of Wallace from that same month by current Times food critic Frank Bruni.

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