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Death Match: Gone With The Wind Vs Infinite Jest

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What if the two weightiest books I’ve read so far on the Time list squared off in a death match? What would happen?

Oh, you don’t think books would ever get in vicious and violent death matches, do you? Well, you obviously don’t have my warped mind.

Gone With The Wind and Infinite Jest are obnoxiously large books. They’re leviathans, the sumo wrestlers of the literary kingdom. If they squared off in a fight to the death, here’s how I see it breaking down:

Weight: Advantage Infinite Jest. No contest here. IJ is about a pound and a half heavier–3.2 lbs over 1.8 lbs. Blame it on Hal Incandenza’s drug habit, which brings the munchies and added weight.

Page Count: Advantage Infinite Jest. At 1,079 pages, Infinite Jest carries a slight 31 page edge over Gone With The Wind in this category. But IJ’s font size is so small this gap could’ve been much wider.

Word Count: Advantage Infinite Jest. This is where IJ flexes its muscles, or maybe where DFW’s editor decided to take a hike. At 483,994 words, IJ is one of the longest novels in the English language.  Gone With The Wind has a mere 423, 575 words.  In other words, Infinite Jest is a small novel larger than GWTW. I think both stories could’ve been adequately told in about 75% of the words.

Nerd Count: Advantage Infinite Jest. More nerds like Infinite Jest, without a doubt. But these are hard-core, really dedicated nerds—not the World of Warcraft-type slacker nerds. Anyone who reads Infinite Jest deserves some sort of literary merit badge. If I had one, I’d hang up it right next to my marathon medal.

Font Size: Advantage Infinite Jest. Smaller font wins, so this is an easy one. Just open each book and see how long it takes for you to get a headache. If you’re over 60, you might need reading glasses to read IJ.

Cultural Impact: Advantage Gone With The Wind. It’s possible that, in 50 years, you could put a different answer here. But at this point in time, there’s no doubt that Gone With The Wind has had more of an influence on culture. As an example: How many lines from that book can we quote?

Historical Impact: Advantage Gone With The Wind. Again, maybe time will change things, but right now there’s no question that Margaret Mitchell’s classic is a major part of pop culture and literary history.

Street Cred: Advantage Infinite Jest. When I say “street cred,” I’m talking about a street on which nerdy, literary types live.

Big Screen: Advantage Gone With The Wind. GWTW wins this one by default, since an Infinite Jest movie hasn’t been created. Even if someone had the cajones to make an IJ film, GWTW would be difficult to top, seeing as it’s considered one of the greatest movies of all-time.

English Teacher Support: Advantage Gone With The Wind. Unless you have a really cool high school English teacher, my guess is that you won’t know much about IJ until at least college. Enjoy The Scarlett Letter.

Better Weapon: Advantage Infinite Jest. Get your best friend to lie down, supine (nod to DFW) on the floor while you stand on a chair.  Aim at his or her head and, with your arms extended, forming a 90 degree angle, drop each book onto your friend’s head. Sit back and watch gravity do its thing. Now, which book brings a louder scream of pain? My guess–Infinite Jest.

Better Characters: Advantage Infinite Jest. This is where it gets difficult and requires some meaningless analysis by me. Gone With The Wind has two clear protagonists: Scarlett O’ Hara and Rhett Butler. Infinite Jest has all sorts of central characters, but if I had to narrow it to two, I’d take Hal Incandenza and Don Gately. If you asked me who I like most out of those four, I’d probably go with Don Gately, followed by Hal, Rhett, and Scarlett.

Though the character of Scarlett annoys me, my opinion doesn’t take away from the fact that she’s a strong and well-written character. If the four were in a street fight, I’d probably take Gately, since he actually won a street fight in Infinite Jest, but I wouldn’t put it past Rhett to sneak in a couple of sucker punches, and I wouldn’t put it past Scarlett to attack with a pair of scissors or curling iron. Come to think of it: A post about a street fight between Rhett and Gately might be a good idea.

Robert’s Rankings: Advantage Infinite Jest. In my highly subjective and totally meaningless rankings, Infinite Jest has the clear edge, currently ranked #4 over GWTW’s #25 ranking.

In the end, Infinite Jest wins in a sixth round knockout. Bloody and battered, Gone With The Wind just can’t get back up from this beatdown, no matter what Scarlett might say.

How do you see this sumo death match breaking down?

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16 Comments Post a comment
  1. Oh, Mr. Robert, I don’t knows nuthin’ bout no death matches.

    But I have to agree, the winner is IJ.

    December 9, 2011
    • Smart choice.

      December 9, 2011
  2. What a hoot! I love the match-up of Gately and Scarlett, but as I try to visualize it, the only chance Scarlett (or anyone) has at Gately is when he is laid up in the hospital. Maybe the boxer in The Sun also Rises or some to-be-read character in Dog Soldiers would have a better chance. But I’ll stake a bet on Scarlett in the Women’s Division!

    December 9, 2011
    • Gately’s a brute. Rhett would have to attack from long range, but I think Scarlett would be like a ninja and get Gately from behind.

      December 9, 2011
  3. A much more fun exercise is to read Jonathan Swift’s “The Battle of the Books.” If you don’t have it handy, PG maintains an edition which also includes poems and short works by the Dean. Here’s a link: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/623 .

    http://mdparker46.com

    December 9, 2011
  4. I think a drinking match would be fairer for all characters involved. Hal’s not going to last long, but if you could somehow convince his father to get in the ring, he’d put up a decent showing. I’d be interested to see who’d last longest between James Incandenza and Scarlett, as they both nursed their addictions for years. They’re the heavyweights in my eyes.

    December 9, 2011
    • Scarlett over Rhett, huh? She’s feisty for sure.

      December 9, 2011
  5. This match up is very accurate. I’m a high-school senior, and I don’t believe any of my English teachers have read Infinite Jest. They might very well enjoy it, but awareness level is an overwhelming zero percent.

    December 9, 2011
    • You should pick it for a book report and totally mess with their heads.

      December 9, 2011
  6. This is fantastic, I am not a good judge since i have read neither of these books. I am new to your blog so i don’t know if you have done this before but i would like you to do this again. It is great

    December 9, 2011
    • Thanks Emily. Welcome to the blog!

      December 9, 2011
  7. I think you underestimate Miss Scarlett. She killed a man and hid his body from family members. She is one very determined woman who clawed her way through a war and was a successful business woman during a time when most women were collapsing from the “vapors” and moping over the poor quality of the dress fabrics available to them after the war. Keep in mind that hell has no “…fury like a woman scorned.”, and Miss Scarlett is definitely scorned. Don’t forget, too, that she is an O’Hara (we Irish LOVE a good fight). Scarlett could open a can o’ whoop-ass on Incandeza. She was one tough cookie – more Bette Davis than Vivien Leigh.

    December 9, 2011
    • You know what. You’re probably right. I still might take Gately over her, though. Unless she could seduce him first, then take him down when he least expected. She is dirty like that.

      December 9, 2011
  8. Hands down the winner is Gone With The Wind. Need a reason? Because I haven’t read the other one and I’m already reading another book you suggested after I finish my current book and quite frankly I can’t take the pressure of trying to read another half million words right now! Whew – I feel better now that I have that off my chest.

    PS – love the judging criteria!

    December 12, 2011
  9. Kim #

    I don’t know, you should never *ever* underestimate a Southern woman. Ask the guy buried out back in Tara how that turned out for him.

    Hilarious post. I second the suggestion to make this a recurring feature.

    December 14, 2011

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