Revisiting 2011: How David Foster Wallace Brought Me To Tears
This week, I’m revisiting some of my favorite posts from 2011 while I take a one-week break from writing and simply focus on reading and spending time with my family. This post was originally published on April 13, 2011. 101 Books will return live on Monday January 2, 2012. See you then!
Since I started 101 Books, I recall tearing up only once while reading–that was during one dreadfully depressing passage in Rabbit, Run.
It really takes a lot for a book to make my tear glands kick into gear. Although, I’ll admit that, after having a kid, I’m more prone to drop a happy tear every now and then for whatever reason.
There’s one passage in Infinite Jest that achieved that feat. At this point, I don’t even know how essential this passage was to the plot as a whole, but I only know it moved me.
One character has prepared to take her own life by ingesting a lethal amount of heroin. The woman, in her 20s I believe, is in a locked bathroom at a social party, sitting on the floor, and leaning against the bathtub. After doing the deed that she thought would soon kill her, she recalls her childhood–one particular occasion where she and her father go to the movies.
She and her own personal Daddy up in the front row, they sat in the front rows of the narrow little insulated -plexes up in neck-crick territory and let the screen fill their whole visual field, her hand in his lap and their big box of Crackerjacks in her hand and sodapops secure in little rings cut out of the plastic of their seats arms; and he, always with a wooden match in the corner of his mouth, pointing up into the rectangular world at this one or that one, performers, giant flawless 2D beauties iridescent on the screen, telling Joelle over and over again how she was prettier than this one or that one right there.
How sad is that?
At that same time, it’s absolutely beautiful, visual writing. I can see the dark movie theater, smell the Cracker Jacks, see the pride the daddy has in his little girl. It’s a moving scene–this girl at the precipice of a sad and humiliating death by her own hand, remembering some fond childhood memory from decades ago with her long-gone father.
Passages like this make Infinite Jest worth the amount of time I’m investing in it. And that’s why this book continues to grow on me.