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5 Things You’ll Learn From Reading Infinite Jest

Part of the beauty of Infinite Jest is David Foster Wallace’s ability to go in-depth about all sorts of seemingly random subjects. With 1,100 pages (including footnotes), he has plenty of room to do so.

My review will be coming later this week, but I thought I’d give you a quick glance at few things you’ll learn about while reading Infinite Jest–if you dare take the challenge:

Drug names: Not standard street drug stuff (though that’s in there). At times, the footnotes in Infinite Jest can read like a pharmacology textbook. That’s why you should be glad DFW covers these things in the footnotes, not the main text.

Junior Tennis: Yes, one of the most critically acclaimed novels of our time covers a lot of junior tennis–set at a fancy tennis academy for pre-teens and teens. If you’re like me and could care less about junior tennis, then you’ll be pleased to know DFW makes it interesting. You’ll also learn an interesting usage of Lemon Pledge.

Alcoholics Anonymous: The meetings. The sayings. The code. You’ll learn a lot about the people of AA, both reluctant newbies and grizzled veterans. Though I’ve never been to an AA meeting myself, I thought DFW’s portrayal of AA seemed on spot with what I would expect.

Camera Equipment: When discussion of cameras, lenses, tripods, and lighting comes up in the book, I glaze over. Thankfully, it’s not as often as some of the subjects above, but it’s in there enough to make me wonder if DFW didn’t offer too much detail at times.

Here's an example of something that gives me the fantods--the twin girls from "The Shining."

Fantods: What is a fantod? It’s “a state of extreme nervousness or restlessness.” The “willies,” if you will. At first, I thought it was a word that DFW made up, but it’s not. “Fantod” is an actual word, and it appears often in Infinite Jest. Example: “Roaches give him the howling fantods.” Small fact: Mark Twain used the word “fantods” in Huckleberry Finn.

And all of that is just the start. NFL punters. Wheelchair assassins. Puppet shows. Art films. If it’s random, it’s in Infinite Jest.

Intrigued? And who’s still reading along with me?

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11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Congrats! I’m looking forward to your review. I’m afraid I just don’t have the time for Infinite Jest right now, perhaps, as one of your other readers mentioned, when I retire. I’m really enjoying your blog, Robert!

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    May 9, 2011
  2. Patti #

    Still reading – a really looonnngg way to go, however. Even at this point, I will not be surprised by any random information that shows up. And as I was reading over the weekend, I did feel that some details are overdone and wondered if there was some point to overdoing it, or if he somehow felt it was the appropriate amount of attention to the topic.

    Like

    May 9, 2011
    • Heavy, heavy on details. Not sure if that’s a strength or a weakness.

      Like

      May 9, 2011
  3. Matt #

    Just started it. 950 pages to go!

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    May 9, 2011
  4. Bought the book this weekend because your thoughts and excerpts intrigued me.

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    May 9, 2011
    • Awesome, Steven! Keep me informed on your progress and what you think about it. Wild book.

      Like

      May 9, 2011
  5. I’m still plugging along on it, although I’ve taken a few nights off to read another short book (The Man Who Loved Books Too Much). I should finish that this evening, and then it’s back to Infinite Jest. Thanks for the reminder about Huck Finn and fantods. I knew I’d encountered it before, but I couldn’t place where.

    Like

    May 9, 2011
  6. Ben #

    Looking forward to you review.

    Like

    May 10, 2011

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Looking Back on Infinite Jest | 101 Books
  2. Twain fantods | Trd4runner

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