Yesterday I finally finished Infinite Jest. I’m humbled. I wish I could review this book justly. The Jay McInerney of the NY Times, of course, already did: “While there are many uninteresting pages in this novel, there are not many uninteresting sentences.” I thought I would share one particularly interesting set of sentences:
It now lately sometimes seemed like a kind of black miracle to me that people could actually care deeply about a subject or pursuit, and could go on caring this way for years on end. Could dedicate their entire lives to it. It seemed admirable and at the same time pathetic. We are all dying to give our lives away to something, maybe. God or satan, politics or grammar, topology or philately — the object seemed incidental to this will to give oneself away, utterly. To games or needles, to some other person. Something pathetic about it. A flight-from in the form of a plunging-into. Flight from exactly what? These rooms blandly filled with excrement and meat? To what purpose? This was why they started us here so young: to give ourselves away before the age when the questions why and to what grow real beaks and claws. It was kind, in a way. Modern German is better equipped for combining gerundives and prepositions than its mongrel cousin. The original sense of addiction involved being bound over, dedicated, either legally or spiritually. To devote one’s life, plunge in. I had researched this. Stice had asked whether I believed in ghosts. It’s always seemed a little preposterous that Hamlet, for all his paralyzing doubt about everything, never once doubts the reality of the ghost. Never questions whether his own madness might not in fact be unfeigned. Stice had promised something boggling to look at. That is, whether Hamlet might be only feigning feigning. I kept thinking of the Film and Cartridge Studies professor’s final soliloquy in Himself’s unfinished Good-Looking Men in Small Clever Rooms that Utilize Every Centimeter of Available Space with Mind-Boggling Efficiency, the sour parody of academic that the Moms had taken as an odd personal slap. I kept thinking I should go up and check on The Darkness. There seemed to be so many implications even to thinking about sitting up and standing up and exiting V.R.5 and taking a certain variable-according-to-stride-length number of steps to the stairwell door, on and on, that just the thought of getting up made me glad I was lying on the floor.
If you’ve never read or heard Mr. Wallace’s commencement speech he gave to Kenyon College in 2005, I suggest you do so.
You can listen here: