A Supposedly Fun Blog

July 2, 2009

Staying and Fighting

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dayo Olopade @ 10:03 pm

By Dayo Olopade

Greetings, all! I am extremely excited about the prospect of ranting and raving about this deeply frustrating, yet rewarding book. I’ve long believed that reading and writing are extremely antisocial behaviors and that all journalists are a shade defective because of that fact–the life of David Foster Wallace is perhaps a case in point. And so I relish the opportunity to both read and write in a communal fashion.

I also want to confess my own head start on Infinite Summer. On a recent trip to Nigeria, I downed about 500 pages of the “paper brick” before returning to the states and losing not my motivation but my time.

Part of that problem comes from the unbelievable neediness of this book. The sense that Wallace himself, not to mention the compelling cast of characters and precepts that are arrayed before the reader, is tugging at your sleeve, insisting that you stay and fight. Further, the book does not go down like short stories or essays or the tremendous nonfiction journalism that is my favorite part of Wallace’s legacy. It’s broken up into 70-page marathons of engaging prose or short scenes that end abruptly, or footnotes that must be read with care and yet a thumb in the rest of the book and perhaps thrice before the reality sinks in. In other words, it’s really, really hard to start and stop.  The extra weight of this being an “important book” likewise compels the reader, as many have already discussed here, to stay and fight.  You’re in it or you’re out.

When I was in this book it was good (I even devised a very helpful system for keeping up with the dread footnotes, on which more later). For months, I’ve been out–and kudos to the gang here for sucking me back in (though there was talk of sangria, don’t play).

So I’m here, and will clear the space to do this properly. Because time is paramount, as Dave Eggers’ introduction to the most recent edition makes clear:

The book is 1,067 pages long and there is not one lazy sentence. The book is drum-tight and relentlessly smart and, though it does not wear its heart on its sleeve, it’s deeply felt and incredibly moving. That it was written in three years by a writer under 35 is very painful to think about. So let’s not think about that. The point is that it’s for all these reasons—acclaimed, daunting, not-lazy, drum-tight, very funny (we didn’t mention that yet but yes) — that you picked up this book. Now the question is this: Will you actually read it?

Yes, fine. In. I’ll get into my complaints and my embarassing gushing in short order–but there’s no backtracking because hey, I just said that I would read it with these fine friends and the internet hates liars.

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5 Comments »

  1. Yes … “neediness” … the whole exercise is driven by addictive craving … for us.

    Comment by Jarrett — July 3, 2009 @ 10:19 am | Reply

  2. Perhaps because I’d heard so much about the book, not details but the thickness (both length and depth), I took my time and tried to only read a few hours every morning. It took four months of very slow reading, but it was worth the snail’s pace. I got to savor what I’d read that morning every day. I would roll things over in my head, occasionally go back and check more difficult passages. I tried to remind myself that DFW was a Philosopher, even wrote some academically praised Philosophy papers, and should be read as if I was reading very thick, often poetically dense writing. Like Heart of Darkness.

    But and so my advice to all you speed readers: slow down.

    One thing’s for sure: before I read Infinite Test again, I’m going to go over Hamlet again.

    Comment by Scott Supak — July 3, 2009 @ 10:37 pm | Reply

  3. “I’ve long believed that reading and writing are extremely antisocial behaviors and that all journalists are a shade defective because of that fact–the life of David Foster Wallace is perhaps a case in point.”

    … what the hell, man.

    also, quit calling them footnotes. they’re endnotes. get it right.

    Comment by yeah — July 3, 2009 @ 10:52 pm | Reply

  4. “In modern medical terms, it’s fairly clear that G. F. L. P. Cantor suffered from manic-depressive illness at a time when nobody knew what this was, and that his polar cycles were aggravated by professional stresses and disappointments, of which Cantor had more than his share. […] Saying that ∞ drove Cantor mad is sort of like mourning St. George’s loss to the dragon; it’s not only wrong but insulting.”
    – everything and more, david foster wallace

    Comment by yeah — July 3, 2009 @ 10:55 pm | Reply

  5. “there is not one lazy sentence.”

    Yeah, that’s not … really … true …

    Comment by Knemon — July 6, 2009 @ 2:21 am | Reply


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