A Nameless Cat Oozes By

[Note: This blog post was written on Saturday morning, prior to our first Infinite Jest round table discussion, and is therefore an exercise in situational time travel for me, the post’s author, and you, the post’s reader.]

It’s the weekend but a racing mind awakens me at first light. We’ve got our first round table which means that I get to slip on the environmental unit, cue up some atonal jazz, and chew the long distance, Infinite Jest fat with you guys.

February is nearly over which means I’ve been reading this thing for like two months. Yeah, I know. But I couldn’t wait. I thought a head start might do me some good in this marathon. I was wrong. It was sometime during the first or second week of Infinite Winter when I realized that. I’d gotten to page 283, post-PWTA tournament with stoic John Wayne and Hal dominating, Pemulis whistling innocently whilst his defaulted opponent blithely chases visual trails off the edge of his Wilson racquet, and Don Gately abiding with sleep-deprived endurance as Geoffrey Day, in endnote #90, declaims against AA cliches.

A nameless cat oozes by on the broad windowsill above the back of the fabric couch.

So here I am being entertained to death, as it were, but I can’t talk to anyone about it because it’s only week one or maybe week two and no one’s talking (or even tweeting) yet about Michael Pemulis, Madame Psychosis, or even Guy That Didn’t Even Use His First Name. And Hester Thrale’s nails are just moons on some distant horizon.

My head is figuratively exploding with Wallace’s panoply of characters who, steadily, page-by-page, are being revealed like images on a polaroid – a really, really big polaroid – but I’ve got no one to talk to about it and so I’m doing that Pemulis head thing again – on the bus, in a coffee shop, looking to one side and then the other with this big cheshire cat grin, rendered mute in my isolation.

So I bailed on page 283 and went back to Year of Glad; I started over. It’s amazing how much of Infinite Jest escapes the withered grasp of my middling-aged mind and, of course, how much I just forget, lose in the abundant details. Imagine how much I’ve forgotten since my first reading of the novel in 2009. Go ahead. Imagine it. I’ll wait.

The answer is a lot. Most of it, probably. Which is surprisingly wonderful what with every single unveiling of plot or character being both brand new and familiar. And today, at page 284, I get to talk, tweet, and text about it with any of you. With all of you. Want to talk about it? Me too.

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2 thoughts on “A Nameless Cat Oozes By”

  1. This is also the point where I realize… I’m pushing a third of the way in and I’m really just at the beginning but, including footnotes, have read enough to already have reached the end of a long novel in conventional terms and yet we are just meeting people, watching the daguerreotypes develop, as with your Poloroids.

    And, we have reached the funniest/gruesome portion of the book, I think… “something smells delicious!”

    1. Daguerreotypes indeed, Michael. And I’m with you w/r/t the marathon proportions of this reading. If you’re one for whom the end of the book is a goal, it can be excruciating, but if you’re able to hunker down in the present moment and let the text sort of envelope you (me), it’s transporting. It is this extremely gradual (perhaps in this way more daguerreotype than polaroid) unfolding, which makes reading Infinite Jest something of a dream for me. It’s as though I’m living a part of my life in the waking-dream world of this novel.

      I just read the long Orin at BU section, just before page 300, and I swear that section, read deliberately and slowly, is like whole novel in and of itself.

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