I really have no business being here.

To avoid spoilers, the guides will comment on each week’s reading in the week that follows. We’ll use this first week to introduce ourselves and hope you’ll do the same in the comments.


Image 94 DFW as minifig

I really have no business being here.

I really can’t commit to a 15-week group read of Infinite Jest. 75 pages per week? One thoughtful, conversational, engaging blog post per week? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

I feel like, in a burst of machismo and on a dare from a friend, I signed up on Wednesday for the marathon being held on Saturday. And the most physical activity in my day is dashing the copy room then to the restroom in the five short minutes between classes.

I really have no business being here.

I’m a full-time teacher with three additional part-time jobs. I’m hip-deep in co-writing a book with my dad, and I just started writing my first-ever novel. And these LEGOs aren’t going to build themselves.

I really have no business being here.

And yet here I am. One of six guides through this Infinite Winter group read. And still asking myself, “What the hell am I doing here?”

And then I thumb through my copy of IJ, recalling Tiny Ewell’s dissertation on tattoos, and Kate Gompert in the hospital on suicide watch, and Mario’s first ever romantic encounter. Those characters that, after reading all 1079 pages, feel like members of the family.

And I recall conversations over drinks at cafes in Antwerp after the day’s proceedings at the Work in Process conference. Conversations about connections between Infinite Jest and The Pale King. Conversations that went well into the late-night hours as we couldn’t pull ourselves away from either the topics or the company.

And I recall finally meeting face-to-face those I only knew from Wallace-l and/or Facebook at the DFW conference at Illinois State. It was like going to a high school reunion in that everyone already knew everyone. And soon the conversations began. Once again sharing our favorite scenes, or discussing some new interpretive lens through which to read Dave’s works.

So, what the hell am I doing here? In spite of all my busyness and excuses and reasons not to do this, I can’t help but to be drawn back to this text and to the fellowship and camaraderie it creates. I love the conversations. I love the community that develops around Dave’s works.

So yes, I really have no business being here. But I wouldn’t miss it for anything.

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6 thoughts on “I really have no business being here.”

  1. Ryan, This makes a ton of sense. There seems to be something good about stepping away from work and into these conversations. Ode to bringing some of that energy back to your projects.

  2. Hi Rudy here (artist, professor, runner, father, vegan),

    I have been trying to get through Infinite Jest for at least the past five years and have only gotten to about page 300, each time putting it down and starting another (shorter) book (and that includes Moby Dick btw). Weird thing is, every time I pick it back up I like it more. And all of my friends that have actually finished it tell me it’s well worth it, I even have a friend that’s read it multiple times.

    I am excited to finally finish this book with a group of interesting people commenting on it all along the way. I feel like with a little company and intellectual dialogue around the work, this is the perfect time to make the journey.

    I have to admit I am going to keep my 300 page head start. I am a slow reader and you guys will blow by me in no time, so this is my only chance to keep up.

  3. I completely identify, Ryan. Like you I have entirely too many responsibilities to be throwing myself into something like this. And yet, here we are :) Interested in hearing more about your novel.

    1. Thanks, Mark. Despite my initial hesitations, I’m very glad to be doing this.
      My novel has nothing to do with DFW, but I may try to work in a few references. I can email you some details.

  4. “To avoid spoilers”..What the hell is there to spoil? I need all the help I can get.

    ‘So my offense is what, misdemeanor gargling’?

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