To quote the late, great Chick Hearn, “This [group read]’s in the refrigerator: the door is closed, the lights are off, the eggs are cooling, the butter’s getting hard, and the Jell-O’s jigglin’!”
Last week, I likened my experience over the last thirteen weeks to spending a weekend at church camp. And to be honest, I did not expect it to be like this. I mean, my responses to Wallace’s writing is often deeply personal, but I typically don’t talk or write about them publicly, especially not to this large of an audience. But somehow, in the safe company of several hundred of my closest friends, I found the nerve to open up and share some deeply personal things, like one might do during the open-mic sharing time done on the last night at church camp.
I don’t think it’s been that I have learned all these things about myself. But rather, I came to accept these things; I became more comfortable in my own skin and a little less worried about what others might think. I don’t remember the context – and I’m too lazy to go look it up – but the titular line in Lipsky’s book became true for me. I ended up becoming myself.
But just as meaningful is the friendships this has created and strengthened. My fellow guides have been awesome to collaborate with; I can’t imagine a better team. But it’s gone beyond the six of us. Infinite Winter has permeated my other relationships. I’ve engaged in conversations with coworkers about IJ. I’ve convinced several current and former students to attempt to read the book. I even shared the Eschaton scene with my senior English classes, and some of them actually enjoyed it.
It is this that kept me going, even though I dropped off the reading schedule weeks ago.
So thanks, Dave (Wallace, not Laird), for this gift of Infinite Jest. A novel that begs to be read in groups. A novel that forges relationships and bonds like no other book I know. A novel that gives us space to look deeply into ourselves and the safety to share what we find with others.
Thanks, Dave, for a thousand-page church camp.