Looking Again and Looking Often

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.


Have you ever shit your pants? There are worse things. Really. Like affirming just how well you know someone because you are driving the car directly behind their hearse, on the way to their freshly open plot in the graveyard.

There are worse things. Really. Sure, the thought of shitting your pants is pretty high-volume terrible, but figuring out how to get out of those pants is really when resilience comes into play.

Curious as to why and how these descriptions may help you get hooked on Infinite Jest? The goal here is to confirm that you are on your way to a visceral, multi-sensory experience. Keep this in mind if you are at all disheartened by your first attempts at reading Infinite Jest. Pay attention to those details that finally get to you and pull you in. I have a prediction that those details will reveal a lot about who you are and what makes you get up in the morning, and I am really, really hoping that you will let us in on what you find.

I know we have a lot of artists participating in Infinite Winter, so I also know the finding is likely to be as visually descriptive as Wallace’s depictions in Infinite Jest. As you read, soak these descriptions up, in particular, Wallace’s descriptions of rooms and windows. Then bring these descriptions with you when you are dealing with your routine tasks. If you try this out, I predict that the walls you work in and the floors you walk on are going to gain intrigue.

And don’t stop there. Even the pages and screens that you read text on—in Infinite Jest, your cable viewing guide, and convenience store receipts have clues that can help you make sense of the story you are reading and the one you are living. Wallace not only has a way with words, he even has a way with the way the words are arranged on a page. Which words would Wallace break between typed lines to make you really think, while reading Infinite Jest? Words like “Un-

Ah, yes. Now, think back to my first question:

Have you ever shit your pants?

Wallace is going to bring you through some intense human experiences, but as he does—he will also break words and paragraphs, and cause you to reread specific sentences. To make you think. In fact, word arrangements contribute to the calming ritualistic quality of reading Infinite Jest. Wallace takes a word like Un-
swallowability and all the feeling surrounding it and divides it: Un-
swallowability. Literally, between lines just like that. The actual composition of the words on the page helps me get into and grab onto the experience of hearing, seeing, and tasting Infinite Jest.

So, wherever you are, in your story, and in Infinite Jest—Keep going until you find something you can sink your teeth and hands and heart and feet into.

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6 thoughts on “Looking Again and Looking Often”

  1. I attempted to read Infinite Jest for the first time during Infinite Summer. I made it about 100 pages in and bailed out. My husband, Jeff, finished and blogged some along the way (https://infinitetasks.wordpress.com).

    The following summer, I was one of three guides for a group reading of one of my favorite anarchist texts, Letters of Insurgents (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letters_of_Insurgents), which we called Insurgent Summer. Shortly after that, I read, finished and enjoyed my first DFW book, The Pale King. Later, Jeff re-read IJ and taught a class on it for the Great Books program at USF, where he is a philosophy professor.

    About six months ago, I began writing a novel of my own and uncovered that IJ and DFW influence two of my characters (one based loosely on my husband), so I decided to give it another go, this time with a “Professor of Infinite Jest” at the ready for questions and a pre-highlighted copy of the book. When I heard about Infinite Winter, I thought it would be a great way to keep myself going and I gained a bit of confidence by already having some pages under my belt (twice).

    I am feeling more patient this time and have a better understanding of the rewards that are in store, but I still have an internal struggle with the constant feeling that I am missing most of what is actually important about what I am reading, despite the reassurances that this is actually part of the process of reading the book. I am eager to get to the point that I can’t put it down, I am closer to that than I was in 2009.

    I appreciate your encouragement. And am glad to read about the neat projects that the guides are up to. Thanks for doing this!

    1. DeAnna, Thank you for this unfolding story. There are two things that I think about, a whole lot, that I do not do: read Pale King and write novels.
      So, cheers to your new found, closer to not being able to put down Infinite Jest!
      At first, Maybe it was the too much machismo something that kept me from reading Infinite Jest– and what about having an aversion to doing things that a lot of people are doing, yep–that may have been part of it…jeez, well I know I want to know which character speaks to you first in that different, deeper way. AND, consider checking out @drawinginfinite’s depictions of Infinite Jest. There is something great about seeing how someone else imagines the imagery in the stories that unfold.
      Thank you for participating in Infinite Winter–I know that is a big part of why I am hear at 5:26am attempting to put together what all this is all about!
      To your projects today, and happy reading,

  2. Wallace’s placement of punctuation and sentence structure brings techniques of poetry to his prose. I never once disconnected from IJ nor stopped reading, sustained as I was by his prose and wit and wisdom. Especially the funny parts.

    1. William,
      “I never once disconnected.” How awesome is that! Thank you for this description. The spacing and markings between the words are as important as the words themselves.
      To your evening,

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