Tommy Carrico: A Supposedly Fun Thing, Why I’m Trying (again) to Read Infinite Jest

While working on the banquet staff of a local golf club, I procured a copy of Infinite Jest because I grossly overestimated the energy and drive that I would have during my non-working hours. I made it about 100 pages in before my fantasy football team replaced the Incandeza family as the primary focus of my unpaid attention.

A few years of excessive schooling later, some colleagues and I were looking over each other’s syllabi for the upcoming semester. One laughed at my Religious Ethics syllabus and said, “You’re assigning a section of Infinite Jest? What the [expletive] are you doing to these kids?”

“Nothing I wouldn’t do to myself.”

Someone else chimed in, “That’s a terrible way to treat people… you should assign his review of The Dictionary of American Usage instead.”

I figured I would kill two birds with one tome – lecture on the book as I tried to slog through it a second time. I even made it past page 400 before the end of the semester papers, grading, exams replaced both the Incandezas as well as my fantasy football team (aren’t I a dedicated student and instructor!).

Infinite Winter, then, is my third attempt to read this work, beginning-to-endnote-back-to-place-in-the-book-to-end. I admire DFW’s writing style, am wildly envious of his mastery of endnotes and formatting, find his sense of humor humorous, and am confident in the power of Internet-accountability to keep me reading. “Third time’s the charm,” right? Or is it “three strikes, you’re out?”

My first attempt was on a whim to fill time, the second because I thought it relevant to my studies/lectures, and the present… some combination of the two. It’s not that I have an inordinate amount of spare time all of a sudden, or that this work directly impacts my dissertation, or that I expect the book to alter my life in some kind of grand, paradigm-shifting way. I guess, if pressed, I would say that I’m joining this group because it seems like fun.

When I read a tweet about #InfWin, it struck me as an interesting way to go about reading a book (I guess a large group of strangers on the Internet can make many activities more interesting…). I then looked through some of the posts from 2009’s Infinite Summer, an insightful group of folks that formed a sort of “write as you go” commentary of the book that reflects many different and interesting perspectives on both the process of reading and the content of the novel. Being in touch with several participants over the last week or so via twitter and e-mail has confirmed that this may likely end up being the case in the colder and drearier of the infinite seasons.

Or I’ll give up again.


Tommy Carrico is a stay-at-home-dad/grad student who tweets from @tjcTBA and blogs sporadically at

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2 thoughts on “Tommy Carrico: A Supposedly Fun Thing, Why I’m Trying (again) to Read Infinite Jest”

  1. This makes me think of the AA meetings later in the book, and the exhortations to “Keep Coming!” And “Fake It Till You Make It!” I’ll say no more about that marvelous section (I’ve also arrived @ page 400, coincidentally).

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