Saturday, February 23, 2008

Avoiding Reality

NOW READING: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Have I mentioned that a lot of the plot of Infinite Jest takes place in the footnotes? It's not nearly as annoying as it sounds. Ordinarily, I do find it completely tiresome when reading something to be constantly referred to footnotes. Especially if it's because the author has incomplete thoughts and jumbled organization, or when they are an academic and so they like to write one narrative in the paper and another in the footnotes. UGH. What DFW does in Jest, however, is write the plot in both the main text and the footnotes. I kinda dig it.

Also, the footnotes are pretty good and even f-in' hilarious from time to time. Sometimes they go on for pages. Sometimes there are footnotes to the footnotes. I reiterate that none of this is as annoying as it sounds. Also, how can you get mad when one sequence of footnotes reads like this:

a. Don't ask.

b. Ibid.

That is pure genius!

Recently in a footnote he referred to the prorectors at the tennis academy having "that grad-schoolish sense of arrested adolescence and reality-avoidance about them." (p. 1003) That is a great way to put it. It also makes me think I was, like, destined to go to grad school. As much as I hemmed and hawed and put it off, I can avoid reality and/or dwell in adolescence with the best of them. But I'm intelligent and like to read. So it had to happen eventually, right?

Reality is overrated. I prefer the Oscars.

Oooh! I almost forgot the most important part. I totally want to read Infinite Jest all the time when I have so much to do for law school, so I'm totally conflicted and I never get to make any progress in the novel and then I get all mad and on my days off I just read it and don't read things for school. THAT'S what's* so great about it!

*I have a new fondness for/obsession with noticing when I happen to write two words in a row that might mystify a novice pronouncer of English because they look the same but sound different. Example: "That's what's..." Also earlier today I noticed it when elsewhere I wrote "come home."

Friday, February 15, 2008

Tennis, anyone?

NOW READING: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Those of you who have not read it may not know that Infinite Jest is largely about tennis. Much of the action ("action") takes place at a tennis academy boarding high school in the Boston area. So in reading the book, you actually get to read a lot about tennis as well. But it's not, like, breathtaking accounts of tennis matches. (Are those even possible? I may be cynical, but tennis is seriously up there on my list of sports that are FAR more fun to play than to watch. Maybe just behind golf and bowling.) Instead this book is a lot of description of what daily life would be like for these hard-core tennis teenagers among themselves.

This life generally involves the usual mixed emotions that come with being really successful at something, the struggles and pressure that come with being really successful at something, and the things all teens do to thwart authority figures whom they also follow in many ways. The book also contemplates the deeper meanings of competition, success, and what one does with one's life. Much of this is seen through the prism of the game of tennis, and a lot of it (at least in these first three hundred pages) subtly contrasts these tennis phenoms with the drug addicts, corrupt political types, pretentious arty/film types, and random weirdos that fill out the lesser ranks of life. So far, no pronouncements on who, if anyone, actually will be deemed in the end to have their shit together.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I don't even mind the footnotes. So far.

NOW READING: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Those of you who have not Infinitely Jested may wonder what this tome is all about. Three hundred pages in, many things remain mysterious, but I can at least tell you some of what I like about it:

  • Much like Margaret Atwood and South Park, our boy David Foster Wallace skewers all manner of viewpoints by following them to their logical extended result. This, of course, has the effect of being both amusing and chilling.
  • I love the way he writes long convoluted sentences that hold my interest, but also occasionally writes using a very casual form and the word "like" to great effect. In other words, proving that people can use that word as a random interjection and not sound insipid. Yeah!
  • Making fun, but with just a hint of admiration, of the 12-step recovery scene, most prominently with the Ennet House Drug and Alcohol (sic) Recovery House. I love it. It's great, from the guy running around creating major social theory about everyone's tattoos to the bit I read today in which he demonstrates how a conversation goes between a platitude-spouting counselor and an educated person who joins the Program, who is not unwilling to engage in recovery but is questioning everything intellectually and trying to reason through the cliches about denial and the like. It was awesome. Kind of reminded me of some experiences I had back in the day, especially in L.A. where everyone had a therapist. (Myself included.)
  • I love anyone who can discourse handily about the danger of black widows dropping onto your picnic blanket from their homes in the Arizona palm trees.
I'm trying to think if any of my friends have read this book. Have you? I think I mostly know OF people who've read it. And I definitely know people like myself who have felt for ten years that we SHOULD read it. Well, anyone? Who loves this book? And why? No spoilers, please. One avid reader friend said she hasn't read it, and her idea is that mostly guys like it. True? A cursory MySpace search for people who'd listed it among their favorites turned up some scary results, indeed...

Friday, February 01, 2008

Here's the story...

NOW READING: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
NOW DABBLING: Collected Poems by Edwin Arlington Robinson
NOW VOTING FOR: Hillary Rodham Clinton
(oh, just got carried away with the three-named folks there. but i am voting for her, of course, not sure why you wouldn't.)

I continue to like our friend David Foster Wallace here, and to relive my life as I read. (Have I mentioned the book takes place in Boston and Arizona? Well, when it can be located in anything so traditional as a geographical place, that is.) Today, it was The Brady Bunch. In one of his dropping-in-and-out-of-random-conversation scenes, he gives it a full paragraph amidst many mere one-line conversation fragments. But he doesn't even mention The Brady Bunch, just "Eve Plumb," "Henderson." "Alice" and so on. As it turns out, if you don't know about The Brady Bunch you wouldn't even know he was talking about The Brady Bunch. I have verified this with someone who doesn't know about The Brady Bunch. (Yes, I pity this person.)

It does beg the question how many things he's alluding to about which I have no earthy clue...