Hi, my name is Danielle Ely and I have an Infinite Jest problem

I first read IJ in the summer of 2009 in graduate school, just about the same time Infinite Summer launched. I read IJ again the very next semester, and then once more in preparation to write my Master’s Thesis on it. Back then, I even wrote a guest post for the St. Rose English Blog with the same name as this one. So, the secret is out: I’m a one-trick pony. When it comes to campy titles anyway. Continue reading “Hi, my name is Danielle Ely and I have an Infinite Jest problem”

Clare Hayes-Brady: “As in quote ‘the man Himself'”


Blog posts are unfamiliar territory for me; I’m never very comfortable writing into the ether, as it were. (Speaking of ether, can I just say how much I loved the discussions of ghosts and wraiths and the supernatural that have been taking place? This seems to me to be something weirdly overlooked in Wallace’s writing, from “John Billy” to The Pale King. There are ghosts everywhere! Let’s talk more about that!) With that auspicious start, I’m actually not here to talk ectoplasm or spectral speeches. I’m technically here to talk about gender in Jest, which is all kinds of interesting but also very complex for a blog post.

Bear with me. Continue reading “Clare Hayes-Brady: “As in quote ‘the man Himself’””

Michael Hancock: A Few Observations

When I signed on to do this guest post for the blog about a month ago, I had no idea what I would write. When I talked to Phil about it last week, I had no idea what I would write. And when I sat down to write this, a few short hours before sending it to go up on the blog, I—well, I’m sure you can guess. In lieu of an argument, then, I’m going to provide a few observations on my reading of Infinite Jest over the past few weeks, and if a theme emerges, I promise it’ll be a surprise to me as much as anyone. Continue reading “Michael Hancock: A Few Observations”

Virginia Shay: Observation without Judgment

This week’s reading gave us one of my favourite passages from Infinite Jest, and Allie discussed it yesterday. Mario’s contemplations on being drawn to “stuff that was real” fascinated me, and I found myself astonished (as I do with a lot of passages in Infinite Jest) at the level of self-awareness Mario seems to have about what makes him different from other people. Even more astonishing, he’s able to reflect on this fundamental difference between himself and his friends and family without much judgment. Note that I’m treating this passage on 592 as free indirect discourse; that is, even though it’s written in the third person, I’m choosing to read it here as fairly representative of Mario’s own thoughts and feelings, as opposed to being reflective of the narrator’s interpretation of Mario’s interior life. Continue reading “Virginia Shay: Observation without Judgment”

Guest Post: Allan Wood, “Life And How To Live It”

In David Foster Wallace’s review of Joseph Frank’s multi-volume biography of Fyodor Dostoevsky (which review was written while he was working on Infinite Jest and pulled from A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again at the last minute (it was eventually collected in Consider the Lobster)), he posed a series of questions, seemingly to himself, concerning living a meaningful life and how to be a good person. Continue reading “Guest Post: Allan Wood, “Life And How To Live It””

Double Feature Guest Post Part 2: Steve Rigby: The Abnegation of Personal Will in Infinite Jest

Dictionary.com defines abnegation as ‘the act of relinquishing or giving up a right, possession, etc.’ and even though I really cannot understand how any decent definition includes ’etc.,’ I’ve come to believe that virtually ALL the major characters in DFW’s magnum opus have abnegated their sense of personal will.

They are confronted with realities surrounding them to which they can, at the very best, only react.  They have lost the sense of self-worth which is necessary to inspire any significant action to change that world around them, even when it is apparently affecting them in significantly negative ways. Continue reading “Double Feature Guest Post Part 2: Steve Rigby: The Abnegation of Personal Will in Infinite Jest”

Double Feature Guest Post Part 1: Alana Rigby: Infinite Jest: Mind-Altering Comedy?

*my page numbers are probably useless for everyone else because I’ve been reading on a combination of an e-reader and my phone and Google Play indicates that my copy of IJ is 1819 pages long…

I have never read Infinite Jest before. And like Orin and spiders, I eschew spoilers like the plague, so much so that even reading the blurb on the back of a book puts me at risk for frustration. I like knowing absolutely nothing about a book before I start it because you can only ever have the completely unspoiled experience of a narrative once.

Thus, I began Infinite Jest blind. And when I went to enter the book onto my Goodreads ‘Currently Reading’ shelf, I was surprised to see it billed as a “mind-altering comedy”. Continue reading “Double Feature Guest Post Part 1: Alana Rigby: Infinite Jest: Mind-Altering Comedy?”

Matt Bucher: Imposter Syndrome

If you are a fan of DFW, or a close-reader of Infinite Jest, I would wager that one of these statements contains a ring of the familiar:

  • A collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true.
  • Something experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.
  • Victims can develop anxiety, stress, low self-confidence, depression, shame and self-doubt.
  • Sufferers tend to reflect and dwell upon extreme failure, mistakes and negative feedback from others.

All these statements describe a common condition called impostor syndrome. Who among us doesn’t feel inadequate? Who doesn’t harbor a low-level anxiety and major degree of self-doubt? Continue reading “Matt Bucher: Imposter Syndrome”

Nat: The Double Bind of Reading IJ

You guys, I’ll admit. I wanted to quit. But I can’t.

For some time, I’ve been musing over the darkness of the addiction theme in Infinite Jest. Can I endure it? In addition, this week’s reading about Mario’s birth elicited nagging discomfort with the ambivalent descriptions of disability in the text. Questions about these aspects of the book rattle me. Really rattle me. (Truth: I cried in a Wendy’s bathroom when Tony died.) This book is not an escape that offers warm comfort!

So what is the secret sauce? Why do I love it so? Continue reading “Nat: The Double Bind of Reading IJ”

Brett Szyjka: Incandenza Relations

Brett Szyjka is a Software Engineer from Buffalo, New York.  If he’s not coding, reading, or watching baseball, he’s probably asleep.

Hooray everyone, we’re more than a quarter of the way to the finish!  This is my second time through Infinite Jest aside from all of the picking I’ve done at my favorite sections.  I’m enjoying it more than the first time actually and I wanted to quickly thank all of the guides for doing the work of facilitating conversation and highlighting perspectives that otherwise I would have missed out on. Continue reading “Brett Szyjka: Incandenza Relations”