Friday, May 14, 2010

Infinite Jest, attention

Watching the teleputer (TP):

He sat on the edge of his bed with his elbows on his knees and scanned the stack of cartridges. Each cartridge in the dock dropped on command and began to engage the drive with an insectile click and whir, and he scanned it. But he was unable to distract himself with the TP because he was unable to stay with any one entertainment cartridge for more than a few seconds. The moment he recognized what exactly was on one cartridge he had a strong anxious feeling that there was something more entertaining on another cartridge and that he was potentially missing it.

David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest (Boston: Little, Brown, 1996).
I have heard young adults describe in similar terms their difficulties in reading a book: giving their attention to one thing means that they will be missing other things. As if one could, yes, have it all — with the exception, I suppose, of that book.

Speaking of books — this book, Infinite Jest: I am 100 pages in, or more with endnotes. My readerly intuition was telling me: read Infinite Jest. So I am, twenty-five pages a day. Having taught Charles Dickens’s Bleak House over eight weeks this past semester, I am happily surprised to see that Infinite Jest too seems to be a novel of — to use Dickens’s word — “connexions,” with seemingly unrelated characters beginning to show up in one another’s stories. Do I like Infinite Jest? Oh yes.

A related post
David Foster Wallace on attention

comments: 2

Lisa Schweitzer said...

Reading Infinite Jest. What a lovely way to spend the summer. I told myself I was going to write today and then promptly went back to bed and read The Tempest.

Michael Leddy said...

Well, The Tempest is pretty good. :)

I’m now 150 pages in and like this novel more and more.