On the 20th Anniversary of Infinite Jest

On the 20th Anniversary of Infinite Jest

infinite-jest-20th-anniversary-tabsIn the novel, Infinite Jest, an interlace cartridge entitled, ‘Infinite Jest’ is making the rounds in the auteur underground… only snag? Whatever happens to be on the Mimetic Resolution Systems cartridge is so enjoyable that it is killing everyone who watches. People end up packing in the house, more and more densely, as emergency responders arrive and find themselves trapped by the video endlessly cycling on the screen.

The title for the deadly entertainment cassette doubles as the title of the book, and both are equally deadly. The book, Infinite Jest was published twenty years ago this month. And, just like that 95% of you who accidentally tripped across this page are already clicking your back button and are retreating in haste. But you shouldn’t, because if you want a way to inbigify your life… inbetter it even… to dramatically expand the horizons of your world view, you can do it with the reading of this one little book. Ok, so Infinite Jest isn’t little by a country mile. But, would you expect a book to be short that could change your world view? Here…


Come on. Magic. That quote is hitting the nail right on it’s proverbial head. No? Art should force the viewer to countenance it… human redemption requires it of us. If it didn’t click the first time, read it again. It’s worth the struggle. Grapple with that quote and think about it. Our fear of loneliness, our fear of relationships has everything to do with our fear of death. That we will die alone. That the world will go on without us. And these are thoughts that require us to grapple with them before we can get better, grow, change. But that is the last thing we want. To grow. To change. And that is why we fail. We refuse to pursue honesty and perspective of our lives and what they mean. But Infinite Jest grapples with these truths.


Infinite Jest is all about the Enfield Tennis Academy and their elite pursuit of a career on the tennis circuit while constantly and thoroughly hammered on drugs and alcohol. And at the same time it is about the Enet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House. Notice anything? Enfield and Ennet? Two polar halves of a single mind… that of David Foster Wallace.

David Foster Wallace was an aspiring Tennis hopeful. He was also desperately lost in depression and buried under drugs that kept his demon in check. Infinite Jest is the story of an author – one of the smartest authors ever – who is doing anything he can to make sense of this world and his place in it. David Foster Wallace committed suicide eight years ago this September.

But what is on this tape? What is killing everyone that watches this thing? How is this happening and why? If that isn’t enough to drive you into this amazing book (my personal favorite novel of all time) I really got nothing else. Maybe, quite possibly the what of the tape isn’t a what, but a whom? Possibly even a P.G.O.A.T. – but I’ll leave it at that for now.


Man I love this conceptualization photo of Joelle, or the P.G.O.A.T… a conceptualization that fits the description of her to a tee. If P.G.O.A.T. isn’t in your lexicon – it means, Prettiest Girl Of All Time.

But I’m just wanting you to get just a small small glimpse of this amazing book . Much is made of it’s girth. Of it’s hundreds of pages of footnotes. Of it’s author’s enormous vocabulary and his unique word play. But I’ve personally never read a book with more of the author all over it. Like Hemingway said when he was asked if writing is easy, “Sure, writing is easy, just sit in front of your typewriter and bleed.” And Wallace really has done that.

There is one section of the book that makes me cry quite uncontrollably every time I read it because I know that Wallace’s faux facade has worn through and we are seeing straight into David’s head. It’s a female patient, admitted to a psych ward for watch after a truly hardcore suicide attempt. She was so thrashed by the drugs she took that she was frothing at the mouth and gnawing the shag carpet up in her room. And it was a simple conversation between herself and her young, yet thoroughly detached doctor that is trying to understand why she would want to kill herself.  And soon she is begging… pleading with the doctor, for shock therapy to make the pain go away. And in that moment, in that moment I first read this swath of Wallace’s heart, I knew… I just knew that this was his story. That he had had shock therapy. That he had attempted suicide. That David was the patient. And that he was the one begging to have the pain go away. And this was long long before he admitted such. This was before he was on the record as having attempted suicide.

But there are whole swaths of the book that are hysterical. Geeked out section of brilliance. Like the pages and pages describing Eschaton, a game of global thermal nuclear war played with tennis balls on a tennis court, with a world map scrawled across six tennis courts, which are dotted with dirty clothing chosen to represent real-life objects (shoes stand in for nuclear submarines) of strategic importance arranged in a 3×2 pattern. The entire point of the game? To survive with the most items of value at the end of the game. The basic game play is set according to very strict rules that are guided by probabilities and the like, in which players lob tennis balls (ICBM’s) at enemy targets.

According to very strict rules, probabilities and such, players lob tennis balls (Intercontinental Nuclear Missiles) at enemy targets. Alliances and pacts can form at will. And at the center rests a boy who changes hats from red to white to propeller-style pending the degree of worldwide nuclear peril.

Infinite Jest Reading Club

infinite-jestBut really, have any of you already read it? Or are you all just saying that you read it instead?! I recently found a quiz that asked questions about the inner-workings of the book and really sussed out the have-reads from the not-have-reads. You can take the test over here. But watch out – there are some pretty hard questions that really gave me pause. Eschaton I’ve given to you just in this reading. But they get really arcane fairly quickly.

But regardless, I just wanted to think back and reflect on the fact that it’s been 20 years since Infinite Jest had been released. I told you all a while ago that I would actually start reading the only thing I haven’t read of Wallace’s – The Pale King here soon in a bid to say goodbye to the author, but I have failed miserably at that. Saying goodbye, and letting go of one’s favorite author is a lot harder than I realized it would be.

I had a friend years and years ago who loved, loved loved… like – at levels of insanity that I can’t even really understand – Louis L’Amour westerns. And she read them all. Every single one. And that guy was prolific in ways that Wallace never could have been. Good old Louis wrote thousands of books it seemed like. And she read them all. And she had a similar reaction when coming to the end of the L’Amour road. A hesitancy to finish the road and complete the oeuvre. Man, that’s a thought I haven’t considered in a billion billion years. Good ‘ol Louis.

And yeah, with that, I just thought I’d publicly say thanks to David Foster Wallace and his might tome of a book Infinite Jest. And seeing as though I literally haven’t stopped reading it since I first read it, it really is the Infinite Jest. Good old Yorick…

“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now, to mock your own grinning?”

And with that? I retire from the field. Read it if you haven’t. It will leave you changed.