Friday, October 10, 2008

Jest Trying to Read and Write

Today it arrived: the massive tome known as David Foster Wallace's modern literary classic Infinite Jest. All 1,000 pages or so, I'm sure it made itself known with a thud when the mail carrier dropped it on our doorstep.

I am embarrassed to admit that I don't recall hearing about Wallace until I read an article a few weeks ago noting that he had committed suicide. "He was the best of our generation," one fellow luminary was quoted.

That grabbed my attention. Perhaps it was a continuation of my habit of devouring the artistic output of musicians, authors, filmmakers, etc., only after their untimely demise. But it also was a wake-up call that, as a literary person who has written novels and wants to write more, I should be reading the quality offerings of my time with the same desire I direct toward a Hemingway novel. After all, I'd read A Moveable Feast at least two or three times before even hearing of Wallace.

So I am about 10 pages into Wallace's masterpiece, not quite sure of the plot yet but intrigued by the buzz this book has received across the years. Impossible to categorize. Herculean to break down into components. I'm reading it, all the while challenging myself to be ruthlessly honest about whether I truly want to read it or because I feel I am supposed to...supposed to in order to satisfy some self-imposed litmus test on whether I truly bear the literary mettle to be a consumer and a contributor to the higher plateau of ideas.

And then there's the voice that wonders, Why on earth are you reading this when you should be writing your own novel?

The jest for me feels quite infinite as well.

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