The Book Life

Wormholes and other experiments | July 13, 2009

This might sound crazy, considering that I write this blog, and have written others in the past, but here it is: The blogosphere is totally baffling and overwhelming, and also completely new to me. I’ve always considered my blogs personal endeavors, online versions of journal entries. I’m coming to realize that definition is far too narrow; there’s so much out there.

I sort of spontaneously and without much forethought jumped into Infinite Summer, as I wrote in my previous post, and I dove in with a healthy dose of chagrin. And then I floated in the shallow end with that decision for a week or so, waiting for the online-reading-group shedule to catch up to the bookmark at page 198 in my hardback copy of David Foster Wallace’s epic novel. (I don’t remember the circumstances of my purchase, though it’s definitely a used copy, and I bought it for all the usual reasons: sheer size, word-of-mouth, pretty cover.) I told myself it didn’t matter that I’d read those 198 pages almost a year ago: There are so many disparate threads in the novel anyway, I wouldn’t notice if I was missing a few, and also, it’s already 1,000 pages long! I just didn’t want to start over at 1. I began again slowly, reading from 198 up to the 210 mark, and over the weekend I made it to 242. At work last week, I found myself reading the IS blog posts religiously, and following links to other readers’ adventures (almost every link, in fact). I’m currently listening to an Infinite Summer playlist. I even went back and reread certain sections from pages 1-198 that were touted as excellent by one blogger or another – not quite the same as starting over at page 1, but I spent hours Friday night buried in this book.

And I liked it. The section I read over the weekend was incredible. I wanted to keep going. This is not what I expected. I was ready to be holding on with sweaty fingertips, forcing myself to open the book twice a week, the day before the deadlines (not that anyone is grading me, but I’ve only been out of school for a year and am about to go back, so if you give me a schedule, I’m going to stick to it). I’m fully shocked.

And here’s why it’s working: the community. I majored in English, so for years I took for granted that people around me cared about books. I took for granted that people around me were as addicted to and moved by the written word as I am. Then suddenly: a 9-5, law school applications, living with my parents. I kept reading books, of course. I even started Infinite Jest. But when I tried to tell anyone about it, they looked at me like I was nuts, laughed, suggested I quit, that I was crazy for trying.

Now, with IS, it’s like walking into a house and realizing it has the same floor plan as the house I grew up in. The people who’ve read it five times and counting, first-timers like me, people who are irritated by DFW, people who love him, people reserving judgment, everyone reading IJ for the summer, and talking about it. I sometimes feel like I’ve been sucked into a wonderful wormhole – you know what I mean. You read one entry, click on a link, and suddenly an hour has gone by and you’re somewhere else entirely. But it’s so nice to not be alone in this that I have a hard time minding. I had no idea that this was what I was missing, blogging only for myself. But being here, finding this now? It’s perfect, and makes me feel all fuzzy inside.

And now I find I have to be more involved. I’m still reading other things this summer (bring on the vampire novels – I love beach reading), and will be posting about them, but I’ll also be posting about my progess with IJ. To keep from being repetitive (and because I’m not going to grad school for English lit for a reason), I’ll keep the analysis to an almost non-existent minimum. What I will do, I think, is post particularly excellent excerpts as I go, and perhaps expound on why they move me. I always read with a pencil so I can underline bits that catch me. I’m all about literature as an emotional experience. It’s an incredibly subjective way to read/respond, but I think at the core, the emotional response to a text is what keeps us all reading, and makes us talk about what we’re reading, however we decide to talk about it. It’s what makes us care.

“Jim, a toast to our knowledge of bodies.” Having tried to write monologues (albeit in poetic form), I toast to DFW, because the monologue covering pages 157-169 is really just incredible, both technically (as monologues go), and emotionally. And despite how awful the father is to the son, I find the father so beautifully, painfully tragic that I almost forgive him for it (though I’d feel differently if he was my father, I’m sure). I’m not sure I can go much deeper into why this one sentence struck me, but a “knowledge of bodies” seems like a really excellent thing to toast to.

So, ISers: a toast?



  1. […] Laura of The Book Life. […]

    Pingback by Infinite Summer » Blog Archive » Roundup — July 13, 2009 @ 6:02 pm

  2. nice post!

    Comment by kate — July 13, 2009 @ 5:18 pm

  3. You summed up my feelings about the IS site but exactly. I was into my second read of IJ and discovered the site. Feel like I just walked through the gates of the Emerald City. My glass is raised.

    Comment by Amy Maguire — July 19, 2009 @ 5:46 am

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