The Book Life

I’m Going to Gripe

September 15, 2009
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So after my silly speculations about what might happen to my reading habits once I started law school, here’s what’s happened:

I still make time to read, but I certainly don’t make time to blog.

So it goes, I suppose. I haven’t picked up a New Yorker in weeks, which is distressing, but there’s just too many other things to read, i.e. contracts and criminal law and civil procedure and (God help me) torts.


A moment of celebration before I begin to gripe: I finished Infinite Jest! I’m really quite proud of myself.

And here’s the griping: I KNOW that I shouldn’t have expected anything like or resembling in any way an actual conclusion from Wallace, after all this time. And yet. And but so. I really really wanted one. Anything. The smallest bit of resolution. I really thought the last 200 pages were going somewhere. I experienced the I-can’t-put-it-down problem for the first time with this book in the last 200 pages. I’m sure there are people who will tell me that the book did go somewhere, that it does go somewhere. But now, in the moments after finishing? I’m feeling a little disappointed.

However. I’m so glad I read it. I’m not sure I’ll ever become a fanatical-type-really-excited-about-IJ person who reads IJ over and over again. But I’m glad I’ve been there.

And that’s the end of my law-student-too-busy-to-blog-but-still-not-too-busy-to-read post!


Are you tired of reading about Eschaton yet?

July 28, 2009
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All I have to say about Eschaton, which lots of other bloggers and readers are gushing over and around and under (or just plain whining about), is this: “LaMont Chu is throwing up into the Indian Ocean.”

Moving along:

Someone let your peoples forget it was the only thing of importance, choosing. … Some are taught that temples are for fanatics only and took away the temples and promised there was no need for temples. And now there is no shelter. And no map for finding the shelter of a temple. And you all stumble about in the dark, this confusion of permissions. The without-end pursuit of a happiness of which someone let you forget the old things which made happiness possible.

I found a lot of truth in Marathe’s speech here. His English-as-a-second-language (put-on or authentic) seems to add a level of authenticity/sincerity here, for me. This confusion of permissions. I often feel that temples are for fanatics – e.g. while there is part of me that can attend church on Sunday and feel at home, there is another part of me, equally loud, if not louder, that simply itches at it, at church, at this temple, so to speak. It’s a battle. The part that itches insists that I have no need of temples, even that I am brought down by buying into something, anything, beyond myself, be it religion, be it the idea that I might someday find love, be it the very idea of finding an answer of any kind. I can barely form the question before it’s telling me I don’t need an answer, scratching away in there. But promising that there is no need for temples does not actually diminish the need for temples – it only complicates this need, and forces the focus onto whether we need temples, instead of what we should focus on: the search for temples.

There’s more I want to say, about the importance of choosing, but I can’t quite get there tonight. I’ve typed and deleted multiple attempts, all saying pretty much the same thing: It’s important to choose. I can’t get beyond the truth of it. Which brings me to:

“How do things get to be trite? Why is the truth usually not just un- but anti-interesting?”

That line does a better job than I can at explaining why I can’t get beyond the truth of the importance of choosing. It’s too basic.

I’ll close with a line from perhaps my favorite character (a favoritism based entirely on unmuddled eccentricity and (apparent) wisdom): “The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.”


July 22, 2009
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The title is my favorite word from last week’s pages. I found something deeply amusing about seeing that all spelled out and capitalized and squished together like that. So… appropriate.

The rest of this is going to be disjointed, which might be fitting, given the amount of time spent in the endnotes from p. 242 to p. 317.

  • Orin’s feelings about footballs: “like most tennis players, [he] had always found the misshapen ball’s schizoid bounces disorienting and upsetting to look at.”(p. 289) –> Simply put, hilarious. Also, I’m not a tennis player, never have been, but I also find the bounce of a football strangely unnerving. I played rugby for a season, and I had the same problem.
  • “destiny always leans trenchcoated out of alley with some sort of Psst that you usually can’t even hear because you’re in such a rush to or from something important you’ve tried to engineer.” (p. 291) –> Destiny wearing a trenchcoat? Makes me think of a femme fatale, and/or Goth teenagers. What if destiny were a Goth teenager?
  • “Nothing in Poor Tony’s grim life-experience prepared him for the experience of time with a shape and an odor” (p. 302) –> I found the entire Poor Tony section completely riveting, and I must have been holding my breath throughout, because I sighed and took a deep breath when he finally had the seizure. Which I guess is a weird response to someone having a seizure.
  • My other new favorite word, this one I might actually use: candent, as in “not exactly the most candent stars in the intellectual Orion,” (p. 306) a sentence that made me laugh out loud.

Footnote 110 is brilliant. I found a lot of it frighteningly absorbing, and I underlined and noted more of it than of the actual text for this week. I think I enjoy Hal most when he berates Orin. The tone Hal takes is just pure gold. (Makes his inability to communicate at the beginning even more terrifying to contemplate, in my opinion. He’s so quick and witty, here.) I also love when the brothers don’t directly answer each others’ questions, but just each forge blindly ahead into their individual points.

  • “It’s poignant somehow that you always use the word Subject when you mean the exact obverse.”
  • “She’s Strategy-resistant because she knows too much to fall for a persona.”
  • Another great word: swivet
  • “I’m a privileged white seventeen-year-old U.S. male. I’m a student at a tennis academy that sees itself as a prophylactic. I eat, sleep, evacuate, highlight things with yellow markers, and hit balls. I lift things and swing things and run in huge outdoor circles. I am just about as apolitical as someone can be. I am out of all loops but one, by design. I’m sitting here naked with my foot in a bucket. What exactly is it you hope to get from me on this?”

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?

Infinite Summer? You bet.

June 29, 2009
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Damn it!

I just finished an entry about surrender, did I not? About not forcing yourself to finish books you’re not enjoying? Well, here I am, thanks to my overambitious friend Andrea, deciding to give David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest another go ’round.

I quit at page 198 last fall. And I even used my prettiest, favorite bookmark, to help entice me to read it. I carried all 1,00o pages of it around with me on various summer trips. To no avail. It’s been sitting on my bookshelf for months, untouched:IMGP4314

Right there, next to my many impulse purchases from McSweeney’s.

After an hour of deliberation this evening, I’ve decided that perhaps this is what I need. A little community, some friends (albeit virtual) to make me feel less alone amongst Wallace’s intricacies and admittedly gorgeous sentences.

So I followed Andrea’s link to Infinite Summer. And it looks sort of fun! And pretty motivating! (Can you tell I’m still talking myself into this? I was planning to read trashy vampire novels all summer, remember?)

But I want to try. The reading period extends into my first month of law school, which is a shame, and might defeat me, but at the least I’ll get farther than I am now. Plus, I’ve never been in a book group of any kind, real or virtual.

Here goes…

IMGP4316 I took the book off the shelf.

That’s as good a start at any.