Note: Baby-related posts will resume in a few days. Here are some words about a whale of a book I read.

Last night I finally turned the last page of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I firmly believe that I was not ready to read this novel until now (at the age of 33), and when I read it again two or five or twenty years from now, I will probably believe that I was not ready to read this novel when I read it first in 2010.

It’s a novel about pain, mostly, and how we Americans and some Canadians experience it and deal with it. The pain that characters’ deal with in Infinite Jest is the pain that accompanies life – from the most superficial physical pain (and band-aids) to the most abysmal emotional pain (and suicide) and everything in between.

Parts of the nonlinear story are so ugly they are literally nauseating. It’s also a brilliant work of comedy. I might recommend it to three people I know, but no one else.

What qualifies the title as truth in advertising is that the novel could have been 3,000 pages, or pages, instead of a mere 1,079 pages. If anyone could have pulled it off, Wallace could have (he hanged himself in 2008). He had literary super powers.

This is what I took away from Infinite Jest:

  • A need to read this novel again, if only for the unanswered philosophical questions and the sheer fun of reading Wallace’s prose.
  • 112 vocabulary words, not including medical terms, pharmaceutical terms, mathematical terms, and words I thought I knew but looked up there on the spot and realized I didn’t know exactly. The list also excludes some optics jargon and maybe a couple of Boston-area slang terms that I didn’t take the time to comprehend.
  • A spectator’s understanding of Alcoholics Anonymous.
  • A heightened awareness of solecisms, whether others’ or my own.
  • An enhanced appreciation for linguistics, and a broadened view of how the English language can be peppered, scattered, browned, chopped, diced, chunked, smothered, capped, and covered.
  • A diminished appreciation for film and movies.
  • A greater love for dogs.
  • A feeling that I am a good father, at least compared to the derelict dads in the novel.
  • A reminder that even a satirical prediction of technology one decade into the future can be utterly ridiculous. Maybe actual futurists deserve a little more credit for choosing such a dangerous career path.
  • A reminder of the plot of Hamlet.
  • A desire to play tennis again.
  • A discovery that an online book club is a great idea for the right novel, even if I only used it as a reference because I was a year late to the party. Thanks to Infinite Summer for providing a supplement to the text.
  • A new favorite fictional game: Eschaton.
  • A disdain for endnotes.
  • A reinforced belief that almost everyone deserves second, third, fourth, and fifth chances in life.
  • We have a way of making life complicated, don’t we?