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John Moe: I Did Not Read Infinite Jest This Summer

I too started, but did not even begin to finish reading Infinite Jest this summer. (Actually, the truer statement is that I barely started reading Infinite Jest, but it sounds better if I say that I started.) Too many things conspired against me, chief of which was our x-country trip. (Why did I think I could read a 981 page tome while driving more than 8500 miles around the U.S.?) But I have, over the last year, after learning of David Foster Wallace’s death, read almost every other piece of his work that I could get my hands on. Although that’s probably an overstatement too. I’ve read quite a lot, it’s true, but I’ve purchased more than I’ve read, and there’s still a pretty thick pile of work for me to get to. I will though. And I’ll get to Infinite Jest too, just not in the Infinite Summer time frame.

Since I started reading David Foster Wallace there’s been a pretty common theme for me. First, I now read with a dictionary beside my bed. (Nice new Merriam Webster model that has an inline thesaurus. My tenth edition is on the desk, the new one is by my bed.) Second, I constantly find myself turning to my wife and uttering something along the lines of the following:

Being a writer in a world that features Wallace would be like playing basketball in a world that has Michael Jordan, only none of us even know how to play basketball and we’re all injured toddlers with broken lacrosse equipment.

Of course, nothing I’ve ever said sounded quite as good as that. It was more of something along the lines of, “Wow, this guy is really amazing,” or, “I don’t think I’ve ever read anything as honest, sincere, or funny as this.” Then, even though my wife is not a real lover of being read to, although she is my lover and is therefore willing to listen to me, I read her some miles long passage that is both funny and poignant, witty and elegant, simple and extraordinarily complex. And then I smile at her and she smiles at me and we wonder at the beauty of what I’ve just read.

I’m sad that David Foster Wallace is dead. Sadder still that he was so sad himself. And I’m disappointed in myself that I’d never read his writing, or even knew who he was, before he died. But I’m so happy to have found him and, while this is a rather small consolation for what was lost, I don’t know that I would have, had his passing never come.