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A letter to Infinite Jest

Dear Infinite Jest,

Well, I’ve finally finished you. It’s been, what, like 8 months? When I started you, you looked like this:

But you were so big and cumbersome that it took me months and months to make it through even a few hundred pages of your massive, dense, nearly-1000 page (without endnotes) bulk. Luckily, bitching about how you hurt my hand on the subway inspired a random Kindle from my mom for Christmas. She offered at the time to buy you again for the Kindle, but I retorted that I already owned you, so why buy another copy? I’ll just finish the paper copy and use the Kindle for other books.

Well that dream didn’t last very long. You were so large that I couldn’t really hold you with one hand on the train, much less flip back and forth from text to endnotes without much difficulty. Lucky were the times I got a seat so I could spread you across my lap and actually read without worrying about letting go of the pole and being tossed on the invariably rough subway ride to or from work. I gave in. I spent the 9.99 on Amazon and bought the Kindle version. When I finished you, you looked like this:

Nevermind the text on the image.

A few weeks ago, after a brunch mandate to stitch & bitch with Jesse (MACHO AS HELL), we found ourselves in the back yard of TBD in my beloved Greenpoint drinking beers and having a sans-women hang out time. It was really nice. As such, we got around to talking about you. But before we get into the whole post of this letter, let me restate something I mentioned in reference to Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth.

I like to work for a book. I really dislike having everything handed to me in tidy pockets of exposition. Nothing pulls me out of a book more than when someone within the first 30 pages stops to explain what they mean but this or that term that the author has created and feels some need to explain directly rather than letting us figure it out like rational, literate adults. I want vagueness and mystery and hints and intentional misdirection. I want to use my brain to participate in unraveling the text. I don’t think that’s so much. In fact, it is the one characteristic that differentiates books into the “enjoyed” pile and “would recommend to someone” pile. Sure, I enjoy books that are quick and hand me things, but only in the way you enjoy popcorn movies filled to the brim with explosions and tits and car chases. They’re little pieces of mental vacation. Think summer blockbuster versus art house.

Infinite Jest, you clearly fit into the “would recommend to someone” category for me. There’s nothing easy about your nearly-1000 pages and I enjoyed the task of deciphering you. You are a specific work of mad genius that I could never ever create. I enjoyed you immensely for all your rambling and wandering and temporal shifts and insane characters and plotless plot and asides and footnotes and nonsense and magical realism. It is clear to me that you are an intensely personal work by someone who was a tragic loss.

And then the other day on the subway I finished you. And all I have to say is fuck you, Infinite Jest. Fuck you with a knife and die. I’m all right with vague endings and I have never minded leaving questions unanswered at the end of a book, but this was too much. I felt like we’d stopped 100 pages before the book should have actually ended. In a flashback nonetheless. Total bullshit.

So, fuck you for making me feel like I didn’t get it. And fuck you for making me want to read you again so I pick up all the clues I missed the first time through. Fuck you. I love you. I haven’t been left wanting more so badly by an ending since I finished Neal Stephenson’s Anathem (which I thought I discussed here, but cannot find record of).

Fuck you, I love, and oh my god I am so sorry.


The Black Laser.

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