Lecture One

This Novel, and This Author, Now?
The prospect of discussing Infinite Jest, and work by David Foster Wallace, in the current moment. Is this the novel that we should be discussing right now?

Why Wallace?
“The body of work that Wallace left behind is remarkably eclectic.  Ranging from transfinite mathematics through radically concise short fiction to encyclopedic excess, his books bespeak both an intellectual restlessness and a versatility that is unmatched by any living writer.”
– Stephen J. Burn (David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest 1)

“We can imagine [Wallace’s] fiction and essays as the scroll fragments of a distant future. … He wanted to be equal to the vast, babbling, spin-out sweep of contemporary culture.”
Don Delillo

Why Infinite Jest?

“…the book consistently confounded the reader’s expectations on purpose. If reality was fragmented, his book should be too. It was also in keeping with Wallace’s insistence that the story not be so amusing that it re-create the disease he was diagnosing. It must not hook readers too easily, must not allow them to fall into the literary equivalent of “spectation.” Infinite Jest had to be, as he subtitled it, “a failed entertainment.”
D.T. Max, from Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story 182-183

Reading Infinite Jest

1. Take notes and make annotations.
2. Don’t rush.
3. Take time to read the footnotes, in order as intended.
4. Don’t worry!