The title. Infinite Jest. It is taken from Hamlet. The play written by Shakespeare.
Hamlet holds the skull of the court jester Yorick and says:
“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is!”
I’m guessing the best time to search for an explanation of a title is at the end. So that is what i will do. But i do want to state the thought of the title at the beginning. It is an easy element to forget. Important though.
Year of Glad
Page 3 - 17
I read this part three times. Once when i bought the book. Once later on, trying again to read this book. And finally this time. So yes, i know this part. And yet, like with any book, which you simply won’t memorize completely, it is new to me.
I am seated in an office, surrounded by heads and bodies.
The first sentence of the book. It is strangely worded. Heads and bodies. As if the person is surrounded by marbles, disconnected from each other. This part describes someone very aware of his surroundings. Aware of himself, in a distant way.
I believe i appear neutral, maybe even pleasant, though i’ve been coached to err on the side of neutrality and not attempt what should feel to me like a pleasant expression or smile.
The I in this chapter is Hal Incandenza, eightteen years old. Hal is a ranked tennis player. He is at his admission talk for the University of Arizona.
His experience of his own body, his own speech is vastly different from how others perceive him. Other people people hear subanimalistic noises and sounds. Hal is taken away by paramedics into an ambulance. Strapped.
I’m not what you see and hear.
wen / harmless, usu permanent, tumour on the scalp or other part of the body
Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment
Page 17 - 26
The years have weird descriptions. The Year of Glad? Depend Adult Undergarment? Strange.
Well, this seems another year. I’m not sure what the name is of the man in this chapter. Erdedy? Not a name i have heard before. Well, he is waiting for a woman. He has made an appointment with her. She had said she would come. She will bring along 200 grams of marijuana. His mind wanders. Watching an insect. Thinking about how he wanted to stop doing drugs, how each time he calls another person to get it once again. How he had prepared his house for a couple of days of being completely out of it. How this time would be the last time. How he would force himself of taking too much. Each day.
The woman still hadn’t arrived by the end of the chapter.
girder / wood, iron or steel beam to support the joists of a floor
debauch / cause to lose virtue, to act immorally; turn away from good taste or judgement
1 April – Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad
Page 27 - 31
Hal is ten in this chapter, eight years younger than in the year of Glad. He is having a talk with a professional conversationalist. Hal drinks soda. Hal can cite the dictionary. Hal’s dad has made the appointment with the conversationalist.
And are you hearing me talking, Dad? It speaks. It accepts soda and defines implore and converses with you.
These first chapters are hard. Difficult to read. The unknown words list should be longer, but i only list the words which struck me, and of which i have no idea what they mean. Other words have a vague meaning, still giving a clue to what they want to say. I know the story plays in the United States. I don’t know what years. The years are not numbered, but have weird names.
I’m guessing the first pages of this book are hard to read, the story isn’t set yet. The characters are not known. This is still the introduction.
After i wrote this part, i went through the posts on Infinite Summer. I discovered the next bit:
How do you know Wallace can deliver before you’ve already blown the whole summer?
We have a number of reasons to trust Wallace. We have the word of smart people who have read the book, like Marcus, Jason, and Matt. We have almost 15 years of people reading and rereading, mining the book for its pleasures. We have the place to which this book has rapidly ascended in my generation’s unconscious.
But best of all we have the first ten pages.
The first ten pages of this book are remarkable. The first 100 pages are very good (if sometimes frustrating) but the first ten are amazing, and he deliberately put them there, right at the front, in order to make you a promise.
‘I’m not a machine. I feel and believe. I have opinions. Some of them are interesting. I could, if you’d let me, talk and talk. Let’s talk about anything. I believe the influence of Kierkegaard on Camus is underestimated. I believe Dennis Gabor may very well have been the Antichrist. I believe Hobbes is just Rousseau in a dark mirror. I believe, with Hegel, that transcendence is absorption. I could interface you guys right under the table,’ I say. ‘I’m not just a creatus, manufactured, conditioned, bred for a function.’
I open my eyes. ‘Please don’t think I don’t care.’
I look out. Directed my way is horror. I rise from the chair. I see jowls sagging, eyebrows high on trembling foreheads, cheeks bright-white. The chair recedes below me.
‘Sweet mother of Christ,’ the Director says.
He could have just said this: Listen up. I have a freaking great story to tell you.
If you feel yourself getting frustrated in parts, or lost. If you feel Wallace has lost your trust, stop, go back and read the first ten pages. You’ll find a promise.
I had forgotten about this passage. I just looked it up again. It was what came after it that threw me off. The rejection. The complete lack of understanding.
Talk to you again soon.