Monday, December 15, 2008

And So Adieu....Until Next Time

So, I think I finally get it. The title of the novel is actually a triple-entendre - it's a reference to Hamlet, from which parts of the plot borrow heavily; it's the title of a film in the novel - also a cornerstone of the novel's plot; and, probably most importantly, it's a meta-reference to the novel itself. Let me explain that last one: The first chapter of the book is the last chronologically, so when you finish the novel, which really does just end at a seemingly random spot, you're supposed to flip back to the front and start all over again. The book is actually intended to be an infinite cycle.

Yes, last night I finished the two-month expedition I started back on October 7th (ah, okay, just for posterity - 1,079 pages in, 100% of the novel!). And yes, after I finished, I did go back and reread the first chapter, and was very, very tempted to continue. But that would've meant another two months of my life - and I'm not sure I have it in me...yet. There's no doubt I'll return to this novel at some point, maybe three or five years from now. DFW even said in an interview that, at the risk of sounding a bit presumptuous - you know, it is a 1,000+ page book - but it really is a book that he intended to be read more than once. And so, someday, I will.

After a first reading, it's very easy to see how a second reading is almost necessary. I had my "cheat sheet" guide book to help orient me in time and explain interconnected relationships of theme and characters, but without that, there's so incredibly much I would've missed. And I'm sure there's a lot I missed anyway. The book really is a giant cycle (and the notion of cycles dominates many of the descriptions and plot turns throughout the novel) in that the foundation for the last chapter (dueling story lines between Don Gately - a former drug addict and main character at the Ennet House, and Hal) is set up by tiny clues in the first hundred pages - when the novel is at its most jumpy and fractured.

So, at any rate, the next time I read the book, now that I know how it all fits together ("the interconnectedness of all things" - DFW), the reading will probably be even more fun than it was this time. This reading definitely had its ups and downs. There were certainly times I was bored and frustrated, and would find myself spacing out over several lines at a time, and then forcing myself to stop, backup and reread. But as pieces started to come together, and I started to "get" the book, it became more and more fun - like the feeling you get when you're let in on a joke, only magnified hundredfold.

And, so, I sign off - for now. This is quite sad, to be honest. After DFW died in September, I wrote a silly, somewhat rambling note on facebook - basically stream-of-consciousness thoughts on his death. Someone I don't know at all posted a comment: "Good luck with Infinite Jest. It's a much sadder book now." No doubt about it - that guy was absolutely right. Of course, the book is very sad anyway, and it's incredibly sadder now that DFW is no longer here. But thankfully, he left us a work that, by its very nature and structure and brilliance and fun, is meant to last forever - quite literally, an infinite jest.

(Thanks for reading...GZ)

1 comment:

Greg Zimmerman said...
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