In 1992 I bought a copy of that year's Best American Short Stories and was blown away by this story called "Forever Overhead." It was told in the second person which is something that I usually really hate but this story was so simultaneously gorgeous and nauseating that I raced through it and had no time to be annoyed. After reading it I flipped immediately to the back to read the author statement and that was when I fell in love. Right then and there. This guy, David Foster Wallace, had written this ridiculous, wonderful, and hilarious author's note that was a complete 180 from and even more brilliant than the fraught and delicate story I had just read. And it had footnotes. Footnotes in an author statement. I was smitten.
When Infinite Jest came out I bought it right away. I'm pretty sure they released it in paperback because I remember buying it at a now defunct Brentano's on 6th avenue a few days after it came out and I remember it was a paperback. I went home dewey-eyed with excitement to start reading. I started that day and I think I got to page 160 or so. And then stopped. This was back when I devoured books, staying up all night to read even mediocre books. Once I got started on a book I read it constantly until I was done. That never happened with Infinite Jest. I put it down and it stayed down. I remember picking it up again a few years later and getting to right about the same spot again and again stopping. At some point I must have lent out my copy because the next time I felt up to reading it I couldn't find it anywhere. After this I walked around with a tiny little part of my brain that felt guilty for never finishing, hell, barely starting, the magnum opus of my favorite contemporary writer.
When I heard the news last September, cryptically via Twitter, that David Foster Wallace had hung himself I found myself crying almost instantly. Suicides make me very upset anyway but to lose such a mind to that fucking villainous black hole, depression, shocked me to tears. I couldn't shake the dread and sickness that plumed up whenever I thought about if for a long time afterwards. That day though, partially because it had been on my mind again since getting Consider The Lobster and partially because I am a narcissistic douche who can't help myself, I had the thought: shit, now I have to finish Infinite Jest.
Enter Infinite Summer, a brainchild of Defective Yeti's Matthew Baldwin and also guided by my favorite Internet sensei, Eden Kennedy. As soon as I heard about it, again via Twitter, I knew I was in. Here was another chance for me to prove how susceptible I am to peer pressure AND fulfill one of my lifetime goals. Fun! The gist is that a bunch of people from around the globe will be reading it this summer from June 21st to September 22, 75 pages a week. (Not including the extra 300 pages of endnotes.) I am 50-some pages in and feeling good. Just knowing that I will be finishing it this time (as God and the Internet as my witness) definitely helps. I will be occasionally blogging about it, I guess, so I hope you don't mind. Not sure how I'll do that as I am so spoiler-averse it borders on psychosis, but I'll figure out something. If anyone out there is participating in this summer project too, please pipe up and let me know.