An Infinite Jest Odyssey [1]

The only things I know about this book are through the YouTube videos of Sailing La Vagabonde (Riley is a massive fan of Foster Wallace) and from the film The End of Tour (which I have wrote about – https://insiderobbie.wordpress.com/2017/02/07/the-end-of-the-tour-inspiration/).  Cult author David Foster Wallace was an interesting character and so this book is a way into his mind more than anything.  It is a mammoth, clocking in at over 1000 pages and the foreword by Dave Eggers is a warning of how tough it is.  That sounds like the perfect kind of novel to write about, and I’m hoping it works out better than War & Peace did.

Pages 3 – 55

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This book has a unique chapter setup, where they are short, and basically all called the same thing.  Consequently 55 pages may not seem like a lot, but it has felt like a journey already. The text is precise and full of description, making each line incredibly dense with information. However it is still beautifully written, and reminds me of the other great American novels that I have read, such as The Great Gatsby or One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest. The narrative is disjointed and confusing, probably purposefully so in a sort of post-modern way.  It appears that Wallace is picking out parts of the story and jumbling them up, and that makes it jarring but enjoyable, in a Pulp Fiction kind of way. From this Wallace presents moments, instead of a series of them, and tells them with an effective comedic tone.  It comes across as him poking fun at the situation whilst also mind-numbing you with exaggerated scientific terms.  I’m pretty much hooked on the book already and I want to read more of it; I’m just not sure if re-telling the plot will ever be possible.  As far as I can tell we are sometime in the near future, and it is a balance of stories between different characters with different problems.  The world is perhaps somewhat breaking and at the centre we have Harold Incandenza, a tennis protege, who is equally conflicted as he is genius.

Wallace is aware of his skill and his use of similes is remarkable.  An example of this would be, on page 5: “My chest bumps like a dryer with shoes in it”.  Now this is beautifully observant, but shows the uniqueness and oddity of the book.  Wallace constantly drifts off into a bizarre realm, yet keeps his writing poignant and stylistic. The humour and wit is what keeps surprising me, and at the top of page 12 Hal says: “I do things like get in the taxi and say, the libary and step on it”.  I found myself chuckling at this, and this whole chapter is one of the most intriguing.  It is a conversational exchange that is both funny and challenging, leading up to the climax that shows the first themes of loss in the book.  There are some parts of this first 55 pages that I cant’t get my head around, like the technical terms that are completely made up by Wallace.  Despite this, as I’ve said, the characteristics of the writing is brilliant enough to keep me going at this point.

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What I’m loving most about the book is that it is coming together like all my favourite novels, and on top of it has this layer of Wallace individuality.  I would recommend it to anyone who is a lover of fiction, or has studied English Literature, and can understand the intricacies of the storytelling.  Overall I’m thinking about the book a lot, which is exactly what I wanted.

Side-note:  I bought a second hand copy of this book, and when I unwrapped it, a German trivial pursuit card fell out of it.  It is like the start of a great mystery.

The End of the Tour & Inspiration

One of the problems that I have is that I’m very aware of myself.  I’m aware that writing like this is silly, and that I’m not as good as I think I am.  I’m aware that the people reading this are mostly people around me, and that scares me not to open up as much. I’m aware that I want to be a writer, and the idea of pursuing something that I actually want to do is a terrifying thing. It’s the reason why my content level fluctuates and why I don’t particularly have a focus on here.  My focus comes completely from inspiration and a sudden drive to write something.  I’m also aware that analysing my own writing is ridiculous considering this page has been looked at less than 700 times.

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I recently did a thing that I only do when I’m sad, or melancholic, and that’s watch a film in the middle of the day.  On Netflix there is a film called The End of the Tour that stars Jesse Eisenberg and is about an interview with writer David Foster Wallace.  I was drawn to it because of Eisenberg then did the terrible thing of looking at its reviews, and seeing it was mostly positive, I pressed play.  On a film making level it scores high, being simple in premise but executed perfectly.  Director James Ponsoldt does a great job of keeping it centred on the dialogue, where the film shines.  Rarely is there any advanced camera movement or edit, and this allows the words being said by the actors to be broad and open. What they have to say is profound and interesting, casting a wide eye on people, politics and life.  Wallace, played by Jason Segel, is a writer of great intrigue to me, and I’ve never read any of his books, so listening to him talk about the world is fascinating.  His back and forth between fellow writer and Journalist David Lipsky (Eisenberg) is the joy of the film. Segel is remarkable in this role and makes Wallace empathetic, awkward and certainly a presence in a room.  From all of this I was inspired by this film within the first ten minutes.

Inspired in a way of the film being about writing, and the problems that come with it. Inspired by the fact that is directed by the same guy who made The Spectacular Now, a film that I adore and a film that has always been a great inspiration to me.  During the film I was laid there, in bed, feeling sorry for myself, having completely nihilistic feelings about my own work. I was getting a sudden urge to do something about it, without having the energy to actually do it.  It’s a sad movie, about a man having exactly what any writer wants, yet feeling so empty by it. Shadowing the film is Wallace’s suicide in 2008, and allows the audience to really engage with why he took his own life.  It ultimately shows how impersonal writing is, and how frustrating and lonely it can be.  I enjoy writing nonsense for 500 words about stuff that doesn’t matter so that people who don’t really care can read it.  Wallace has the opposite, and is still as conflicted as I am.  It reminds me of a quote from Woody Allen which goes: “You know how you’re always trying to get things to come out perfect in art because it’s real difficult in life”.  And that is an epiphany of a few words because why would a piece of writing being so perfect, why would a film be so perfectly made, it’s impossible.  It’s about embracing the cracks and that’s the scariest thing.  Nothing will ever be perfect, or your best work, and you will always be chasing the dragon of art.

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This notion is kind of relaxing, and takes the pressure of a little bit.  I’m not having an existential crisis at 19, nor am I particularly unhappy, but I look around and see only blankness.  It baffles me that there are people that I know and love, who don’t get it. They either don’t get me, or fall in line with my views, or understand what I’m trying to say.  I can’t talk to people, asking someone a question or taking part in small talk is impossible to me.  The bubble I am a part of is so small and the world is so big.  Though I will continue to be inspired, by books, by films, by my girlfriend who surprises me all the time with how she is creatively above the rest of us.  If anyone was destined to catch the dragon it would be her.  The End of the Tour is a fantastic film, and I would advise anyone to watch it, to perhaps get a little taste with how I feel every second of my life, just so incredibly self aware of my own pointlessness.

Side-note: I’ve started an Instagram page where I catalogue every film that I watch.  I’m going to try and attach it to a widget on here, but if you search ‘insiderobfilms’ it will come up.  It would be nice if you followed it.