ambivalence avenue

Increasingly (or maybe just continually) whenever I write things up in this piece they are about a reluctance to write things, or at least that’s the sense they leave me with once written. But and so it seems a fitting place to kick around an idea that’s been pinballing around some of my frequented internets: Infinite Summer, a sort of loosely structured internet book club for reading Infinite Jest. Although I’m now planning to start on their schedule and reread that book that was such a kick in the pants to my sixteen-year-old self as I turn twenty-four, I’m still deeply ambivalent about the intersection of social media and that particular book, and about my own participation in it. As someone who’s rereading it, am I even part of the same project? Do I really want to revisit and share (with strangers) the experience that seemed so defining and revelatory to high-school me? Can I face the reality that someone somewhere actually might, as we speak, be reading Infinite Jest on a dang Kindle? (I feel like a necessary part of the process is figuring out a way to carry your copy around, and mark the footnotes and your page and every favorite quote, and keep your wrists from getting sore from holding up such a bricklike tome. I found Katy’s solution particularly clever.)

I don’t know if vacillating between the extremes of “Hooray, something I love is now something I can share with hundreds of other people! Thanks, internet!” and “Crap, something that I once thought made me a special unique snowflake is now associated with a hashtag on Twitter! Thanks for nothing, internet!” is the usual reaction. And I don’t know if there’s any problem with not knowing. I know the thing that hits me in the pit of the stomach every time I think of starting this project, which otherwise feels like packing for an anticipated vacation, is the memory of finding out that David Foster Wallace died, and, days later, trying to write down what that had meant and then crying onto a moleskine in a coffee shop over my own inadequate run-on sentences, of scouring these tributes for weeks and sending out emails that were an excuse to reconnect with the people who discovered DFW for me, but which were underscored with a plea to make sense of how the world was like this.

The world was like this when I read Infinite Jest the first time: it was winter in North Carolina, and unusually snowy and icy, and this was provident for my reading/homework balance because snow days out of school were days to read that book all day in my twin bed in my parents’ house. The following things in the room were blue: one wall I had painted, the bedspread, a pair of Chuck Taylors on which I sharpied “So yo then man what’s your story?” I remember dog-earing so many pages, and writing down as a reminder some advice lifted from one of Gately’s meetings which served me well as a teenager, something to the effect of You will not worry so much about what others think of you when you realize how little they do.

I doubt those were spoilers. Maybe they are guideposts. Maybe these are reasons to write things here. I’d also like to write up some thoughts on the buttload of Proust I just read, which is another tenuous connection back to high-school me, who meant to get around to Proust after reading de Botton. I don’t think I’d quite have seen the point then. I guess I can’t really know if I do now. Maybe the rest of my life should be an exercise in rereading. I can imagine worse fates.


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