Infinite Jest – Week One (pages 1-27)

Hello all. Just a last wee reminder from me that we’ll be meeting tomorrow (Tue 25th) at 5pm. We’ll be discussing pp.1-27. Looking forward to meeting everyone!


We have an interesting dynamic in the group because while some of us are veterans who have read Infinite Jest 3 or 4 or more times, we also have several first-time readers. (And for the sake of the first-timers, we’re trying to adhere to a strict no-spoiler policy). While those unfamiliar with the novel are wondering how many of the strange, seemingly-throwaway details are deadly important, our veterans are noticing details they’d completely forgotten (for me it was the wonderful image of the Moms’s vibrating body still attached to the Rototrembler…).

The narrative situation in the opening chapter struck us as being really interesting. How does Wallace build the tension in this scene? How does he balance the static-ness of the central character with the chaos that is happening around that character?

We also debated whether or not Erdedy is a good person. Women play a significant (and also very minor) role in his chapter, and he treats neither of them well, but where do our sympathies lie? We discussed how Wallace manages to capture a sense of anxiety and dread and of how torn Erdedy is, but also how this means it’s hard to see very clearly beyond Erdedy himself.

Our most difficult question to answer: just how confident do you have to be to expect your reader to stay with you through such a long and difficult book? Infinite Jest is both inviting and not, seeming to frustrate any reader expectations by introducing details upon details, characters upon characters, having no plot but also never staying still.

Word of the Week: “Pooh-wear” (10).

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