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I Am Drinking the Infinite Summer Kool-Aid

Infinite_jest_cover Move over Oprah's Book Club. Make way for Infinite Summer.

Okay, so I have posted before about my love for the works of the late David Foster Wallace before. If you don't feel like reading my sappy and likely written-while-drunk tribute, let's just say he's pretty much the wind beneath my wings and all that stuff, only we never met under a pier in Atlantic City or, like, at all, and he didn't die of cancer, but rather hung himself last summer and shattered my heart into a million pieces. Despite bearing no relation to Barbara Hershey's character from Beaches, Dave Wallace's work did compel me to want to be a writer, so you can either thank him or curse him for that.

Aaaanyway. While I have already read his magnum opus Infinite Jest three times, some people on Twitter have given me a reason to go four #4. The impetus is a phenomenon called Infinite Summer, and it's getting to be kind of a big deal. Wanna play? Well, then here's what you do.

Step 1: Purchase Infinite Jest.

Step 2: Read 75 pages of Infinite Jest each day from June 21st to August 21st. This is kind of a trick, because that 75 pages includes footnotes, and I have to warn you that some of those endnotes go on for page after hilarious page, so some days "75 pages" will really be more like 102 pages. BE PREPARED.

Step 3:
Profit from reading one of the best novels you'll ever read. EVER.

Infinite Jest is a sprawling, towering, intimidating book, and I personally nearly quit reading it after bewilderedly plowing through the first 65 pages. Three times. However, it's also the best book I've ever read. Each time I reread it, I thank myself for putting aside my exclamations of "What the FUCK is going on?" to continue reading that first time around.

While I and many friends of mine immediately said, "hell yeah, I'm doing that shit," upon discovering the "Infinite Summer" group, I had no clue that it would become the phenomenon it has. However, already Infinite Summer's Twitter account has over 1,500 followers and is steadily climbing. The list of readers pledging to tackle the book this summer grows daily, and while I am filled with glee to participate in a giant book club centered on my favorite work of fiction, I can't help but think to myself, "What Would Dave Think?"

I think he'd mostly be amused, of course. It's a funny phenomenon in the first place, and the idea that the webpage advertising Infinite Summer is subsidized by the Deck Ad Network is somewhat pertinent given one of the book's prevailing themes concerning subsidization. Beyond that, I'm fairly certain my late hero would be absolutely mortified, but that was also true of his feelings about his fame in life. Dave Wallace was a conflicted man who struggled with extreme colored by bouts of extreme egotism. I believe, were he still alive, that he would be filled with an uncomfortable mixture of pride and embarrassment that thousands of lit geeks have decided to organize a summer-long book club dedicated to overtaking his largest work of fiction.

My own feelings are bittersweet, because I know that that it was only his death that made this book club of several thousand readers possible. I am reminded by each reader's pledge that there will never be another completed novel like Infinite Jest to devour in future summers. While I may bask in the joy that so many readers will come to know the book I have treasured for over a decade, and have often referred to as The TRUE Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius (sorry, Dave Eggars, but your book was only heartbreaking in its suckitude compared with the works of Dave Wallace, who nevertheless gave you rave reviews because he was cool like that), I can't help but be saddened again that another finished work by Dave Wallace will never again grace my bookshelf.

Despite feeling all maudlin and shit—still—over the tragic and too-early death of one of the 20th century's best writers, I have to be honest: I get a thrill every time I see a tweet that mentions Infinite Summer. I want to live in a world where more people have read my favorite book, and Infinite Summer makes that world a reality. To sweeten the deal further the website will feature blog entries from several readers embarking upon Dave's tome for the first time. In fact, MamaPop alumna Eden Kennedy is one of them!

The website will also feature entries by readers who have already read the book before. To be honest, I'm really close to begging to guest post, like I don't already have enough to do this summer.

If you're still wondering what you'll do with yourself all summer, I sure hope you'll join me in drinking the Infinite Summer Kool-Aid. It truly is a book worth devoting three months to, and if you're like me, you may not need all 92 days to finish it, because it's so good, you'll probably find yourself reading far beyond 75 pages a day. Even including the endnotes.

Related Posts

David Foster Wallace Dead, Age 46
Why I Feel Dirty Reading David Foster Wallace's Unfinished Manuscript (and Why I'm Totally Gonna Read it Anyway)
The MamaPop Roundtable: Desert Island Books

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I've been thinking about undertaking Infinite Jest, which I admit intimidates me. Maybe I'll just have to have an Infinite Summer.


Awesome. Infinite Jest has a strong showing in my top 5 (though not number one... Billy Faulkner gets that slot). The GP house even has two copies... one well-worn one (mine) and one looks-like-it-was-abandoned-100-pages-in copy (guess who!). I look forward to the posts.

I gotta say, after 2,100+ pages, I so didn't want it to end. (And yet what a great ending scene, totally had the same emotion as [details removed to avoid coloring / ruining experience for others].)


I am intrigued by this novel - but am scared to attempt it! I'm in a classic literature book club which is one reason I've been wary of attempting anything so major. I'm usually busy with that - BUT I have a lull in my schedule until August. I think I am talking myself into it as I type....Egads....2000+ pages, you say?

Snarky Amber

Rhonda. Jamie exaggerates slightly. the full page count i my tattered paperback is 1079 pages, including endnotes.


Man, I tried so hard to read that book, but I never got more than halfway through. Then it got put aside, and put aside, and put aside, and then I realized that if I wanted to continue I would have to start over again, because it had been too long. And I couldn't. I wanted to like it, I really did, but... It's not for me. Have fun on your repeat reading, though. :)


just bought my copy on half.com. im am seriously psyched/somewhat intimidated but more the former than the latter. had no clue there was a "movement" like this happening.

jamie - nice faulkner shout out. he's #1 for me as well. f. o'connor close #2.

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