“a dense, complicated, scattered work of immense volume”

From Infinite Summer, a comment on reading Infinite Jest by guest guide Brittney Gilbert:

Infinite Jest takes focus. I cannot listen to music while reading this novel, nor can I take it in with television on in the background. I can’t skim parts and still get the gist. The text requires 100% participation on my part. It has become a meditation. I have to be present and mindful in order to fully ingest the words before me. I cannot click to open a new tab, to check to Twitter to see if anyone famous has died, or refresh D-Listed. (Which I am proud to say I have not done even once during the drafting of this post. Yet.) It’s just me and the lavish landscape Wallace created.

“I am in here.”

I have chosen to care about this book, to give it a place in my life. In doing so I am rewarded with messages in IJ about the importance of being present. Of just breathing. Themes abound in IJ about focus, about choosing what it is that you pay attention to, and how crucial it is to do that with the utmost care. If only because our whole lives depend on it.

By virtue of being what it is, a dense, complicated, scattered work of immense volume, Infinite Jest enforces its own themes. Focus, presence of mind and conscious choice are all things thrust upon the reader when they enter into a contract to finish DFW’s IJ.

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