“All you book sluts are the same,” says Nick’s mother as I reveal that I too am an English major. This comes as we sit in his empty apartment, smoking cigarettes before he goes back home, one day before he rides back into town, bored with home, and pops back by my place to talk about books. I myself am in the tail end of a David foster Wallace binge, one that has left nearly every book essay and short story read on my bookshelf, all but one actually.
“Have you got around to Infinite Jest yet?” asks Nick.
I told the truth. I told the same truth I’ve been telling for what seemed forever. (but more realistically was only a few years ago when Brief Interviews with Hideous Men fell into my lap.) No. I was afraid. I had spent most of the past two years tearing through short story collections and I felt like my patience with longer works was shot.
We get to talking about massive books in general. Nick too has spent a good time with short stories and misses the days where he could pour himself into a huge, massive, overflowing novel. His nostalgia becomes my own and soon we make a pact or a book club or even more precisely, a contest. We want to see who can finish it first. This will be our summer of Infinite Jest.
We order our copies the next morning. I can’t wait to start now that the deal has been made so I start early with a digital copy. The book arrives and texts fly back and forth between Nick and I too see how much progress we’ve made.
But weeks go by and I get a demanding new job. The work itself isn’t hard, minimum wage and low expectations at a sub shop that can’t keep a regular employee, but the hours are awful. I spend most of my summer here and I become thankful that I had thought to by the ebook version. My hard copy becomes neglected as most of my time both reading and writing has to be done at work during long slow eight hour shifts with only a handful of customers. While the other employees turn to old porn mags left in the back room, I’m always on my phone trying to catch up to Nick. ( in fact this very essay was conceived off camera in the back rooms on a dull Sunday shift).
Then it hits me. The book is going to end. At some point I suppose I just assumed I would spend the rest of my life reading infinite jest but lo and behold hours pass and pages turn and what once seemed a staggering feat of literature is slowly becoming another book I’ve worked my way through. Whew. What was I afraid of? A few hundred pages? My struggle has passed and now I have to cope with the loss of this massive world I’ve entrenched myself in. But like a miracle a gift has been given to me. I hear about a new book, The Four Fingers of Death by Rick moody, an author I had never read before but who seems pretty legit amongst the Internet crowd. What’s even better? It’s another big book, dwarfed by Infinite Jest by only a few hundred pages ( so what?). It seems the logical next step in my summer of massive books.
So let me really going to get down to what this whole thing is about, I want The Four Fingers of Death because I’m in a dark place right now. My relationship with Infinite Jest is coming to a close, we both feel it. I’m on the rebound and eyeing up Four Fingers of Death across the bar.