June 20th - August 1st and I have finished "Infinite Jest". Wow. I am a fast reader but I was not burning through this one. There is just a lot to take in - words, ideas, characters, etc.
I have found the discussion on the Infinite Summer site quite interesting. At one point people were revealing who they identify with in the book. I can now understand the people who said they read it many years ago when they were younger found Hal to be the one they bonded with in the book. Hal struck me as DFW's Holden Caulfield. I liked (not sure if like is the right word but can't think of another right now) Gately. He was Infinite Jest for me. I found the parts about AA fascinating and such a metaphor for life. Sometimes you just have to do what people tell you. You may not understand it or believe in it but you have to go through the motions to get through.
I would not have cut any part of this book. Even though I could find Hal trying, he is a teenage boy and I find those trying in real life, you needed him to have Mario, Orin, the Moms, Himself, Joelle. Plus the theme of entertainment. DFW made me laugh out loud when he wrote about video-telephony and the advent of InterLace and Entertainments.
Of course, reading this book knowing that DFW killed himself does influence me as a reader. There are parts that seem such an honest look at depression they could only be written by someone truly experiencing those emotions.
I don't know if I will actively encourage people to read this book. If someone says they are thinking about it I would by all means support their decision. I predict that even if I never read it all the way through again there will be parts I will revisit. There are parts that will stick with me for a long time.
The end wasn't like "Confederacy of Dunces" or "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" where I was sad because I wanted to keep hanging out with the characters. The characters in "Infinite Jest" reveal a lot about themselves but you aren't friends with them. There are still walls they never quite let down.
So even if you opt to not pick up the 1000+ page work maybe check out some other writing by David Foster Wallace. He was a genius.
My next book? Something smaller. Something that does my thinking for me. I can fit it a short one, or two, before reading the novella for August and "1984" which is a bonus novel this year. I think a cold foamer is calling me now.