David Foster Wallace’s great postmodern masterpiece Infinite Jest took me nearly a year finish, and was the most moving and meaningful reading experience I’ve ever had. Weighing in at 1079 pages, with over 50 characters and 300 endnotes, it stunned me with its ambition, and intrigued me with its vast exploration of topics as varied as addiction, junior competitive tennis, and adolescence. But more importantly, Infinite Jest taught me how to slow down, be humble, pay attention, and just read.
Despite my enjoyment of it, reading Infinite Jest was a long and uphill battle. And perhaps it’s the actual toil and length of the reading that’s the best metaphor for the morals it tries to convey. Infinite Jest is about our assimilation into a culture of expectance, addiction, and mindless entertainment. Nowadays, working hard at reading novels, watching films, or even listening to music, seems paradoxical and foreign. But with Infinite Jest, I had to work hard at reading, and rediscovered the joy of piecing stories together for myself rather than having them handed to me on a silver platter. Sitting down and relinquishing my unyielding attention to a book – a physical book with no popups and minimal product placement – became an unlikely sanctuary. Infinite Jest not only taught me how to be a better reader, but also to be patient, to persevere, and to think with ferocity.