Several years ago a friend tried to get me to read David Foster Wallace’s INFINITE JEST. IF you know what it is, you know why I hesitant to make that commitment.
I had recently read an interview DFW had done with David Lynch, one of my favorite directors, and loving Mr. Wallace’s writing style made an off hand comment to said friend who immediately recommended Infinite Jest, Wallace’s second novel, which clocks in at 1,079 pages. I believe I’ve read recently that 39 of those pages are occupied by lengthy and labrythine footnotes.
When is the proper time in one’s life to make a commitment like this? At the time I was (and still am) a huge fan of Stephen King’s DARK TOWER series, and at first I’d sit down and re-read the entire series every time he’d put a new book out. However even that had its limits – near the end of the series, when SONG OF SUSANNAH and the final volume THE DARK TOWER came out within, I believe, a year of one another I just could not invest the time to re-read everything with those last two volumes totalling something like ~1300 pages.
There is just not enough time to read everything we want, right? Between my ever-diminishing stack of comics every month, magazines, and of course the freakin’ pile of books I have but have not read yet (don’t keep ya from buying more, does it douche bag!), it is just really hard to commit to something over 1000 pages.
Well, in light of Mr. Wallace’s recent death, I’m taking the plunge.
Never having read anything besides his essays I decided to warm up with his debut, BROOM OF THE SYSTEM. This would also act as my barometer – depending on how well I liked this highly regarded and considerably shorter novel, I would decide on whether or not to pursue its heftier younger brother.
Happily, I can say I’m on board.
‘Broom…’ is an interesting, often neurotic novel that to apply the somewhat cunty term ‘multi-faceted’ to is an understatement. It is everything great literature could hope to be, a breeze to read, and, to borrow from Wang Dang Lang, a character from the book, funnier than ‘shit on fire’.
I have long been fascinated with the line between Genius and Insanity, and what each or either mean to the other. In ‘Broom’ I was rewarded with what felt like a living, breathing examination of said concepts, playing out in a charmingly introspective story about people, society and perception.
Often at work I criticize the folks who run in and buy up an artist’s work after they die, and here I am in a similar position. It’s a shame it took me seven years and the author’s death to work up the balls to read Infinite Jest, but now, well, here I go. Maybe next I’ll do the other book I’ve been procrastinating on for some time – James Joyce’s ULYSSES.