Alyssa Jingling is the Marketing Director for Hothouse Literary Journal and someone who took a class on David Foster Wallace this past semester. Kylie Warkentin is the Managing and Website editor for Hothouse Literary Journal, and she also took that class on David Foster Wallace. In the class, they had to read and discuss Infinite Jest. These are their thoughts [duh duh].
What’s up with that?
Alyssa: wow, what a great question! honestly? I’ve read infinite jest twice now and still… I’m like yo what’s up with that and I’m starting to think that maybe that’s the point
Kylie: i keep forgetting you’ve read it twice. the will power.. the endurance….
Alyssa: yeah I forget sometimes too. I’m telling ya, 16 year old me retained maybe 5%
Kylie: but yeah i think i agree with you i think obviously you’re meant to get something new from the table every time
Alyssa: yeah with 1,100 pages theres… A LOT. genre: encyclopedic
Kylie: i DO think. it’s weird that other people have read it…if that makes sense. like they’ve also committed this feat
Alyssa: the fact that no two ppl can really read it the same way attests to the fact that we can’t fully communicate w/ each other??
Kylie: i like that take but also my positive spin on it: it helps us TO fully communicate with each other
Alyssa: that’s kind of very george eliot v. henry james, yeah?
Kylie: i dont even kno who those people are. which is so brave of me to say.
Alyssa: okay george eliot wrote middlemarch which is 800 pages of pure delight and also very heavily “the more I write about my characters the more ppl can understand them” and james was basically like “whats the point ppl can’t truly connect” which was very modernist of him???
Kylie: OH okay yeah then i think that’s definitely true i think DFW definitely does overwhelm the reader w info hoping something will stick
Kylie: but i do also hate this take everyone’s had in class thus far that there are no solutions offered to the problem…..there’s no point…….no point to anything
Alyssa: wait so is that the solution or u think that no one can see the real solution
Kylie: no i think that’s a misunderstanding of IJ. like i think it’s a really reductive view to be like ‘there are no solutions or any positive offerings in the book,’ so i think that take is annoying
Alyssa: yeah true but it can be hard to a. find a solution and b. agree on one?? I feel like a lot of the ppl who don’t see a solution either a. don’t understand the book or b. identify/empathize w the depression narrative
Kylie: no exactly, but i also dont think it has to be a big solution u kno ? like u can get something out of the book w/o it being this big earth shattering thing. that’s also probably a point
Alyssa: u mean the solution DOESNT have to be a 11000000 page book?
Alyssa: also I feel like this book can diagnose ppl w depression b/c cages??? DEPRESSEDT
Kylie: GOD i wish it weren’t
Alyssa: it can be a google hangout chat w ur friend?? it can b tiny
Kylie: exactly <33333
Kylie: but also i didn’t like it which brings us to our next question
Do you think Infinite Jest failed you?
Alyssa: mmm no. i believe that if one can’t get a message from anything–from IJ to Goodnight Moon–then they failed as a reader. there’s always a message even if it’s small, or not what the author intended
Kylie: i definitely agree with that. i do think though if we think of failure as, ‘okay whatever DFW was trying to do didn’t work on me,’ then yes it can maybe ?
Alyssa: but we can’t read books/view art like that, can we? once the author puts the work out there, it’s a free for all
Alyssa: the book, as hellish as it was (at times) (most of the time) (two times over) fostered good conversations and made me Think™
Kylie: see i am not so sure i fully agree w that i do think there are some caveats etc but also yeah i think there’s more to IJ than DFW’s intended message and that’s where i think it DIDN’T fail me
Alyssa: I think we can acknowledge what the author SEEMED to want to get across, but that shouldn’t be treated as the goal esp. when the author is dead
Alyssa: also we know what happens when the author tries to keep putting their message out @ jk rowling
Kylie: okay yeah i’ll take that
Kylie: but i think his whole thing of everyone’s trying to transcend themselves and no one can connect … well no, not really i don’t think. and i think IJ is too solipsistic
Alyssa: that connection/solipsism thing just really brings me back to modernism which is funny bc he was trying to be post- postmodern. but it really reminds me of Howard’s End?? “Only Connect” and stuff
Kylie: yeah that’s where i think he messed up i.e. how he used the postmodernist tools to be post postmodernist were way too alienating. so for me i was like. go outside. hug someone. choose to talk to others. it’s okay that we’re egocentric in some intrinsic way you know
Alyssa: but is it possible to NOT be egocentric??? does altruism exist???? but yeah like lets try therapy or something. or like……friendship
Kylie: yes exactly that’s what im saying the difference almost doesn’t even matter.
Alyssa: but yeah i think he was stuck in some sort of literary movement cage tbh
Kylie: yeah i definitely think it was a work for his specific time you know. like you mention literary movement cage…yeah
Alyssa: i kinda sorta feel like “This is Water” and IJ had the exact opposite messages. bc ur “go outside” message was like….. Water summed up
Kylie: AGREE. good point etc. and obviously they have different aims but i don’t see why there can’t be some connection between the two. if u understand that u r an individual then u can learn how 2 be nice 2 others
Kylie: plus i think it’s so funny we’re discussing the message of communication in IJ….over chat
Alyssa: honestly? Dave would love this
Kylie: ladies n gentlemen….we got em
What are three things you liked about Infinite Jest?
Alyssa: okay some things I liked were: the locker room scene bc I felt like that was a wholesome Just Guys Bein Dudes moment
Alyssa: our class discussions as a whole bc they help me understand Life and IJ and Communication better :’-)
Alyssa: and the absurdity of the plots??? Wheelchair assassins coming for tennis bois??? wth???? luv it
Kylie: ugh those are good ones. i also liked the discussions it inspired in class but i also liked (i am a dual citizen of canada for those who do not know) that the canadian side of the plot compelled me to do some research about canadian history and ask my dad questions like it was a fun way to kind of learn about my background
Kylie: i also liked that i learned a lot about the narrative structure of the novel because i’ve always been interested in that in a general way and when you REALLY look closely at DFW’s work in IJ it’s bananalands out there. very interesting
Kylie: and i liked the ending (‘ending’) because i think this is the first work i’ve read where the ending is kind of out of purview but not sight. those may mean the same words. anyway i thought the ending was cool
Alyssa: dave would love this chat but he would hate the word bananalands and tbh??? I love that
Alyssa: v interesting!! to me, the ending was overdone!
Kylie: let’s unpack that
Alyssa: it was very stereotypically postmodern sorry dave. the bell jar? that ending. song of solomon? that ending. bright lights big city? you guessed it
Alyssa: @ professor pipkin luved ur class
Kylie: well i guess we should clarify what we mean when we say ending
Alyssa: the whole idea of leaving the ending open so that u can kind of guess what happens to the characters but it doesn’t explicitly say. very symbolic for “new beginnings”
Kylie: oh you thought it pointed to new beginnings ???
Kylie: well i guess beginning the book over would be a new beginning. fair.
Alyssa: in general! but again, it’s open
Alyssa: but yeah also gately? seems to point to a new beginning for him, similar to Esther in the bell jar or whatshisface in bright lights big city
Kylie: to be honest i didn’t even consider the sea part the ending
Alyssa: oh??? what’s ur ending
Kylie: i tied that back to Gately’s beginning with AA and that whatever we construct the ending to be would be us working chronologically to figure it out (so the ‘ending’ would be what we think happens to Hal, Orin, The Entertainment, etc.)
Kylie: yeah i thought the point of his ending might be also that DFW is like haha you think this is the ending ?? it made me think of great gatsby, which is where im getting this from. literally just the fact that it recalls a famous weird ending, and then he’s like LOL not this though
Alyssa: oh man!!! never connected that
Kylie: that’s what i liked
Alyssa: if we take zadie smith’s interpretation of endings, basically it’s supposed to break the fourth wall. like, “ur gonna close this book n all the characters will b DEAD”
Alyssa: “bc it’s a book”
Kylie: thank you ms smith maam. but also i got the opposite i liked that the characters seemed to play out forever in their narrative !!! like the story is story but they’re still there
Alyssa: u read a 1000000 page book u can say whatever u want on it, but for the inescapable cage folks, smith’s interpretation probably makes more sense??
Kylie: oh true that’s actually a really good point. not the first, but wow yeah actually tea
What are three things you disliked about Infinite Jest?
Alyssa: only 3??? lol
Kylie: ME TOO
Alyssa: okay: I don’t like his treatment of women. i dont like the footnotes and tbh? i didn’t read most. and i don’t like the message that we can’t connect i am depressed enough as it is mr. wallace no thank u
Kylie: oh i shouldve mentioned sonic landscape for my likes. i liked that the novel was really audible
Kylie: anyway dislikes: i don’t like the sections where he seems to push us to our limits (e.g. the “It” abuse section, the Lenz violence section, the dead baby section) it was just too much. i don’t like his premise that we’re all trying to transcend ourselves because i like myself. and i don’t like the culture around the book
Alyssa: okay weird flex but good for u
Kylie: she’s not great all the time but that’s me
Alyssa: u should like urself i like u 2 bro
Kylie: infinite jest but DFW talks like a jock in a 90s teen movie. bruh
What are your top two weird Infinite Jest experiences?
Alyssa: OOF. waking up in the morning and seeing dave’s face next to me in bed bc I fell asleep reading it. thinking about the novel while being really really drunk
Kylie: oh hate that. my first weird experience was meeting someone who had also read IJ and he tried to talk to me about it and i had THE most visceral reaction like i did NOT want to talk about it, i couldn’t articulate my thoughts in a way that covered all the nuance, i just couldn’t believe someone actually liked the book
Kylie: and then my second was uhhhhhh I tried to watch the new season of bojack horseman but had to turn it off after ten minutes because i couldn’t get past the thought that IJ had already covered all this
Alyssa: i feel like having a visceral reaction about IJ just proves that it is literally sublime which is sexy
Kylie: sublimity makes me want 2 vomit it was more like No Thank You but FIRMER
Alyssa: if sublimity makes u want to vomit then sublimity is sublime
Alyssa: as hellish as this book was, I am very glad that I gave it a second chance in an academic environment that was well-supervised by a very knowledgeable prof bc now I think that it’s very Valid of me to not want to read it again
Kylie: that’s hilarious. agree.
Kylie: my final thought: i think it made me a better person but not in the way it probably was thinking it would
Alyssa: maybe this is what Dave wanted all along but this book/class? I feel much more connected with roughly 15 more ppl than I did in august. is that too wholesome of a way to end this article lol
Kylie: absolutely not we’re keeping it