September 16, 2009

Book Clubs in the World of Tomorrow!

Hi everyone. Like Eddie, I am also an intern at TMR and will be contributing regularly to this blog.

I’d like to talk about two things in this post; the first having to do with the title of this post, the other I’ll only mention briefly.

Those of you who have seen the TV show Futurama likely caught the reference in the title. For those who haven’t seen the show, it details the exploits of a man who is accidentally cryogenically frozen in 1999 and is reanimated a thousand years later. When he emerges from the freezer, he is met by a scientist who dramatically exclaims, “Welcome to the world of tomorrow!”, and proceeds to introduce him to a world of aliens, robots, and effortless space travel. He’s disorientated to say the least, but he’s also tremendously excited by the possibilities of this new world. This is exactly how I felt (See, there was a point to all that description), when I stumbled across Infinite Summer in early June.   This site is devoted to helping a community of readers tackle one of the most imposing tomes of the past twenty years, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.

The organizers of Infinite Summer set out a manageable, but brisk reading schedule — 75 pages a week starting June 21st and ending September 22nd — and paired that with essays written by DFW scholars, editor’s, regular folks who love IJ and have read it multiple times, and IJ virgins. All this together formed a community of readers trying to get the most out of a book that is a veritable bottomless pit of substance. It certainly helped me get the most of my first read, of many hopefully, of IJ. I didn’t stick to the reading schedule, and finished it in early August (I couldn’t put it down after the first hundred pages), but I would still visit the site each day to be apart of the ongoing discussion. “What significance does a Sierpinski Gasket have to the novel? Do you think that Mario Incandenza is one of the most original and awesome characters ever? What does anaclitic mean?” were only a few of the questions that I now know the answers to because of Infinite Summer.

I’m not sure there is anything quite as satisfying as a four month long book discussion, and as Infinite Summer enters it’s final week, I wish it wouldn’t end. Not that I want to immediately  read Infinite Jest over again,  but I wish these kinds of resources were out there for all those daunting books that I never got around to or avoided or gave up on reading. Moby Dick is probably second only to The Bible in terms of sales numbers (I have absolutely no data to back this up), but how many of those copies have actually been read? How many of those spines have been creased in the excitement of wanting to get another chapter in before going to sleep at night (Or maybe just to get past the whaling bits — only kidding, of course)? Personally, I fall into that category with Moby Dick, along with Don Quixote, Ulysses, and many others. If only there was a place where the same kind of thing was happening as at Infinite Summer for these books. Luckily, Infinite Summer won’t be packing it in after September 22nd and shutting down the server’s and the virtual pots of tea that we all gathered daily around to talk about last night’s pages. They’re continuing on with a lighter, more whimsical selection than Infinite Jest or any of the above: Dracula. Check this out. I may not be joining them on this one, with reading for school and all your submissions to the magazine, but if they ever decide to pick up Moby Dick or another of the great number of unread books with still tight spines collecting dust in a box somewhere, I’ll be happy to tag along.

The other topic I wanted to mention in this post I will mention only briefly. This past Saturday, September 12th, marked the one year anniversary of David Foster Wallace’s death. This is partly why I wanted to talk about Infinite Summer, even though their reading of IJ is almost complete, they deserve mentioning for encouraging those who haven’t experienced DFW’s writing to seek it out, and for those who have, to experience it again. If you have the chance sometime click over to McSweeney’s. Take a look at their tribute page and see not only what DFW meant to the world of literature, but also to all the people he touched with his work. He is and will be missed.

That’s all for today. Happy Reading and All the Best,

–Cameron

3 Responses to Book Clubs in the World of Tomorrow!

  1. Cameron Riesenberger says:

    Just another DFW tribute I stumbled on last over at No Pun Intended. This is a long, beautiful tribute. Take a look:

    http://npinopunintended.wordpress.com/2009/09/12/in-memoriam-david-foster-wallace/

  2. Pingback: Infinite Summer » Blog Archive » Roundup

  3. Gerard Baneberries says:

    Based on your post — and the assurance it promises of literary epiphany — I arranged to have a copy of Infinite Jest dropped, fitted tightly in an Amazon carton, onto my stoop. The book, you say, is a “momentous tome,” the only phrase in your well-written post I thought stilted. (But I always forgive youthful enthusiasm; I was, after all, young once and felt similarly about Thomas Wolfe and James Agee. But I’m dating myself…) In the “sheer volume” sense of your adjective I’m of course obliged to agree with you. Infinite Jest is indeed a big, momentous book. But no more so than the Anna Karrenina I ingested with relish this summer. Perhaps by Christmas, if I stick it out, I’ll have formed a more informed opinion whether Infinite Jest lives up to the “vitally significant” sense of your perhaps too casually chosen adjective.

    I’ve started this (mis)(ad)venture already in a bit of a funk after reading Dave Eggers’ introduction. He seems to imply that, because I’m over 25, my personal, lamentable archaeology dooms me to inhabit a literary Pleistocene from which I’m incapable of appreciating Wallace in the manner that he deserves. Hogwash. I’m old, but not otherwise impaired.

    I also see on the book jacket an attempt by someone to support a comparison of Wallace with Vladimir Nabokov, an author whose style and command of language I greatly admire. After reading 10 pages of your momentous tome (sadly amidst the debilitating background noise of 60 years of life) I’m inclined to find the comparison hollow. But I have another thousand pages to go and am, for your sake, and with a sense of fair play, keeping an open mind.

    So, young Intern, I’ve taken up your challenge with anticipation and with an innocent faith in your right-headedness. I’m rooting for you. I could use an important book right now and would very much appreciate, when this is all over, to be able to thank you for steering me in the right direction. I’ll let you know if I’m enjoying Wallace as much as Tolstoy or Nabokov, or if our definitions of momentous differ.

    -Gerard Baneberries