Posts Tagged ‘Infinite Jest’
September 10, 2012 | by Ross Kenneth Urken
At its best, my slice backhand follows the flamboyant path of a violin virtuoso’s bow striking the climactic note of a concerto—from above my right shoulder plucked diagonally down to my left shoestring. The ball’s tone is a hollow pok on hard courts and a chalky chh-chh on clay that dies on the second bounce. All these dramatics—mere vestiges of a time when I wanted to impress Angela, my middle school crush.
Angela played number one singles on the undefeated coed spring team at our private school in Princeton, New Jersey. Her long Italian American locks springing along with her high jumping-forehand, her second serve ball tucked in the spandex beneath her pristine tennis skirt—she was a vision of beauty to watch. Her movement around the court traced the Etch A Sketch path of someone fully in control of the game’s portrait.
In Lolita, Humbert Humbert describes how Dolores Haze plays singles at least twice a week with a classmate, Linda Hall, employing teasing tactics against her and “toying with [her] (and being beaten by her).” The particular beauty of Dolores's tennis game is, for Humbert, a prerequisite for an amenable afterlife, or so he whimsically hyperbolizes one crisp afternoon as Dolores plays in Colorado: “No hereafter is acceptable if it does not produce her as she was then, in that Colorado resort between Snow and Elphinstone, with everything right …”
July 30, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
October 28, 2011 | by Lorin Stein
Levin wins back Kitty after behaving like a complete ass, but you may not have time to read Anna Karenina. There’s the moment when Little Miss No Name runs downstairs to say good-bye to Max de Winter, in Rebecca, and it happens early in the book, but maybe that’s not exactly a case of winning somebody back. I’m guessing swordplay and feats of derring-do are not to the point—so I would read Pursuits of Happiness, Stanley Cavell’s 1981 study of what he calls “remarriage comedies,” movies about couples falling apart and getting back together. First you’ll want to cue up the movies in question: The Lady Eve, It Happened One Night, Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story, His Girl Friday, Adam’s Rib, and The Awful Truth.
If that doesn’t give you any ideas, readers of this column will guess my first recommendation: the wacky but wise self-help book Love and Limerence, also Ovid’s Cure for Love—full of useful advice, like: focus on the beloved’s physical imperfections—and George Jones, opera omnia.
Do you think joining a private social club—a super old-fashioned one in a historic building whose members have all led long, literary lives—sounds (a) retro and totally cool, or (b) stodgy and a little weird, a misplaced desire for a twenty-something who might be the club’s only member under sixty, and only Jew in history?
October 21, 2011 | by Sadie Stein
To answer this one, I consulted our resident cyclist, Peter Conroy. And did he deliver! Says Peter:
With respect to the classics, the discussion has to start with Tim Krabbe’s The Rider, a fictionalized account of a one-day amateur race in 1978. Brutish and beautiful, this is required reading for anyone who’s ever wanted to go faster. Daniel Coyle’s Lance Armstrong’s War is a fascinating tour through the bizarre world of pro cycling in the aughts and a great portrait of the man who systematically dominated its hardest race from 1999 to 2005. More recently, Timm Kolln’s The Peloton is a stunning collection of photos and remarkably candid interviews with a generation of professional racers.
I feel I’m the lone standout in my book club of highly educated, highly literary, middle-aged ladies. I never took a literature class in college, and I like a good page-turner with a bit of plot and action. I also believe a good read doesn’t, by definition, leave its reader utterly depressed! So far, judging by the other members’ selections, it seems that I’m the only one who feels this way. It’s my turn to pick a book. Can you suggest something that will please us all?
The divide between “literary fiction” and “good reads” isn’t as stark as it sometimes seems—recent Booker controversies to the contrary! You have loads of options. After all, who doesn’t love a page-turner now and then? You don’t mention whether your book club is geared more toward new fiction or classics, but if you can take the latter route, you can’t go wrong with Dickens. Have you read Bleak House? A few newer titles that spring to mind: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, Never Let Me Go, The Magician’s Assistant, and—while it may seem intimidating on the face of it—Infinite Jest. All a pleasure to read with plenty of fodder for discussion.
In this magazine, Gore Vidal once said, “The second person certainly holds few charms.” What is your opinion of second-person narration?
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September 2, 2011 | by The Paris Review
In light of the recent article about TV producer Michael Schur and his obsession with David Foster Wallace, I spent tropical storm Irene watching the first two seasons of Parks and Recreation for signs of the maestro. At least, that’s why I watched the first couple of episodes. Then, well—it was just like that scene in Infinite Jest with the Saudi medical attaché, only with Netflix. —Lorin Stein
September is officially the beginning of football season in America and the perfect time to read the best football book ever written, Frederick Exley’s fictional memoir A Fan’s Notes, which has nothing to do with the game and everything to do with why we watch it. —Cody Wiewandt
I was immediately taken with Jeff Sharlet’s new book Sweet Heaven When I Die. All I had to do was open to the first lines of “Sweet Fuck All, Colorado:” “When I was eighteen I fell hard for the state of Colorado as embodied by a woman with long honey blond hair and speckled green eyes, who drank wine from a coffee mug and whiskey from the bottle.” —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn
I escaped the hurricane but got stuck in Chicago this weekend, which at least gave me a chance to spend time at one of my favorite Evanston bookstores, Market Fresh Books (they sell books for $3.99 a pound!). Among the treasures I picked up was an illustrated 1882 edition of Nicholas Nickleby, which I was all the more excited to dive into after reading in last week’s New Yorker about all the “fun” at Dickens camp. —Ali Pechman
Let’s hear it for small presses! Bookthug, an indie house in Toronto, recently reissued bpNichol’s The Captain Poetry Poems. Originally released as a mimeograph by bill bissett in 1970, Bookthug’s edition marks the first complete publication of all of the poems in the series, plus a smattering of drawings by Nichol. This is joyous, mythmaking poetry at its best. —Nicole Rudick
March 11, 2011 | by Lorin Stein
I really loved The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery and am looking to read more contemporary literature in translation. Are there any books you would recommend for starters?
Well, I’m in the middle of a new translated novel that I can’t wait to go home and finish: Seven Years, by the Swiss writer Peter Stamm. I had never heard of Stamm—I picked the book up because the translator is Michael Hofmann. If Michael Hofmann thinks a book is worth spending that much time on, I’m always happy to read it. So far I am not disappointed. Seven Years begins like a Turgenev novella, in the present day, with a slightly disillusioned architect looking back on the youthful love affair that became his marriage, and on another love affair that didn’t. Just the kind of thing I like. And (as my friend Eric Banks pointed out last night—because it turns out he’s read it, too), Stamm deals convincingly with architects and architecture, something you don’t find in a novel every day.
David Foster Wallace is my favorite writer, but I now find it hard to read him without becoming desperately sad. Please can you suggest ways of coping? —Hermione
The last time I tried to reread Infinite Jest, I had the same feeling, and stopped. Then I got a note from a friend who, like Wallace, has suffered over the years from debilitating depression. My friend described how her last depression lifted. I can’t resist quoting her here, because what she wrote struck me as beautiful but also because it reminded me that Wallace overcame and overcame his sense of isolation, not only in life, but in his fiction, too—in Infinite Jest, for starters, the least solipsistic of contemporary novels, or even at moments in his last collection, the one my friend was reading:
One day in late summer, I decided to give Oblivion another try, or rather to give this one story “‘Good Old Neon” a try. It was a collection I’d previously struggled with. But that story, reading it at the time I did, truly gave me this surge of Spirit—life force—that I doubt I would have found anywhere else. The story’s antihero trapped in various self-created hells of bad faith, and the narrator explaining to him that while we all get hung up on being untrue to ourselves, or faking our way through life, the vastness and complexity of our selves is such that we really couldn’t begin to fake them ... We’re tied to the mast of these huge crazy ships, ploughing into dark, icy seas, and our only recourse is an occasional change of hat ... He puts it about a million times more elegantly than that. It was one of the moments of the year.
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