Have you heard about the Infinite Summer project? If not, it’s pretty simple. Here’s the skinny:
Join endurance bibliophiles from around the world in reading Infinite Jest over the summer of 2009, June 21st to September 22nd. A thousand pages1 ÷ 92 days = 75 pages a week. No sweat.
1. Plus endnotes a.
a. A lot of them.
The whole internet is doing it, from what I can tell. There’s a Facebook group, a group on Ravelry, a Metafilter thread…. Read-alongs like this are common on listservs, but I’ve never seen one this widespread before. I’m sure that more than a little bit of this momentum is coming from DFW’s recent death, but it’s still pretty inspiring to see so many people in my internet-hangouts tackling a huge reading project this summer.
So of course, I’m in. I’ll be spending a good chunk of the summer sitting right here, doubtlessly with a fan blasting in my face, and my dog’s head resting on my feet. It really is the coziest reading spot I can think of, especially since I bought that lamp.
If you’re wondering where to start, or want a warm-up, or have already read Infinite Jest and don’t feel the need to do it again but want something else to read, the Infinite Summer blog has a nice collection of DFW’s shorter essays that are freely available online now. Although I generally hate 9/11-related anything, his essay The View from Mrs. Thompson’s really struck a chord in me. If you’re still not convinced, here’s a spoiler from the last page:
There is what would strike many Americans as a bizarre absence of cynicism in the room. It doesn’t once occur to anyone here to remark on how it’s maybe a little odd that all three network anchors are in shirtsleeves, or to consider that it’s possible that Rather’s hair being mussed is not 100% accidental, or that the relentless rerunning of spectacular footage might not be just in case some viewers were only now tuning in and hadn’t seen it yet. No one else seems to notice Bush’s weird little lightless eyes seem to get closer and closer together throughout his taped statement, nor that some of his lines sound almost plagiaristically identical to statements made by Bruce Willis (as a right-wing wacko, recall) in The Siege a couple years back. Nor that at least some of the shock of the last two hours has been how closely various shots and scenes have mirrored the plots of everything from Die Hard I-III and Air Force One to Tom Clancy’s Debt of Honor. Nobody’s edgy or sophisticated enough to lodge the sick and obvious po-mo complaint: We’ve Seen This Before. Instead what they do is all sit together and feel really bad, and pray. Nobody does anything as nauseous as try to make everybody all pray together of pray aloud or anything, but you can tell what they’re doing.