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The Infinite Jest Challenge: Week 4

Published in Blog Archive, Infinite Jest.

Infinite Jest David Foster Wallace

Four weeks are now behind me. For newcomers to the blog, this post is the fourth in a series documenting the process of completing a challenge of reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest while losing the approximate weight of a cinder block. My intentions are to read the entire book while on a stationary bike, and then continue with a full workout after each ride, with my eyes set on reading 1085 pages and losing 31.4 pounds in 100 days. (Well, that AND the 500 or so pages of Greg Carlisle’s Elegant Complexity, “A Study of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest“.)

This week’s numbers:

  • This week I read 77 pages of main text, for an average of 11 pages per day. (Last week’s average was 13.57.) 
  • This week I biked an average of 19.53 miles per day while reading (up from 17.29 last week), for a total of 136.71 miles, and 501.37 miles overall thus far. 
  • Last Sunday morning I weighed in at 206, and yesterday morning I weighed in at 204.6, for a loss of 1.4 pounds this week. Total weight loss thus far is 11.8 pounds. 
  • Last week I started on page 311, and this week I’m kicking things off on 388. (Also, I’m on page 226 of Elegant Complexity.) 

Stray observations from the week’s reading:

  • On Monday I read both the most and the least of the book thus far: I read literally one word of main body text, while also reading an endnote that ran from page 1004 to 1022, itself having a dozen built-in mini-notes. This week I read a total of 24 pages of endnotes, the most of any week to this point by far. 
  • The unraveling of Mario Incandenza’s physical abnormalities was great. I particularly enjoyed how Wallace included how his face was “two to three times the size of your more average elf-to-jockey-sized person.” (1022) Greg Carlisle’s summary really brings it all together:

“Mario’s ‘incomplete gestation and arachnoidal birth left the kid with some lifelong character-building physical challenges.’ Mario has a small body and a large head, ‘perfectly square’ feet, and ‘withered-looking’ arms that curl ‘out in front of his thorax in magiscule S’s and [are] usable for rudimentary knifeless eating’; some parts of his body do not grow as fast as others; his movements are of an exaggerated slowness; and he ‘uses four pillows minimum’ due to ‘dangerously slow breathing during sleep.’ Mario is resistant to pain, a condition that was frequently exploited by Orin in their youth. Mario’s skin is ‘an off dead gray-green’ that looks ‘reptilian.’ His fingers are ‘talonesque,’ and he is homodontic: ‘all his teeth are biscupids and identical, front to back.’ He has an ‘involuntary constant smile.’ Although Mario is ‘technically, Stanford-Binet wise, slow,’ he is not ‘retarded or cognitively damaged.’” (EC, 191/192) 

  • The thoroughly detailed description of Eschaton, the “atavistic global-nuclear-conflict game” that E.T.A. students play (including the run-on acronyms and another couple pages of endnotes for the math behind it), was tough… complicated. 
  • “Evan Ingersoll is positively strip-mining his right nostril.” (332) A friend of mine has a t-shirt that reads “I pick, therefore I grin.” This is different, of course, but Evan’s picking left me grinning. 
  • “John L. has a huge hanging gut and just no ass at all, the way some big older guys’ asses seem to get sucked into their body and reappear out front as gut.” (345) Without these men, I doubt the world’s suspender industry would still exist. 
  • “It’s optional; do it or die.” (357) The passages about Boston’s A.A. community were solid. Throughout, Wallace walked a fine line between humorous satire and reality, balancing the “miserable, brainwash-and-exploit-me-if-that’s-what-it-takes-type desperation” (349) that brings new faces in with the presence of the old-timers: “limp smug moronic self-satisfied shit-eating pricks with their lobotomized smiles and goopy sentiment” (353). All, however, are ultimately united under “the shocking discovery that the thing actually does seem to work” (349). 
Infinite Jest Challenge Data

Pages Read: Monday 0, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 14, Friday 16, Saturday 8, Sunday 12.

Infinite Jest Challenge Data

Miles on Bike: Monday 25.05, Tuesday 19.65, Wednesday 19.02, Thursday 19.38, Friday 19.81, Saturday 12.85, Sunday 20.95.

Infinite Jest Challenge Data

Calories Burned (Reading on Bike/Other Cardio): Monday 766/701, Tuesday 595/910, Wednesday 599/604, Thursday 619/1025, Friday 619/1149, Saturday 413/650, Sunday 662/1117.

Infinite Jest Challenge Data

Weight: Monday 209.4, Tuesday 204.4, Wednesday 206.6, Thursday 207.4, Friday 205, Saturday 203, Sunday 204.6.