Well, it is the amazing year 2015, and that can mean only one thing: it's time to take another stab at Infinite Jest. I reread it every two or three years or so, as I feel like, and I'm still getting good stuff out of it, so until it becomes boring to me I'm going to keep doing that. The first time I read it, it had just come out, and I had enthusiastically read previous works of his. I distinctly remember being actually nervous to start it, opening the book and having butterflies. But the thing was, I couldn't get through it. I couldn't finish it for a few years. I had to constantly stop and think about what I was reading, and I found that parts of the book were an actual distraction FROM the book, if that makes any sense. At one point I thought, oh man, this might be unreadable for me. The halting snail's pace at which I progressed through the book kept throwing me off to the point of almost quitting a few times. The readers' notes didn't help, they seemed to just muddy the waters.
Sometime during my attempts at finishing the book, I became hugely frustrated with DFW. I started thinking he had crawled up his own ass and had become all of the pretentious, dishonest things that he had been railing against. I maintain that it wasn't the length of the book that had me on the ropes, it was its' girth.
But eventually, like a key turning the tumblers of a lock, the book opened up to me. Or I opened up to it. I began to see what I had been perceiving as inconsistencies and flaws for the beautiful things they were. There's beauty in "mistakes" because there's beauty in effort. In fact, the effort is really the thing. I now see this book, and its' author, as the perfectly imperfect examples of humanity that they are. As I grow, the book grows with me. That's fucking alchemy, right there.
Since that time, I have read the rest of his output with pleasure. I despise and reject the veneration and abject hero worship that has been laid at his feet since his death. The ensuing rabid fan ideal of him as a tragic figure, a doomed soul who just wasn't made for this earth, diminishes his literary legacy and belittles him as a person. There's nothing romantic about that level of depression, nothing poetic about that kind of suffering. His life is not the sum and substance of the way it ended. And whatever we think of his writing, it is made neither better nor worse for his death, nor by the method.
I'm a little passionate about him.