Eden Kennedy: Reflections on Infinite Summer

Eden M. Kennedy is the co-author of “Let’s Panic About Babies!” (St. Martin’s, 2011), a parody of pregnancy and childrearing guides. She lives in Santa Barbara, California, with her husband and son, and she is nearly finished writing her first novel.

In the spring of 2009, not quite a year after David Foster Wallace died, my friend Matthew e-mailed me with an unexpected question. He asked me if I’d ever read Infinite Jest, and if not, would I like to help “guide” people through the book over the summer by posting about my experience of reading it on a simple web site he had built, called Infinite Summer. The goal would be to read 100 pages a week and then write one post a week about the experience.

I had never met Matthew in real life, and I haven’t still, though we have been internet-friends since somewhere around 2002, when both of us were blogging before it was widely possible to leave comments on, or make money from, personal web sites. Not having any idea what I was about to say yes to, I said, Yes! Of course! Not only because I’d wanted to read Infinite Jest for years, but because how impressive would that be, to read a difficult book and impress a very, very small corner of the internet while I did it!

I’d once been a tackler of big, fat books — toughies like Moby Dick, and War and Peace (abridged edition). What was Infinite Jest if not the next big mountain to climb? I didn’t care if I wasn’t in shape for it; I was sure Infinite Summer was just what I needed to revive brain cells made dormant by motherhood, living in California, and answering phones for a living. More importantly, Infinite Summer would earn me some credibility — if not in the eyes of the paralegals I made coffee for, then maybe among the people who read my tired little blog; maybe even for myself.

But you know what happens when you do something mainly for the ego boost: usually just the opposite. I can’t bear to go back and look at my posts from that summer, and you probably shouldn’t either. I was in way over my head. I was a blogger and part-time receptionist who hadn’t read more than the side of an oatmeal box in seven years. One of my posts seriously asked people to tell me how they made time to read every day. Then I fell asleep and dreamed about David Foster Wallace tearing my college diploma in half.

The only thing that kept me from dropping out halfway through July — besides my friend Matthew’s faith in me and the public shame that would surely have been heaped upon me if I quit — was the group of people who joined me that Infinite Summer. Even after a long day when I didn’t want to turn on a tiny light and crack open a thousand-page book while my husband slept beside me, I sucked it up and ploughed through with everyone else. I was doing this alone, but in beds and chairs  and train compartments and airplane seats all over the world, hundreds of other people had made the same commitment and were ploughing through as well. And some of them must have been as dumb as me, right? (Probably not.)

Have you read Infinite Jest? I don’t know if you’d find the experience as entertaining and humbling as I did, or if as soon as you were done you’d want to go back to the beginning and start reading it all over again, like I did. But if you haven’t read it and you’ve got three months to see what kind of stuff you’re made of, you really should join Poor Yoricks’ Summer and give it a cry. Try! I mean give it a try.

Corrie Baldauf: How to Read ‘Infinite Jest’

Corrie Baldauf knows that humor is the best form of intelligence. She believes that admitting what you don’t know is the best way to learn more. She actively seeks opportunities to spend time with people who are not afraid to ask questions. Her art practice is based out of a shared studio space in Corktown, Detroit. She prefers though, to walk her art around the city of Detroit. She doesn’t think her art seems as alive sitting in her studio as it does when it is in the hands of other people. Her Optimism Filter Project was recently featured in Lille, France at Renaissance. Baldauf’s art has appeared in German Art Magazine, Fukt Magazine for Contemporary Drawing, Lufthansa Exclusive Magazine, and Hyperallergic. She is nearly-endlessly excited about making color copies. Seeing contemporary art reproduced and repeated in print and is one of her favorite things. Baldauf is an Assistant Professor of Art at Eastern Michigan University. The main reason she is an instructor is because she thinks there needs to be more scheduled conversations and fewer lectures, amongst contemporaries in art. Twitter: @corriebaldauf

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An Interview w/ Raoul Fernandes

For this guest post, we decided to do something a little different – an interview with one of our guests. Shazia interviews Raoul Fernandes. Raoul Fernandes lives and writes in Vancouver, BC.  He completed the Writer’s Studio at SFU in 2009 and was a finalist for the 2010 Bronwen Wallace Award for emerging writers and a runner up in subTerrain’s Lush Triumphant Awards in 2013.  He has been published in numerous literary journals including the Best Canadian Poetry 2015. and is an editor for the online poetry magazine The Maynard. His first collection of poems, Transmitter and Receiver just came out this past Spring from Nightwood Editions.

Shazia: I remember when I found your poem “After Hours at the Centre for Dialogue (for David Foster Wallace)” in your book of poetry, Transmitter & Receiver – your award-winning book of poetry, and I was so happy to learn you were a Wallace reader!

(You can read the poem here

Why did you write the poem for David Foster Wallace?

Raoul: Funny, now that I think of it, I probably should have used “after” instead of “for” but maybe I was hoping for a more direct connection with DFW or, perhaps, his ghost. At first, the poem’s only nod to him was a detail I borrowed/stole from Infinite Jest, a vacuum cleaner sound described as a “d-minor hum.” I wasn’t thinking much about DFW when writing the poem but that image might have set the tone, the key-signature of the poem. Later, I realized the poem had a lot more connections to his work: loneliness, isolation, the attention to detail, even boring, commonplace detail. DFW also had an interest in self-help literature, which is in the poem a bit, too. I wasn’t sure I was going to dedicate it to him, but then I felt the poem owed a lot to his work, even if I was not conscious of that much when writing it. Continue reading “An Interview w/ Raoul Fernandes”

Aimée Morrison: The First Attempt

Aimée Morrison is Associate Professor and Associate Chair, Graduate Studies, Dept. of English, University of Waterloo. She studies new media and life writing. She reads the entire internet before breakfast every morning, but never finished Infinite Jest.

I think I first squared off against Infinite Jest in about 2000. I was in my PhD. I had finished my comprehensive exams and had come to realize, that spring, that no one was ever going to assign me anything to read ever again. It struck me there was a lot I should probably have read by that point, but hadn’t. I mean, who makes it to ABD in English without having read a word of Henry James?

I decided to read all the things, and I was going to start big. Continue reading “Aimée Morrison: The First Attempt”