Obligation

26 Aug

Cover_IJThis has been a great year for me, reading-wise. Being the Type-A nerd that I am I devised a whole new system on how to pick books and optimize the quality of what I’m reading.

First of all I joined the Good Reads website which is a social media for books. Before I joined the site I had a hard time keeping track of book recommendations from family and friends. There were so many books I wanted to read, but when I found myself in a bookstore, I couldn’t remember a single one. So Good Reads keeps the list and I can sort it by highest user ratings so that hopefully I’m reading the best books on my list. I then take the top books on that list and put them on hold on the New York Public Library website.  I pick them up at a branch near my work on my lunch break. It has become such a perfect routine, and I’ve read great books this year and not had to buy them.

One book, though, has put a little hitch in my giddy-up. I have nothing against reading classic literature, even larger volumes. I read “Anna Karenina” and “Moby Dick” last winter and enjoyed them both. I’ve read massive nonfiction books about horizontal identities and the digestive tract. Some of these I’ve enjoyed more than others. But David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest”? I can’t do it.

My relationship with David Foster Wallace has historically been bad. I just don’t get it. What is all the fuss about? I think a lot of his writing is overdone and depressing. I’ve read “This is Water” and a number of different interviews by him. In these things I see his wisdom, his intelligence, his ability to write very well. But, man, I could not get into “Infinite Jest.” I just couldn’t. I spent much too long trying to, because every review I found was glowing. The ratings on Good Reads were high. In a lot of ways, it made me feel stupid. What am I not getting about this book? What does it say about me that I feel as though I’m being tortured while reading it? I kept trying to push through, thinking at some point I’d be hooked and want to finish it. Alas, I eventually though, “Life is too short to read bad books.” I trotted the book back to the library branch near my work and returned it, probably never again in my lifetime will I try to read it.

Now I’m reading a trashy crime novel based on a network television show. But I’m enjoying it. I know it’s not great, and I don’t think I’m doing myself any favors by reading it. But guilty pleasures are so necessary in life. I’m happy reading this book, and hey, I’ve watched “The Jersey Shore” and liked that too! It is what it is. I have “The Count of Monte Cristo” on hold at the library and maybe that’ll cleanse my reading palate of the cheap-thrills book I’m reading now. But, I feel a bit like a failure that I couldn’t get through “Infinite Jest.” What am I missing? Why is that book such a classic? How is it possible to get past the first 100 pages and not start banging your head against a wall? I would love to know.

 

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7 Responses to “Obligation”

  1. cellenbogen August 26, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

    I was 235 pages into Infinite Jest. My dentist asked me what it was about. When I couldn’t answer him, I gave it up. I do like DFW’s essays.

    • Chrissy August 27, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

      Haha, I totally agree. HIs essays are great. He is a good writer, just long-winded I suppose.

  2. Melinda August 27, 2013 at 6:11 am #

    I hope your next read is better 🙂

  3. Kate Procyshyn August 27, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    You should read 1Q84. Have you?

    • Chrissy August 27, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

      I haven’t. That’s also a monstrously large tome. Is it worth it though?

      • Kate August 30, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

        Yes. I love it.

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