Highlights from Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Reading this book took me quite some time since it arrived in my mailbox some four years ago. I only picked it up after acquiring an epub version of it that I could read in Readmill wherever I happened to find myself (so also really after Readmill launched their iPhone app). It takes some getting into but this book is hugely rewarding and a pleasure.

it was somehow sadistic-seeming, like drilling a peephole in the wall of a handicapped bathroom.

too Canadianly dumb for anything but the brutalest work.

the terrible accident that resulted in all locks being taken off E.T.A. saunas’ doors and the saunas’ maximum temperature being hard-wired down to no more than 50°C.

It now lately sometimes seemed like a kind of black miracle to me that people could actually care deeply about a subject or pursuit, and could go on caring this way for years on end.

The fish asking about what’s water.

He could just hunker down in the space between each heartbeat and make each heartbeat a wall and live in there. Not let his head look over. What’s unendurable is what his own head could make of it all.

Death says the woman who either knowingly or involuntarily kills you is always someone you love, and she’s always your next life’s mother. This is why Moms are so obsessively loving, why they try so hard no matter what private troubles or issues or addictions they have of their own, why they seem to value your welfare above their own, and why there’s always a slight, like, twinge of selfishness about their obssessive mother-love: they’re trying to make amends for a murder neither of you quite remember, except maybe in dreams.

The rest would be allowed to die for leur rai pays.

It’s like a big wooden spoon keeps pushing him just under the surface of sleep and then spooning him up for something huge to taste him, again and again.

why did she love him when he flang her down and beat her up on a more or less daily basis for fucking years on end.

One of the highest prices of sobriety was not being able to keep from remembering things you didn’t want to remember

he doesn’t have any idea what it means and no reason to be thinking it with roaring force, so the sensation is not only creepy but somehow violating, a sort of lexical rape.

got in some insane drunken limbo-dance challenge with a rival executive and tried to like limbo under a desk or a chair or something insanely low, and got his spine all fucked up in a limbo-lock, maybe permanently

mixed with the sounds of severely fucked-up Canadians returning to whatever passed with Nucks for consciousness and calling for what they called medecins

“could not find his own bottom with both hands and a nautical compass of exacting precision.”

her home’s kitchen, where, apparently despondent, she committed suicide by putting her extremities down the garbage disposal — first one arm and then, kind of miraculously if you think about it, the other arm.

the fact that the Auteur’s belief in a finite world-total of available erections rendered him always either impotent or guilt-ridden.

And at E.T.A. only 16s snapped towels, and only for a year or two, but they went at it with a vengeance, towel-snapping, a brief flared genuflection to jock-stereotype, a stage where there’s this primate-like passion for red-assed bonding in steamy rooms.

You looked into their maps and something was gone.

There may be some persons who are born imprisoned. The irony, of course, being that the very imprisonment that prohibits sadness’s expression must itself feel intensely sad and painful.

The dinner ended in a kind of explosion of goodwill.

until she’d been approached by Orin, who made no secret of the fact that he had balls of unrejectable steel where horrifyingly pretty girls were concerned.

northern Quebec’s La Culte de Baiser Sans Fin

But even the first to quail and jump has jumped. Far beyond prohibited, not to jump at all is regarded as impossible. To “perdre son coeur” and not jump at all is outside le Jeu’s limit. The possibility simply does not exist. It is unthinkable. Only once, in le Jeu du Prochain Train’s extensive oral history, has a miner’s son not jumped, lost his heart and frozen, remaining on his jut as the round’s train passed. This player later drowned.

the precise mechanical specifications of each scheduled train——these are known to the directeurs, they comprise the constants in a game the variables of which are the respective wills of the six ranged along the track, and their estimates of one another’s will to risk all to win.

infamous “Le ]eu du Prochain Train,” and that the A.F.R.’s Root Cult itself was comprised largely or perhaps even entirely of veteran devotees and practitioners of this savage, nihilistic, and mettle testing jeu pour-meme.

“Les jeux pour-memes” formal competitive games whose end is less any sort of “prize” than it is a manner of basic identity: i.e., that is, “game” as metaphysical environment and psychohistorical locus and gestalt.

It turns out the more luridly absorbing the angle of topic you choose, the more people have already been there before you with their footprints to fill and their obscurely academic-type-journal articles to try and absorb and, like, synthesize.

each subsequent reviewing of the Entertainment now would have the price of one digit from the Subject’s extremities.

That we’re all lonely for something we don’t know we’re lonely for.

It is a level of psychic pain wholly incompatible with human life as we know it. It is a sense of radical and thoroughgoing evil not just as a feature but as the essence of conscious existence. It is a sense of poisoning that pervades the self at the self’s most elementary levels. It is a nausea of the cells and soul. It is an unnumb intuition in which the world is fully rich and animate and un-map-like and also thoroughly painful and malignant and antagonistic to the self, which depressed self It billows on and coagulates around and wraps in Its black folds and absorbs into Itself, so that an almost mystical unity is achieved with a world every constituent of which means painful harm to the self.

We are shown how to fashion masks of ennui and jaded irony at a young age where the face is fictile enough to assume the shape of whatever it wears.

they are doomed, because you cannot both celebrate and suffer, and play is always suffering

on some level you can tell that he views the recipients of his charity not as persons so much as pieces of exercise equipment on which he can develop and demonstrate his own virtue.

the father is crushed into aspic in a freak accident on the Jamaica Way and all opportunities for transgenerational instruction are forever lost

this quality of Look-At-Me-Being-So-Totally-Open-And-Sincere-I-Rise-Above-The-Whole-Disingenuous-Posing-Process-Of-Attracting-Someone-,-And -I-Transcend-The-Common-Disingenuity-In-A-Bar-Herd-In-A-Particularly-Hip-And-Witty-Self-Aware-Way-,-And-If-You-Will-Let-Me-Pick-You-Up-I-Will-Not-Only-Keep – Being – This – Wittily, – Transcendently – Open -, – But – Will – Bring-You – Into – This -World-Of-Social-Falsehood-Transcendence,

it is a pose of poselessness

I know that he erased his own cartography in a grisly way.

Football is pure homophobically repressed nancy-ism, and do not let O. tell you different.

It’s the nature of the game. It’s the machine they’re all dying to throw themselves into.

that night he seemed to be the piece of string by which I hung suspended over hell itself.

with breasts like artillery and a butt like two bulldogs in a bag

This was back when his brother Orin needed only to have sexual intercourse with them instead of getting them to fall so terribly in love with him they’d never be able to want anyone else.

eat with such horrible P.O.W.ish gusto

nobody but Ludditic granola-crunching freaks would call bad what no one can imagine being without.

who looks like one of those people you see in pictures of African famine

a Dial-a-Prayer telephone service for atheists in which the atheist dials the number and the line just rings and rings and no one answers

creepy boys who talked without moving their lower jaw

downing one plastic cup after another of beer-foam until he got so blind drunk his sphincter had failed and he’d not only pissed but also actually shit his pant

when the check arrived, in an extra-long-size envelope to accommodate all the zeroes

At a certain level of abstraction it’s like the brain recoils.’

The fourth horseman stays hidden, of course, like in all quality eschatologies, the unturned card, under wraps till actual game-time.

The only reason she’s never been diagnosed or treated for it is that in her the Disorder doesn’t prevent her from functioning. It all seems to come back to functioning.

Their faces become sexual faces.

the abortive parents who’d left or lost them in the general geopolitical shuffle of mass migration

a suicidal Nuck cult of Nucks that worshipped a form of Russian Roulette that involved jumping in front of trains and seeing which Nuck could come the closest to the train’s front without getting demapped.

eliminating the saliva guy’s map on the spot,

He’d have no problem with looking deep into some bitch’s eyes and looking so sincere it’s like he’s dying inside him.

Lenz has a keen antenna for people like this and their stock is low on his personal exchange.

So after the incident with the flaming cat from hell

There were more chunks of dismantled street lying all over.

What you do is you hide your deep need to hide, and you do this out of the need to appear to other people as if you have the strength not to care how you appear to others.

It’s not necessarily pejorative to compare a cornered bureaucrat to a cornered rat.

As a high-velocity object people can project themselves onto, forgetting their own limitations in the face of the nearly limitless potential someone as young as yourself represents.

This drives me bats. You know this drives me bats.

the essential vagueness about himself that Tavis fought by sort of peeling his skull back and exposing his brain to you without any sort of warning or invitation;

I’d be more than happy to shake hands, even one of those intricate multiple-handed ethnic handshakes if you’ll bear with my inexperience with that sort of handshake

where there are disco-ized Brazilians can cocaine and narcotics ever be far away.

The neural distillate of, say, orgasm, religious enlightenment, ecstatic drugs, shiatsu, a crackling fire on a winter night — the sum of all possible pleasures refined into pure current and deliverable at the flip of a hand-held lever. Thousands of times an hour, at will.

who’s rumored also to attend Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, which engages everyone’s imagination to the max.

It’s all the sort of thing that’s uninteresting unless you’re the one responsible, in which case it’s cholesterol-raisingly stressful and complex

His mother was subsequently involved with a live-in lover, a former Navy M.P. who used to beat her up on a regular schedule, hitting her in the vicinities between groin and breast so that nothing showed.

Gately can’t even start to guess what it would be like to be a sober and drug-free biker. It’s like what would be the point. He imagines these people polishing the hell out of their leather and like playing a lot of really precise pool.

The whole place smells like death no matter what the fuck you do.

You can’t induce a moral sensibility the same way you’d train a rat. The kid has to learn by his own experience how to learn to balance the short- and long-term pursuit of what he wants.’

that congenital plagiarists put so much more work into camouflaging their plagiarism than it would take just to write up an assignment from conceptual scratch. It usually seems like plagiarists aren’t lazy so much as kind of navigationally insecure. They have trouble navigating without a detailed map’s assurance that somebody has been this way before them.

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