On Reading

1.

We’re in the middle of getting a terrifying amount of work done to our house in Marino, so we’ve temporarily decamped out to my mother-in-law’s house in Greystones1. My commute into work has switched from a 15-20 minute cycle each way to a 50-minute train ride each way. As a result of this new-found extra (dead) time, my reading has gone through the goddamn roof in the seven weeks since I’ve been out here. Instead of just the few minutes of reading I can snatch before falling asleep, I’ve got these huge swathes of time in my day where there is almost nothng else to do but read. Here’s a graph of my reading, based on what I’ve logged to Goodreads:

I’m finishing books I’d previously started and given up on (e.g. A Wrinkle in Time2), and books I’d been too terrified to even begin (e.g. Radley Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop).

As a result of this, I’ve decided there will probably never be a better time to tackle Infinite Jest.

2.

Infinite Jest will be the eleventh book I’ve read in the seven weeks I’ve been out in Greystones. In this time, no-one has ever come up and commented to me about the book I’m reading. Even when I’m reading stuff that I secretly want people to come and talk to me about (e.g. John Darnielle’s Wolf in White Van3), nothing.

On Friday evening, as the train came into the station in Greystones, after I’d packed my copy of Infinite Jest into my coat and got my coat on, a complete stranger came over and sat down beside me. “Sorry, I couldn’t help but notice the book you’re reading there. How are you getting on with it?” I told him how I was really happy – I’m enjoying it because I’m actually making significant progress in the book (currently on page 305, which is the first time I’ve even got past page 100). “Yeah, stick with it. There’ll be parts in there that will make you want to give up, but stick with it, it’s totally worth it”, he said.

“Oh, I don’t intend to, I’ve also got a non-fiction book going at the same time to keep me sane”, I said.

“Good idea! Well…”

And then, awkward silence, because what else is there to say?

Now I feel awkward. Does this interaction mean I’m part of the problem, a pretentious DFW lit-bro? Do I now need to give up on Infinite Jest entirely, just in case I fall into some stereotype?

3.

I get home and I tell the above story to my wife. She says “yeah, that’s weird!” She knows this isn’t my first time trying to make my way through Infinite Jest. and asks me how many pages I’ve read of it this time. I tell her just over three hundred.

“How many pages are in the book?”

“Nine hundred and something, not including footnotes. So I’m about a third of the way through. I’m pretty happy with my progress!”

“Yeah, but you’re not halfway through.”

Marriage.


  1. There’s an entire blog post to be written about the differences between living in Greystones vs living in Marino, but this is not that blog post.
  2. Which I gave up on previously because it felt like it was dull and overrated and which, having now finished it, I can confirm, is indeed, dull and overrated.
  3. If you’ve read this book, please hit me up on Twitter. I’d love to find more people (read: literally anyone) to talk to about it.