Infinite Jest broke my Kobo. And my brain.

Once I got over my initial fear, I’ve been pretty cocky about reading Infinite Jest. It’s been WAY easier than I thought it would be. I’m able to pick it up here and there without backtracking to remember what happened. DFW’s quirks and tics aren’t bothering me much (though starting sentences with “and but so then” just doesn’t make sense to me.) It’s just SO much easier to read something written in and about a culture you’re familiar with, than say 19th century Russia. My shiny new Kobo Glo is really helpful, too. I can look up words right on screen (my new favourite word is postprandial) AND I can jump back and forth between main text and end notes (good thing because there are a ton of them).

So I’m thinking I’m quite SMRT. Then this happens:

Calculus in Infinite Jest


Calculus was by far the most difficult subject I’ve ever learned. In an academic career marked by minimum effort and honour roll results, calculus was just beyond my brain’s capabilities. I worked harder  than any of my other classes and barely passed. Having to think about calculus again was like a big smack down, reminding me that I’m not that smart after all.

And THEN the end notes started to get out of control. The Kobo works great until you have footnotes within an end note. Then it just sort of shrugs and says “yeah, I don’t know, you find your own way back.” And end note 123 splinters into its own chapter for some reason. I guess it takes a book like Infinite Jest to expose the limitations of the technology (DFW probably would have LOVED that. You know his BFF Jonathan Franzen would.)

So, what’s the point of all the fussy words, strange constructions, copious end notes, and mathematics? Is DFW just messing with us? Trying to make the reader feel dumb? Weeding out the riff raff? Showing off? I think it’s a bit of all of these, but there’s probably some meta stuff going on… like, life isn’t a straightforward narrative, or something. I don’t know. I’m feeling pretty dumb right now.

But, I will soldier on! I’m one third of the way through after 23 days of reading, so I’m on track to finish in less than three months total. For the record, though, this is the ONLY way I want to deal with calculus from now on:



  1. .Ambur.

    Footnotes and such are definitely a downside of ereaders! My kindle isn’t too bad with them because I have the keyboard one and I can just push “back” but when it gets to the touch ones I’m guessing it gets even more complicated. Hopefully they fix it eventually and send you some kind of update. 🙂

    It sounds like you’re making good progress on Infinite Jest though, so yay for that! 😀 haha Calculus wasn’t too bad for me in High School…but I definitely had no intention of doing more of it in University 😛 Loved the video though! It totally had me laughing. 🙂

    • lauratfrey

      Have they pushed calculus into the high school curriculum now? Ugh! I had to take the intro class for my business degree and it was awful… and humbling!

      This post was pretty much just an excuse to post a 2gether video. I hear a reunion is in the works!

      • .Ambur.

        No, I took it on my own. They call it Math 31. I didn’t even toy with the idea of doing it in University. I didn’t mind it, but I knew a University level one would be so much worse. 😛 Definitely a humbling subject!

        haha nice 🙂 I was reading that online, too. ;D

  2. Pingback: What’s The Deal With Infinite Jest? | Reading in Bed

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s