Since I started Infinite Jest, my goal has been to suck it up until page 223. I kept telling myself that if I could just get to page 223, everything would be good.
Why? Because the Infinite Summer blog told me so 🙂
In their posts on tips for reading the book, the guides (four readers helping keep us going through the book) said to persevere to page 200, and that page 223 was one to mark because it would give necessary information that would help the book make sense. So that’s what I’ve been doing — persevering until I got to page 223.
Now, you have to understand I misinterpreted that suggestion a little bit. Over the last month I’d turned page 223 into some sort of epic turning point of the book — if If I could just get there then this book would come clear to me and finishing it would seem like an easy task.
I was wrong.
I reached page 223 yesterday night, about two days after I should have. As I plowed my way through pages 200, 210, 215, 220, I kept wanting to get to page 223. I started focusing on closely on what I was reading because I wanted to experience page 223 in all it’s glory. I wanted to be ready for the epiphany.
The epiphany didn’t come. Page 223 doesn’t spell out the meaning of the book in a single paragraph, it doesn’t tie together the story strands, it doesn’t radically change what is going on. In that sense, I felt a little disappointed after I reached this mythical page.
I put the book down for a little bit to think. I calculated — at page 223, I’m now 22.7 percent done with the book. I pondered — certainly, persevering past page 200 is a must because things are starting to come together and I enjoy reading each new section. And I blogged — somehow writing this post about my overly-simplified expectations has made me feel better.
So I’m going to continue. Well, I was always going to continue, but now I’m continuing with a new sense if vigor for the book. Page 223 wasn’t an epic, game-changing moment in the book, but it was a milestone. Approaching a book this big and this hard to read has to come with milestones or you don’t feel like you’re making progress. And my disappointment is only my own because I misinterpreted advice from people more experienced with the book than I am.
So what’s on page 223? I’m not going to tell you. The guides told us not to look ahead, to trust the author and get to page 223 at the right time. And they were right. You gotta just wait for it because it’s sort of fun to take the new information and reconsider the 22.7 percent of the book you’ve already finished.
I also just realized this must be the most annoying post ever for people who aren’t reading Infinite Jest. So, I’m sorry for that. Next update, I promise to write something about what the book is actually about.
Have you ever created unrealistic expectations for a book or book milestone? Ever had your hopes raised for understanding, only to find the zap of lightening never came?
P.S. And in a most exciting development, sort of, I got linked to from a weekly round up post at Infinite Summer. Cool, right?