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My Infinite Summer: Page 223

infinite summerSince 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?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • bermudaonion July 14, 2009, 8:07 pm

    It sounds like you’ve got quite a daunting task ahead of you. Good luck!

  • Teresa July 14, 2009, 8:13 pm

    I thought p. 223 would be a revelation, but it wasn’t quite that. I did dutifully bookmark the page because I know it’ll come in handy later. The book is a fun read, though, and the disparate parts are starting to gel for me. (The section immediately after p. 223 was one of the best bits yet!)

  • Jeanne July 14, 2009, 8:22 pm

    Sometimes you never get that sense of epiphany. But sometimes you understand things differently after struggling through a difficult book, and it makes you glad you read it in whatever haphazard way you could manage at the time. Some books that I first read like that are among my favorites now. Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse comes to mind. I struggled through it one afternoon at the pool after months of trying, and enjoyed it ever after.

  • Julia Smith July 14, 2009, 9:36 pm

    ‘I also just realized this must be the most annoying post ever for people who aren’t reading Infinite Jest.’ – Are you kidding? That was really tense and impassioned. I’m always amazed by how book people are miscast by society. I’ve never met a more fiercely, emotionally-invested group of people than book people.

  • Suko July 14, 2009, 10:32 pm

    First of all, the name of your blog makes me smile. Great name!

    Infinite Jest is on my reading list, too, in spite of it’s length. David Wallace Foster was a professor at Pomona College, and I attended one of the other Claremont Colleges. I feel almost a duty to read Infinite Jest, although it’s intensity attracts me, too.

  • Suko July 14, 2009, 10:33 pm

    Oops, it’s David Foster Wallace! I often mix up the names.

  • bibliomom July 14, 2009, 10:46 pm

    The guy sitting in front of me (he was in business class though while I was in “the rest of us class”) was reading this on the plane on Sunday when my daughters and I were flying home to Wisconsin from Washington. One of my habits is to check out what other people were reading. You were dying to know that weren’t you?

  • Kim July 15, 2009, 7:49 am

    Thanks. Some days it seems more overwhelming than others, but having the online book club is a huge help. I’m not a very active participant, it’s just nice to know other people are slogging along as well.

  • Louise July 15, 2009, 2:41 pm

    You’ve all gotten me immensely curious about this book….

  • Teresa July 15, 2009, 4:06 pm

    Yep. I started it last weekend and hurried through the first 200 pages, just so I could read the forums without worrying about spoilers. I’m liking doing it as a group read because it’s helping me pick up on things a little more.

  • frank patrick July 16, 2009, 3:58 pm

    I, too, was let down big time by page 223. With the stuff leading up to it, I was anticipating a big trip into the DMZ to explain Hal’s condition, but nooooooo…it’s just…

  • Monica July 18, 2009, 1:30 am

    I’m not reading the book, but I thought you were going to say something like you had a different print run of the book and your “223” wasn’t the real 223 and you had to keep reading until like pg. 348 or something.

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