Monthly Archives: November 2021

Proverbs from Infinite Jest

My fascination with David Foster Wallace goes back several years now, but it was only after moving to his home state that I attacked his monster novel, Infinite Jest. I can technically say that I finished it last week since I read every word in its 1,079 pages, including the 388 end notes, but I now believe that one never really finishes Infinite Jest. As in, when I finished War and Peace years ago, I finished War and Peace. But Infinite Jest appears to carry on like maybe your high school experience carries on—you never really stop thinking about it.

I won’t even try to explain or in any way recreate the book. I’ll note that the section that made me laugh out loud the hardest was Mario’s “first and only even remotely romantic experience, thus far” (pp. 121-126), and the two sections where DFW’s descriptive writing just left me stunned at his gifts were the squeaky bed flashback of J. O. Incandenza (pp. 491-503) and Hal’s visit to the NA meeting (pp. 795-808).

But what leads me to dust off my blog today and share is the six-page passage of “exotic new facts” learned “around a Substance-recovery halfway facility” (pp. 200-205)—the profundity sprinkled in that passage is most worthy of sharing with others who will (should?) never read Infinite Jest.  

So here you go. I’ll remove the “That” intro to selected sentences and offer these as sort of proverbs from David Foster Wallace, may he rest in peace:

  • Certain persons simply will not like you no matter what you do.
  • No matter how smart you thought you were, you are actually way less smart than that.
  • ‘God’ does not apparently require that you believe in Him/Her/It before He/She/It will help you.
  • You do not have to like a person in order to learn from him/her/it.
  • Evil people never believe they are evil, but rather that everyone else is evil.
  • It is possible to learn valuable things from a stupid person.
  • Boring activities become, perversely, much less boring if you concentrate intently on them.
  • Sometimes human beings have to just sit in one place and, like, hurt.
  • You will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.
  • There is such a thing as raw, unalloyed, agendaless kindness.
  • Concentrating intently on anything is very hard work.
  • It is simply more pleasant to be happy than to be pissed off.
  • A clean room feels better to be in than a dirty room.
  • The people to be most frightened of are the people who are the most frightened.
  • It takes great personal courage to let yourself appear weak.
  • You don’t have to hit somebody even if you really really want to.
  • No single, individual moment is in and of itself unendurable.
  • Other people can often see things about you that you yourself cannot see, even if those people are stupid.
  • Having a lot of money does not immunize people from suffering or fear.
  • Trying to dance sober is a whole different kettle of fish.
  • Certain sincerely devout and spiritually advanced people believe that the God of their understanding helps them find parking places and gives them advice on Lottery numbers.
  • “Acceptance” is usually more a matter of fatigue than anything else.
  • Perversely, it is often more fun to want something than to have it.
  • If you do something nice for somebody in secret, anonymously, without letting the person you did it for know it was you or anybody else know what it was you did or in any way or form trying to get credit for it, it’s almost its own form of intoxicating buzz.
  • Anonymous generosity, too, can be abused.
  • Having sex with someone you do not care for feels lonelier than not having sex in the first place, afterward.
  • It is permissible to want.
  • Everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else.
  • There might not be angels, but there are people who might as well be angels.
  • God might regard the issue of whether you believe there’s a God or not as fairly low on his/her/its list of things s/he/it’s interested in re you.