¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 The writerly nature of the blog was particularly important for many of the participants in Infinite Summer, who used reading and discussing Infinite Jest as a pretext for their own writing, about their lives, their thoughts, their struggles. One pseudonymous participant, for instance, published a guest post on the site about a month into the project, beginning “My name is infinitedetox and I am an addict” (Infinitedetox). The author then told the story of a relationship with “pharmaceutical opiates” that quickly trended from “an experiment” to “a recreation” to clear “dependency,” a relationship that a first encounter with Infinite Jest helped to change:
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Somehow the book — and now brace yourself for one of those clichÃ©s that Wallace seems so interested in in IJ — made me want to be a better person. And it inspired me to stop taking drugs immediately, to Kick the Bird, via a mechanism which I’ve had a hard time articulating. But let me give it a stab anyway. (Infinitedetox)
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Infinitedetox then goes on to connect the kind of self-surrender that Wallace suggests makes twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous work to that required of the reader of a big novel such as Infinite Jest. This mode of self-surrender is not a passive submission but an active engagement of reader with the text’s perspective, a giving over of the self to the preoccupations of another mind. This kind of reading-as-surrender requires the reader not simply to take the text in, Infinitedetox suggests, but to care about its concerns as much as its author did.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 You can probably see where I’m going with this. What happened to me, on December 26, 2008, is that I surrendered myself completely to Infinite Jest. I signed some sort of metaphorical blood-oath committing myself to looking at the world through David Foster Wallace’s eyes. And what happened then was that I saw myself as DFW would have seen me, refracted through the wobbly nystagmic lens of Infinite Jest. Wallace’s judgments on addicts and addictions fell upon me with great force, and something about the ferocity of his critique, coupled with his profound compassion and humaneness toward the subject, compelled me to waste absolutely zero time in booting the pills and Getting My Shit Together. (Infinitedetox)
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 1 Infinite Jest as a cure for actual opiate addiction only holds for a while, Infinitedetox confesses, and yet Infinite Summer provides both the impetus for a return to the novel and its perspective, as well as a venue for the kind of safe, anonymous sharing that AA inspires. In addition to this guest post on Infinite Summer, Infinitedetox also maintained an individual blog detailing both his/her reading and recovery processes. Many other participants in the group blog’s comments sections similarly posted on their own blogs, and read and commented on one another’s entries. All of this new work reveals the degree to which the desire among the readers was not simply to spend a summer working through the novel itself, though that was the starting point for their interactions; they were also driven to work through the text in a way that was productive of more new writing.
Maybe somewhat related here is Tim Aubry’s forthcoming book (also from Iowa) called Reading as Therapy: What Contemporary Fiction Does for Middle-Class Americans. He discusses Oprah and IJ among others. http://www.uiowapress.org/books/2011-spring/reading-therapy.htm
I am hugely looking forward to reading it!