This Is What Happens When You Read “Infinite Jest” For The First Time

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by David Foster Wallace?

1. You feel like such a hipster whenever you see the book taking up a ton of space on your bookshelf.

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2. But you decide that if you really want to call yourself cultured, you should probably quit using it as a doorstop and read the thing.

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Can’t be that bad, right?

3. As you read, you laugh out loud, cringe in horror, and feel completely lost, all within the same sentence.

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All. The. Time.

4. But you still take the book everywhere you go.

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5. People laugh at you while you try to read it on the treadmill.


“No, I’m not going to lift weights with this later.”

6. You keep a dictionary handy to look up all the words you don’t know. There are a lot. :(

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7. You decide that looking up words takes too much time/energy/fucks you don’t have, so you stop.

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8. You have no idea what anything is supposed to mean.

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9. So you decide that everything is super important.

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10. You go from lovingly cradling the book like your first born child to threatening to hurl it into an active volcano.

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11. But you keep reading anyway.

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12. You start to question your intelligence.

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13. You laugh at the thought of anyone choosing not to read the footnotes.

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14. You can’t decide if you absolutely love or hate the existence of said footnotes.

Both. Definitely both.

15. You can’t interact with anyone unless it’s to talk about Infinite Jest. Everything else is irrelevant.

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16. When people ask you to explain the book, you tell them it’s impossible.

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Amanda Goodwin

18. But when you do try to explain it, most of the time all you can manage is, “it’s so meta.”

Inception? Child’s play.

19. People think you’re really pretentious.

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20. So you stay at home reading for hours on end, and forget to feed your cat.

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21. It takes you an hour to read 10 pages.

Nope. It’s The Joke.

22. So you reward yourself with frequent breaks.

23. Then you decide to stop taking so many breaks because not reading means wasted brain cells and self-loathing.

24. As soon as you understand a reference, all of your faith in the book is restored.

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25. The book confuses you again.

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DAMN it.

26. You resist the urge to look up spoilers because it’d feel like cheating on a S.O.

27. When your S.O. (or your cat) gets mad at you for spending all of your time reading, you get really impatient.

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28. You either don’t sleep at night or go to bed at 4 a.m. because your body hates you.

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29. When you do sleep, you dream about the plot.

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30. You start to confuse real life, the plot of the book, and your dreams about the plot of the book.

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Sanity gone.

31. You have about three mental breakdowns ending in you making crying noises, laughing for no reason, screaming into the book ready to give your eyes paper cuts, or catatonically staring into nothingness.

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Not to mention at least one HUGE existential crisis.

32. You just really want to cry.

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33. You do not have the energy to cry.

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34. You feel so isolated, exhausted, and hopeless but you also hate the idea of being around other people.

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35. You can’t really articulate anything.

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36. So you internalize everything and drink yourself into emotional numbness.

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“If the high was worth the paaaiiiiin.”


37. When that doesn’t work, you write a Buzzfeed article about it.

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Meta is love. Meta is life.

38. But when you discover that someone you know has read Infinite Jest too you FREAK OUT.

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“OMG we should start a support group or something!!”

39. You question the purpose and meaning of LITERALLY EVERYTHING.

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Yeah, bitch!

40. You start to panic when you realize you have less than 100 pages left.

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41. You come up with all sorts of theories about the ending.

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42. And the urge to Google it is SO STRONG.

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BUT you resist.

43. Then you finally get to the end.

What the actual fuck.

44. You decide you need a drink.

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Or 5.

45. But then the more you think about it, the more you realize how profoundly genius it actually is.

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46. And but so in spite of all the agony and frustration, you know one thing for sure.

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47. And nothing was the same after that.

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