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One Sexy Hammer

August 30, 2009

Photo by Flickr user Darren Hester, used under a Creative Commons license.

So, yeah: It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these. My relationship with Infinite Jest has taken a weird turn over the past week. You know the saying about how when you’re wielding a hammer everything begins to look like a nail? I’m finding it’s also true that when you’re wielding Infinite Jest, everything begins to look like an addictive compulsion. Or a paralytic thought-helix. Or any other of Wallace’s themes that he articulates so fiendishly well.

To put it another way, the world of Infinite Jest is starting to feel like a cage of its own. It’s easy to forget, when you’ve surrendered yourself (as I have) to Wallace’s world-view, that there are other ways to view the world. That you can approach things like addiction and entertainment and depression via non-Wallace vectors. Or better yet, that a lot of people don’t even ride the addiction- or depression- or entertainment-vectors to begin with.

Part of all this is due to my own addiction-experiences, and the fact that I’m experiencing throbbing-hot Identification on nearly every page. I think also that my own world-view pump is primed to accept and agree with most of the arguments that Wallace makes in Infinite Jest.

But I think there’s a danger to carrying around a hammer for too long — particularly a hammer that’s as sexy and well-crafted as Wallace’s book. For someone who’s going through an addiction/recovery thing, there’s probably a danger to devoting so much psychic energy to a book about addiction things. When you give yourself over to a book that presents addiction/recovery as traumatic, involuted and paralyzing, on some level you’re setting up your own addiction/recovery to be marked by trauma, involution and paralysis. There’s a danger that the experience of Infinite Jest is going to overwhelm and override whatever your own unmediated experience of the same phenomenon would have been had you not read Infinite Jest to begin with.

Like I said, I suspect this is largely a function of the white flag approach I’ve taken with the book. And make no mistake that its unlikely I’d be where I’m at now — 50 opiate-free days and counting — had I not decided to tackle my own dependency by diving into the book and blogging the ever-loving bejeezus out of it.

I need also to say that I’m thankful beyond what I can express in words for all the insights and encouragement that you all have posted in the comments here. Gratitude, is all I can say. Whole bucket-loads of gratitude.

I think now that I’ve identified my own encagement issues re: IJ I’ll hopefully be posting on a regular schedule in the next few days.

It’s been a great summer, but I’ll be glad when its over.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 31, 2009 9:54 pm

    Reading this made me wonder if you’re feeling Joelle’s “fearful sentiment” (p. 707), which leads to the footnote 292a (p. 1054), which explains why Boston AA suggests that “single newcomers not get romantically involved for the first year of sobriety.” That is, it can be dangerous to make such a strong connection, to Identify with something Other than their “form of a higher power.” Although, why the Bible-looking Infinite Jest can’t be a higher power, that’s beyond me.

  2. September 1, 2009 8:48 am

    Interesting analogy! But look, it’s not like Infinite Jest and I are going steady or anything — we’re just friends with benefits…

  3. September 1, 2009 9:22 am

    wow 50 daysw is great. Sobriety is a gift and needs to worked everyday. I’m proud of you I hope many more years to come.

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