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Endurance Reads

Summer-Book Therapy Sessions
By MIKE MILIARD  |  June 17, 2009


Beach reading. The very phrase is abhorrent to book lovers, connoting as it does cheap paperbacks, tumescent with air-dried seawater and crunchy with sand, paragraph after paragraph of poorly written pulp meant to be read as fast as the passing of summer itself.

A good summer book should really weigh as much as a small dog: 981 pages of abstruse prose about tennis, addiction, and Québecois separatism, complete with 388 endnotes (some of which themselves span several pages of tiny type). Yes, we're talking about Infinite Jest, the 1996 maximalist magnum opus by the late and sorely missed David Foster Wallace. And this is the year you finally read it. Lacking the requisite sticktoitiveness? Join Infinite Summer, a project that seeks to unite "endurance bibliophiles from around the world" with the Web, guiding neophytes through the book's densely worded subplots via tips, annotations, and commentary posted to its own forums, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr between June 21 and September 22. That works out to just about 75 pages per week for 13 weeks. Easy!

Speaking of books that are much talked about but little-read: you're already a bit behind schedule for Wandering Rocks, another online reading group that began tackling James Joyce's sprawling masterpiece Ulysses this past Tuesday (a/k/a Bloomsday, which commemorates the date — June 16, 1904 — on which the book takes place in Dublin). But that's okay. The first chapter of that 265,000-word modernist milestone is relatively straightforward and you should be able to breeze through it and catch up pretty easily.

Be warned, though: like Odysseus's, the journey only gets more treacherous. By the time you get to, say, Episode 14 — which is written in an evolving style meant to mimic both fetal development and the growth of the English language — or Episode 17 — which is styled as a catechistic Q&A — you'll probably want to compare notes with other aspiring Joyceans. That's when you'll curse the fact that there's no Wi-Fi at the beach.

Related: Eating like tourists, Review: Franz Ferdinand's Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, Extreme Reads, More more >
  Topics: Books , Media, David Foster Wallace, David Foster Wallace,  More more >
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