Infinite Jest

Friday, November 23, 2001

Based on my enjoyment of the short stories in Brief Conversations with Hideous Men, I decided to pick up the David Foster Wallace magnum opus Infinite Jest, 1,079 dense pages of surreal Wallacian-complex sentences and paragraphs lasting four pages. I’m determined to get through it.

One of the greatest parts of the book is the naming of the years. They’re corporate-sponsored, I think, so they have titles like “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment” or “Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad” instead of numbers. Great comical extension of things like “The Bowl.”

Anyway, twenty pages in, I’ve already encountered some more of Wallace’s broad vocabulary. For your edification:

  • Prorector - officer who presides over the academic senate of a university.
  • Aver - to affirm positively, declare.
  • Mottle - a spot or blotch of color. Also, a variegated pattern, as on marble.
  • Variegated - having streaks, marks, or patches of a different color or colors; varicolored. (Not from the story; from the above definition.)
  • Circumflex - this: ^.
  • Lapidary - dealer in precious or semiprecious stones.
  • Effete - depleted of vitality, self-indulgant, over-refined, effeminate (from the Latin, ‘ex fetus’).
  • Sallow - of a sickly yellowish hue or complexion.
  • Presbyopic - inability of the eye to focus sharply on nearby objects, resulting from loss of elasticity of the crystalline lens with advancing age.
  • Countenance - appearance, especially the expression of the face.
  • Parquet - a floor inlaid with pattered or mosaiced wood. (Also has a couple odd European government and business definitions.)
  • Roil - to make cloudy by stirring up sediment or to displease or disturb.
  • Pase - one of several usually one-handed maneuvers in bullfighting in which the matador presents and moves the cape to attract a close, passing charge of the bull (from the Spanish ‘pasar,’ to pass).
  • Leonine - lion-ish
  • Hypophalangial - with deficient phalanges.
  • Phalanges - fingerbones or plural of phalanx (a tightly knit group of people or a particular sort of infantry group). (Again, not from the story, but from the above definition.)

“Josh, you’re a dork.”