Sunday, April 29, 2012

Infinite Jest


I write here after a long time. I have added a page which records the books I’ve been reading. The reading logged is not as much as I would have wished, initially due to work and of late, I have been trying to limit the amount of time devoted to reading .

Background on the opportune time for reading IJ: I have tried quite a few times since I bought IJ to open it up and read - always devoting broadly a month of my time. But with work, at times I would get into the book but realize that it is too involved and intense and I would then drop out and forget the context just because of being away for long. The most I had reached like this, after trying a few times was some 200 pages. And we are talking in years here. The book is 1000 pages long with some 100 pages of footnotes. Enter, sabbatical break. Still, I was tentative in my commitment. Then, one inspired day in March, I decided to read this book thinking that if I can’t read this now, when I have much more control over my time, it is unlikely that I’ll read it in the near future. And hence, on the same day, I decided my major targets for April (which in non-sabbatical state would be difficult to pursue). And these were – run 100 miles and read IJ.
On my targets - I am hopeful of closing the month with the run (And I have not been a runner before Feb 2012). On IJ, I linger at 700. But I have reached that much loved stage in those few good books that one reads where you want the book to continue for long, may be forever. You wish that you could read about the people on and on. You savor every page and despite the target achievement question mark, you will the book to slow down just to be with the author and the ideas longer. This happened recently with Murakami’s ‘What I think…running’ book, which is a quick read – if read in one go, may be a two hour affair but I allowed myself to read only 10-20 pages daily so that it could last longer. So effectively, I am having a lot of fun reading IJ.

The book rewards you with lots and lots of thoughts daily. From a peep into the materialist, entertainment addicted future, to the pursuit of excellence(in a sport), to the soul-help dashed out in ladle-full, to some really insightful essays on topics which just make you wonder at the author’s depth, complexity and width of thinking. From the concept of wheelchair assassins to the hideous and deformed, to 12-steps, and an alternative reality for the entertainment industry, to all the probing into the happiness pursuit – is it the want or the have? Or should one take targets and live by them or just move between different paths, and view one’s life as a set of lines moving from one point to another (that is not stop at the target point). It asks some of the basic questions of life and makes you think about them. It is as much about the 1000 pages as it is about the amount of your waking hours you keep thinking about the characters, their choices and all the food for thought dished out in the book. It is enriching, enlightening, and as Virginia Woolf says, like a good book, makes you ask as many questions yourself, explodes a huge number of thoughts in your mind. I am very glad that I am reading the book, and yes, looking forward to completing it, and looking forward to reading it again sometime soon, and looking forward to reading all the ideas and thoughts that IJ readers have spread across the internet.

Another note – on record keeping and target setting; Instead of targeting 52 books or 30 books or x number of books a year, I now plan to devote a limited amount of time to books. Otherwise, it becomes an all-consuming pursuit esp when I am in second half of books and I then ignore many things, and as a result, once I finish them, I stay away from books for a while, and also, I ignore non fiction, long form, essays which I wish I could read more of, which normally get second preference because of a faulty metric of counting only the number of books. Humbling reminder that the plan stage and set-the-target stage is by far the most crucial stage, after that, its about execution and following your own commands. So the idea is to read better.

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