So yo then man…

I’m having a seriously hard time returning to Infinite Jest.  I know I love the book,  for the same reason Dave Eggers urges us— in the 2006 edition— to read it:  “There is also a very quiet but very sturdy and constant tragic undercurrent that concerns a people who are completely lost, who are lost within their families and lost within their nation, and lost within their time, and who only want some sort of direction or purpose or sense of community or love.”

But this reading is different.

The reference to Hal’s father’s umbrella early on made me cry, as did the harried but attuned orderly’s “So yo then man what’s your story?” at the end of the first chapter. More tears as Orin introduces us to the howling fantods.

Damnit, what kind of genius brackets his novel with a traumatic scene in which our hero is pinned to the floor of the men’s bathroom then fastened into a psychiatric gurney and asked to tell us, the psychically incomprehensible and strapped  down, the rest of the novel? Tell me.

This reading is infinitely depressing, people. His writing is so amazing, but it didn’t make me cry in 1997. Now he’s dead and I have a kid, and I can’t take it.