Is the joke on me?

The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.” — David Foster Wallace

I finally finished David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest a few weeks ago. I’m still not sure what to make of it.

The book’s themes and characters continue to rise up in unsettled dreams, an unresolved, anxious feeling that has lasted long after I turned the last page. I still can’t tell if it’s a work of genius or some kind of sham, but it definitely affected me. It’s gnawing at me, and as much as I dread it, I might go back and read the son of a bitch again, even though my first read was a six-month slog.

I guess I’ll leave Infinite Jest in a prominent place, where its unresolved meditations on entertainment, freedom, pleasure, addiction, advertising and tennis will taunt me every time I walk past. Eventually, I’ll make another run at it. In the meantime, I’m whiling away my time rereading J.D. Salinger, finding echoes of Wallace’s joke every time I turn the page. Maybe this is some freaky Zen koan that I’m trying too hard to unravel?

How in the hell are you going to recognize a legitimate holy man when you see one if you don’t even know a cup of consecrated chicken soup when it’s right in front of your nose?” –Zooey Glass in Salinger’s Franny and Zooey