By the time you finish “A Brief History of Seven Killings in Jamaica” by Marlon James, you will feel like you have really gone on a journey. This book is not really an easy summer camp kind of book, but it is the book I was reading when I thought to myself, well, I have two more months of summer (school doesn’t start until October on the quarter system) and ??? more months of social distancing. Am I revisiting old hobbies and thinking fondly of better times during Covid times? Yes.
Here are the additional activities I did along/after reading the novel. Comment if you have any ideas to add 🙂
Jerk chicken! I ordered from a local restaurant (Janga) and got jerk chicken and an appetizer combo (fried zucchini, jerk wings, plantains, and fried shrimp).
Accompany all this good food with an iced hibiscus tea.
A Massacre in Jamaica (Mattathias Schwartz, The New Yorker, 2011)
The actual events that occurred after a certain Jamaican drug lord was extradited. It’s a good read.
Tracing Jamaica’s bloody history via A Brief History of Seven Killings (Scott Carey, Medium, 2016)
More on the actual events/people that are incorporated into the novel.
Dark Alliance (Gary Webb, San Jose Mercury News, 1996)
The OG expose linking the CIA to the crack epidemic of the ’80s. Publishing these articles ruined his life.
I haven’t actually watched either (very short attention span when it comes to TV and movies) but they are related, and I did, ya know, consider it.
Kill the Messenger: (link to trailer) available on Netflix. Jeremy Renner stars as Gary Webb as he researches, writes, and publishes the Dark Alliance articles.
Snowfall: (link to trailer) available on FX and Hulu. Follows the lives of characters living through the crack epidemic in Los Angeles.
I think Infinite Jest is one of The Big Books that every book lover wants to tackle one day, and guess what, friends? I’ve started it! I’m about a hundred pages in, and I’ve found myself annotating the book like crazy, in hopes that it’ll make the reading experience easier for Kimberly one day.
What makes Infinite Jest so intimidating? For one thing, it clocks in at 1,079 pages, and 96 of those pages are tiny, densely packed footnotes. David Foster Wallace’s book also has a weird timeline, which, once you figure it out and get the hang of it, is pretty hilarious.
DFW was also a huge lover of the English language — he delights in both writing long sentences and making up new words. I quickly found myself looking up words that don’t exist outside of the Infinite Jest universe.
So far, I’ve been really enjoying the slow process of reading the book. I’m trying to read at least 10 pages a day, but when I have time, I find myself reading much larger chunks at a time. I have been pleasantly surprised that DFW’s writing style is actually very clear and coherent. Although the book is long and makes you work a little, it’s nothing like reading one of Faulkner’s dense, stream-of-consciousness style paragraphs.
I wanted to share some of the resources I’ve found so far in my reading. From DFW specific glossaries to timelines and summaries, I’ve been briefly reading through each of these sites after I finish a section of the book. This way, I feel fulfilled that I have an unbiased initial reading but that I’m not missing anything important. So far, these websites have all been spoiler free for me, but I can’t guarantee that! I’ll be sure to come back and update this list of resources as I go as a reference for all of us. Have you read Infinite Jest before? Do you have any tips or resources for me to add?
Infinite Jest, a growing list of resources for first-time readers:
- Infinite Jest: on Wallace Wiki has a page by page annotation for vocabulary words. The nice thing is they include notes for the endnotes as they appear in the book, so that you don’t have to flip to a separate page for the endnote annotations.
- Infinite Jest: a scene by scene guide
- Definitive Jest is a vocabulary blog centered around Infinite Jest. This is pretty fun to read for the comments — there are some real fanatics out there who will debate the etymology of words. I love it!
- Infinite Jest Index
- Mark Reads Infinite Jest: I just discovered Mark Reads, which is a website where Mark reads his way through different series and books and writes extensively about it along the way. So far (as of 2011 — so who knows if he’ll continue this project! I certainly hope so), he has only written about the first 68 or so pages of the book. I found reading some of his thoughts while I got started with the book helpful, because it made me realize I was asking some of the same questions as him. It helped me feel comfortable that I’m on the right track even though I’m a little out of comfort zone.
- How to Read Infinite Jest
- Shoshi also has a post about starting Infinite Jest that helps clarify some things you may want to know when you first start.
We thought we’d keep it nice and simple this week, so without further adieu, this week in review:
This week we posted:
- Whatever Happened to Booth Tarkington?
- A Pairing: Leonardo Da Vinci + Ross Gay
- The Pulitzer Project: The Magnificent Ambersons
- Manhattan Beach, California
This weekend, I am going on a class field trip to the Neue, a friend’s spacewarming at her new office, and watching Alabama Football. I hope you stomp in some leaves and drink some apple cider. It finally feels like Autumn in New York!
- As I’m reading The Magnificent Ambersons, I’ve been absolutely befuddled as to how Booth Tarkington could win two Pulitzers and then basically disappear from history. The Atlantic does a great piece on this.
One finds no mention of Tarkington in The Oxford Book of American Literary Anecdotes, let alone in the diaries and letters of his fellow Princetonian Edmund Wilson. Another alumnus, F. Scott Fitzgerald, had Tarkington in mind when he expressed his fear of lapsing into a condition that would render him uninterested in anything but “colored people, children, and dogs.”
- And finally, a few of my favorite new songs to tide you over this weekend:
This week, we posted:
- A Pairing: Francis Bacon + Sharon Olds
- Books I Read in October
- Book Review: The Time Garden, Daria Song
- The Magnificent Ambersons – Vocabulary
I hope you have a marvelously warm and cozy weekend!
I’m finally reading The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington, the 1919 recipient of the Pulitzer Prize. I’m about four chapters in so far and am finding it hilarious, sharp, and a pretty easy read. The best part of reading on a Kindle is the built-in dictionary. I thought I’d share the vocabulary words I’ve learned so far:
- Porte-cochère: porte co·chère (noun) – a covered entrance large enough for vehicles to pass through, typically opening into a courtyard
It was a house of arches and turrets and girdling stone porches: it had the first porte-cochère seen in that town.
- Argot: ar·got (noun) – the jargon or slang of a particular group or class.
- Badinage: bad·i·nage (noun) – humorous or witty conversation
This was stock and stencil: the accustomed argot of street badinage of the period; and in such matters Georgie was an expert.
“When I first uncrated these birds, in my frenzy I said ‘I want so many of them that every time I go out the door, I’ll run into one,’” O’Connor wrote in her essay “The King of Birds.” It was not long before she got her wish. Andalusia, then a working dairy farm crowded by cattle and farmhands, was soon dotted by dozens of peacocks.
This week, we posted:
This weekend, I’ll be re-reading The Magicians, watching a lot of television and working on a paper for class. Wherever you are, I hope you have lots of candy, warm socks, and a comfortable couch!
“Les Belles Danses” (The beautiful dances) by French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel
“In the United States we throw away around 40% of what we produce; and globally, 28% of the land under cultivation grows food that ends up in landfills.”
This week, we posted:
- Book Review: Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari
- Book Review: Room, Emma Donoghue
- A Pairing: Edward Hopper + Dorianne Laux
- Books I Read in September
What did you discover this week? I hope those of you on the East Coast stay warm and dry this weekend!
Today is an inauspicious day in America, and so I thought I would share a serious list today about current events: politics, the refugee crisis, and other important things that I am trying to learn more about in the process of becoming a better global citizen.
The Medal “honors those who have widened the public’s engagement with literature and ‘deepened the nation’s understanding of the human experience’.”
I don’t know what to make of the term “immigrant fiction.” Writers have always tended to write about the worlds they come from. And it just so happens that many writers originate from different parts of the world than the ones they end up living in, either by choice or by necessity or by circumstance, and therefore, write about those experiences. If certain books are to be termed immigrant fiction, what do we call the rest? Native fiction? Puritan fiction? This distinction doesn’t agree with me. Given the history of the United States, all American fiction could be classified as immigrant fiction. Hawthorne writes about immigrants. So does Willa Cather. From the beginnings of literature, poets and writers have based their narratives on crossing borders, on wandering, on exile, on encounters beyond the familiar. The stranger is an archetype in epic poetry, in novels. The tension between alienation and assimilation has always been a basic theme.
Wherever you are today, I hope you are surrounded by friends, puppies, or pizza! I will be in the library reading for school, so please eat a slice of pizza for me!
Can you believe it’s already September? It’s Labor Day weekend for us in the US, which means that it’s the last hoo-rah for Summer. I hope you all wear sunscreen and eat watermelon and spend time playing in the sun with your family, friends, cats, or books!
We have a hodgepodge of links to share this week – have fun clicking!
- This is so fascinating to me – have you ever really thought about hair streams?
There are questions of such vast, cosmic import that most of us never think to ask them. I’ve wondered why there’s something rather than nothing; I have pondered the nature of objectivity; I’ve questioned the existence of free will. But I’ve never asked why some hairs on my body grow in one direction, and other hairs an entirely different direction.
That’s where Walter Aubrey Kidd comes in. He was not like you or me; his was a mind so restive, so thick with a passion for inquiry, that no mystery, however impregnable, was safe from its advances. And so it was that in 1903 he bequeathed to us The Direction of Hair in Animals and Man, taking a fine-tooth comb to a subject most of us had hardly seen fit to tousle.
This week, we posted:
- Kimberly discussed the Japanese Art of Ikebana
- She also explored the history behind Tsukumogami
- Jessica reminisced on the books she read in August
As always, please feel free to comment with any links you would like to share for next week!
Happy Friday, everyone! Here are the things we’ve been looking at this week:
- We are obsessed with Katarina Pridavkova‘s sculpture project called Grow Up. I would watch a movie that takes place in this little town – wouldn’t you?
Learning the alphabet gave you night terrors, and even now you have a deep seated fear of being mauled by a bear.
1. To realize the pattern of ruin plaguing your life is not a result of chronic bad luck, but poor foresight and compulsive self-destruction.
2. There’s a bat in your hair! Get it out!
This Week We Posted:
And finally, we hope your weekend is as lovely as this bear family playing in a pool!