What if the whole law school read the same book?

Summer of 2013: David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

“It did what all ads are supposed to do: create an anxiety relievable by purchase.”

What’s the Big Idea?

The academic year is loaded with commitments and thousands of pages of reading.  For book lovers (a group well represented among law students and faculty) one of the worst things about all that reading is that it makes it difficult to find time to read. 

This summer, commit to reading DFW’s Infinite Jest.  Sure it’s 981 pages, (not counting the highly unskippable footnotes), but if you divide that over the fourteen weeks in May, June, and July, it comes to about 75 pages a week (still not counting the highly unskippable footnotes).  That’s not too daunting, and you’ll have support of lots of other readers to keep you going.

Join this largely on-line U of T Law community by keeping up with the posted schedule.  We’ll have four first time-readers posting their thoughts on the Infinite Summer @ U of T Law Blog every week, with room for everyone to share responses.  (For sign-up info, see below.)  There is also Twitter hashtag (#ISUTL) and a Facebook event.  We say “largely on-line” because there are rumours that the Dean’s office is hosting a victory party at the end of the summer.

Meet the Four Readers

Markus Dubber

Markus DubberHi, I'm Markus and I'm a non-reader.  I hate reading "fiction," and I especially hate reading loooong works of fiction.  I also hate book clubs.  But I do like the idea of Infinite Summer.  (I also like laminated bookmarks and t-shirts, both of which I've been promised if I sign up for this.)  And David Foster Wallace sounds like an interesting guy.  Interesting enough to make me read the first twenty or so pages of Infinite Jest a few years ago, and about as many pages of Pale King more recently.  I thought to myself--and to everyone else, I suppose—“this is exactly why I hate reading.”  Because the writing was so amazing, like Jonathan Franzen, but with perfect pitch, which is to say, not at all like Jonathan Franzen.

James Marton

James MartonHi everyone. I'm a 1L with a background in philosophy. I did my degrees at Queen's University, mainly engaging with issues in the analytic sphere. Post-Wittgensteinian thinkers were a particular interest. I come to the reading group knowing little to nothing about Infinite Jest, though I've been meaning to read it since reading and enjoying Oblivion a few years ago.  For better or worse it seems I have a real soft spot for morbidly depressed American authors (I consider Hemingway and Fitzgerald to be my favourite) and so I can't see why reading 1000+ pages about tennis, popular entertainment, child abuse, and Quebec separatism wouldn't be right up my alley.

Fair warning: I've never really written about literature before.  Some of what I have to say may, if it isn't nonsense, have a philosophical bent.  We'll see.  But in any event I look forward to taking a break from reading case law for a while, and hearing what you all have to say about what looks to be a really great book.

Mayo Moran

Mayo MoranI’m Mayo…a keen reader of fiction (and poetry).  But I have a problem--I’m a demanding reader and have a hard time finding works that I really love to read. Because my life tends to be hectic, I read at the end of the day or on holiday.  I’ve had enough death around me and so I don’t want to read fiction that is oppressive or full of sadness and despair.  Yet as a former student of English literature who also loves to write, I can’t stand writing that is formulaic or poorly executed.  Turns out it’s very hard to find extremely well-written fiction that isn’t heart-rending.  My favourite all time novel is probably still George Eliot’s Middlemarch.  Right now I’m reading and enjoying Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies….good but not amazing. I know for sure that at least I’ll learn a lot of new words with Infinite Jest.  Will be intriguing to see what others think.

Sarah Rankin

Sarah RankinI'm Sarah and I'm excited about Infinite Summer! I'm also really excited about completely non-legal reading. I love books, book clubs, laminated bookmarks and t-shirts. I was an English undergrad and fell in love with David Foster Wallace's shorter works. Infinite Jest has always been on the list but I've never made much of a start... until now.



The Book

Published in 1996, IJ is set in the future (though, by many people’s calculations, not for very much longer).  It follows three surprisingly intertwining plot lines: 

  1. The Incandenza family’s Enfield Tennis Academy, including its super-over-achieving academic and tennis star students;
  2. The neighboring Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House, including its super-under-achieving residents and staff; and
  3. A super-philosophical and even-more-super-violent radical Quebec separatist movement. 

The link among the plots is a film made by the late James O. Incandenza, which is also called Infinite Jest and is so fun to watch that it entertains viewers to death. 

IJ Speaks for Itself

Lesson from the Tennis Academy

“Here is how to don red and gray E.T.A. sweats and squad-jog a weekly 40 km. up and down urban Commonwealth Avenue even though you would rather set your hair on fire than jog in a pack.  Jogging is painful and pointless, but you are not in charge. Your brother gets to ride shotgun while a senile German blows BBs at your legs both of them laughing and screaming Schnell.”

Lesson from the Recovery House

“That sometimes human beings have to just sit in one place and, like, hurt.  That you will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.  That there is such a thing as raw, unalloyed, agendaless kindness.  That it is possible to fall asleep during an anxiety attack.  That concentrating on anything is very hard work.”

Lesson from the Separatists

“Are we not all of us fanatics?  I say only what you of the U.S.A. pretend you do not know.  Attachments are of great seriousness.  Choose your attachments carefully.  Choose your temple of fanaticism with great care.  What you wish to sing of as tragic love is an attachment not carefully chosen.  Die for one person?  This is a craziness.  Persons change, leave, die, become ill.  They leave, lie, go mad, have sickness, betray you, die. Your nation outlives you.  A cause outlives you.”

                    The Schedule                     

2013 Date



Wed., May 1

p. 63


Wed., May 8

p. 137


Wed., May 15

p. 210


Wed., May 22

p. 284


Wed., May 29

p. 358


Wed., June 12

p. 432


Wed., June 19

p. 506


Wed., June 26

p. 580


Wed., July 3

p. 653


Wed., July 10

p. 727


Wed., July 17

p. 801


Wed., July 24

p. 875


Wed., July 31

p. 949


Wed., August 7

p. 981


At the end of each Wednesday, you should be at or past the given page number. Read ahead, if you wish, but remember, please, that the schedule denotes the spoiler line for any given week.

Stay tuned for more!

Questions?  Would you like to join? Contact sara.faherty@utoronto.ca.