This book-a-week mandate is taking a hit now with David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, a 981 page novel with 100 pages of footnotes, which took Dave Eggers (who wrote the current forward) a month to get through, and we're talking about a novelist whose job it is to write and read, and even then he spent 4 weeks doing little else. It's my 17th novel of the year and this means I'm behind schedule by about half a week, so if I can finish it tonight and then squeeze in another book by Monday night I'll be back on schedule. But that's impossible. Before I fell into a deep and disturbing dream-sleep last night, with an image landscape clearly pulled from this novel and no shrink would try to convince me otherwise, I spent the evening moving my bookmark from page 414 to 416, nearly not at all, because of a 30 page footnote I smacked into on page 415. Despite its immensity, and I do actually own the hardcover from when it was first released in 1996, and have boxed it and brought it with me through every move, usually getting my more muscularly-blessed friends to lift that last box, I'll point to, and so despite its intimidation factor I don't want it to end. Dave Eggers described it as a workout for the mind. He called it drum-tight, without a lazy sentence.
But I do have to wonder if anyone has actually truly finished this novel, footnotes and all. I have to wonder if this infinitely long novel is jesting with the reader. Sometimes it just seems like I'm trying to get to another planet, and by walking. As though, maybe, I'll reach the last word of the last page of the last footnote, and somewhere out there DFW will be laughing.