Two hundred and thirty-five new emails greeted me this morning at work, my first day back from vacation. Between this e-pile and the shock of learning that the state of California has outlawed necrophilia, it's been a rather frantic day of response typing and body hiding. (In all seriousness, isn't it about time that California decided to pick on something other than smoking?) I'd planned on coming up with some lengthy explanation as to why, after nearly 700 pages, I still don't see where Infinite Jest is going, but I'm a bit fagged.
I think I've mentioned before that I once spent an excruciating year working as a proofreader for an engineering firm that had won a contract with the Navy to convert their hardcopy technical manuals to SGML-coded CD-ROM manuals. My job was to word-for-word, or in many cases number-for-number, the electronic version against its progenitor, checking all of the hyperlinks and verifying that data was scanned over accurately. In the training for this job, we were told the importance of the work and urged to be slow and deliberate or else hear about our mistake on the nightly news in the form of a plane flying into the side of a mountain or a missile "accidentally" destroying an aspirin factory. The key, we were told, was to make sure that every number, every letter, every punctuation mark transferred exactly, else, well, we'd get a little more than a letter from the editor.
I'll never forget one two-week period. I spent every day of those two weeks proofing page after page--four columns per page--of specifications for the literal nuts and bolts of a particular part for a specific piece of hardware. All numbers. I prayed for a single word, something other than the "Table X" heading at the top of every page, but the columns of numbers would not end.
I guess I'm trying to draw some parallel to my reading of IJ. At first, I found myself paying particular and close attention to every word. I labored over the endnotes and followed their paths to other endnotes. Now after 700 pages, I feel the urge to skim, but something, maybe that proofreader's attention to detail or the fear of missing the gem hidden in the eye-high weeds, something prevents me from doing this.
This weekend's careful reading:
Day six totals: 88 pages; 28 endnotes
Day seven totals: 62 pages; 21 endnotes
This afternoon, my bookmark sits on page 682.