I have tried to read David Foster Wallace’s mammoth Infinite Jest twice now. The first time was during my junior year of high school. Wallace had recently passed away and Rolling Stone had run a feature on his troubled life and work, which you can read here. That particular issue of Rolling Stone was the first in which President Obama was the cover story, still running for the Oval Office at the time. It was sitting on a table in the classroom of my Journalism teacher, and after going ga-ga over a picture of Katy Perry in a lime green bikini (this was between One of the Boys and Teenage Dream) I found the David Foster Wallace article. This led me to go to the Barnes & Noble in Louisville, KY, the closest bookstore I knew of at the time, and buy Infinite Jest. I did not really get into it until a few months later, and like many people I slogged through without entirely understanding what was happening, laughing at certain hilarious bits and just praying that I would make it to the end.
Despite the scene in which an Irish gentleman in an AA meeting describes being able to take a shit for the first time in forever,
“‘d been a confarmed bowl-splatterer for yars b’yond contin’.’d been barred from t’facilities at o’t’ troock stops twixt hair’n Nork for yars. T’wallpaper in de loo a t’ome hoong in t’ese carled sheets froom t’wall, ay till yo. But now woon dey . . . ay’ll remaember’t’always. T’were a wake to t’day ofter ay stewed oop for me ninety-dey chip. Ay were tray moents sobber. Ay were thar on t’throne a’t’ome, yo new. No’t’put too fain a point’on it, ay prodooced as er uzhal and . . . and ay war soo amazed as to no’t’belaven’ me yairs. ‘Twas a sone so wonefamiliar at t’first ay tought ay’d droped me wallet in t’loo, do yo new. Ay tought ay’d droped me wallet in t’loo as Good is me wetness. So doan ay bend twixt m’knays and’ad a luke in t’dim o’t’loo, and codn’t belave me’yize. So gud paple ay do then ay drope to m’knays by t’loo an’t’ad a rail luke. A loaver’s luke, d’yo new. And friends t’were loavely past me pur poewers t’say. T’were a tard in t’loo. A rail tard.
I did not finished the book. I got to somewhere in the 800s, long after Don Gately has been (Spoilers.) shot, and that is really all that I remember from it then. I just lot interest. A few years later, between my sophomore and junior years of college when I was living at my parents’ place that summer, I tried again, and made it to the robbery that Gately first commits, and then that was it.
The idea that he had seen (at the time of his death) around 1/25 of every film ever made captivated my imagination. I have been wanting to do something similar ever since.
In his Foreword for Infinite Jest, the author Dave Eggers writes:
“If we are drawn to Infinite Jest, we’re also drawn to the Magnetic Fields’ 69 Songs, for which Stephin Merritt wrote that many songs, all of them about love, in about two years. And we’re drawn to the 10,000 paintings of folk artist Howard Finster. Or the work of Sufjan Stevens, who is on a mission to create an album about each state in the union. He’s currently at State No. 2, but if he finishes that, it will approach what Wallace did with the book in your hands. The point is that if we are interested with human possibility, and we are able to cheer each other onto leaps in science and athletics and art and thought, we must admire the work that our peers have managed to create. We have an obligation, to ourselves, chiefly, to see what a brain, and particularly a brain like our own — that is, using the same effluvium we, too, swim through — is capable of.”
I don’t believe that I am capable of creating a labyrinthine work of art such as anything that was just listed, even though Stevens has since quit trying to make an album about every U.S. state. I realized quite recently that I don’t have the stuff for it, and that is both calming and devastating. Who knows? I am 24 years old and I have the world ahead of me, so I am told. I am more interested in a different kind of accomplishment, far more personal and less far-reaching.
A few years ago, the legendary film critic Roger Ebert passed away, and at some point someone asked (as readers had done for decades), How many films did Ebert see in his lifetime? Many estimates put it at around 10,000 or more, and on top of seeing all of these films at least once and likely many more, the man wrote a goddamn shitload at an exceedingly high level of quality. The idea that he had seen (at the time of his death) around 1/25 of every film ever made captivated my imagination. I have been wanting to do something similar ever since. In contrast with the first few decades of Ebert’s career it is now infinitely easier to find something to watch. There is far too much to watch.
A year or two ago, my girlfriend Taylor and I made bucket lists. Some of the things on mine included “never buy a house”, “pay off student loans” and “visit Tokyo”. Near the top was “Watch 10,000 movies”. She looked at this as a bit of a waste of time. Honey, she said, I don’t want to spend my whole life watching movies. In response to this, I said, Honey, you don’t have to. I’m very good at finding time to watch them on my own.
I don’t believe that I am capable of creating a labyrinthine work of art.
The other night my girlfriend and I went out to dinner at one of our favorite sushi places in Cincinnati. We got a table and the one next to ours was filled a few minutes later. She saw one of her co-workers across the room and went to say hello, and I sat there by myself, next to a trio of kids my age who had just been kicked out of the bar across the street. Allegedly it was because two of them were from Kentucky and the bartender is a dick. This reminded me to get my driver’s license renewed in the state of Ohio. One of them, a somewhat bitchy gentleman, was trying to figure out the name of a film he had watched recently, that guy from Harry Potter, duh, duhhh, duhhh, Sirius Black? Yeah, it was him in a spy movie…. It was so slow.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy? I said.
They all looked at me. Yeah, man! The guy said. That was clutch, dude!
I didn’t know people still say clutch today.
You’re like a walking Wikipedia bro. What do you do? he said.
I told him that I work for a book publisher, but really: I watch movies. I also listen to music, and I write, but I mostly watch movies.
Maybe there’s something to this….
While I was fucking around on the internet today because I have nothing to do currently, I Googled “one movie a day”. This took me to this blog. Seriously, check it out. Reading through, I realized that one of my goals (although it is small and altogether pointless to most people) is achievable, as long as I can live for another thirty-ish years and remain relatively healthy. Perhaps I will start with a movie a day and move along from there. Needless to say, I will be writing a lot.
If my calculations are correct, and they rarely are but this is pretty close, I have seen somewhere close to 950 feature films. A feature film to me is no less than 75 minutes in length, whereas the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences or Wikipedia states that a feature film is a minimum of 40 min. in length. Seriously? That is a short, people. The point I am trying to make is that I have seen a few films, far more than some people and far less than many people, especially Ebert.
This project is not creating new art. This is merely a documentation of me doing something for me. I am not very smart and I am only going to write what I see, which may not be that much. Which is to say that if you find yourself on this blog and you like what you see, thank you! and I hope that you continue to enjoy some of the shit that I put on here. If you don’t like it, thank you for your time, please fuck off and have a lovely day!