The ‘Infinite’ Arm of DFW

A new Decemberists’ video pays homage to Infinite Jest

I'm guessing you know what this means.
I'm guessing you know what this means.

So maybe you, like me, have been hunching the shoulders and slunking in shadows since David Foster Wallace’s death in 2008. Casual readership of his many works won’t fly anymore: Only completists may apply. Maybe the new Decemberists’ video for “Calamity Song,” which explicitly references Infinite Jest, will apply kick to pants?

Here’s how the song’s origins were explained to NPR by Decemberists’ frontman Colin Meloy (who, by the way, will be at BookPeople on Sept. 21 to promote his new YA fantasy book Wildwood):

“I wrote "Calamity Song" shortly after I'd finished reading David Foster Wallace's epic Infinite Jest. The book didn't so much inspire the song itself, but Wallace's irreverent and brilliant humor definitely wound its way into the thing. And I had this funny idea that a good video for the song would be a re-creation of the Enfield Tennis Academy's round of Eschaton — basically, a global thermonuclear crisis re-created on a tennis court — that's played about a third of the way into the book."

Video director Michael Schur – who day-jobs as the showrunner of the perfectly delightful Parks and Recreation and also owns the rights to Infinite Jest – imagined the Decemberists’ video for “Calamity Song” as an homage to the book’s significant tennis subplot.

(Okay, honestly, I’m just guessing now. Jesus, how many times do I have to say I haven’t read Infinite Jest? I’ve commissioned an article about The Royal Tenenbaums’s relation to it; assigned coverage of the Harry Ransom Center’s acquisition of materials related to it; written tangentially about another of his books I have read; and even watched one of our lovely learned proofreaders effortlessly knock out his magnum opus on a fucking Elliptical while I cross-eyed tried to run a straight line, sans book and sans breath. I get it. Everyone in America has read this book but me.)

Nice video, though. And while you’re in the mood: Here’s an intriguing essay by Maud Newton about David Foster Wallace’s unintended yet influential molding of blog-speech here. Normally I’d feign like I had something informed and insightful to say about her observations, but instead I’m going to hunch my shoulders and slunk in some shadows. Nothing to see here. Except the video embedded below.

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David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest, The Decemberists, Colin Meloy, Wildwood, Sid Moody, The Royal Tenenbaums, Brief Interviews With Hideous Men

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