Donavan’s Brain

a.k.a. Catch & Release or Notes of an American Idler by Donavan Hall (@theangler)

Friday, 4 March 2016

The twentieth anniversary edition of Infinite Jest will be coming out this year. I still haven’t made it past page 100-ish. But a recent Guardian books podcast has inspired me to give it another go.

I remember the moment when I learned that David Foster Wallace had hung himself. September 12, 2008. For a long time, I’d had Infinite Jest on my reading list, but after learning that Wallace was dead, the novel became something else, my concept of it changed and adapted to this new knowledge. Somehow, to read Infinite Jest seemed to me at the time to be entering dangerous, perilous territory. Which probably says more about my own psychology than I should admit on this blog. But who doesn’t fear death, even just a little bit?

Given that Infinite Jest is a proper fat book, I’m worried that my current reading project (to reread all of Kafka’s works) might be complicated by taking on something else of grand magnitude.

Last weekend I started writing something about Kafka and Einstein and this led me to getting a copy of Max Brod’s novel, Tycho Brahe’s Path to God, which has a lengthy essay by Peter Fenves about Einstein’s time in Prague (1911-12) and his relations with Max Brod.

I’m guessing that most people know that Max Brod was Kafka’s friend and literary executor. Kafka died young of tuberculosis (age 40) and Brod, famously, set about editing and publishing Kafka’s incomplete works. Thanks to Brod we are able to read (amongst other things) The Trial and Amerika.