If David Foster Wallace Had Entered the Contest

by David Foster Wallace

Katherine Gompert seemed to come out of her dark reverie for a moment. She stared full-frontal at the doctor for several seconds, and the doctor, who’d had all discomfort at being stared at by patients trained right out of him when he’d rotated through the paralysis/-plegia wards upstairs, was able to look directly back at her with a kind of bland compassion, the expression of someone who was compassionate but was not, of course, feeling what she was feeling, and who honored her subjective feelings by not even trying to pretend that he was. Sharing them. The young woman’s expression, in turn, revealed that she had decided to take what amounted for her to her own gamble, this early in the therapeutic relationship. The abstract resolve on her face now duplicated what had been on the doctor’s face when he’d taken the gamble of asking her to sit up straight.

“Listen,” she said. “Have you ever felt sick? I mean nauseous, like you knew you were going to throw up?”

The doctor made a gesture like Well sure.

“But that’s just in your stomach,” Kate Gompert said. “It’s a horrible feeling but it’s just in your stomach. That’s why the term is ‘sick to your stomach.’” She was back to looking intently at her lower carpopedals. “What I told Dr. Garton is OK but imagine if you felt that way all over, inside. All through you. Like every cell and every atom or brain-cell or whatever was so nauseous it wanted to throw up, but it couldn’t, and you felt that way all the time, and you’re sure, you’re positive this feeling will never go away, you’re going to spend the rest of your natural life feeling like this.”

The doctor wrote down something much too brief to correspond directly to what she’d said.

A gargantuan, mind-altering comedy about the Pursuit of Happiness in America set in an addicts' halfway house and a tennis academy, and featuring the most endearingly screwed-up family to come along in recent fiction, Infinite Jest explores essential questions about what entertainment is and why it has come to so dominate our lives, about how our desire for entertainment affects our need to connect with other people, and about what the pleasures we choose say about who we are.

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

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