‘I read,’ I say. ‘I study and read. I bet I’ve read everything you’ve read. Don’t think I haven’t. I consume libraries. I wear out spines and ROM-drives. I do things like get in a taxi and say, “The library, and step on it.”
When Hal tells the administration of the Enfield Tennis Academy, “I consume libraries,” I cheered. This might be the single most amazing line I’ve ever read in a novel.
I laughed out loud and knew I was in for a treat no matter how daunting the task of reading Infinite Jest seemed at the time. Every time I see a Taxi, I think of Hal.
I think Hal and I are kindred spirits.
He is far more eccentric, though. The kind of guy I’d like to be friends with. I’d like to invite Hal, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Esther Greenwood to a party.
Hal is a walking dictionary and privy to his Latin, not to mention a tennis prodigy. More than that, he has a sense of humor.
Hal negotiates philosophers like they are Pokemon characters and comes from the epitome of a dysfunctional family.
The anxiety that follows these early pages is so thick you can cut it with a knife, but these moments give the reader something vivid to hold on to. Hal’s the little brother I never had. More than that, though, he is a character I can learn from. I suspect that is what David Foster Wallace had in mind.
Infinite Jest is written for readers who might identify with Hal when he says, “I consume libraries.”
Characters in Infinite Jest, just like readers in real life, learn from each other. We are reminded again and again that real growth and healing takes place in community. Perhaps this is why we are reminded that solipsism and solitude are not a viable solution. After all, the solo life is a hell for one.