I’m not even one-tenth of the way through Infinite Jest, but until the next revelation, this is what I’m going to tell people when they ask me how I’m enjoying the book: It is under my skin.
I read Wallace’s description of a nightmare, or more specifically the feeling that accompanies a nightmare, just before falling asleep one night. It’s a page and a half of text that completely captures the creepy, caught-by-surprise horror you experience when a dream takes that awful turn — in this case, when the dreamer discovers an evil face in the floor of his dorm room. The description is so spot-on that you feel it, every stage of it, as you move down the page.
That night, I had nightmares, naturally. But here’s the thing: They weren’t nightmares about evil faces in the floor. Nothing in my dream echoed anything from the end of that chapter, except the feeling. That page and a half of text made so deep an impression on me that my subconscious was forced to personalize it. I don’t even remember, now, exactly what happened in my own nightmare. I just remember waking up and thinking, “Wow. This guy is incredible.”