Tao Lin and Mira Gonzalez Live-Tweet Infinite Jest
Recently, writers and social media darlings Tao Lin and Mira Gonzalez embarked on their goal to live-tweet(1) David Foster Wallace’s doorstop-sized, footnote-laden 1996 novel Infinite Jest, using the Twitter handles @taoinfinitejest and @infinitemira respectively.
This is only the latest bout of Internet antics from these two, who may be known just as much for their online activities as they are for their published writing. Though he tends to stick to Twitter now, Lin first made a name for himself on 4chan’s /lit/ board, where he inspired the meme “Go to bed, Tao.” Gonzalez’s Twitter presence is like a hydra sprouting accounts instead of heads, and in addition to her devoted handle for Infinite Jest, she uses @miragonz and @miraunedited(2), the content of which is exactly what it sounds like. It could be argued that Lin and Gonzalez are some of the first writers whose tweets could actually be considered an extension of their literary oeuvre.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, their timelines so far have had very little to say about the actual content of the book and are more like meta-commentaries on the stunt itself. Gonzalez has devoted an inordinate number of characters to discussing her guilt over having not yet read the book, while Lin’s feed has focused on the reading process, for example his indecision over whether to take and post a screenshot of the copyright page.(3) Both decided to forgo Dave Eggers’ foreword.
Based on their tone, it’s safe to say that Gonzalez and Lin are neither entirely convinced nor wholly incredulous of Infinite Jest’s oft-debated designation as a literary classic, but regardless of where they rank on the Eggers-to-Ellis scale of DFW Worship, their own writing does contain a certain literary thread that can be traced back to Wallace. All three are experts in the art of observations that straddle the line between brilliant and just plain crazy. Wallace might as well have been describing writers like Lin and Gonzalez(4) when he wrote about “the next real literary ‘rebels’” in his 1993 essay “E Unibus Pluram.” These rebels, Wallace said, “risk disapproval.” They are “willing to risk the yawn, the rolled eyes, the cool smile, the nudged ribs, the parody of gifted ironists, the ‘Oh how banal.’”
It remains to be seen whether these two will see this undertaking through to the end, but watching Lin and Gonzalez interact with one of the most complex and unique novels of the 20th century will undoubtedly be interesting, however long it lasts.
(1) Popular practice of providing real-time commentary via Twitter of a live event, usually a television broadcast such as an awards show or sports game.
(2) “Retired” as of 2/12/2014.
(3) Lin has opted to read using the Kindle app for iPhone, while Gonzalez apparently is going with a paperback copy.
(4) In fact, Vaman Tyrone X made this exact same comparison in his 2012 review of Lin’s novels Shoplifting from American Apparel and Richard Yates in The Asian American Literary Review.