I've left off Infinite Jest for the foreseeable future. I'm 700 pages in, more or less, and at this point I have zero interest in continuing. The moments of inspiration and excitement now come so infrequently as to be almost nonexistent, and I can no longer summon up the faith I need to motivate myself through the endless, unlinked scenes of cruelty and suffering that fill the book. Wallace's virtuosity as a writer has come to feel increasingly empty, like makeup on the face of a tedious, narcissistic bore. I may finish the book one day--probably at this point I should--but it will not be soon.
In the meantime, I've started A Time To Keep Silence. Written by Patrick Leigh Fermor, the book describes the author's experience staying as a guest (but not a believer) at several of Europe's oldest monasteries. It's fantastic. Fermor's prose is formal and yet vibrant, and passages of extraordinary writing appear on almost every page.
A sample (from the introduction):
It is impossible for anyone who has had even this slight experience not to feel, at the sight of empty monasteries, a sorrow sharper than the regret of an antiquarian. Something of this elegiac sadness overhangs the rock-monasteries of Cappadocia that I have tried to describe. But, for us in the West, because of all such relics they are the most compelling mementoes of the life that once animated them, the ruined abbeys of England that have remained desolate since the Reformation will always be the most moving and tragic. For there is no riddle here. We know the function and purpose of every fragment and the exact details of the holy life that should be sheltering there. We know, too, the miserable and wanton story of their destruction and their dereliction, and have only to close our eyes for a second for the imagination to rebuild the towers and the pinnacles and summon to our ears the quiet rumor of monkish activity and the sound of bells melted long ago. They emerge in the fields like the peaks of a vanished Atlantis drowned four centuries deep. The gutted cloisters stand uselessly among the furrows and only broken pillars mark the former symmetry of the aisles and ambulatories. Surrounded by elder-flower, with their bases entangled in bracken and blackberry and bridged at their summits with arches and broken spandrels that fly spinning over the tree-tops in slender trajectories, the clustering pillars suspend the the great empty circumference of a rose-window in the rook-haunted sky. It is as though some tremendous Gregorian chant had been interrupted hundreds of years ago to hang there petrified at its climax ever since.