In July of what might have been Year of Glad, one year ago this week, I traveled to Boston, Massachusetts with the express purpose of visiting as many of the landmarks and lesser known precincts that appear in, or provide inspiration for, the late David Foster Wallace’s 1996 novel Infinite Jest as I could manage on a Thursday–Sunday trip. My reasons for doing so will become apparent at a later date, but for now I am pleased to present what I am calling “Infinite Boston”: a ruminative travelogue and photographic tour of some fifty or so of these locations, comprising one entry each non-holiday weekday, from now until sometime in early autumn.
I am not the first to write about Wallace’s Boston, nor am I the first to attempt a photo tour of the novel’s most recognizable places. Before I begin this project in earnest, I would like to acknowledge some of those who have trod this path, as it were, before me.
The first of whom I am aware is a writer named Danielle Dreilinger, in a piece for the Boston Globe, just a few weeks after Wallace took his own life in September 2008. Dreilinger imagined a tour of the city not unlike that of Bloomsday in Dublin, accompanied by an artist’s rendition of the proposed route. Her effort was followed only a few months later by a certain Tim Bean, about whom I know nothing except that he visited most of these locations, plus a few more, and posted the resulting photographs to his Flickr account. Dreilinger and Bean’s early attempts were part of my inspiration for a larger, more detailed survey of the same ground, which has become this “Infinite Boston” series.
All photographs were shot on a Lumix GH2 steadied on a Manfrotto monopod, but also by a declared amateur (me) so I make no promises of groundbreaking work. Plus, given the tight itinerary—I investigated more than 100 specific places over my four days’ visit—the next waypoint always beckoned.
About each I will write some 300–500 words, endeavoring to say something interesting about the role a given location plays in the story, how it appears in the present day, and what it was like to visit. For those who have not read the novel—or not yet finished it—be forewarned: there will be spoilers. And also be reassured: it doesn’t really matter. Yes, there is a plot, but it is not the most important thing about Infinite Jest. It might not even be the second or third most important thing about it, really.
That said, the primary audience for “Infinite Boston” includes those who have read the novel previously, and especially those who have wondered about the map-territory relationship it implies. It is my sincere hope that this effort will help such readers find a deeper appreciation and more precise understanding of the places David Foster Wallace once knew and the world his characters inhabit.
Meanwhile, if you’d like to keep tabs on the series via Twitter, please follow @infiniteboston.
Thanks, and I hope you’ll enjoy it.