The Decemberists and Ken Tremendous Tackle Infinite Jest

Good day, David Foster Wallace obsessives! Presented, in order of decreasing incendiarism, are two new bits of DFWness for you to enjoy: 1. Maude Newton’s New York Times Magazine essay from this weekend blaming the plague of crappy Internet-y writing on “lesser thinkers” copying Wallace’s “aw-shucks, I-could-be-wrong-here, I’m-just-a-super-sincere-regular-guy-who-happens-to-have-written-a-book-on-infinity approach.” 2. The Decemberists’ new music video for “Calamity Song,” which depicts a section from Infinite Jest.

As Decemberists front man Colin Meloy explains to NPR, “I had this funny idea that a good video for the song would be a re-creation of the Enfield Tennis Academy’s round of Eschaton … Thankfully, after having a good many people balk at the idea, I found a kindred spirit in Michael Schur, a man with an even greater enthusiasm for Wallace’s work than my own.” Yes, that’d be Grantland contributor (and Parks and Recreation’s showrunner) Michael Schur; the video was actually shot in one day in Portland with the volunteer help of P&R‘s production squad.

An actual Infinite Jest movie has been batted around despite the Southland Tales-esque level of incomprehensibility such a thing would entail, but biting off a small piece of the 1,079-page novel, as Meloy and Schur do here, seems like a better approach. Superfans have surely fantasized about actually playing Eschaton — the book’s ultra-complicated, war-simulation game which involves pegging targets with warhead-representing tennis balls and is played over four courts — so seeing it recreated is a trip. Schur stayed loyal to the disaster of an Eschaton round Meloy refers to above: In Jest, one player targeting another player with a tennis ball to the dome does indeed trigger an “Utter Global Crisis” as indicated by the read beanie worn by the nerd in the video and — while the violence is a bit more hectic on the page — things do devolve completely. (Also, Colin Meloy as Michael Pemulis is a nice touch). Finally, those Enfield Tennis Academy shirts are awesome.

Filed Under: Parks and Recreation

Amos Barshad has written for New York Magazine, Spin, GQ, XXL, and the Arkansas Times. He is a staff writer for Grantland.

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