A germophobic former entertainer defeats Hillary Clinton for president in a stunning upset. A scandal involving the Ukraine consumes the news cycle. Who could have predicted?
Well, David Foster Wallace did, in his 1996 novel Infinite Jest. Written before there was a thing called the world wide web, Infinite Jest presents a vision of the world 25 years in the future in which Americans mindlessly entertain themselves on computer screens while the political system degenerates, the environment degrades, and our own addiction to viewing becomes a weapon that terrorists use against us.
Infinite Jest is a 1,079-page mind-bender of a read, comprising thousands of characters and a multiplicity of themes. It is hauntingly prescient. If we want to discover who we are right now as a country and where we might be headed, we all should read it. The problem is, of course, it is just too darn long.
The solution – translate it with Legos.
In spring 2014, my then 11-year-old son Sebastian and I embarked on what we thought would be the most ambitious Lego-literature interpretation since The Brick Bible.
Initially, I wanted to recreate the novel in Legos as a way to provide a visual guide for students. I had taught Infinite Jest as part of a critical theory class, and students always struggled – not surprisingly – to make their way through the book.
As Infinite Jest is a novel for adults, with adult themes, I just described relevant scenes to Sebastian, who then used his own artistic eye to assemble over 100 scenes and photograph them.
The result was the website Brickjest.com, a simple website that was getting about three hits a day – until a story appeared in the Guardian (UK).
The story in the Guardian opened the floodgates. Suddenly the website was getting about 30K hits a day. We were offered involvement in a movie produced by Disney, a book deal and an all-expenses-paid trip to Frankfurt to be special guests at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Ultimately, we decided to eschew the limelight and leave it as a memorable father/son project. We did, however, write an essay on the project, with photos, for the academic journal Studies in the Novel.
Sebastian and I have no further plans for Lego interpretations. Once you have climbed the Mt. Everest of novels, what is left, right?