Friday, August 26, 2011

There Are Exactly Two Mistakes In Infinite Jest

The editing process for Infinite Jest was very rigorous. The novel was the result of many drafts and it not only went through multiple line-edits by its editor Michael Pietsch but was also gone over by two copyeditors and at least one of Wallace's family members before publication. (The lengthy editing process is discussed extensively in Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself.)

Infinite Jest required the extra editorial attention. Hundreds of pages were cut (and added). The inclusion of dozens, possibly hundreds, of intentional solecisms made the book more difficult to edit than a conventional novel. There are also made-up terms, idiosyncratic back-formations, and new adjectival and adverbial constructions.

Considering the myriad editing challenges this unusual manuscript presented—not the least of which was its length (almost half a million words, or roughly twice the size of Ulysses)—it is remarkable that there are only two errors in the final book.

One of the mistakes is strange. On page 393, Martin Scorsese's name is misspelled "Scorcese." This misspelling is not uncommon, cropping up in books and newspaper articles from time to time, but what makes it stand out in Infinite Jest is that the name is spelled correctly later in the book on page 944.

The second error is a subject-verb agreement problem. It occurs on page 95, near the bottom: "Michael Pemulis, who can stand about ten seconds of communal silence tops, clear his throat deeply and sends a loogie up and back into the sink behind him." (emphasis mine)

Ps- There are also at least two instances of the triple line break between sections coming at the end of a page and wreaking havoc on the next page's layout. I can see why Little, Brown does not fix these, as it would totally screw up the pagination they have so assiduously maintained from the 1st edition hardcover to the 10th anniversary paperback. But the two errors listed supra can be fixed with minimal typographical intrusion, and so should probably be corrected for the next edition.

Pps- Apparently some of the math stuff in endnote 123 is wrong, but I can't comment on that since what I know about calculus could be inscribed with a blunt crayon along the rim of a shot glass.

Ppps- Oh yeah, just one more quick little thing. If the DFW neologism "kertwang" is supposed to be an onomatopoeic term that approximates the sound of like a slingshot or ball bouncing off a racket or something (that is, pronounced ker-twang), then the end-of-the-line hyphen should be moved back one letter on page 512, because as it stands now the implication is that the word is pronounced "kert-wang."

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