The Howling Fantods

David Foster Wallace News and Resources Since March 97

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Home News by Category Infinite Jest How to Read Infinite Jest Chronologically

How to Read Infinite Jest Chronologically

PDF Updated now ver 1.1 1.2 1.3
Drew Cordes has put together a neat guide for reading Infinite Jest chronologically and she's given permission for it to be available here for Howling Fantods readers. If you have not read Infinite Jest there are major spoilers to be found.
For reference while working on the project Drew used the IJ scene by scene guide, and Stephen Burn's David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest: A Reader's Guide.
(But not, it appears, Greg Carlisle's, Elegant Complexity, which also has a number of different chronologies in its appendices, including some that focus on individual characters.)
If you notice any errors or corrections you can email drew at the address in the pdf to let her know, and we'll get any corrections up ASAP.
Over to Drew:
A couple quick acknowledgments. This project was fun but also quite maddening. It would’ve taken three times as long if not for two sources that aided me. The basic layout of IJ’s scenes I used as a template is here: And Stephen Burn’s Reader’s Guide to Infinite Jest was helpful, too. However both sources ultimately are incomplete and sometimes erroneous in their dating. That being said, they still both helped tremendously.

Some final advice before you embark. If this is your first time reading Infinite Jest – stop. Read it the way Wallace intended first. Hell, you should probably read it at least twice as it is before opting for this route. Wallace had very good reasons for ordering the book the way he did. The book’s sequencing is just as big a part of its artistic/philosophical statement as any sentence or character. (Also, this guide has spoilers.) If you have read it already and you are looking to experience the book in a new way, I think you’ll find this approach enlightening. Seeing when scenes play out in relation to the other things that are going on sheds a lot of light on the characters as well as some scenes you may have found more cryptic in your other go-arounds. Gaudeamus Igitur!

Drew Cordes
Vassar College
Class of 2004
Last Updated on Thursday, 05 January 2012 21:25  

The Howling Fantods