Although on a discussion over at Jake's, I repudiated the idea that authors wrote "difficult" books so that some people could "feel smart" I have to say that the experience of reading Infinite Jest has made me feel smart. I toughed out the rough beginning of a long book, and got into it; I feel like the points I've gotten from the book--judging from the secondary materials I've looked at, interviews with DFW, etc.--seem pretty close to "right" (for whatever that's worth); and the questions I was left with, plot-wise and theme-wise, seem to be the questions that most readers are left with, questions that seem to be quasi-deliberately left up in the air. DFW designed the book so it would be "thinky" but entertaining, and that's just how I found it: it made me think, it challenged me, but it was fun. It made me feel smart.
No, before you're all like "Oh, Easy O, you think you're so much smarter and better than everyone else," let me just say that, come on, I need things like IJ to make me feel smart. Let me share the following stories:
So, making coffee. Making coffee is not that hard. But hear this tragi-comic Catch-22 of making coffee: You need to make it before you've had your coffee. And, honestly, without coffee, I'm dumb. So very, very, very dumb. And I know coffee is #1 on the List of Stuff White People Like, but who are we kidding? If I was any whiter I'd be off the visible spectrum.
Things I have done trying to make coffee, in blurry coffee-less morning state:
1) Place unground beans directly in filter.
2) Put lid of coffee pot directly on filter. Ponder for several minutes why filter would not fit in machine with mysterious lid on it.
3) My uncle and aunt's coffee pot has this springloaded thing that the coffee drips out of. I couldn't figure out how to open it, and was too embarrassed to ask, so when making coffee by myself, I would stand there and hold the springloaded clasp open by hand. The other day I put the coffee on and wandered away, knowing full well the coffee was going to build up inside the filter. I got distracted by something, I don't know, my own navel or whatever, and when I went back to check on the coffee pot, found coffee overspreading the entire kitchen counter. When attempting to clean this up, I knocked the filter out of the machine entirely. Stared at mess, making something between whimper and a sob.
So you see, I need stuff like books to make me feel smart. I need all the help I can get.