We’ve all got books on our shelves that we know are amazing, but we just haven’t quite, um… bothered to read. There’s no shame in admitting David Foster Wallace’s doorstop of a novel Infinite Jest is one of them. A thousand-page seriocomic vision of America’s dystopian near-future (touching on everything from tennis to advertising run amok), Infinite Jest defies synopsis. If you want to make it through, you’ll need a road map — which is why Sam Potts designed this intricate infographic of the novel’s dramatis personae.
No, you won’t need a microscope to decipher it. Potts’s poster is 3′ x 2′, a perfect size for mounting on the wall next to your reading chair. On it, you’ll be able to trace the dense web of relationships between the various members of the troubled Incandenza family (the patriarch of which commits suicide microwaving his own head, but not before he creates the novel’s titular conceit–a short film so entertaining that any viewer immediately loses interest in anything except watching it over and over again until he or she dies) and the roughly bajillion other characters.
Potts takes pains to note that his character map offers no help in following the novel’s plot. For that you’ll have to consult the DFW Wiki, or perhaps the Infinite Jest fansite The Howling Fantods. But those resources are even more endlessly complex than the novel itself — so you might as well just print out Potts’s diagram as a nominal cheat sheet, grab a blanket and a month’s worth of MREs, and settle in for the long haul with the genuine article. Because if this infographic doesn’t scare you away from Infinite Jest for good, you probably have a decent shot of actually finishing it.