I read for hours that way, morning after morning, my mind awhirl. For the first few hundred pages of my initial reading, I will confess that I greatly disliked “Infinite Jest.” Why? Jealousy, frustration, impatience. It’s hard to remember exactly why. It wasn’t until I was writing letters to my girlfriend, and describing to her my fellow Peace Corps volunteers and host-family members and long walks home through old Soviet collectivized farmland in what I would categorize as yellow-belt Wallaceian prose, that I realized how completely the book had rewired me. Here is one of the great Wallace innovations: the revelatory power of freakishly thorough noticing, of corralling and controlling detail. Most great prose writers make the real world seem realer — it’s why we read great prose writers. But Wallace does something weirder, something more astounding: Even when you’re not reading him, he trains you to study the real world through the lens of his prose. Several writers’ names have become adjectivized — Kafkaesque, Orwellian, Dickensian — but these are designators of mood, of situation, of civic decay. The Wallaceian is not a description of something external; it describes something that happens ecstatically within, a state of apprehension (in both senses) and understanding. He didn’t name a condition, in other words. He created one.
Reading 'Infinite Jest' changes you. There's no way around it. Writer or not, it changes your brain. It doesn't just exercise your muscles; it activates muscles that you never even knew you had.