Decemberists, Infinite Jest, and Michael Schur Unite (and there was much rejoicing)

The Decemberist’s latest music video (for Calamity Song, from their most recent album The King is Dead) portrayed a scene from David Foster Wallace’s mammoth novel Infinite Jest, and the probability that somewhere within 100 yards of you a humanities major is freaking out increased by about 600%.

And this is awesome not only because 1) The Decemberists are awesome and 2) Infinite Jest is awesome, both of which reasons would be plenty justification for awesomeness, but it’s awesome because Infinite Jest is so huge and complicated and a-linear and full of bizarre details that it seems only slightly short of a miracle than anyone would even be able to succesfully portray in film just one scene from the novel, and yet Michael Schur (known for writing for SNL, The Office, and Parks and Recreation) managed to have the scene play out almost exactly as I imagined it – which I understand is a hideously biased judgement but I really only have my own imagination to go by, and perhaps the fact that film adaptations of writing almost never do that for me bolster the impressiveness of my statement.

The scene fromt the book, by the way, was brilliantly and kind of impressively chosen too – it shows the students at a tennis academy playing Eschaton, which is a ludicrously complicated game involving a mentally-projected map of the world on a tennis court, socks and tshirts representing different strategic targets, tennis balls (lobbed by each country) representing nuclear bombs, and insane algorithms (that David Foster Wallace all but teaches you in the book) to determine the damage and population loss of each hit. Colin Meloy sitting in the place of Michael Pemulis, one of the main characters of the book, with his characteristic sailor’s hat, is weirdly perfect. Schur’s attention to details from the novel made the video, I think, bringing yelps of excitement from readers of the book seeing a scene from possibly the most bizarre and un-movie-able piece of fiction they’ve read portrayed (almost) perfectly on film, but also allowing people who haven’t read the book to still understand what’s going on.

So, in summary, props to The Decemberists for being awesome, postmortem props to David Foster Wallace for being brilliant, and mad props to Michael Schur for creating a visual reality out of a piece of something as abstract and wonderful as Infinite Jest.

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