I’ve read David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest and as a consequence I enjoy telling people I’ve read Infinite Jest. It’s my literary defence when the authors arms race heats up: Shakespere? No. Dickens? No. Austen? No. David Fucking Foster Wallace? Ahhh yeeeah. I frequently join in on message boards posting a compare and contrast answer to a query about IJ.
Whilst composing a witty reposte to a slight on the novel, I needed a word that was on the tip of my tongue. As I have taken to doing, I poured the flavour of the word into Google. I typed around the word I was looking for, I’d done this before with near miraculous results. How the behemoth read my mind I was unsure, how it returned the exact word I was looking for, I do not know. Searching Google for
shadow cast from a hill
returned way to many algebraic queries. The only other thing I could remember about the word on the tip of my tongue was that it was German.
shadow cast from a hill German word
The very first reply was the exact term I was looking for. Brockengespenst. That Google is capable of returning such a specific word from such a vague request, is a point often missed. More than that, when I read the wikipedia entry, I was shocked to discover I had misinterpreted Brockengespenst for the past decade. I was so disturbed by this misunderstanding I searched my pdf copy of IJ for Brockengespenst hoping to find that Google didn’t read my mind and know me better than I know myself. My confusion was compounded when the pdf search returned 0 results. I was beginning to wonder if I had actually read the fucking thing or just imagined it? By searching the pdf for a sentence from the paragraph containing the wanted term, I found Bröckengespenst- the umlaut negated the search of the pdf.
In the midst of the tech-bubble hyperbole, such subtlety goes un-noticed. I don’t think it should.