A friend recommends: Andy Lee on reading 'Infinite Jest' and what he's watching on TV

The former middleweight world champ is finally getting stuck into a ‘behemoth’ of a novel, and is watching Ozark on Netflix with his wife, Maud.

Former middleweight world champion Andy Lee.
Former middleweight world champion Andy Lee.
Image: Tom Hogan/INPHO

WHAT PEOPLE DO with their so-called free time has changed drastically over the past five weeks since restrictions on our personal freedoms began to be implemented in a bid to curtail the spread of the coronavirus. Streaming services, television, books, podcasts and other forms of entertainment have become especially important during those free moments to ourselves, or those alongside family, that each of us needs now more than ever.

But many of us will also waste time searching for ‘the perfect watch’, or find ourselves so overwhelmed by the plethora of options that it becomes difficult to actually start reading one book in particular. ‘What if it’s not the right one?’ So, and have teamed up and are reaching out to some familiar names for dependable recommendations to be shared with you all. Today’s tips come from former WBO World middleweight champion — and known connoisseur of the arts — Andy Lee, who is locked down in his home in Dublin with his wife, Maud, and their three-year-old daughter, Julia.

andy-lee-celebrates-knocking-peter-quillin-down-in-the-seventh-round Andy Lee celebrates a knockdown of Peter Quillin in 2015. Source: Ed Mulholland/INPHO


I’ve been reading a book which I’ve actually been trying to read for the longest time, but one which I’ve never gotten around to reading properly. And even now I’m struggling: I’ll do three or four pages and then I’ll have to re-read them again. It’s a book by David Foster Wallace called ‘Infinite Jest’. It’s an absolute behemoth of a book — the words, the language… It’s literature, and it’s complicated: you read it, and then you have to kind of re-read it just to get the flow of it and break it down. But you kind of get into a groove, then, after a while, where you don’t have to re-read it as much.

It’s one of the books which, over the years, I’ve picked up and put down, but in the current situation, I’ve no excuse but to dedicate myself to it. So, if I get 45 minutes free these days, I’ll go up and read a bit of it.

It’s entertaining — really funny. And I think reading a book like this improves your capacity to think and even your ability to speak.

When I lived in Detroit, I would always start the day by reading at least two or three pages of a book before going for a run. I think it just makes you that little bit mentally sharper, quicker. It exercises your mind. You need that.

I’m also reading a ton of kids books — I know them off by heart, now. A couple of years ago, when I retired, I did an acting course in Bow Street. The thing with learning a script there was that you had to know it inside out — no matter how long it was, you had to know it back to front; re-read it, re-read it, re-read it, basically until you were blue in the face. It gives you different ways of being able to say the words or act it out. And I realised only while reading books to my daughter, I can reel off, you know, ‘and the Gruffalo said…’ in really different ways, now — different voices, different accents. She’s getting the best of me!

1_FvZliVsT8TKAEfE5471jWQ Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.

On the TV side of things, I gave ‘Tiger King’ maybe one episode but I thought it was very exploitative. I don’t know — it’s just the worst type of people and they’re making a show about them. I just didn’t like it, didn’t get the buzz of it.

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My wife Maud and I are watching ‘Ozark’ on Netflix. We generally get an hour in the evening, watch an episode, and then go to bed. It’s not up there with the greatest shows of all time — it’s nowhere near The Sopranos or any of those — but it is entertaining.

They’re all pretty deplorable characters, for want of a better word. They’re despicable people, the whole lot of them, from the wife to…everybody involved in it, really. It’s actually hard to like any of them. But there are some good actors and there is plenty of good acting.

And then, last night, my wife and I watched ‘Quiz’, which was excellent. Now, it’s on ITV, so it might be hard to get for some people, but it’s a drama series about the people who cheated on ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ — the real-life story. The first episode was on last night, the second episode is on tonight, and then the third and final episode is on tomorrow. There’s a great cast in that as well.

With my daughter, then, I didn’t even know Disney+ was coming launching in Ireland, so we bought a ton of Disney movies on Sky Store — €20 a pop! Next thing, Disney+ launches and, well, we’re buying that as well, now…

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