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From Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace:

Three faces have resolved into place above summer-weight sportcoats and half-Windsors across a polished pine conference table shiny with the spidered light of an Arizona noon. These are three Deans — of Admissions, Academic Affairs, Athletic Affairs. I do not know which face belongs to whom.

What kind of light is it? Is it referring to the shape of a spider?

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    I think it's safe to say that it's not indicating that the light is forming the shape of a single spider, but otherwise we can only make plausible conjectures, since it is not a collocation. It could be that the sunlight is passing through a cobweb or an active spiderweb on the window, and casting a shadow of the web onto the table. Or it could be that the light is creating a shiny, mottled effect on the table surface, similar to "spider veins". We really can't say.
    – TimR
    Commented May 7, 2017 at 11:12
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    And there is also the possibility that it is meant to be understood as a variant of the far more common spidery light, thin rays or filaments of light, but that image doesn't seem to fit the harsh bright light of an Arizona noon.
    – TimR
    Commented May 7, 2017 at 14:27
  • The images of "spidered glass" might help. It seems to me that the windows might be refraction the light into spider-like patterns. Here's another usage, but it's not clear to me whether or not it's an allusion to the book:golfchannel.com/news/brandel-chamblee/…. Maybe it is the beams of multiple lights like this img.diytrade.com/smimg/1479670/43430016-4883469-0/…
    – ColleenV
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 18:28

3 Answers 3

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It seems plausible that the light arrives at Hal filtered through some cobwebs that lie in front of or outside the window. Or even through venetian blinds. At least that's how I have interpreted the adjective.

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It's not entirely clear. "Spidered light" is not a common expression.

The same expression appears in a poem, For Gabriel, falling through glass and ice where it suggests the distortions of light passing through uneven glass. The original quote is set in November in Arizona, so this isn't the near vertical light of an Arizona summer. The image this suggests to me is similar to that found on the bottom of a pool when the light shines through ripples.

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The only possible explanation lies within.

  • infested by spiders; covered in cobwebs

Three faces have resolved into place above summer-weight sportcoats and half-Windsors across a polished pine conference table shiny with the spidered light of an Arizona noon. David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest, pp. 3, 1st Paperback Ed.

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    This is the example given on wiktionary of "spidered", but it is hard to justify. Light cannot be "covered in cobwebs". The same expression appears in a poem, For Gabriel, falling through glass and ice where it suggests the distortions of light passing through uneven glass. The original quote is set in November in Arizona, so this isn't the near vertical light of an Arizona summer. The image this suggests to me is similar to that found on the bottom of a pool when the light shines through ripples.
    – James K
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 17:43
  • @JamesK Especially since you mention the quote is set in November (not mentioned in the question; I'm not familiar with the book), I think that explanation is far more likely. You should post it as an answer!
    – cjl750
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 21:20

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