INFINITE JEST readalong pages 489-538

August 31st, 2015

OK, here we go, Infinite Jest pages 489-538, chapter 25, the last whole chapter we’ll read, as the rest of the book is the last three chapters. Can’t come up with a good image–ideas welcome.

Page 489 – PRE-DAWN, 1 MAY – Y.D.A.U. / OUTCROPPING NORTHWEST OF TUCSON, AZ U.S.A., STILL: Steeply and Marathe discuss the possibility of an Entertainment “master”; Steeply asks if Marathe has ever been tempted to watch it.

Page 491 – WINTER, B.S. 1963, SEPULVEDA CA: James Incandenza helps his father isolate and try to fix a squeak in the bed, in the aftermath of which he gets the idea for annulation.

Page 503: At a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, Ken Erdedy gets hugged by Roy Tony.

Page 507: Marathe admits to Steeply that some people, including a “damn good man” were “lost” while there were experimenting with the Entertainment.

Page 508 – 10 NOVEMBER / YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: Hal and others await punishment for the Eschaton disaster; an introduction to “Lateral” Alice Moore’s office. I found this section hard to follow–it jumps back in time to the last time Hal was summoned to the office, while he watched Tavis offer little Tina Echt a “totally unthreatening lap” and got an apple from Avril.

Page 528 – PRE-DAWN AND DAWN, 1 MAY Y.D.A.U. / OUTCROPPING NORTHWEST OF TUCSON AZ U.S.A., STILL: The Marathe and Steeply show continues. Steeply argues that America is not the only culture in which people are drawn to things that could “entertain them to death”.

Page 531 – 0450H., 11 NOVEMBER / YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT / FRONT OFFICE, ENNET HOUSE D.A.R.H., ENFIELD MA: Don Gately tells Joelle Van Dyne of a bar fight in which one of his crew got shot and died; he also asks about the purpose of the veil and her membership in the Union of the Hideously and Improbably Deformed (U.H.I.D.)

In his analysis of this section, Greg Carlisle in Elegant Complexity, notes that this section is about Orbits, Circles, Attraction and Repulsion. Marathe and Steeply go round and round, like Joelle and Don do at the end, and like Don and his crew did physically with the guy who’d been shot. Annulation is about circles, a hug is a circle, as is the circle at the NA meeting. Joelle describes herself as fatally attractive, like the Odalisque in JOI’s film and the discussion of Marathe and Steeply. Tavis is either smaller or bigger than life.

What did everyone else think, and how is the adjusted pace?

For next week on 9/8 we’re reading the first part of chapter 26, which is 538-575.

9/15 pp 575-619
9/22 pp 619-665
9/29 pp 665-711
10/6 pp 711-755
10/13 pp 755-808
10/20 pp 809-854
10/27 pp 854-902
11/3 pp 902-941
11/10 941-981 THE END

Infinite Jest readalong pages 442-489

August 28th, 2015

aventurra

I’m late this week with the blog post but school and soccer and the state fair all started this week, so forgive me. It’s been kinda crazy around here

This week we’re talking about chapter 24 which covers pages 442-487 in Infinite Jest. This chapter was mostly about the mind (dreams and memories) and the head.

p. 442 Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment. More Don Gately at AA. I found this section interesting, as it repeated some Don in AA stuff we’ve read before. I know that DFW and his editor Michael Pietsch edited this book closely, so I don’t think it can be a mistake. Why do you think we’re getting things about Don and sobriety again, like how the people thank him after he’s honest, or driving around? There is new stuff, though, such as his alcoholic mother.

The fish story on p. 445 was later the basis for DFW’s famous Kenyon graduation speech, This is Water, which you can watch on Youtube here.

DFW was given pressure during his life for including too much fact in his fiction, and too much fiction in his supposedly factual non-fiction pieces. The “Tough Shit But You Still Can’t Drink” group name seems like a perfect DFW name rather than a real one, which I bet some of them are (like Advanced Basics.)

p. 449 Very Late October Y.D.A.U. Hal has bad dreams about shattering teeth. Mario is upset that Madame Psychosis is gone, and we learn in note 180 that Corbett Thorp drove Mario to the radio station to investigate, learned she performed behind a screen, after which he became agitated.

p. 450 9 November Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment. More about ETA. It’s confirmed that Tavis might be Mario’s father. Tavis

knows what James Incandenza could not have cared about less: the key to the successful administration of a top-level junior tennis academy lies in cultivating a kind of reverse-Buddhism, a state of Total Worry. (451)

The section goes into detail about grueling tennis drills and ends with Hal telling Schtitt that inside the head is “Where I’m going to occur as a player.” (461)

Next section, 461-469, Don is the cook and gets to take the car to go shopping and drive dangerously. Don’s accidental killing of Fortier is no longer on the books, but his driver’s license issues could come bubbling up at any time, rather like the memories in the earlier Don section. Don doesn’t want to go back to prison, not because he’s afraid of the inmates, but because it’s easy to use there and there aren’t many recovery meetings. During Don’s intake to Ennet House Pat Montesian told him about blackouts.

I recently read Sarah Hepola’s memoir Blackout. In it, she notes that the latest science says that blackouts happen at about a blood alcohol of .30. The person continues to function, but others can’t tell when the blackout starts or ends. What happens in the brain, though, is the hippocampus shuts down, stops making short-term memories, so the person is simply reacting to what is going on around them, and then not storing what happens.

Pre-Dawn 1 May YDAU OUTCROPPING NORTHWEST OF TUCSON AZ U.S.A., STILL

p 470-475. Marathe and Steeply again, discussing overloading on pleasure, brain stimulation, government experiment called MK Ultra (probably referenced also in the recent movie, American Ultra).

Back to Ennet House 475-480 where Don takes the car out, and while driving recklessly hits a cup that hits the door of the Antitoi brothers, and then the point of view switches for the rest of the chapter from 480-489.

The Antitois are Canadians, sent down to be a tiny cell of rebellion, which they’ve done by selling drugs to people (Poor Tony, Pemulis). Lucien is the big stupid one, not unlike Don Gately, who likes to sweep and made his own broom. Too late, he hears the squeak. The AFR assassins interrupt his brother Bertraund’s dinner of Habitant soupe au pois, used as an exampe by Marathe earlier in the book, and demand to know if the brothers know where the master copy of a certain cartridge is. Like Fortier, killed by Don, Lucien doesn’t understand and dies a gruesome death.

For next week, we’re reading our last entire chapter (chapters are marked by moon thingies), which is 25/28. The last three chapters will all be split up into small chunks, as they’re the longest.

What did everyone else think, and why do you think the Don G. repetition? I’m suspecting it’s because someone else narrated an earlier section (Hal? Joelle?) but Gately himself narrates this one (note the use of the racial slurs, as Gately does.)

Here’s the rest of the schedule as a reminder. Meet me here next Tuesday and I should be back on track blogging up to page 538.

9/1 pp 489-538
9/8 pp 538-575
9/15 pp 575-619
9/22 pp 619-665
9/29 pp 665-711
10/6 pp 711-755
10/13 pp 755-808
10/20 pp 809-854
10/27 pp 854-902
11/3 pp 902-941
11/10 941-981 THE END

Infinite Jest Readalong ch 23, 380-442

August 18th, 2015

The last section, which alternated between Eschaton and Boston AA, was about triggering situations. This section (the 23rd moon) is about hygienic stress. I’m going to both recap and comment, so let’s see how this goes. I’m writing this well in advance of the pub date of this post–look at me; I’m so responsible!

P 380:

8 NOVEMBER
YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT
GAUDEAMUS IGITUR

Mario’s puppet film adaptation of his dad’s ONANtiad, explaining Gentle’s administration, Tine’s role (did he remind anyone else of Dick Cheney, written years before Cheney held power?), and how the convexity/concavity came to be.

p. 386. Lyle and a kid named Marlon Bain who sweats a lot. David Foster Wallace also had problems with excess sweat. Lyle counsels other kids who sneak out of the film to get advice.

p. 390 more Mario’s movie, with alternating headlines, some of which we’re told is false. This is an interesting echo: DFW put a lot of fiction in his “fact” non-fiction writing, and a lot of fact in his fiction. Hard to tell sometimes which is which.

p. 394 “Do not underestimate objects” says Lyle to Ortho Stice, whose room gets rearranged while he sleeps.

p. 395 Hal thinks about some of JOI’s movies

398: more headlines and puppet movie

407: The Eric Clipperton story, about the kid who brought a Glock onto the court and threatened to shoot himself. It mirrors how Gentle threatens to bomb his own territory.

410: Hal, and the history of advertising, the fall of network TV and advertising.

30 April/1 May YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT

Marathe and Steeply argue about soup, and personal choice. Steeply doesn’t have a lot of ground to stand on, so to speak.

430 Clipperton is accidentally properly ranked, flips out and visits ETA. There was video of Clipperton when he finally shot himself, in the company of Mario and JOI, but it was buried with JOI along with a bunch of other stuff.

434 Yay, back to Don Gately, who “sunlights on the side.” Wow, how about that job, eh? I thought my “secretary at a tanning salon having to wipe up people’s sweat” was bad.

436 The sad Nestle Quik story feeds back into Mario’s film and we are shown how the subsidized time came to be based on naming rights and Chinese menus.

INFINITE JEST Readalong

August 11th, 2015

This week we have readjusted the schedule for pages 321-379. Who’s with me. Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?

Since I already posted the Decemberist’s tribute, the Eschaton video here, I will post what Steve M. emailed me after I asked him about who might be narrating the Eschaton section. Is it Hal? Is it the author? Is it the narrator, and if so, who is s/he?

***

OK, so Wallace goes to some trouble to make it appear that this account of the Eschaton is not just Hal’s POV but written by Hal. Exhibit A in this is how footnote 123 begins, “Pemulis here, dictating to Inc” and eventually gets to Pemulis saying, “It’s going to be interesting to see if [sic] Hal, who thinks he’s just too slyly trying to outline Eschaton in the 3rd-person tense [sic]”. Sidenote: The way Hal uses the “[sic]”s to dig at Pemulis is super-fun and just a slick meta way to get at a set of characters and their relationship.

This is more or less enforced throughout the chapter because Hal is — again more or less (and we’ll get to this) — the only character whose interior we get access to. To wit: “whom Axford keeps growling at under his breath, Hal can hear”; “Hal … is struggling with a strong desire to get high again for the second time since breakfast”; “Hal, who’s declining all public chemicals, he’s decided”; etc. The events unfold from his perspective, i.e. we are not party to the discussion about terms between AMNAT and SOVWAR but instead only see that it’s happening. All communication from the court is shouted, whereas conversation on the Gatorade pavilion is directly reported. (Although it’s interesting to note that Wallace includes a footnote telling us that Pemulis does not actually say “breath and bread” at one point, reinforcing the idea that this is a report written by Hal from memory.)

The one major departure from this is where we’re given an interior perspective of Ingersoll: “The exact utility transformations are too oogly for an Ingersoll who’s still grappling with fractions, but he can see clearly that this’d be the most remorselessly logical best-interest-conducive scenario for both LaMont Chu and especially the Sleepster, Peterson, who’s hated Ingersoll for months now anyways without any good reason or cause or anything, Ingersoll can just somehow tell.” That’s a pretty big POV break, although the next paragraph maybe cuts back against it by handing the reigns back over to Hal with a hint that the above is speculative (“Hal … watches Ingersoll bob on his haunches … cerebrate furiously and logically conclude …”).

But so for the sake of argument let’s overlook that lapse or exercise of literary fiat and call this a close third on Hal Incadenza. The next big question on POV is to determine at what distance this story is being related. It’s written in the present tense, but if we follow the lead of the Pemulis footnote, it seems clear that this is written by Hal after the fact, but not long after the fact, I think. It has the sense of being almost immediately after the action, almost as if he’s supposed to be explaining what happened to someone else.

So who is that someone else? It’s someone who doesn’t know what Eschaton is, most obviously, but it also doesn’t feel like it’s being told to someone in a place of power. That is, although it has an almost deposition-like quality, it’s not intended to get him out of trouble. It seems honest — any deception in the telling seems like it’s part of Hal’s POV and not something conscious on his part.

The book as a whole obviously incorporates multiple POVs of varying distance, reliability and time. There are many chapters where the POV is Hal’s, but some of them are first-person, some are third-person, and they vary in how close the third-persons are and also distance in time from the events. This has to be one of the closest, although I also love what he does toward the end of the chapter where Hal becomes a kind of all-seeing eye of what’s happening, with events that are happening almost simultaneously get pulled apart and lined up. Also maybe noteworthy? This may be the first hint of his future problems when he touches his face to see if he is in fact wincing.

New Reading Schedule for Infinite Jest

August 5th, 2015

Here’s a proposed new reading schedule for Infinite Jest, since 70 pages a week plus endnotes is a pretty punishing pace. In this, the longest section is 63 pages (one of the complete chapters, so a good reason to read that much) while the longer chapters are split over multiple weeks, and the pages about 45-55.

For those of us ahead, it will give us some breathing room in August. For those just getting to 321, this might be easier to keep up with.

What do you think?

8/11 pp 321-379
8/18 pp 380-442
8/25 pp 442-489
9/1 pp 489-538
9/8 pp 538-575
9/15 pp 575-619
9/22 pp 619-665
9/29 pp 665-711
10/6 pp 711-755
10/13 pp 755-808
10/20 pp 809-854
10/27 pp 854-902
11/3 pp 902-941
11/10 941-981 THE END

INFINITE JEST check-in

August 2nd, 2015

Who is reading along, and what page are you on? We’ve got folks all over the map (or is it the territory?) and I want to get a sense of what would help those who are behind.

INFINITE JEST commentary week 6, 321-398

July 29th, 2015

Eschaton! Contrasts between children and adults, maps versus territories, real versus fake, tennis academy versus Boston AA.

I have to keep it brief this week, and but so, I’ll include one of my favorite tributed to Infinite Jest, the Decemberist’s video for The Calamity Song, an homage to Eschaton.

Infinite Jest Summery week 6: pp. 321-398

July 29th, 2015

This week’s summer-y, taken verbatim from Infinite Summer, and not edited one jot or tittle even though I’m pretty sure I could make it better but I’m reading the e-version this week, which I don’t care for:

Page 321 – 8 NOVEMBER / YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT INTERDEPENDENCE DAY / GAUDEAMUS IGTUR: The E.T.A. students play Eschaton, The Atavistic Global-Nuclear-Conflict Game™.

Page 343 – 8 NOVEMBER / YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT INTERDEPENDENCE DAY / GAUDEAMUS IGTUR: An exhaustive description of the Boston AA chapter and a meeting in which several speakers relate unthinkable horrors.

Chapters Read:

Page 343 – 8 NOVEMBER / YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT INTERDEPENDENCE DAY / GAUDEAMUS IGTUR: Mario’s semi-fictional film “The ONANTiad”, which documents (a) the rise of Johnny Gentle from Famous Crooner to head of the Clean U.S. Party and then President of the (then) United States; (b) the establishment of the Organization of North American Nations; (c) the creation and subsequent expatriation of the Great Con(cav|vex)ity; and (d) the origins of subsidized time.

Page 394: Lyle dispenses advice to students down in the weight room, including “don’t underestimate objects”.

Page 395: Descriptions of the James Incandeza films The Medusa vs. the Odalisque and THE JOKE.

***

The Incandenzas

James Orin Incandenza: Filmmaker, founder of the Enfield Tennis Academy, committed suicide by putting his head in a microwave over. Nicknames include Himself, The Mad Stork, and The Sad Stork.

Avril Incandenza (née Mondragon): Jame’s Widow, heavily involved in the running of E.T.A., affiliated with the Militant Grammarians. Nickname: The Moms.

Hal Incandenza: The youngest of the three Incandenza children. One of the novel’s protagonists.

Mario Incandenza: The middle child. Born with deformities; also a filmmaker (like his father).

Orin Incandenza: The elder Incandenza. A punter for the Arizona Cardinals, serial womanizer, and cockroach killer.

Charles Tavis: The head of E.T.A. since James Incandenza’s death. Avril’s half- or adoptive brother.

The Enfield Tennis Academy

Michael Pemulis: Hal’s best friend; prankster, drug dealer, undisputed Eschaton champion, and not destine for The Show.

John “No Relation” Wayne: The top-ranked player at ETA. John Wayne was discovered by James Incandenza during interviews of men named John Wayne for a film.

Other Prominent E.T.A. Students: Ortho “The Darkness” Stice, Jim Troelsch, Trevor (“The Axhandle”) Axford, Ann Kittenplan, Ted Schacht, LaMont Chu, U.S.S. Millicent Kent (tried to seduce Mario!).

Lyle: Sweat-licking guru who lives in the E.T.A. weight room and dispenses advice.

The Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House

Don Gately: Former thief and Demerol addict, now counselor in residence at the Ennet House.

Joelle Van Dyne (a.k.a “Madame Psychosis and P.G.O.A.T, The Prettiest Girl of All Time”): Radio talkshow host; former lover to Orin, starred in many of James Incandenza films; wears a veil.

Kate Gompert: A cannabinoid addict who suffers from extreme unipolar depression.

Pat Montesian: The Ennet House manager.

Ken Erdedy: A cannabinoid addict.

Bruce Green: Ex-husband of Mildred Bonk-Green.

Tiny Ewell A lawyer with dwarfism who is obsessed with tattoos.

Other Prominent Ennet House residents: Randy Lenz, Geoffrey Day, Emil Minty.

Others

Hugh Steeply (a.k.a. Helen Steeply): Agent for the Office of Unspecified Services; currently in disguise as a female reporter profiling Orin.

Remy Marathe: Member of the Wheelchair Assassins (separatists) and quadruple-agent who secretly talks to Hugh Steeply.

Poor Tony Krause (P.T. Krause): Almost killed by Drano-spiked heroin, accidentally steals a woman’s artificial heart, has a seizure while in withdrawal.

INFINITE JEST Readalong Wk 5 Comments p. 258-351

July 29th, 2015

Aaaand, how about that 17-page footnote about what’s going on in Canada? Which was followed by a conversation between Marathe and Steeply to give more insight into the Canadian situation.

This week’s (which is already last week’s by the time I’m typing it, ostensibly because most readers were behind, and also because I was feeling the crazytown bananapants aspect of high summer.)

So, for pages 258-351, we are getting deeper into some of the people/things that have been broached, like Orin, Poor Tony, (poor Tony, indeed) and Canadian politics.

Keep in mind that the moon symbols are chapter divisions, so what’s in them is thematically connected. For example, contrast Orin’s life with poor Tony’s. Orin, whose helicopter Moms is so compelled to not interfere that she runs out of rooms, while poor Tony’s dad declares him dead to him because of his sex and gender preferences. Orin, whose life is changed, ostensibly for the better, by a random set of circumstances. Poor Tony, who may not even survive the subway ride.

The conversation between M & S reminds me of some of the themes Jonathan Franzen, a friend/rival of DFW’s in life, explored in his novel Freedom. Unlike Infinite Jest, I will not be re-reading Freedom. I wish I could scrub my mind of it, actually, and I know at least one of the #InfiniTC readers feels simliarly (hi, Heidi!)

We see many of the continuing themes of freedom, addiction, and waste.

What did you notice, and like, from this week?

Infinite Summer-y week 5 pp 258-321

July 20th, 2015

circle4

Page 258: 6 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. ETA plays Port Washington in a tennis match.

Page 270: Don Gately, now on staff at the Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House, councils the newest resident Geoffrey Day.

Page 281: Having defeated Port Washington, the ETA gang returns home on a bus.

circle4

Page 283: All about Orin: how he made the transition from tennis to football, and his relationship with the PGOAT, Joelle Van Dyne.

Page 299: 17 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. Poor Tony undergoes a week of withdrawal, first in a dumpster then in a library restroom, culminating in a seizure while riding the train.

circle4

Page 306: 7 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. An overview of the prorectors’ weekend courses (including “The Toothless Predator: Breast-Feeding as Sexual Assault”!), plus a description of some anti-O.N.A.N. activity by the separatists (mirrors across the road). This section includes the 14 112 17-page “endnote 110″, a conversation between Hal and Orin regarding the true motives of the separatists.

Page 312: The birth and life of Mario Incandenza.

page 317 – 30 APRIL / 1 MAY / YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: Marathe and Steeply discuss the American concept of freedom (e.g., freedom from, not freedom to).

A Program I Hate: Twin Cities Values

July 20th, 2015

If you, too, want this program to end, or at least stop being delivered to your home, you can go to http://apps.startribune.com/tcv/feedback.php or better, call at 612-673-7305.

The letter I sent today to the Star Tribune, about their abominable Twin Cities Values Program:
img_20150720_091309_785

I’m the block leader for my neighborhood, and I am disappointed and even disgusted by the Twin Cities Values program. I entreat you to discontinue it.

Yesterday, I went to houses on our block to invite my neighbors to our National Night Out gathering. More than half of the houses had two TCV bags on the front walk, many soggy from recent rains.

This says to me that people do not want this item. Since it is not requested, you are foisting it on them, which even if it conforms to the letter of the law regarding solicitation, it disregards the intent. Since many do not bother to even pick it up–that’s how much they disdain and disregard it–I see clear evidence that your program is not appreciated. Please discontinue this program.

For many of the neighbors who were home yesterday, I brought the bags up to their house. Today, I went and collected the ones that were still out, and I’ve included a picture of the soggy, ugly pile. This pile would have been at least doubled if I’d done it yesterday.

Every time this program has been tried over the years, I call and ask to have my address removed. But the program starts again, I get them again, I have to call again. I called last week and was assured that for this round, the delivery would stop. I received a TCV. I called again today.

The woman I spoke to today said she was not able to give me information on who runs this program. I am disappointed in your utter lack of accountability for this literally trashy program.

I will be contacting the Better Business Bureau as well as the city, 311, and complaining to my councilperson, Kevin Reich, since you already have ignored my request this time, and haven’t carried it over from past times.

I will be posting this ugly photo on Facebook and Twitter, asking my friends and neighbors to also call to end delivery. I will also send this to the paper’s editor.

This program is a blight on Twin Cities. I think I’ve made it clear how much I despise and revile it. This does not reflect well on the Star Tribune, an institution I admire. Please, end Twin Cities Values.

INFINITE JEST readalong week 4 #InfiniTC

July 13th, 2015

Oh, I am so nerdishly excited to pick this week’s image for our section of Infinite Jest, pages 181-258, chapters 16 to 18. (I am so glad I repaginated this readalong–the one from Infinite Summer is really wack. Or is it whack?) Speaking of w(h?)ack:

Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Teresa

Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Teresa

[Joelle] always sees, after inhaling, right at the apex, at the graph’s spike’s tip, Bernini’s ‘Ecstasy of St. Teresa,’ behind glass, at the Vittoria, for some reason, the saint recumbent, half-supine, her flowing stone robe lifted by the angel in whose other hand a bare arrow is raised for that best descent, the saint’s legs frozen in opening, the angel’s expression not charity but the perfect vice of barb-headed love. (IJ 235)

I love Bernini, and I got to see this sculpture in person the third time I went to Rome. The first time I didn’t know to look for it. The second time it was being restored. The third time I was able to see it in all its creepy, ecstatic, lovely weirdness. And isn’t that also a good phrase to describe Infinite Jest?

We spend a lot of time with Joelle is this section, even before we know who she is, which is an interesting, slow reveal, which actually started before this section, of the kind that is easy to spoil in summaries.

But let me back up for a moment, and ask, have you ever darned socks? It’s like weaving, where the threads are initially far apart, and then they cross, then they get pulled tight into a whole. Wait a minute, maybe weaving itself is a better metaphor. Nope, I’m going with darning, because I’ve done it before, though hey, Penelope and the weaving! Anyway, darning, which is basically just weaving in a small specific area, looks like this:

darning

That’s how I’m picturing Infinite Jest, on this, my second reading. DFW sets out a bunch of horizontal lines, then starts putting in some vertical ones that cross, then starts moving them closer together. According to Greg Carlisle’s Elegant Complexity (p20), DFW compared the book to a Sierpinski triangle, which is reinforced by that things mention on page 213 of IJ where Michael Pemulis has an “enormous hand-drawn Sierpinski gasket.” But to me, it feels like we’ve gotten all these threads that first seemed far apart, but then started to cross, and are now coming closer, and the design is becoming more evident, as in the section on tattoos in Ennet House when we learn we’ve met some of the residents before.

Madame Psychosis (a homophonic callback to the Ulysses mentions of ‘metempsychosis’) was one of the actors in the filmography of James O. Incandenza, detailed in the long and difficult note #24. MP started appearing in films during Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad.

In this section, late October of Year of the Depend Undergarment, first we heard the last part of the radio show that comes on before Madame Psychosis’. It’s an enactment of a memory of a son recounting his father’s story about seeing a memorable punt, likely by Orin, described later on page 223 as punter extraordinaire. MP is not seen by her sound engineer. She reads things over background music for an hour, and has five minutes of dead air both before and after. Her topics tend to include football, film, and physical deformities. The building they’re in is structures like a brain, compared to the heart design of Enfield Tennis Academy. Her show is intercut with scenes of Mario and Hall at Headmaster’s house listening to her show and having dinner with Avril and Tavis.

Another connection is that “Madame Psychosis” is another name for DMZ, the weird and powerful hallucinogen that Pemulis procured from some Canadians.

On 7 November YDAU (219), we meet a woman named Joelle at a party, “at the end of her rope and preparing to hang from it.” [FYI, Wallace died in 2008 after hanging himself.] We gradually learn bits about Joelle: she is from Kentucky, wears a veil, is connected to Orin and Jim and YYY, collected things in her purse on the way to the party, gave money to a guy in a wheelchair, and has an addiction with behaviors similar to Erdedy’s on page 17.

Then, like a gift from the narrator, comes a full listing of the subsidized years, and we learn what all the years stand for.

Usage nerds: What do you think the (sic) refers to in “Year of the Yushityu 2007 Mimetic-Resolution-Cartridge-View-Motherboard-Easy-To-Install-Upgrade for Infernatron/InterLace TP Systems for Home, Office, or Mobile” Too many hyphens or possibly not parallel in Home, Office, or Mobile if mobile is adjective not noun?

Sweet baby Jay, I hope to never have to type that year out again.

The unfolding of Joelle’s background–e.g., it’s only on page 225 that it’s confirmed “Joelle Van Dyne, a.k.a. Madame P.”–is perhaps like the adage of a person who’s about to die seeing their life pass before her eyes.

The party is interrupted by the fake CV of Helen Steeply, then we are back to the party, and into the bathroom with Joelle, who has picked a ridiculous place to attempt suicide–the one bathroom at a party.

Why the weird interruptions?

The section ends with a conversation between Orin and Hal. We know both from what Hal has noted (he lies to Orin 60% of the time p. 136) and the section on the decline of videophony that all people are dishonest on the phone. So is he lying to Orin about any of the stuff about his father, since he admits he was lying about clipping the toenails of the second foot. Note how he dodges and feints Orin’s questions, getting in little jabs (with his talons?) about not calling or coming to the funeral. We get an explanation of how someone could commit suicide by putting their head in a microwave, and also that it might have exploded the body but left the head intact so it can be dug up in Year of Glad by Hal and Gately and John ‘No Relation’ Wayne on pages 16-17. (We learned what Wayne’s N.R. stood for this section, too.

The gradual accretion of details is strongly reminiscent of Ulysses, as was the use of words like ‘parallax’, ‘ineluct-’, ‘micturation’, and ‘telemachry’.

What did you notice, what stuck out for you? Is it becoming harder, or easier to read? Have you yet made it past whatever page (and what page was it?) when you gave up on previous reads? Did you find yourself happy to put it down, or want to keep going when you got to 258? And hey, is this entry too long?

Earlier this week I finished David Lipsky’s Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, the book, or perhaps more accurately transcript, of Lipsky’s days-long interview of DFW at the end of the Infinite Jest author tour (last stop was…Minneapolis for Hungry Mind reading and MPR interview!), and the basis for the soon-to-be-released (7/31) film The End of the Tour. It’s fascinating stuff, with lots that’s relevant to reading IJ but I can’t go into that now because I’ve got to go be a soccer mom.

Remember, comment here or tweet with the hashtag #InfiniTC. Don’t stop! Keep going!

The rest of the schedule:

Tu 7-21 discuss and tweet to 321. Stop at: 8 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. INTERDEPENDENCE DAY GAUDEAMUS IGITUR

Tu 7-28 discuss and tweet to 398. Stop at: “FREAK STATUE OF LIBERTY ACCIDENT”

Tu 8-04 discuss and tweet to 489. Stop at: PRE-DAWN. 1 MAY Y.D.A.U. OUTCROPPING

Tu 8-11 discuss and tweet to 538. Stop at: “It is starting to get quietly around Ennet”

Tu 8-18 discuss and tweet to 619. Stop at: “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment: Interlace TelEntertainment, 932/1864”

Tu 8-25 discuss and tweet to 686. Stop at: 11 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “First thing after supper”

Tu 9-1 discuss and tweet to 755. Stop at: 11 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “Part of Mario’s footage”

Tu 9-8 discuss and tweet to 808. Stop at: “The ceiling was breathing”

Tu 9-15 discuss and tweet to 896. Stop at: “I was going to go back up”

Tu 9-22 discuss and tweet to 981. THE END!

Infinite Summer-y Week 4, pp. 181-258

July 13th, 2015

And back to the Infinite Jest summer readalong, covering pages 181-258, chapters 16-18, with the chapters marked by those moon thingies. This summary based on those from the first Infinite Summer back in 2009, but tidied up for accuracy.

circle3Page 181 – LATE OCTOBER YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: The radio show right before Madame Psychosis begins her show at 109-WYYY FM; Hal and Mario listen at the Headmaster’s House.

Page 193: A description of the Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House and the other six buildings on the Enfield Marine Public Heath Hospital complex (down the hill from ETA).

Page 198 – 6 NOVEMBER YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: ETA weight room; more of Lyle, the sweat-licking guru from p 127.

Page 200: A second person narration of things you would learn after spending time in a halfway house, finishing with a long discursion on Tiny Ewell and his fascination with tattoos.

Page 211: Pemulis talking with Hal and Axford about DMZ, the incredibly potent hallucinogen he acquired on pages 169-171 and they discuss how and when they’ll test it before offering it for sale.

circle3Page 219: Joelle Van Dyne attends a film-student party at Molly Notkins and plans to kill herself in the bathroom. Joelle is veiled for some reason we don’t know yet. She is from Western Kentucky. The section mentions connections to Orin and Jim, then backtracks to earlier in the day, when she gave money to a man in a wheelchair.

Page 223: CHRONOLOGY OF ORGANIZATION OF NORTH AMERICAN NATIONS’ REVENUE-ENHANCING SUBSIDIZED TIME, BY YEAR:

Year of the Whopper
Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad
Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar
Year of the Perdue Wonderchicken
Year of the Whisper-Quiet Maytag Dishmaster
Year of the Yushityu 2007 Mimetic-Resolution-Cartridge-View-Motherboard-Easy-To-Install-Upgrade For Infernatron/InterLace TP Systems For Home, Office, Or Mobile (sic)
Year of Dairy Products from the American Heartland
Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment
Year of Glad

We return to Joelle’s memories, of Orin, “dodger of flung acid extraordinaire”, an ad she sees in the street of a man in a wheelchair holding a blank disk case in his palm, lineless like the earlier man she gave money to. Details of Joelle’s work with Jim, including an apology movie, see also p. 993’s note. Joelle got cocaine to freebase from Lady Delphina (whose stuff was described by yrstruly on p. 131 as “from bunk..all Monitol and kwai9 you might as well fucking cop XLax or Schweppes”) and talks to a man who asks about her veil of the U.H.I.D., the Union of the Hideously and Improbably Deformed.

Page 227: PUTATIVE CURRICULUM VITAE OF HELEN P. STEEPLY, 36, 1.93 M., 104 KG, A.B., M.J.A.

Back to Joelle on the way to the party at Molly’s where she used to live with Orin and act in Jim’s films. She wonders about the logistics of Jim’s suicide, watches people dance and listens to fragments of film conversation, some about a mythic “cartridge-as-ecstatic-death” rumor. We learn Joelle is Madame Psychosis, she goes into the bathroom to commit suicide and ends up vomiting instead, perhaps due to the low-grade Lady Delphina stuff.

circle3Page 240: A description of Enfield.

Page 242: 5 NOVEMBER–YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT Hal and Orin speak on the phone. Hal describes the bizarre mechanics by which their father committed suicide, his horror upon discovering the body. Hal details how he was sent to a grief counselor and then finally deemed fit to play again. Hal is upset with Orin for not calling for 2 years, and skipping the memorial. He dodges many of Orin’s questions.

***

New Characters: Madame Psychosis, the host of “Sixty Minutes More or Less with…” on M.I.T.’s student-run radio station 109-WYYY FM, a program to which Mario listens religiously.

Infinite Jest Readalong Week 3 #InfiniTC

July 6th, 2015

lyle

This moderating thing is way more time consuming than one might think. Oy.

Welcome to week 3’s post on the Infinite Jest readalong.

The thing I notice most, especially on this, my second read of IJ, are the increasingly frequent connections to previous posts.

Lyle gives out wisdom like don’t lift more than your body weight, which is a metaphor for addiction.

The yrstruly section recalls the street slang of the Wardine section on p37 and finishes by saying yrstruly is going to detox. Some call this section racist and troubling. Question: is yrstruly black? Did you assume s/he was, or that yrstruly is a he? I did, first time through. Instead, I think DFW is emphasizing how addicts are desperate yet clever, hardworking, even, and the difference between them is both vast in language, privilege and circumstance contrasted with Hal and the Peemster, and yet nothing at all in that they’re all lonely and desperate and addicted, attached to a weight that is pulling them, not vice versa.

Hal talks to Orin and thinks about how much they might be lying to one another.

Ennet House is a detox. Might it be where yrstruly ends up?

An insurance form is filed for a bricklayer who tried to lift more than his bodyweight.

In this section, the section headings are long and complex, similar to those in Aeolus section of Ulysses.

In an essay, one of the ones referred to in Hal’s college interview, Hal wonders what the next generation hero of non-action will be.

Helen Steeply’s article, in which we learn that JOI committed suicide by putting his head in a microwave (how does that even work?) about someone whose external heart it stolen by a street person with a feather boa (Poor Tony from the yrstruly section.)

Why videotelephony failed–because it shattered the illusion that we were paying attention to one another, in other words, we weren’t being honest, just as Hal wondered about Orin.

Lots about Pemulis scamming, and compare it to the drug trafficking of yrstruly and Don Gately. “Manages to avoid losing my just one dento-dermal layer” (155)

The section on JOI and his father, JOI Senior, was long and disturbing, and furthers the emphasis on fathers and sons, as in Ulysses, Hamlet, and more.

Pemulis goes to get DMZ, again, note how classy he makes drug procurement, which is described as mold on mold, rather like what Hal ate in the memory from p10-11, and the reaction to it sounds like something Kate Gompert describe in her section, and what Hal seems like in the first. Hal is reading Hamlet to help Mario.

Mario’s film, narrated in second person.

The different addicts complaining to Patricia Montesian. Gately, Clenette, and that drug dealer with snakes are all mentioned.

I will likely embiggen this later, but this is a decent start. What did everyone else think?

Infinite Summer-y week 3, pages 127-181

July 6th, 2015

Welcome back, fellow Jesters. Here’s the recap for this week’s pages OF INFINITE JEST 127-181:

circle2p127 A sweat-licking guru lives in the ETA weight room and dispenses advice for sweat.

p128 yrstruly, Poor Tony, and C go on a crime spree, acquire heroin from Dr. Wo. The heroin is laced with Drano and C dies after shooting up. yrstruly is going to Detox.

circle1p135 3 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. Orin speaks to Hal by phone.

p137 Background of the Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House.

p138 Bricklayer story (DFW incorporates urban legend)

p140 Hal’s paper on active and passive heroes.

p142 Steeply’s article about the woman who had an artificial heart in her purse when it was snatched by a person with a feather boa.

p144 List of Anti-O.N.A.N. groups.

p144 Why videophony never took off.

circle1p151: Drug tests at E.T.A; Mike Pemulis sells sterile urine.

circle1p157 WINTER B.S. 1960 — TUCSON AZ: Himself’s father (Hal’s grandfather) prepares to teach Himself how to play tennis, tells of the incident that ended his own tennis career, and drinks heavily.

p169 – 4 NOVEMBER YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: Michael Pemulis acquires some “incredibly potent” DMZ.

p172 – TENNIS AND THE FERAL PRODIGY, NARRATED BY HAL INCANDENZA (etc.): Hal narrates a film made by Mario. The narration consists of a series of how-to instructions “Here is how to do individual drills …”

p176 – SELECTED TRANSCRIPTS … WEDNESDAY, 4 NOVEMBER — YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: A series of statements made by recovering addicts at Ennet House.

***

CHARACTERS

Lyle: Guru who lives in ETA weight room and apparently subsists off other people’s sweat.

yrstruly: Narrator of the “dopesick” chapter. Addict, criminal.

C: yrstruly’s companion who dies after shooting up with heroin laced with Drano.

Dr. Wo: Sells heroin to C and yrstruly but it’s laced with Drano to punish their crew-mate Poor Tony (waiting outside) for a past grievance.

Poor Tony: yrstruly’s companion, possibly suspected that heroin was laced but said nothing as C. shot up.

Guy Who Didn’t Even Use His First Name: So into the “anonymous” scene that he remained completely so. Founded the Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House.

Subsidized Years of INFINITE JEST

July 3rd, 2015

Notice, that some are still abbreviated, as Greg Carlisle in Elegant Complexity (helpfully) doesn’t spoil what we don’t know yet by page 127. These are details mostly from end note #24, JOI’s filmography. (and perhaps the main reason for that long endnote.)

ijyears

INFINITE JEST readalong week 2 #InfiniTC

June 29th, 2015

afr

All right, who’s still with me?

This week, after page 63 in Infinite Jest is where the rubber hits the road. Shit hits the fan. Pick your metaphor and run with it. Or roll with it, like the Association de Fauteuil Rollents, the Canadian wheelchair assassins.

And it’s on page 64 that I’m convinced that many people give up on this book. They’ve muddled through the out of sequence stuff and the years with names not numbers, and that Wardine chapter, then BOOM. Page 64 with note 24, eight and a half pages of TEENY TINY type on the filmography of James O. Incandenza, Hal’s dead father.

And even if you make it past that challenge, say by skipping or skimming it (because while valuable, it’s OK to refer back to later when you’re feeling more situated in the book) then you get to the Marathe and Steeply passage, with a guy in a wheelchair up on a desert ledge joined by another guy in drag, and both are spies, and then you get to note 39 that has subnotes, and one of those says to go to note 304, which is seven and a half pages, also has sub notes, about a student plagiarizing a paper from DFW’s imaginary future online that is actually pretty close to how the internet turned out. And that’s where I think many other people throw in the towel. You know, the towels that are wrapped like kilts around the boys in the locker room after there late, exhausting practice.

But if you can manage to read note 304, and learn about the history of Canada’s wheelchair assassins, then it’s hard not to be amazed by the bat$hit crazy imagination of it all.

It is very important, I assure you, to keep reading. Don’t give up! Do not let these end notes freak you out. Skim them, skip them if you want. There’s gold in them there end notes but if you’re not feeling up for it, they’ll still be there later in the book. This book is fascinating, and fun, and true and sad, but you have to keep reading.

For now, let me be super reductive:

End note 24: James O. Incandenza made a lot of films, both technical and artistic. He worked with a lot of actors and other people who have been and will be mentioned. His films often had to do with his personal obsessions: teeth, spiders, tennis, fatherhood, and his wife’s infidelity, a callback to Bloom in Ulysses.

End note 304: In Canada’s poor mining towns, the young men play “The game of the next train,” a coordinated type of Chicken in which a group of boys tries to jump in front of a train and not be the first, and not die. Many do die, many lose limbs, and some lose legs and become members of the AFR, the Canadian wheelchair assassins.

Now, back to the pages of the actual book we read this week, chapters 8-11, which I only know because I’m also reading Elegant Complexity, which helpfully keeps track of all those little moons, or meniscuses, if you will. Meniscii? (Meniscus, or moon, is one of the names of JOI’s film companies.)

I did a summary and list of characters in the earlier post, here. I remember having a hard time on my first read of IJ with the Marathe and Steeply sections, with all the politics and intrigue of the future dystopian-ish society, in which Canada gets stuck with all the dead, contaminated territories, and there are feral hamsters and infants.

I’ll say again that my best advice is just to read. Don’t panic. I bet I can find that somewhere on the internet written in large, friendly letters…

dontpanic

Or, in the timeless words of REO Speedwagon, “Hold On Loosely”. There is so much going on, and it will all come together, but if you’re not getting it, or can’t remember Struck from Stice, it’s OK. Just read.

I was most enthralled by the sections about Kate Gompert and her marijuana use and desire for suicide. It is hard not to read that section and think on the future suicide of the author.

It’s not wanting to hurt myself, it’s wanting to not hurt. (78)

Thankfully, though, there’s plenty of things to laugh about, as well, like the use of Pledge as a sunscreen, one that later can be peeled off in strips.

There are also lots of references, especially to Hamlet. Both Poor Yorick and Infinite Jest, mentioned in note 24, are from that play. The section that switches without breaks among the elder students and their little buddies reminded me of the chapter(s?) of Ulysses where it jumped from mind to mind for the stream of consciousness.

DFW was trying to challenge the reader, just as Joyce was with Ulysses. He’s telling a tale out of order, not giving us years to count by, skipping in and back in time and in and out of people’s lives and thoughts. He is NOT going by a straight line.

I’ll stop here for now. What did everyone else think? You can also tweet comments and questions with the hashtag #InfiniTC.

The rest of the schedule:

Tu 7-7 discuss and tweet to 181. Stop at: LATE OCTOBER Y.D.A.U. “Open me anothowone”

Tu 7-14 discuss and tweet to 258. Stop at: 6 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “White halogen off the green”

Tu 7-21 discuss and tweet to 321. Stop at: 8 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. INTERDEPENDENCE DAY GAUDEAMUS IGITUR

Tu 7-28 discuss and tweet to 398. Stop at: “FREAK STATUE OF LIBERTY ACCIDENT”

Tu 8-04 discuss and tweet to 489. Stop at: PRE-DAWN. 1 MAY Y.D.A.U. OUTCROPPING

Tu 8-11 discuss and tweet to 538. Stop at: “It is starting to get quietly around Ennet”

Tu 8-18 discuss and tweet to 619. Stop at: “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment: Interlace TelEntertainment, 932/1864”

Tu 8-25 discuss and tweet to 686. Stop at: 11 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “First thing after supper”

Tu 9-1 discuss and tweet to 755. Stop at: 11 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “Part of Mario’s footage”

Tu 9-8 discuss and tweet to 808. Stop at: “The ceiling was breathing”

Tu 9-15 discuss and tweet to 896. Stop at: “I was going to go back up”

Tu 9-22 discuss and tweet to 981. THE END!

#InfiniTC Summer-y week 2, INFINITE JEST 63-127

June 29th, 2015

Below are short summaries of each section, followed by a list of characters per section. Again, these are taken almost verbatim, from the original Infinite Summer-ers. Since I chose to do different page breaks at the chapters, I’m personalizing summer-ies to our pages.

AS OF YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: The history of ETA and its founder James Orin Incandenza (father to Hal, Orin, and Mario).

DENVER CO, 1 NOVEMBER YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: Orin glides into Mile High Stadium in a Cardinals costume; Michael Pemulis talks to his “Little Buddies” at ETA about drugs; Hal relates a dream that he used to have nightly.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: Kate Gompert is in the hospital, speaks about the depression her addiction to pot engenders.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: Tiny Ewell travels to the Enfield Marine VA Hospital Complex via cab.

A list of people gathered in the living room of the medical attaché house watching the Entertainment.

30 APRIL — YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: Remy Marathe of the Assassins des Fauteuils Rollents (wheelchair assassins) and M. Hugh Steeply of the Office of Unspecified Services (OUS) converse on a bluff outside Tucson, AZ.

A herd of feral hamsters rampages in the Great Concavity (which used to be Vermont, and is now owned by Canada)

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: Banter and exhaustion in the ETA lockeroom. Present: Hal Incandenza, John (N.R.) Wayne, Jim Troelsch, Michael Pemulis, Ted Schacht, Ortho Stice, Jim Struck, Keith Freer.

Marathe and Steeply continue their conversation through sunset.

3 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U.: Big Buddy meetings: first Hal (with Kent Blott, Idris Arslanian, Evan Ingersol), then Wayne, Troelsch, Struck, and Stice.

MARIO INCANDENZA’S FIRST AND ONLY EVEN REMOTELY ROMANTIC EXPERIENCE, THUS FAR: Millicent Kent tells Mario she has seen a tripod, confides in him, and tries to kiss him. Millicent, Mario, and Hal find the tripod on the way out of the woods.

30 APRIL — YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: Marathe and Steeply discuss the Entertainment, and possibility of an antidote (the anti-Entertainment).

***

Characters in bold appear to be major.

AS OF YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (page 63)

Dr. James Orin Incandenza (“Himself”): Husband of Avril, father to Orin, Mario, and Hal. Founder of ETA, filmmaker, inventor. Died in The Year of the Trial-Sized Dove Bar.

DENVER CO, 1 NOVEMBER YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (page 65)

Michael Pemulis: Member of the 18s B squad at ETA; friend to Hal and Mario.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (page 68)

Katherine “Kate” Ann Gompert: Pot addict, depressive. First seen in hospital.
Unnamed: Kate’s doctor.
Gerhardt Schtitt: Head Coach and Athletic Director at E.T.A. Old; borderline fascist; friends with Mario.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (page 85)

Tiny Ewell: Diminutive recovering alcoholic, being driven to the Enfield Marine VA Hospital Complex.

30 APRIL — YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (page 87)

Remy Marathe: Member of the Assassins des Fauteuils Rollents (AFR); is working as a quadruple agent–that is, his superior, M. Fortier, thinks that Marthe is working as a triple agent (pretending to work with the Office of Unspecified Services, while in reality reporting back to AFR), but Marathe is actually collaborating with OUS to secure medical services for his wife.

M. Hugh Steeply: Agent the Office of Unspecified Services. Currently operating in disguise as a large woman; Marathe’s contact.

MARIO INCANDENZA’S FIRST AND ONLY EVEN REMOTELY ROMANTIC EXPERIENCE, THUS FAR (page 121)

U.S.S. Millicent Kent: Unkindly nicknamed Girls 16′s Singles player who attempts to seduce Mario Incandenza.

INFINITE JEST Readalong Week 1

June 23rd, 2015

keep-calm-and-finish-infinite-jest

Welcome to the Infinite Summer, and Infinite Jest readalong, Twin Cities 2015 version. Anyone can read along. We can discuss the book’s sections (no spoilers) in the comments, and on Twitter with the hashtag #InfiniTC. This week we read to page 63. I posted a summary and list of characters for week 1 here.

Infinite Jest pages 1-63.

The first time I read Infinite Jest, I approached it like a diligent student. I took notes, wrote each character and when they appeared, and approached it like a puzzle to be solved.

I wish I’d just read the damn thing. Having gotten to the end, I know that what seems overwhelming at first makes more and more sense as you go along. The internet can be used to remind you of character lists and what happened in which section if you want to go back.

This time, because I’m blogging and tweeting the book, I have to nerd out, at least a little. I’m reading a guide, Elegant Complexity by Greg Carlisle. I will share bits of it each week, trying not to overwhelm with minutiae.

For first-time readers, I think the main thing to know is Infinite Jest jumps around in time and point of view and plot. It starts off as many little bits, and will coalesce into a greater whole. If you’re confused, that’s not only normal, it’s probably what the author intended.

In a 1995 radio interview, Wallace said that the structure of the unedited first draft of Infinite Jest was based on a fractal object called a Sierpinski Gasket, generated geometrically by an iterative process of cutting smaller triangle-sized holes out of larger triangles…readers of IJ construct narrative interpretations “as much out of what’s missing as what’s there” (IJ p681) (Carlisle, p20)

figure18

Here are some things I noticed on this read, many of which are questions:

DFW’s terrific and funny sentences, like “My chest bumps like a dryer with shoes in it. (5) and “I do things like get in a taxi and say, ‘The library, and step on it.’ (12) Or “a fit of febrile thrushive pique”that the attache is told to pay no mind, “because it’s just the yeast talking” (35). Or “promoted” as a euphemism for stolen. I keep finding more: “The rhinovirally afflicted man, gagged with skill and quality materials (59)

I think Pemulis is pronounced “PEEM you liss”

Why does DFW use single quotes for dialogue? Is it merely the convention he chose, or is it mean to imply that all of the book is in full quotes, so all dialogue is embedded?

The first line of Hamlet is “Who’s there?” The first line of Infinite Jest (a phrase from Hamlet) is “I am.”

This seemingly throwaway sentence haunts me with its questions:

I think of John N.R Wayne, who would have won this year’s WhataBurger, standing watch in a mask as Donald Gately and I dig up my father’s head. (16-17)

Wayne would have won, if not for what? Why are they digging up the father’s head?

Masking is a theme that will repeat through the novel. Another theme is defecation, as it was in Ulysses. Carlisle notes that several scenes take place “in men’s rooms, locker rooms, and toilet stalls–places in which waste is produced.” (Carlisle, 29) On page 9, Hal is in a “defecatory posture.” Later, Tavis is “a truly unparalleled slinger of shit.”

I urge you to visit Brickjest.com, which features scenes from the book re-created with Legos.

I am rolled supine on the geometric floor. (13)

In Erdedy’s section we read about a drug dealer:

“he lived in a trailer and had a harelip and kept snakes” (18)

who shows up again in Bruce Green’s section:

“he and Mildred Bonk and tiny incontinent Harriet Bonk-Green lived just off he Allston Spur in a shiny housetrailer with another frightening couple and with Tommy Doocey, who kept several large snake in unclear uncovered aquaria, which smelled, which Tommy Doocey didn’t notice because his upper lip completely covered his nostrils and all he could smell was lip.” (39)

I’m not sure what makes me laugh more, the realization that tiny, incontinent refers to a baby, or “all he could smell was lip.”

Less amusing, though, is pondering how vivid the detail of Erdedy’s pot obsession was, which I surmise DFW knew from personal experience, just as the drug dealer was based on one in real life. This is a description from Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club(p76):

I knew a drug dealer once who collected them [snakes] in glass tanks all over his trailer. He had a harelip that somehow protected him from the stink, but the rest of us became, when dickering over pharmaceuticals with him, the noisiest and most adenoidal mouth breathers.

Karr and DFW were together for a time, which she writes about in her memoir Lit and talked about at Salon here:

He was in rehab and we’d met through friends; he was in rehab down the street and I lived in Belmont, Mass…. I was about a month clean; his sobriety date was about a month after mine. So we ran into each other a lot. He was in a halfway house where I did volunteer work.

Another question: Hal tries to communicate to the college people, then says ‘Call it something I ate’ before he relates a flashback to a scene of him eating mold as a child. Is there a connection between the mold and Hal’s inability to make himself understood?

EDITED TO ADD: DFW was a fanatic about usage, and one example is his repeated, correct but often misunderstood use of the word nauseous, which means causing nausea, not feeling it.

Also of delight, the term ‘howling fantods’ for extremes of creeped-out-ed-ness. Apparently the real DFW’s mom added “howling” to fantods (a real word) to coin the term, HT Brain Pickings.

Also, the site Howling Fantods is a wealth of DFW information.

I think that’s more than enough from me. What did everyone else think?

For next week Tuesday 6/30, read in books to page 127’s chapter break, marked with a shaded circle. E-readers, see text quotes on the schedule below.

The rest of the schedule:

circleInfinite Summer 2015

Tu 6-30 discuss and tweet to 127. Start at “AS OF Y.D.A.U. “The Enfield Tennis Academy has been in accredited…” Stop at: “An oiled guru sits in yogic full lotus”

Tu 7-7 discuss and tweet to 181. Stop at: LATE OCTOBER Y.D.A.U. “Open me anothowone”

Tu 7-14 discuss and tweet to 258. Stop at: 6 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “White halogen off the green”

Tu 7-21 discuss and tweet to 321. Stop at: 8 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. INTERDEPENDENCE DAY GAUDEAMUS IGITUR

Tu 7-28 discuss and tweet to 398. Stop at: “FREAK STATUE OF LIBERTY ACCIDENT”

Tu 8-04 discuss and tweet to 489. Stop at: PRE-DAWN. 1 MAY Y.D.A.U. OUTCROPPING

Tu 8-11 discuss and tweet to 538. Stop at: “It is starting to get quietly around Ennet”

Tu 8-18 discuss and tweet to 619. Stop at: “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment: Interlace TelEntertainment, 932/1864”

Tu 8-25 discuss and tweet to 686. Stop at: 11 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “First thing after supper”

Tu 9-1 discuss and tweet to 755. Stop at: 11 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “Part of Mario’s footage”

Tu 9-8 discuss and tweet to 808. Stop at: “The ceiling was breathing”

Tu 9-15 discuss and tweet to 896. Stop at: “I was going to go back up”

Tu 9-22 discuss and tweet to 981. THE END!

Infinite Summer-y 1

June 23rd, 2015

Pun and info copied verbatim from the original Infinite Summer blog. I’ve adjusted for page number. There first page goal was the same as ours–63, yet the first summery goes beyond that. Gah. So much formatting! Let me know if this is helpful. I think the best approach will be to do a separate post of Analysis to chat over.

YEAR OF GLAD (p3) Hal interviews at the University of Arizona; in a flashback, Hal eats mold as a child.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (17) Erdedy awaits a delivery of pot.

1 APRIL — YEAR OF THE TUCKS MEDICATED PAD (27) Hal speaks with a “professional conversationalist”.

9 MAY — YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (32) Hal, sharing a room with his older brother Mario, receives a call from the eldest brother Orin.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (33) A medical attaché discovers that his wife is out, and so selects an unmarked entertainment cartridge to watch.

YEAR OF THE TRIAL-SIZE DOVE BAR (37) Clenette describes Wardine, Wardine’s mother, and Roy Tony; Bruce Green falls in love with and eventually woos Mildred Bonk.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (39) Hal and Mario reminisce about their father (Himself) and his death; medical attaché continues to watch cartridge.

OCTOBER — YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (42) Orin kills roaches and wishes he could get rid of last night’s “Subject”.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (49) Hal smokes pot in the Pump Room.

AUTUMN — YEAR OF DAIRY PRODUCTS FROM THE AMERICAN HEARTLAND (55) Don Gately accidentally kills a man while robbing his home.

3 NOVEMBER — YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (60) Jim Troelsch–a student at the Enfield Tennis Academy (ETA)–is sick; someone has a nightmare about a face in the floor (told in first-person).

New Characters (those in bold appear to be major):

YEAR OF GLAD (page 3)

Harold (Hal) James Incandenza: Protagonist. Student at the Enfield Tennis Academy; son of James Orin Incandenza and Avril Incandenza; younger brother to Orin Incandenza and Mario Incandenza.

Dr. Charles Tavis: Hal’s mother’s “adoptive brother”; accompanies Hal to University of Arizona interview.

Avril Mondragon Tavis Incandenza (“The Moms”): Wife to James Orin Incandenza, Mother to Orin, Mario, and Hal. Dean of Academic Affairs at ETA; grammarian supreme.

Aubrey F. deLint: ETA prorector.

Kirk White: University of Arizona Varsity Coach.

Mr. Sawyer: University of Arizona Dean of Academics.

Bill: University of Arizona Dean of Athletics.

Unnamed: Dean of Admissions, Dean of Composition.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (page 17)


Erdedy
– Pot addict, who swears that each pot binge will be his last.

Unnamed: Female who promised to deliver pot to Eldedy.

1 APRIL — YEAR OF THE TUCKS MEDICATED PAD (page 27)

“Conversational Professional”: Possibly Himself in disguise.

9 MAY — YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (page 32)

Mario Incandenza: Older brother to Hal; has some sort of deformity.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (page 33)

Unnamed: Medical attaché (first to watch the mysterious, unnamed cartridge)

Medical attaché’s wife.

YEAR OF THE TRIAL-SIZE DOVE BAR (page 37)

Clenette Henderson: Relates the story of Wardine.

Wardine: Clenette’s half-sister and friend who is beaten by Roy Tony.

Reginald: Wardine’s boyfriend.

Roy Tony: Dealer; Wardine’s mother’s “man”.

Delores Epps – Clenette’s friend.

Columbus Epps – Delores’ brother, killed by Roy Tony four years ago (over Clenette’s mother).

Unnamed: Wardine’s mother.

Bruce Green: Husband to Mildred L. Bonk; father to Harriet Bonk-Green.

Mildred L. Bonk: Wife to Bruce Green; mother to Harriet Bonk-Green.

Tommy Doocey: Harelipped pot-dealer (possibly the source of Erdedy’s pot).

Harriet Bonk-Green: Mildred and Bruce’s daughter

OCTOBER — YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (page 42)

Orin Incandenza: Eldest Incandenza brother. Plays football, sleeps with “subjects”, hates roaches.

AUTUMN — YEAR OF DAIRY PRODUCTS FROM THE AMERICAN HEARTLAND (page 55)

Donald “Don” W. Gately: Enormous guy (over 6 ft., close to 300 lbs), thief, murderer (albeit by accident), and “active drug addict”.

Guillaume DuPlessis: Homeowner killed by Gately.

Trent ‘Quo Vadis’ Kite: Gately’s “associate”.

3 NOVEMBER — YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (page 60)

Jim Troelsch: Ill member of the 18s B squad at ETA.