Author Archive

INFINITE JEST readalong pp 665-711

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015
Blood Sister design by Chris Ayers

Blood Sister design by Chris Ayers

Welcome back! Time is short, the post is late, and I’m tired, so I’m going to jump right in.

pp 666-673 A bunch of the younger ETA boys are in the tunnels, underneath the Ortho/Hal game, cleaning up as punishment for the Eschaton debacle, yet also as an excuse to look for a large rodent that Kent Blott claims to have seen. My little boys also like dark, small spaces, so I thought it interesting to contrast young to older boys, and to females, even “the butchest” ones, thanks for the sensitivity, DFW, who never wastes an opportunity to verbally kertwang on a large or masculine female. They put a bunch of unlabelled tapes in bag. Clenette is later seen carrying a full backpack of dumpster pilferage. Could a copy of the Entertainment be heading down the hill?

PP 673-682 The match, again, this time with Steeply talking to Thierry Poutrincourt. They talk about transcending or getting sucked into celebrity.

pp 682-686 Older brother Matty Pemulis in a bar, sees Poor Tony walk by–is this after his seizure on the train? A horrifying childhood rape story similar to the one told about the woman with the catatonic adoptive sister. Yikes. No wonder Michael Pemulis is dead set on never returning to Allston.

pp 686-689 After supper of the match, Hal goes up the viewing room, starts to watch old tapes of his dad’s, note: all of them labelled.

pp 689-691 Poor Tony survived the seizure! But, I fear for his long term viability.

pp692 Geoffrey Day almost misses Lenz. Penises.

pp 692l-698 the difference between mild depression, anhedonia, and clinical, like Kate Gompert’s.

pp 698-700 Kate Gompert and Ruth Van Cleve, and then these are the women Poor Tony is pursuing, thinking about snatching their purses.

700 Troeltsch, surrounded by Seldane, or is it the Tenuate he’s “promoted” from Pemulis’ stash?

Pemulis checks his DMZ stash in the ceiling.

Lyle hovers.

p 701 Schtitt and Mario go for ice cream. Similar to downhill swooping of AFR kidnappers with WHYY guy.

Avril calls Moment Magazine.

pp 701-711 Joelle is in hospital, mopping brow of unconscious Don. He lives! Hal watches Blood Sister: One Tough Nun, based on his father’s experience in Boston AA, and people keep coming in to watch with him.

Vince wanted to know on Twitter if note 290, about Blood Sister and the veiled character, is addressed to the reader: how she may or may not be actually physically scarred, and the older kids hope she’s not as that would be too “gooey” or sentimental, or obvious. Is DFW poking at the reader’s curiosity about whether Joelle is really scarred under the veil, or just hiding her debilitating prettiness?

Gotta get to work, so this is all I’ve got this week. What did everyone else think?

Only six more shortish sections to go! Is anyone going to throw caution to the winds and just read on through?

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


Tuesday, September 29th, 2015


Sam Bohrman is a friend of mine, so my review of her book can’t be unbiased. That said, Ruby’s Misadventures with Reality is a delightful, hilarious romp of a mystery/romance, and I highly recommend it. If you like mysteries, romances, or comedies, this is a fast, fun read. Think Bridget Jones set in Kansas with The Wizard of Oz instead of Pride and Prejudice as an influence, and you’re on the right track.

Ruby O’Deare is kind of a mess. She has interfering parents, her taste in clothes far outstrips the paycheck from her not-very-fulfilling job with a Mean-Girl boss, and there’s a weird guy named Todd crashing on the couch in the apartment she shares with her friend Ming. The mystery we begin with is not typical of crime novels:

…if only she knew how she’d gotten here…Under her borrowed bathrobe, her skin was covered in fine purple grit, as if she’d run through a sprinkler and then rolled in grape-flavored Pop Rocks. Waking up at the zoning commissioner’s house covered in what she could only assume was purple sex paste with a smooshed party hat under her pillow–it just didn’t add up, not for a temp attorney who spent most nights Facebooking in front of The Bachelor.

From there, Ruby stumbles, sometimes literally in her high heels, among shady real estate deals, a suspicious death, and whether or not Noel, the cute zoning commissioner likes her.

Ruby is daffy and misguided, but is smarter than anyone–including herself–gives her credit for. Her charm and resilience in the face of her own frequent ridiculousness make her a character I cheered for even while I shook my head at her not-so-good choices.

If you are looking for realistic crime, or complex true-to life characters, you have come to the wrong book. If you’re looking for a sweet, silly escape, you’re in the right place. I look forward to the further (mis)adventures of Ruby.

ALLEGIANCE by Kermit Roosevelt

Monday, September 28th, 2015


I received a free review copy of Kermit Roosevelt’s Allegiance from his publisher, but would have sought out this book in any case. I enjoyed Roosevelt’s first novel, In the Shadow of the Law, and was intrigued by the premise of Allegiance, when I read about it.

Allegiance begins just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news. I was in New York, the Beta house at Columbia, with constitutional law books on my desk and last night’s drinks in my head.

Caswell “Cash” Harrison is just finishing law school, and feels the pull to enlist. His family and his girlfriend’s family discourage him. He’s drafted, but fails the physical, and instead is awarded a plum job as clerk to a Supreme Court justice in DC. But once in DC, he is in way over his Main-Line, privileged-white-guy head.

Cash is a noir-like protagonist, a good but rather slow guy being manipulated, but by whom? There are spies, tough guys, even a femme fatale of sorts. Just as he begins to suspect something’s wrong in the courts, someone he knows is killed. He vows to figure out who did it, but is meanwhile hampered by his own naivete, friends who might be enemies, and overlapping mysteries. Who is manipulating the court cases about Japanese internment? Is there a conspiracy among the Supreme Court clerks? Are other cases about business or land being thrown? Who might be moving against FDR in his New Deal plans?

Roosevelt, a professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, has a convincing and engaging way of writing about the law. His book is ambitious, reflecting deep research on legal history and the cities of Philly and DC, while weaving in a series of complex historical mysteries. Having lived in both cities, I appreciated spending time in them during a different era, and Roosevelt’s writing skillfully evoked both time and place. As I read, I wondered whether any of these were red herrings, or if they all tied together. They did, in complicated and interesting ways. I also appreciated the connections to modern discussion of race, immigration, and discrimination. Racism and fear and war continue to plague the United States, even as we think we’ve learned lessons from the past.

The vision and scope for Allegiance are impressive. While I found it didn’t quite succeed completely–the pace sometimes lagged with certain mysteries being dropped while others moved to the fore, there were rather too many squash and tennis games for me, and Cash was sometimes frustratingly clueless–I both enjoyed and admired it overall. The enormous amount of historical detail and research that went into it, as well as the insight into past legal battles over race and discrimination, make this a timely, involving read.

INFINITE JEST readalong pp. 620-665

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015


Welcome back and apologies for being a little late with the post. I accidentally spilled coffee on my laptop, but she has graciously continued to live, so here we are again.

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding the 40-ish pages a week (plus the killer 6-page tiny-type endnote this week) much more manageable than the 70 page hauls. I hope you’re finding it better, too, and that we can all keep pace together (ahem) for these last several weeks together, during which we’ll read the last two of the 28 sections of the book.

So after last week’s rip-roaring segment o’action, we are back to lots of inaction, as well as some sneaky back and forthing in time. It’s easy to lose track of time in IJ, and one of the features of the guide I’m reading, Elegant Complexity, is a set of chronologies of the subchapters of IJ. I often have to remind myself that Marathe and Steeply are meeting in May of YDAU, while most of the action at ETA and Ennet House is taking place later that year in November, all of which takes place before the very first chapter, which featured Hal at his interview.

pp 620-626 12 November YDAU There’s a repeat of some of the stats on the Interlace teleputer, then the draining of the duck pond, then the WHYY engineer gets kidnapped by the wheelchair assassins.

pp 627-638 11 November YDAU Suppertime, Stice has earlier almost defeated Hal but not, arguments about powdered milk, we are reminded again that Hal keeps secrets. He knows about the milk. Hal sees Clenette going down the hill to Ennet House with a full backpack (of what?) where she will later take place in stomping the Canadians, because this section happens a few hours before what we read last week. Stuff is moving around at ETA. Hal is sober and not happy about it.

pp 628-648 1 May YDAU Back to Marathe and Steeply on the ledge. Steeply tells a long story about his father and his unhealthy attachment to the TV show M*A*S*H.

Nerdish aside: didn’t M*A*S*H run on Monday nights, originally? I remember Monday night was TV night in our house when I was a girl. We’d start with the Muppet Show at 7:30pm EST, then Little House on the Prairie from 8-9, and M*A*S*H till 9:30, which was bedtime. I could look up and confirm, but it’s a very strong memory.

Isn’t Steeply’s tale a little too on the nose about his dad and how it reflects the entertainment? Is he lying?

Coincidence that the theme song to the show is “Suicide is Painless”?

pp 648-651 13 November YDAU 0245h. This is almost exactly 24 hours after shit went down in front of Ennet House. Kate and Geoffrey Day have a weird interaction that is actually like lines not meeting yet they still kind of do, talk about depression.

pp 651-662 We rewind a bit on 11 November YDAU to the match between Stice and Hal, commanded by Schtitt, and watched by “Helen” Steeply. Discussion about how ETA tries to prepare kids for the Show without getting chewed up by it. There is a segment in here that shows Don snoring and wearing a sleeping mask, but this is BEFORE the shit went down so we still have no idea what happened to Don the night before.

pp 663-665 Letters between Marlon Bain and “Helen” Steeply with a killer 6-page endnote. We learn Orin is a terrible liar, and the Moms is perhaps not as giving as she would like to be perceived as.

Given that David and his mother Sally were estranged after the publication of IJ, I suspect there’s more than a little of Sally in the character of Avril, and not just the grammarian.

Saprogenic, which I always thought meant ’soapy’ actually means growing out of decay, which is rather an odd choice for a greeting card company. Then again, Bain is obviously an odd duck. He was the one who was the constant sweater while he was at ETA, similar to DFW in real life.

I’m writing from Barnes & Noble, so don’t have my copy of IJ. I’d assumed they’d have one here I could reference–they don’t. Why? But I can’t list any of my favorite sentences, but one belonged to Marathe, something like, “The cuteness, it had fled.”

What did everyone else think? Did anyone else have to restrain themselves from racing ahead, trying to figure out what happened to Don? I think I’m getting to a point at which I’ll just need to flat out finish this cusser.

Let’s meet here in a week on 9/29 to discuss the next part of section 27. Reminder of the rest of the schedule:

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 pp 575-619

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

Welcome back, friends and fellow readers? Who’s still with me? Please check in on the comments if just to say hey.

Well, pages 575-619: shit happens, huh?

Art by Benjamin Birdie

Art by Benjamin Birdie

Art from this page.

This will be a quick first swipe at an entry, as I’m blogging by the seat of my pants. I’ll try to embiggen it later.

We resume on page 575, midway through the 26th section.

p. 575-589 Lenz and Green. Tragic backstory for Green. Lenz kills dog, and Canadians are alerted. Green hides.

pp 589-593 Mario has insomnia and takes long walks, often past Ennet’s [sic] House, and hears an old tape played through an open window, presumably Joelle’s. He sees a “wide, square-headed boy” working, and while this is Gately, it made me pause to think of him as a boy, since he’s really young and not much older than the privileged kids at ETA.

pp. 593-596 Details of what Gately’s working on.

pp 596-601 Orin, who just gets more despicable as the book goes on. But he’s clearly under the eye of the AFR, so I fear he’s going to “hear the squeak” at some point.

pp. 601-619. Holy cats, y’all, STUFF HAPPENS. This is the most happening section of the book so far! Cars are about to be moved, Lenz oozes in, obviously high, Don is kindly worried about car tickets (as any of us who have lived in cities can painfully empathize with), and SHIT GOES DOWN. Don is shot, defending Lenz! Bruce Green is also continuing to be a stand-up guy. Don realizes Joelle is that lady from the radio. Security shows up, there is the matter of whether anyone there will eat cheese, and my goodness, I just loved this except for my favorite character Don, getting shot.

Two things in conclusion. One, my friend Steven brought up that Don as a character is similar to Leopold Bloom–earthy, not too bright, trying to be good. While Hal is like Stephen Dedalus–too smart for his own good, abusing substances, headed for trouble.

Two, my own theory about how DFW spreads his own psyche among his characters. I think Hal contains his oversmart, addict self, while Orin is more of the tennis player DFW actually was. I think Orin and his predation on women is some of DFW’s ugliness on display, while I think Don Gately is kind of a wishful ideation–what he might be if he were less overwhelmingly intelligent, and a better, kinder person. Then perhaps he would be worthy of Joelle, who is a pretty direct analog to Mary Karr.

OK, more later. What did everyone else think?

Also, idea: what about a Sunday salon where we meet up and just read that weeks pages together?

INFINITE JEST readalong pp 538-575

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

lenz Image infohere.

Welcome back to the Infinite Jest readalong. I hope you’re hanging in on this new reading schedule with less pages.

Ha, ha! Usage joke! The Moms would have the Militant Grammarians of Massachusetts bombarding my blog with complaints and urging me to correct that to “fewer” pages.

Anyway, I was cruising along the reading this week, thinking, 38 pages, walk in the park! That is, till I got to end note 234, a 6-pager of Orin and “Helen” Steeply. D’oh. That slowed me down.

Orin, as another person is described in this section, “does not overwhelm with brightness, it is true.” (569) I think I might dislike hanging out with Orin more than I do with Marathe and Steeply, who were absent from this week’s pages. Speaking of, let’s get to those pages, shall we?

p. 538-548 “It is starting to get quietyly around ennet House that Randy Lenz has found his own dark way to deal with the well-known Rage and Powerlessness issues that beset the drug addict in his first few months of abstinence (538).” We are treated, in gruesome detail that I KNOW will horrify all the cat people reading this, and you are legion, to Randy’s messed-up ways of managing his anger. On his walks home from meetings, he started torturing and killing rats, then cats, then dogs, but managed not to cross over to humans. Bruce Green, he who was abandoned by Mildred Bonk and tiny incontinent Harriet Bonk-Green, asks Lenz if he can walk with him home from meetings, and that messes Lenz up.

Reading Randy’s section I wondered who the hell was narrating it, because it was full of errors, like calling Joelle “Joe L.” (a totally understandable mistake that someone in recovery would make given the usual use of last name letters.)

Side note: one of my favorite memories of recovery meetings was coming up with epithets for people rather than last name initials. One guy was Furniture Mark, another was Adapter Phil; we’d adapt to the conventions and work around them.

So, it probably isn’t Don writing this down, because he knows Joelle’s name. And at the bottom of page 556 are the words crepuscular and threnody, neither of which Don could spell; those are Hal words. But it can’t be Hal either, because Hal would correct Randy’s malapropisms, like “ravacious” herds, or “cableyarrow.”

So is DFW narrating the book, including bits and pieces of the voices of the subjects in these sections, while maintaining the authorial omniscience to wield worlds like crepuscular and threnody? (Both of which are awesome, by the way, and the latter was on my long list of cool names if I had a girl kid, which I did not.) Or is Hal narrating the ETA, Don the AA, Marathe the Marathe/Steeply, and then there’s crossover in who’s telling or editing the story? There is way too much calculated design in this book for me to think that this isn’t deliberately messing with us the readers.

Back to the book, though.

Early November YDAU, p 548-9, Rodney Tine is in Boston to deal with difficulties about the video.

LATE P.M., MONDAY 9 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. P550-553. Pemulis interrupts Avril and John “no relation” Wayne in the midst of some pretty pervy role-playing that makes us wonder what her relationship with Orin was. I’d previously assumed it was Tavis’ name she’d written on the car window in the steam that JOI later saw, but maybe it was Orin’s?

While I admire Pemulis’ moxie, I wonder if this exchange on 11/9 with “I probably won’t even waste everybody’s time asking if I’m interrupting,” might have been the impetus for him getting called on the blue carpet the next day on 11/10 for last week’s uncomfortable waiting room segment, pp 508-27.

WEDNESDAY 11 NOVEMBER YDAU. p 553-559. More Lenz and Bruce Green, with Lenz having the chutzpah to do coke in the bathroom of the recovery meeting.

p 560, brief interlude with Hal in his room.

Immediately back to Lenz and Green, 560-2.

SELECTED SNIPPETS…WEDNESDAY 11 NOVEMBER YDAU. 563-5. So, while I dislike the interchanges with Marathe and Steeply, I love the banter between Don and Joelle, with Don holding his own: “Joelle, you’re maybe about the last person to be taking somebody’s inventory about weird ways they dress, under there, maybe.” (taking someone’s inventory means being judgey about someone else. The only inventory one is supposed to take is one’s own.)

And we get further evidence, as if we needed any, that Randy Lenz is a sleazebag.

p 565-7 Orin, with a “putatively” Swiss hand model.

p 567-74. Idris Arslanian is practicing being blind. Anton “Booger” Doucette is having a meltdown with Lyle in the weightroom. Pemulis gives Idris a lesson on annulation, and then strikes a bargain with him for clean pee (though this takes place the day after the surprise in Tavis’ office from last section, at which clean urine would have helped out Pemulis, Hal, and Ann Kittenplan, all.)

p 574-5. Orin is not so bright. Now that Steeply has gone, the wheelchairs are back and have the same accent as the hand model who was an exact fit for Orin’s various fetishes.

This was the first half of the 26th section–only two more long sections after this. We’ll finish up chapter 26 next week.

Till then, what did you think?

2015 Summer Books!

Monday, September 7th, 2015


I thought, hey, it’s been a long time since I blogged about books. Maybe I’ll do one post on all the books since I last reviewed one. Hey, maybe I can do one on summer books! The upshot of this, minus my internal back and forth, is that I haven’t reviewed a book since the last of May, which seemed like a coincidence until I realized, 1. Summer and kids home and b. new part time job at comic store. So for the purposes of this post, summer counts as June 1 to Labor Day Monday, which is today. Because I said so.

Graphic novels

SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki. A collection of the online webcomic by the artist of This One Summer. Weird, but compelling.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. My 9 and 11you boys and I LOVED this book. A girl warrior wants to be the sidekick to a villain. But the villain isn’t so villainous, the hero isn’t so heroic, and Nimona isn’t what she seems. So good.

ODY-C v. 1 by Matt Fraction. A gender-bent space opera re-telling of Homer’s Odyssey. Bat$hit crazy, beautiful to look at, and boggling to experience.

Ms. Marvel v. 3 Crushed. I love Ms. Marvel, the awkward teen superhero, and so do my boys.

Unwritten v. 11 Apocalypse. I was worried this series would have a vague ending. Hooray! They stuck the landing! A great end to a great series, perfect for lit nerds.

The last clump of graphic novels I read in May I didn’t love. June’s batch knocked it out of the park. Loved ‘em all.

Kids and Young Adult Books

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. A terrific love story, about a teen who just happens to be gay.

Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones. My boys had balked at reading this first book in the Chrestomanci series, so I read it aloud. They LOVED it and toward the end we had to read in huge chunks as they didn’t want to stop. Diana’s books are classic, and great for fans of Harry Potter, as her books were an influence on Rowling.

Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson. Recommended to me by my 11yo son. A novel in free-verse poems about Lonnie, a foster kid separated from his sister. Lovely and moving. I followed it with

Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson, which neither my son nor I loved as much–it was letters, not free verse poems.

Story of a Girl
by Sara Zarr. I read it because young adult authors Carrie Mesrobian and Chrisa Desir did a close read of an amazing long passage in it.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. This book is flat-out amazing. An artist autobiography in free-verse poetry of Woodson’s life, which started in Columbus, Ohio, then moved to South Carolina, then New York City.

Crossover by Kwame Alexander. A novel in free verse about a teen boy who plays basketball, fights with his twin brother, and struggles with his parents and their rules. I didn’t love it as much as Brown Girl Dreaming, but it probably would have more appeal to boys.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Some would argue this is an “adult” book, but on this reading, it struck me that the heroes and villains are very clear cut–there aren’t many ambiguities to this book. Racism is far more complicated than this book implies. But it is as moving, as silly and sad, as ever.

Guy in Real Life
by Steve Brezenoff. Out drinking one night, teenage Lesh literally runs into a mystery girl. Grounded by his parents, he starts playing line role-playing games, and tries to strike up a friendship at school with the girl. I have no interest in D & D type games yet I fell hard for this book. The characters are great, and there is a twist toward the end that I didn’t see coming but made perfect sense, and made me see many things in new ways. A great book to give kids about the hazards of internet life.


Remember when I used to read primarily fiction? I’ve become a memoir junkie.

Tailings by Kaethe Schweyn. I was lucky enough to hear the author read part of this aloud at a local event. It’s about her year at a religious community during and after a painful breakup, and about how she puts herself back together. There is nature, religion, and coming of age all intertwined in beautiful writing.

Baghdad Express by Joel Turnipseed. I didn’t know I knew the author of this book, but when I figured out I did, I finally read this memoir of the early Gulf War from the perspective of a young Marine and philosophy student. With meditations on time and growing up, it’s not what you’d expect from a Marine’s memoir.

Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola. Hepola, an editor at, was a blackout drinker for decades before getting help. She is extraordinarily honest, sometimes funny, often tragic, in telling her story.

H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald. In the aftermath of her father’s death, a woman gets and trains a wild bird. This book is filled with astonishingly beautiful prose, as well as nature and history. I was enraptured.

Other Non-Fiction

Although of Course You End up Becoming Yourself by David Lipsky. The transcript of the interview over days that Lipsky did with David Foster Wallace at the end of his book tour for Infinite Jest in 1996. It’s the basis for the film The End of the Tour, which I found pretty good, though not great. Lipsky is significantly absent in the narrative, and I’m not sure who OK’d putting the afterword BEFORE the book, but whoever did should be given a smack to the head. But it was a joy reading great gouts of DFW and trying to puzzle him out.

Missoula by Jon Krakauer. A harrowing investigation into a series of rapes and accusations in a college town in Montana.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. This could also have gone under memoir, as it’s written as a letter to his teenage son, but since it’s about race and the world today in all it’s messiness, I think it goes way beyond memoir. It’s not a long book, but a deep one. Everyone should read it.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. I recommended this to my parents before I read it, then they read it and kept bugging me to read it. A searching and moving look into the process of dying in the US, which does not devolve into a simplistic “should” narrative, to its immense credit.


The Girl on the Train. I raced through it and it started strong but finished weak, I thought. A great premise, about a woman who is blackout drunk witnesses a crime. But since in blackout, she can’t make long term memories, she can’t simply remember. But then, she does. Sorry, but this book’s ending really annoyed me.

Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie. For my book group, a lifetime collection of the native-American author. I’m glad I finally got around to reading him, as his voice and views are distinct and powerful.

Meadowlands, poems by Louise Gluck. This was a companion read to Homer’s Odyssey and Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad, but came to me via Tailings by Kaethe Schweyn. A series of poems about the breakup of a relationship, as well as poems written from the perspective of Penelope in The Odyssey.

Ruby’s Misadventures in Reality by Samantha Bohrman. A silly, fun murder mystery and romance. It made me laugh aloud many times.

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert. A fast fun romance about a young chef who falls for a food critic who panned her restaurant, which kills her dream. It’s set in Milwaukee and full of delicious food and local details. I now owe my younger son a coconut cake, as he was as mesmerized by the cover cake as I was.

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. If you have been in academia, you should read this book, a novel in letters, but specifically recommendation letters. At first it’s funny, but then it gets oh-so-sad, but this is an utter gem of a novel.

And that’s it for my summer reading. It was a blast and I loved so many of these books. Only one–The Girl on the Train–was truly disappointing. I finished 28 books (many of which were fast reads like graphic novels, kid books and romances, but still–lots!) How do I do it, many friends ask? My kids are older now–9 and 12 and able to take care of themselves. Also, my house is a mess and I do laundry infrequently and I do not have a full time office job.

INFINITE JEST readalong pages 489-538

Monday, 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. Images from BrickJest.

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 does not want to hug 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 tape discussed by 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

Friday, August 28th, 2015


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.


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

Tuesday, 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:


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.


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.


Tuesday, 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

Wednesday, 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


Sunday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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.


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

Wednesday, 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

Monday, July 20th, 2015


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.


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.


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

Monday, July 20th, 2015

If you, too, want this program to end, or at least stop being delivered to your home, you can go to or better, call at 612-673-7305.

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

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

Monday, 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:


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

Monday, 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.


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.


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.