“Infinite Jest”: Week 5

As part of Infinite Summer, I’m at page 390 of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, or about 40% through it. The past week’s pages featured two very long segments, one on a nuclear arms race game that the students at Enfield Tennis Academy play, and another on the ethnography of Boston AA. Both sections had few breaks and were tough to read, but both, as is typical of the book, were full of humor, pathos and increasing connections between characters we’ve met previously.

On AA old-timers, known as Crocodiles in Boston AA:

Of course–the Crocodiles dig at each other with their knobby elbows and guffaw and wheeze–they say when they tell Gately to either Hang In AA and get rabidly Active or else die in slime of course it’s only a suggestion. They howl and choke and slap their knees at this. It’s your classic in-type joke. There are, by ratified tradition, no ‘musts’ in Boston AA. No doctrine or dogma or rules. They can’t kick you out. You don’t have to do what they say. Do exactly as you please–if you still trust what seems to please you. The Crocodiles roar and wheeze and pound on the dash and bob in the front seat in abject AA mirth. (356)

This made me wonder, briefly, if I could approach parenting my small children this way. “Drake, I suggest you: look both ways before crossing the street/get that Lego out of your mouth/quit hitting your little brother Guppy/stop calling me stupid.” Then wait for whatever inevitable reaction/consequence there is, then laugh at him. I don’t think this would work very well.

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