INFINITE JEST readalong pp 538-575

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?

One Response to “INFINITE JEST readalong pp 538-575”

  1. Heidi Says:

    Hat tip to Vince who posted a link to the Fresh Air interview w/ Mary Karr; I recommend all InfiniTC-ers have a listen.

    I think readers of fiction love to speculate about facts underlying the narrative. Particularly when it comes to characters. How much of any character is based on someone In Real Life? I know it’s been mentioned that Joelle van D, aka Madame Psychosis, aka PGOAT, was based on Mary Karr and some of us on Twitter have wondered about the inspiration for characters such as Don Gately and the truly psychotic Randy Lenz.

    This is where the Fresh Air interview comes in. I honestly had to pause and re-center as Karr described seeing early drafts of IJ w/ characters literally bearing the names of and stories lifted from Real People DFW knew in AA and NA. This knowledge makes me feel pretty squeamy. Granted, Karr still seems to be working out a metric shedload of anger towards her former boyfriend and isn’t, as she herself admits, infallible when it comes to the recollection of times past. Still… Um, yeah.

    Would love to hear what others think of all this.