INFINITE JEST Readalong pp 575-619

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?

13 Responses to “INFINITE JEST Readalong pp 575-619”

  1. V Says:

    I gather we learn more about Don later now. But has there been anything so far to rule him out as black? Because that’s how I’ve been seeing him in my mind’s eye.

    Salon would be fine by me but I’m a big reader of 5 or 10 pages at a time, too.

  2. Heidi Says:

    Stuff happens indeed; the wrong guy gets shot.

    Admit to skipping endnote 234 for the time being. Will loop back later and catch up w/ all things despicable about Orin.

    Anyone else catch the mysterious reference to yrstrly on p.560?!? WTF?!? Is yrstrly… Lenz?!?!?

    Also, I’d love to hear more from others re: DFW and what Mary Karr asserted about his IJ characters, particularly those in the recovery thread of his narrative.

  3. Heidi Says:

    Almost forgot. Favorite passage: “If you close your eyes on a busy urban sidewalk the sound of everybody’s different footwear’s footsteps all put together sounds like something getting chewed by something huge and tireless and patient.” Gem.

  4. girldetective Says:

    No, yrstruly is Minty, I forget where it became clear. But the inmates are all picking up on stuff from each other, and Lenz must’ve picked up calling himself yrstruly from Minty.

    Having read Every Love Story is a Ghost Story and the Lipsky book, DFW has a history of putting too much fact in his fiction, and too much fiction in his essays. The fact that Joelle is from Kentucky, not TX, and has strawberry hair, not brunette, is probably a testament to his being convinced to change some things. But the drug dealer with harelip and snakes–that guy was real. He appears in one of Karrs memoirs. Don is based on Big Craig a guy from the real house, but how to figure out whose details are real and whose made up–well, isn’t that part of fiction? Dani Shapiro, an author who wrote a novel about her life, then a memoir, said that she should’ve written the memoir first, because the stuff people complained about in the novel as unbelievable was true, and the stuff they said was boring was what she’d made up.

    Aside from the general hinkiness of stealing people’s stories and using them as fodder for fiction, though, DFW was stealing from people in a supposedly anonymous program. Not cool, dude. That said, some of it has to be exaggerated, unless my experience in DC recovery was way tamer than Boston. But maybe because I was in NW, and not other parts of DC. And yet, now that I think about it, I’ve heard some pretty out there stuff.

  5. Heidi Says:

    “Hinkiness” is a great word. ;)

    Yeah, as I mentioned in an earlier comment, I know authors of fiction plumb their own real lives for details of their writing. Like you though, I feel queasy abt DFW lifting characters and stories – in a way where ppl can clearly ID themselves – from a program which strives to honor anonymity. Kind of a dick move.

  6. girldetective Says:

    I think it’s important to keep in mind, and you had noticed this early on, DFW was kind of a dick. He was somewhat sometimes aware of it, sometimes trying to address it, but he was a super privileged, ultra educated, extraordinarily intelligent white guy. There’s very little in what I have read about him and by him that makes me believe he was aware enough of his white male rich privilege. He was no saint, and merits no pedestal. Yet, he was also a damn good writer, and IJ, like other works of great literature, makes me think, and want to be a better person.

  7. Heidi Says:

    SO agree. I’m reminded of how I feel about other privileged white male authors, who write the brilliant prose I enjoy reading, but kinda such at being good humans (Franzen, Amis (fils et père), Barnes, Joyce, Chatwin, etc.).

    Remind me who Minty is again? 😉 Man, if you thought Joyce’s characters were hard to keep track of, for IJ I really could use a good character map (HA!) / tree to keep all the relationships straight. Anyone come across a good one?

  8. V Says:

    I’ve cringed at most of the long endnotes, but I enjoyed 234, if only for its Charlie Brown adult to kid nature.

    I’ve assumed any mystery narrator portions to be Hugh, or Helen, Steeply. That’s who is in the green car before/around the Eschaton portions, n’est-ce pas?

  9. girldetective Says:

    The Charlie Brown structure of Q followed by answer is pretty much the structure of Lipsky’s book–he often erases himself from it.

  10. Heidi Says:

    Kristin, you’ve read several books about DFW now. Which do you recommend and why?

  11. girldetective Says:

    As my 9yo would correct, I’ve read a couple: Every Love Story is a Ghost Story by DT Max, and Although of Course You End up Being Yourself by Lipsky. Both are worthwhile and expand my understanding of IJ and DFW. I’ve only read IJ, Consider the Lobster, and This is Water of his, so I want to read them all. Lit by Karr also gives us a window into DFW at the time of his recovery, which is interesting given it’s what he’s portraying somewhat fictionally in IJ.

    The Max is worthwhile because it’s an exhaustively researched bio, with lots of quotes from letters he wrote, and gives the long view of his life and work. The Lipsky is good because it’s like spending three days with DFW in the direct aftermath of the DFW IJ hype. It is a quick read.

    Further DFW bio stuff that relates to this week’s reading. It is dedicated to a relative (paternal grandfather, I think?) and the RIP was a dig, as if to say, good riddance. Also, he and his mother were long estranged after the pub of IJ. I think there’s a lot of Sally Foster Wallace in Avril.

  12. Beth Says:

    Caught up to p. 619 and holy cats, poor Don Gately! :(

    Favorite phrasings:

    “It’s weird to feel like you miss someone you’re not even sure you know.” (589)

    “Residents on mess responded to the sound of the meds locker the way a cat responds to the sound of a can-opener.” (593)

    Also, nice comparison to ULYSSES, Steven and Kristin!

  13. Beth Says:

    Caught up to p. 619 and holy cats, poor Don Gately! :(

    Favorite phrasings:

    “It’s weird to feel like you miss someone you’re not even sure you know.” (589)

    “Residents on mess responded to the sound of the meds locker the way a cat responds to the sound of a can-opener.” (593)

    Also, nice comparison to ULYSSES, Steven and Kristin!