INFINITE JEST readalong pp 755-808

Welcome back, Infinite Jest-ers. This post is a little late due to my cramming in the ending of Donna Tartt’s Secret History, which I now regret, as that book is way better for the first 3/5 and cramming in the rest on a beautiful sunny day, albeit on a porch, filled me with retroactive resentment.

Also because, ahem, a handful of you are slacking, though of course for perfectly understandable reasons because, life. Anyway, let’s all of us make an effort to catch up/keep up for these next few weeks, and the final chapter, 28.

This was the penultimate chapter, 27. It was the longest, as Circe was in Ulysses. Also, do you see a resemblance in these two images?


I posted this during the Ulysses readalong, and it’s from Amanda Visconti’s Literature Geek, and it’s a chart of the crossovers of the many characters in the Wandering Rocks chapter of Ulysses.

It looks kind of like this from Brain Pickings on visualizing Infinite Jest, no?


Chapter 27 is when many of the many characters overlap, and we find out much more about all of them.

Fair warning. If this seems like DFW is ramping up to weave all the threads into a satisfying whole in the last chapter, I’d say instead to beware of the holes. Like Penelope, he’s weaving a lot, but not with the goal of a whole tapestry, but rather a hole-y one. (Oh, I shudder to think at the puns Vince might make, here.)

He said the books was like a Sierpinski gadget, depicted on Pemulis’ wall in the book, and it is full of holes:

Sierpinski gadget

I’m going to have to leave this for the moment and go to work, so a more detailed breakdown of the pages to come, but for those who are up to page, please comment and ask questions.

Greg Carlisle in Elegant Complexity, notes that chapter 27 is concerned in each subsection with horrors, secrets, pursuits, and surprises.

A few quick notes before I go.

1. Did Pemulis HAVE to put up that joke flyer about how often 17 goes into 56? Would Avril be so hell bent on expelling him? Also, why DOESN’T he now shout from the hilltops that Avril was diddling John NR Wayne? Did Wayne let that out in his Tenuate induced verbal vomiting?

Oh, Mikey Pemulis, I fear for you, I really do. Did you notice how he was removed from the main text, and only appeared in notes to reflect his disappearing status in the novel?

2. Don Gately is similarly mostly missing in this chapter. He’s shown sleeping in a flashback to before the Nuck event from last chapter, then he’s getting his brow mopped by Joelle. Carlisle notes that there’s a Don Gately shaped hole in chapter 27.

Oh, and how about Molly Notkin’s interview, one of several things that gives us tons of info we’ve been wondering about, like the acid attack, like how Avril might have been diddling Orin, and yay Molly for giving fake names and saying Joelle is far away. Go, Molly!

Avril has an ONANTA blue blazer hanging in her office, is it from the urine analyzer, and did she confer favor on him to protect Hal? Why is there pom pom hanging out of her trash can days after Pemulis caught her with them with John Wayne? Has there been a repeat performance?

More later.

And here is the more, later! Edited to Add (ETA, heh, heh)

pp. 755-769 Mario is on walkabout filming, then going to see Avril, who is so creepy as a mother trying way too hard, perhaps explained by coming from two generations of abusive alcoholics.

pp 769-774 Mario and Hal talking but not connecting. Mario is asking Hal for specifics, but Hal is talking about dreams.

pp 774-782 Kate Gompert went into a bar where Marathe is, they bond and Marathe offers to take her to see the Entertainment.

pp 782-785 Hal admits to Mario that he’s been smoking pot, and they talk about lying. Note 332 has the now offstage Pemulis tutoring Hal in math plus giving dodgy advice to Hal about quitting drugs.

pp 785-787 Johnette is filling in for Don at Ennet House when Hal comes in asking for a guide to meetings in the area, which were also known as “Where and Whens” when yrstruly, the moderator here, was attempting recovery in DC

And for your entertainment, a DFW-ian digression. Before leaving rehab, I was handed a Where & When and told to pick the meeting I would attend on release. There was one near where I lived that night. I walked to it in the January cold, up and down M Street but there was no number that matched the address, only a black metal gate on an alley in the approximate space where the address said it was. I shook the gate and called out, then returned home, paranoid that this was a sign from the universe, and that I would promptly start drinking again because I hadn’t followed directions. I called the number on the booklet, and was told that since the booklet was so new (the opposite of Hal’s problem) it listed the address of a meeting that was moving, and was still in its old space, about a block away. I went there the next day, and continued to not drink.

p 787 is note 324 with Pemulis again offstage counselling poor Possalthwaite.

pp 787-795 Molly Notkin is interviewed by Rodney Tine Jr and the USOUS and we learn that Joelle really is hideously injured behind the veil. Molly steers them away from Joelle by giving false info.

p 795 is note 334 where Pemulis is given the shoe by ETA.

pp 795-808 is an excruciatingly detailed segment on how Hal goes to the wrong meeting because of an outdated guide. He sees Kevin Bain, older brother of Marlon, Orin’s former doubles partner. This section walked the line between funny and painful. I was amused by the guy feeding yogurt to his teddy bear.

OK, I’m off now to detail the next section, but wanted to embiggen this one properly. Hope this helped.

4 Responses to “INFINITE JEST readalong pp 755-808”

  1. David Says:

    I like the idea of the story coming together, but I’m ok with with holes being left. Nothing needs to be nice and tidy, just so DFW brings these characters to a meaningful connection.
    I hadn’t noticed that Pemulis was relegated to the footnotes. Poor guy, but he’s not a saint either an deserves much of what is coming to him.

  2. Heidi Says:

    So, WTF does endnote 332 have to do w/ the preceding interrogation of Molly Notkin re: Madame Psychosis’ psychoses & the purported Infinite Jest (V) or (VI)?!? Have to say I’m really losing patience w/ the endnotes, partic when they make me feel like I’m being punk’d by some convoluted digression from any of the already overly complicated 3 main narratives.

  3. girldetective Says:

    Heidi, this might be a formatting issue in the e-book, but note 332 is its own chapter, relegated in entirety to the end note, because Pemulis is being hustled offstage by the author. So 332 is not the endnote to Molly Notkin’s section, it’s a Pemulis section between Molly’s and Hal going to his first meeting.

    I’m not sure this will make you feel better about them, but the endnotes are intentionally disruptive, just like our attention is constantly pulled in different directions. Annoying, but reflective of life.

  4. V Says:

    If you’re anticipating the puns, then my work is done.