INFINITE JEST readalong pp 855-902

We’re in the home stretch, everyone! Fewer than 80 pages to go! Hang in there, or catch up already, because reading this is a process, and finishing is an event! We are mostly going between Don and Hal in this section, and Hal comes to life, even as he hardly moves, in ways he didn’t previously in the book. Unlike last week’s section, we don’t see the wraith in Don G’s room.


pp 854-864 Don wakes to Joelle in his room for real, wiping his brow, and he doesn’t remember her previous visits. She talks about a meeting she went to, he realizes that if he treats the pain like sobriety, just taking it a moment at a time, he can abide.

He hadn’t quite gotten this before now, how it wasn’t just the matter of riding out the cravings for a Substance: everything unendurable was in the head, was the head not Abiding in the Present but hopping the wall and doing a recon and then returning with unendurable news you then somehow believed. (861)

Don imagines then tries not to entertain fantasies of him and Joelle in the future. He reminds himself she’s only about three weeks sober, yet it’s more like 9 days, so his subconscious is already playing with him.

In Boston AA, newcomer-seducing is called 13th stepping and is regarded as the province of true bottom-feeders. It’s predation. Newcomers come in so whacked out, clueless and scared, their nervous systems still on the outside of their bodies and throbbing from detox, and so desperate to escape their own interior, to lay responsibility for themselves at the feet of something as seductive and consuming as their former friend the Substance. To avoid the mirror AA hauls out in front of them. To avoid acknowledging their old dear friend the Substance’s betrayal, and grieving it…One of Boston AA’s stronger suggestions is that newcomers avoid all romantic relationships for at least a year. (863)

(Aside from yrstruly who got in a relationship at 6 months with someone who had 9 months. The relationship lasted five years, exploded spectacularly, and is a great example of why the “no relationships in the first year” suggestion is rock solid and should be respected.)

pp. 864-876 Hal continues to narrate in first person. A display says it’s 11-18 but in reality it is 20 November as noted on p. 851. Time is slippery in this section and in the book in general. Hal encounters Ortho Stice, who has his forehead stuck to a window in a weird suction event. Ortho says someone (the Wraith?) had been behind him a while back and asks if Hal believes in the ‘parabnormal’. Hal goes for Kenkle and Brandt, the janitors, whose banter is reminiscent of the gravediggers in Hamlet. They ask Hal why he looks like he’s laughing, and we get another incident, as happened with Kate Gompert and Kevin Bain, where hilarity and grief are hard to tell apart. Troeltsch comes out of Axhandle’s room, raising (NB not ‘begging’, an incorrect usage at which DFW would likely shudder) the questions of where Axhandle is, and why Troeltsch is in the room. (Hiding from Pemulis because of the Tenuate/Seldane switcheroo that caused the John Wayne on-air meltdown?) Also, who is the figure in the bleachers letting themself get snowed on?

pp 876-883 Transcript of official meeting about an upcoming PSA to be released in the Year of Glad for kids featuring Fully Functional Phil, literally an ass, telling kids to avoid mysterious cartridges. Tine Jr is tapping a ruler (like the one his dad uses to obsessively measure his penis?) and Tine Senior is annoyed but also tapping with a retracting pointer (like the retracting ruler he takes on the road to measure his penis.) We have more of the absurdist humor of the Inner Infant meeting, and while the cartridge is blamed on those pesky Canadians, we the readers know it originated in, gasp, BOSTON. And if it spreads, then the year of Glad will have a whole bunch of people who are both glad and flaccid receptacles.

pp 883-896 Don gets a visit from a doctor who tries to talk him in to painkillers and his sponsor who advises him to ask for help. But then, it’s a dream! Gately is reminded of how much he loved Demerol

Kite used to say Gately shot cement instead of narcotics. (893)

He’s visited by McDade and Diehl who have just come from visiting Dooney Glynn, who accepted painkillers for his diverticulitis, further tempting Don. They say that Lenz has been seen, high and in disguise, and that he likely has the missing .44. (This is before Lenz is taken by the AFR to the Antitoi’s shop), yet the gun wasn’t listed among Lenz’s possessions in the inventory on pages 717-718.

pp 896-902 Hal gets dizzy and goes into Viewing Room 5 to lie down. On the bottom of p 900 and then 901, we get details of Avril and Tavis, which are that Avril’s dad married a homodontic (like Mario, or not?) dwarf who brought an infant into the marriage, which was Charles, so if Avril was adopted by the new wife, she would be the adoptive sister of CT, plus a half sister, as they would have the same adopted mom and different dads. In any case, effed up. Both Hal and Gately are horizontal, and yet are mentally lively narrators. Are they the heroes of non-action, from p. 142?

What did everyone else think?

Just two more weeks: catch up and keep up!

11/3 pp 902-941
11/10 941-981 THE END

2 Responses to “INFINITE JEST readalong pp 855-902”

  1. Heidi Says:

    We’re that the previous 100s of pages as easy to read as these last 100s. I have opinions about DFW’s “success” in trying to braid these convoluted and many-dimensional 3 main narratives together. Will save for the afterparty. Which, speaking of….

  2. David Says:

    I very much enjoyed this section. Gately’s struggles seem extremely tough and I couldn’t imagine going through the pain he is. My mind gets wonky enough with the common flu. Coming in and out of consciousness like that while trying to keep your addictive personality at bay would be Hell.
    I also, very much liked reading Hal’s narrative. He’s alive for the first time in the book, narrating through his own voice. Also, poor Stice, but also hilarious.