August 11th, 2015

This week we have readjusted the schedule for pages 321-379. Who’s with me. Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?

Since I already posted the Decemberist’s tribute, the Eschaton video here, I will post what Steve M. emailed me after I asked him about who might be narrating the Eschaton section. Is it Hal? Is it the author? Is it the narrator, and if so, who is s/he?


OK, so Wallace goes to some trouble to make it appear that this account of the Eschaton is not just Hal’s POV but written by Hal. Exhibit A in this is how footnote 123 begins, “Pemulis here, dictating to Inc” and eventually gets to Pemulis saying, “It’s going to be interesting to see if [sic] Hal, who thinks he’s just too slyly trying to outline Eschaton in the 3rd-person tense [sic]”. Sidenote: The way Hal uses the “[sic]”s to dig at Pemulis is super-fun and just a slick meta way to get at a set of characters and their relationship.

This is more or less enforced throughout the chapter because Hal is — again more or less (and we’ll get to this) — the only character whose interior we get access to. To wit: “whom Axford keeps growling at under his breath, Hal can hear”; “Hal … is struggling with a strong desire to get high again for the second time since breakfast”; “Hal, who’s declining all public chemicals, he’s decided”; etc. The events unfold from his perspective, i.e. we are not party to the discussion about terms between AMNAT and SOVWAR but instead only see that it’s happening. All communication from the court is shouted, whereas conversation on the Gatorade pavilion is directly reported. (Although it’s interesting to note that Wallace includes a footnote telling us that Pemulis does not actually say “breath and bread” at one point, reinforcing the idea that this is a report written by Hal from memory.)

The one major departure from this is where we’re given an interior perspective of Ingersoll: “The exact utility transformations are too oogly for an Ingersoll who’s still grappling with fractions, but he can see clearly that this’d be the most remorselessly logical best-interest-conducive scenario for both LaMont Chu and especially the Sleepster, Peterson, who’s hated Ingersoll for months now anyways without any good reason or cause or anything, Ingersoll can just somehow tell.” That’s a pretty big POV break, although the next paragraph maybe cuts back against it by handing the reigns back over to Hal with a hint that the above is speculative (“Hal … watches Ingersoll bob on his haunches … cerebrate furiously and logically conclude …”).

But so for the sake of argument let’s overlook that lapse or exercise of literary fiat and call this a close third on Hal Incadenza. The next big question on POV is to determine at what distance this story is being related. It’s written in the present tense, but if we follow the lead of the Pemulis footnote, it seems clear that this is written by Hal after the fact, but not long after the fact, I think. It has the sense of being almost immediately after the action, almost as if he’s supposed to be explaining what happened to someone else.

So who is that someone else? It’s someone who doesn’t know what Eschaton is, most obviously, but it also doesn’t feel like it’s being told to someone in a place of power. That is, although it has an almost deposition-like quality, it’s not intended to get him out of trouble. It seems honest — any deception in the telling seems like it’s part of Hal’s POV and not something conscious on his part.

The book as a whole obviously incorporates multiple POVs of varying distance, reliability and time. There are many chapters where the POV is Hal’s, but some of them are first-person, some are third-person, and they vary in how close the third-persons are and also distance in time from the events. This has to be one of the closest, although I also love what he does toward the end of the chapter where Hal becomes a kind of all-seeing eye of what’s happening, with events that are happening almost simultaneously get pulled apart and lined up. Also maybe noteworthy? This may be the first hint of his future problems when he touches his face to see if he is in fact wincing.

New Reading Schedule for Infinite Jest

August 5th, 2015

Here’s a proposed new reading schedule for Infinite Jest, since 70 pages a week plus endnotes is a pretty punishing pace. In this, the longest section is 63 pages (one of the complete chapters, so a good reason to read that much) while the longer chapters are split over multiple weeks, and the pages about 45-55.

For those of us ahead, it will give us some breathing room in August. For those just getting to 321, this might be easier to keep up with.

What do you think?

8/11 pp 321-379
8/18 pp 380-442
8/25 pp 442-489
9/1 pp 489-538
9/8 pp 538-575
9/15 pp 575-619
9/22 pp 619-665
9/29 pp 665-711
10/6 pp 711-755
10/13 pp 755-808
10/20 pp 809-854
10/27 pp 854-902
11/3 pp 902-941
11/10 941-981 THE END


August 2nd, 2015

Who is reading along, and what page are you on? We’ve got folks all over the map (or is it the territory?) and I want to get a sense of what would help those who are behind.

INFINITE JEST commentary week 6, 321-398

July 29th, 2015

Eschaton! Contrasts between children and adults, maps versus territories, real versus fake, tennis academy versus Boston AA.

I have to keep it brief this week, and but so, I’ll include one of my favorite tributed to Infinite Jest, the Decemberist’s video for The Calamity Song, an homage to Eschaton.

Infinite Jest Summery week 6: pp. 321-398

July 29th, 2015

This week’s summer-y, taken verbatim from Infinite Summer, and not edited one jot or tittle even though I’m pretty sure I could make it better but I’m reading the e-version this week, which I don’t care for:

Page 321 — 8 NOVEMBER / YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT INTERDEPENDENCE DAY / GAUDEAMUS IGTUR: The E.T.A. students play Eschaton, The Atavistic Global-Nuclear-Conflict Gameâ„¢.

Page 343 — 8 NOVEMBER / YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT INTERDEPENDENCE DAY / GAUDEAMUS IGTUR: An exhaustive description of the Boston AA chapter and a meeting in which several speakers relate unthinkable horrors.

Chapters Read:

Page 343 — 8 NOVEMBER / YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT INTERDEPENDENCE DAY / GAUDEAMUS IGTUR: Mario’s semi-fictional film “The ONANTiad”, which documents (a) the rise of Johnny Gentle from Famous Crooner to head of the Clean U.S. Party and then President of the (then) United States; (b) the establishment of the Organization of North American Nations; (c) the creation and subsequent expatriation of the Great Con(cav|vex)ity; and (d) the origins of subsidized time.

Page 394: Lyle dispenses advice to students down in the weight room, including “don’t underestimate objects”.

Page 395: Descriptions of the James Incandeza films The Medusa vs. the Odalisque and THE JOKE.


The Incandenzas

James Orin Incandenza: Filmmaker, founder of the Enfield Tennis Academy, committed suicide by putting his head in a microwave over. Nicknames include Himself, The Mad Stork, and The Sad Stork.

Avril Incandenza (née Mondragon): Jame’s Widow, heavily involved in the running of E.T.A., affiliated with the Militant Grammarians. Nickname: The Moms.

Hal Incandenza: The youngest of the three Incandenza children. One of the novel’s protagonists.

Mario Incandenza: The middle child. Born with deformities; also a filmmaker (like his father).

Orin Incandenza: The elder Incandenza. A punter for the Arizona Cardinals, serial womanizer, and cockroach killer.

Charles Tavis: The head of E.T.A. since James Incandenza’s death. Avril’s half- or adoptive brother.

The Enfield Tennis Academy

Michael Pemulis: Hal’s best friend; prankster, drug dealer, undisputed Eschaton champion, and not destine for The Show.

John “No Relation” Wayne: The top-ranked player at ETA. John Wayne was discovered by James Incandenza during interviews of men named John Wayne for a film.

Other Prominent E.T.A. Students: Ortho “The Darkness” Stice, Jim Troelsch, Trevor (“The Axhandle”) Axford, Ann Kittenplan, Ted Schacht, LaMont Chu, U.S.S. Millicent Kent (tried to seduce Mario!).

Lyle: Sweat-licking guru who lives in the E.T.A. weight room and dispenses advice.

The Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House

Don Gately: Former thief and Demerol addict, now counselor in residence at the Ennet House.

Joelle Van Dyne (a.k.a “Madame Psychosis and P.G.O.A.T, The Prettiest Girl of All Time”): Radio talkshow host; former lover to Orin, starred in many of James Incandenza films; wears a veil.

Kate Gompert: A cannabinoid addict who suffers from extreme unipolar depression.

Pat Montesian: The Ennet House manager.

Ken Erdedy: A cannabinoid addict.

Bruce Green: Ex-husband of Mildred Bonk-Green.

Tiny Ewell A lawyer with dwarfism who is obsessed with tattoos.

Other Prominent Ennet House residents: Randy Lenz, Geoffrey Day, Emil Minty.


Hugh Steeply (a.k.a. Helen Steeply): Agent for the Office of Unspecified Services; currently in disguise as a female reporter profiling Orin.

Remy Marathe: Member of the Wheelchair Assassins (separatists) and quadruple-agent who secretly talks to Hugh Steeply.

Poor Tony Krause (P.T. Krause): Almost killed by Drano-spiked heroin, accidentally steals a woman’s artificial heart, has a seizure while in withdrawal.

INFINITE JEST Readalong Wk 5 Comments p. 258-351

July 29th, 2015

Aaaand, how about that 17-page footnote about what’s going on in Canada? Which was followed by a conversation between Marathe and Steeply to give more insight into the Canadian situation.

This week’s (which is already last week’s by the time I’m typing it, ostensibly because most readers were behind, and also because I was feeling the crazytown bananapants aspect of high summer.)

So, for pages 258-351, we are getting deeper into some of the people/things that have been broached, like Orin, Poor Tony, (poor Tony, indeed) and Canadian politics.

Keep in mind that the moon symbols are chapter divisions, so what’s in them is thematically connected. For example, contrast Orin’s life with poor Tony’s. Orin, whose helicopter Moms is so compelled to not interfere that she runs out of rooms, while poor Tony’s dad declares him dead to him because of his sex and gender preferences. Orin, whose life is changed, ostensibly for the better, by a random set of circumstances. Poor Tony, who may not even survive the subway ride.

The conversation between M & S reminds me of some of the themes Jonathan Franzen, a friend/rival of DFW’s in life, explored in his novel Freedom. Unlike Infinite Jest, I will not be re-reading Freedom. I wish I could scrub my mind of it, actually, and I know at least one of the #InfiniTC readers feels simliarly (hi, Heidi!)

We see many of the continuing themes of freedom, addiction, and waste.

What did you notice, and like, from this week?

Infinite Summer-y week 5 pp 258-321

July 20th, 2015


Page 258: 6 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. ETA plays Port Washington in a tennis match.

Page 270: Don Gately, now on staff at the Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House, councils the newest resident Geoffrey Day.

Page 281: Having defeated Port Washington, the ETA gang returns home on a bus.


Page 283: All about Orin: how he made the transition from tennis to football, and his relationship with the PGOAT, Joelle Van Dyne.

Page 299: 17 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. Poor Tony undergoes a week of withdrawal, first in a dumpster then in a library restroom, culminating in a seizure while riding the train.


Page 306: 7 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. An overview of the prorectors’ weekend courses (including “The Toothless Predator: Breast-Feeding as Sexual Assault”!), plus a description of some anti-O.N.A.N. activity by the separatists (mirrors across the road). This section includes the 14 112 17-page “endnote 110”³, a conversation between Hal and Orin regarding the true motives of the separatists.

Page 312: The birth and life of Mario Incandenza.

page 317 — 30 APRIL / 1 MAY / YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: Marathe and Steeply discuss the American concept of freedom (e.g., freedom from, not freedom to).

A Program I Hate: Twin Cities Values

July 20th, 2015

If you, too, want this program to end, or at least stop being delivered to your home, you can go to or better, call at 612-673-7305.

The letter I sent today to the Star Tribune, about their abominable Twin Cities Values Program:

I’m the block leader for my neighborhood, and I am disappointed and even disgusted by the Twin Cities Values program. I entreat you to discontinue it.

Yesterday, I went to houses on our block to invite my neighbors to our National Night Out gathering. More than half of the houses had two TCV bags on the front walk, many soggy from recent rains.

This says to me that people do not want this item. Since it is not requested, you are foisting it on them, which even if it conforms to the letter of the law regarding solicitation, it disregards the intent. Since many do not bother to even pick it up–that’s how much they disdain and disregard it–I see clear evidence that your program is not appreciated. Please discontinue this program.

For many of the neighbors who were home yesterday, I brought the bags up to their house. Today, I went and collected the ones that were still out, and I’ve included a picture of the soggy, ugly pile. This pile would have been at least doubled if I’d done it yesterday.

Every time this program has been tried over the years, I call and ask to have my address removed. But the program starts again, I get them again, I have to call again. I called last week and was assured that for this round, the delivery would stop. I received a TCV. I called again today.

The woman I spoke to today said she was not able to give me information on who runs this program. I am disappointed in your utter lack of accountability for this literally trashy program.

I will be contacting the Better Business Bureau as well as the city, 311, and complaining to my councilperson, Kevin Reich, since you already have ignored my request this time, and haven’t carried it over from past times.

I will be posting this ugly photo on Facebook and Twitter, asking my friends and neighbors to also call to end delivery. I will also send this to the paper’s editor.

This program is a blight on Twin Cities. I think I’ve made it clear how much I despise and revile it. This does not reflect well on the Star Tribune, an institution I admire. Please, end Twin Cities Values.

INFINITE JEST readalong week 4 #InfiniTC

July 13th, 2015

Oh, I am so nerdishly excited to pick this week’s image for our section of Infinite Jest, pages 181-258, chapters 16 to 18. (I am so glad I repaginated this readalong–the one from Infinite Summer is really wack. Or is it whack?) Speaking of w(h?)ack:

Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Teresa

Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Teresa

[Joelle] always sees, after inhaling, right at the apex, at the graph’s spike’s tip, Bernini’s ‘Ecstasy of St. Teresa,’ behind glass, at the Vittoria, for some reason, the saint recumbent, half-supine, her flowing stone robe lifted by the angel in whose other hand a bare arrow is raised for that best descent, the saint’s legs frozen in opening, the angel’s expression not charity but the perfect vice of barb-headed love. (IJ 235)

I love Bernini, and I got to see this sculpture in person the third time I went to Rome. The first time I didn’t know to look for it. The second time it was being restored. The third time I was able to see it in all its creepy, ecstatic, lovely weirdness. And isn’t that also a good phrase to describe Infinite Jest?

We spend a lot of time with Joelle is this section, even before we know who she is, which is an interesting, slow reveal, which actually started before this section, of the kind that is easy to spoil in summaries.

But let me back up for a moment, and ask, have you ever darned socks? It’s like weaving, where the threads are initially far apart, and then they cross, then they get pulled tight into a whole. Wait a minute, maybe weaving itself is a better metaphor. Nope, I’m going with darning, because I’ve done it before, though hey, Penelope and the weaving! Anyway, darning, which is basically just weaving in a small specific area, looks like this:


That’s how I’m picturing Infinite Jest, on this, my second reading. DFW sets out a bunch of horizontal lines, then starts putting in some vertical ones that cross, then starts moving them closer together. According to Greg Carlisle’s Elegant Complexity (p20), DFW compared the book to a Sierpinski triangle, which is reinforced by that things mention on page 213 of IJ where Michael Pemulis has an “enormous hand-drawn Sierpinski gasket.” But to me, it feels like we’ve gotten all these threads that first seemed far apart, but then started to cross, and are now coming closer, and the design is becoming more evident, as in the section on tattoos in Ennet House when we learn we’ve met some of the residents before.

Madame Psychosis (a homophonic callback to the Ulysses mentions of ‘metempsychosis’) was one of the actors in the filmography of James O. Incandenza, detailed in the long and difficult note #24. MP started appearing in films during Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad.

In this section, late October of Year of the Depend Undergarment, first we heard the last part of the radio show that comes on before Madame Psychosis’. It’s an enactment of a memory of a son recounting his father’s story about seeing a memorable punt, likely by Orin, described later on page 223 as punter extraordinaire. MP is not seen by her sound engineer. She reads things over background music for an hour, and has five minutes of dead air both before and after. Her topics tend to include football, film, and physical deformities. The building they’re in is structures like a brain, compared to the heart design of Enfield Tennis Academy. Her show is intercut with scenes of Mario and Hall at Headmaster’s house listening to her show and having dinner with Avril and Tavis.

Another connection is that “Madame Psychosis” is another name for DMZ, the weird and powerful hallucinogen that Pemulis procured from some Canadians.

On 7 November YDAU (219), we meet a woman named Joelle at a party, “at the end of her rope and preparing to hang from it.” [FYI, Wallace died in 2008 after hanging himself.] We gradually learn bits about Joelle: she is from Kentucky, wears a veil, is connected to Orin and Jim and YYY, collected things in her purse on the way to the party, gave money to a guy in a wheelchair, and has an addiction with behaviors similar to Erdedy’s on page 17.

Then, like a gift from the narrator, comes a full listing of the subsidized years, and we learn what all the years stand for.

Usage nerds: What do you think the (sic) refers to in “Year of the Yushityu 2007 Mimetic-Resolution-Cartridge-View-Motherboard-Easy-To-Install-Upgrade for Infernatron/InterLace TP Systems for Home, Office, or Mobile” Too many hyphens or possibly not parallel in Home, Office, or Mobile if mobile is adjective not noun?

Sweet baby Jay, I hope to never have to type that year out again.

The unfolding of Joelle’s background–e.g., it’s only on page 225 that it’s confirmed “Joelle Van Dyne, a.k.a. Madame P.”–is perhaps like the adage of a person who’s about to die seeing their life pass before her eyes.

The party is interrupted by the fake CV of Helen Steeply, then we are back to the party, and into the bathroom with Joelle, who has picked a ridiculous place to attempt suicide–the one bathroom at a party.

Why the weird interruptions?

The section ends with a conversation between Orin and Hal. We know both from what Hal has noted (he lies to Orin 60% of the time p. 136) and the section on the decline of videophony that all people are dishonest on the phone. So is he lying to Orin about any of the stuff about his father, since he admits he was lying about clipping the toenails of the second foot. Note how he dodges and feints Orin’s questions, getting in little jabs (with his talons?) about not calling or coming to the funeral. We get an explanation of how someone could commit suicide by putting their head in a microwave, and also that it might have exploded the body but left the head intact so it can be dug up in Year of Glad by Hal and Gately and John ‘No Relation’ Wayne on pages 16-17. (We learned what Wayne’s N.R. stood for this section, too.

The gradual accretion of details is strongly reminiscent of Ulysses, as was the use of words like ‘parallax’, ‘ineluct-’, ‘micturation’, and ‘telemachry’.

What did you notice, what stuck out for you? Is it becoming harder, or easier to read? Have you yet made it past whatever page (and what page was it?) when you gave up on previous reads? Did you find yourself happy to put it down, or want to keep going when you got to 258? And hey, is this entry too long?

Earlier this week I finished David Lipsky’s Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, the book, or perhaps more accurately transcript, of Lipsky’s days-long interview of DFW at the end of the Infinite Jest author tour (last stop was…Minneapolis for Hungry Mind reading and MPR interview!), and the basis for the soon-to-be-released (7/31) film The End of the Tour. It’s fascinating stuff, with lots that’s relevant to reading IJ but I can’t go into that now because I’ve got to go be a soccer mom.

Remember, comment here or tweet with the hashtag #InfiniTC. Don’t stop! Keep going!

The rest of the schedule:

Tu 7-21 discuss and tweet to 321. Stop at: 8 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. INTERDEPENDENCE DAY GAUDEAMUS IGITUR

Tu 7-28 discuss and tweet to 398. Stop at: “FREAK STATUE OF LIBERTY ACCIDENT”

Tu 8-04 discuss and tweet to 489. Stop at: PRE-DAWN. 1 MAY Y.D.A.U. OUTCROPPING

Tu 8-11 discuss and tweet to 538. Stop at: “It is starting to get quietly around Ennet”

Tu 8-18 discuss and tweet to 619. Stop at: “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment: Interlace TelEntertainment, 932/1864”

Tu 8-25 discuss and tweet to 686. Stop at: 11 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “First thing after supper”

Tu 9-1 discuss and tweet to 755. Stop at: 11 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “Part of Mario’s footage”

Tu 9-8 discuss and tweet to 808. Stop at: “The ceiling was breathing”

Tu 9-15 discuss and tweet to 896. Stop at: “I was going to go back up”

Tu 9-22 discuss and tweet to 981. THE END!

Infinite Summer-y Week 4, pp. 181-258

July 13th, 2015

And back to the Infinite Jest summer readalong, covering pages 181-258, chapters 16-18, with the chapters marked by those moon thingies. This summary based on those from the first Infinite Summer back in 2009, but tidied up for accuracy.

circle3Page 181 — LATE OCTOBER YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: The radio show right before Madame Psychosis begins her show at 109-WYYY FM; Hal and Mario listen at the Headmaster’s House.

Page 193: A description of the Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House and the other six buildings on the Enfield Marine Public Heath Hospital complex (down the hill from ETA).

Page 198 — 6 NOVEMBER YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: ETA weight room; more of Lyle, the sweat-licking guru from p 127.

Page 200: A second person narration of things you would learn after spending time in a halfway house, finishing with a long discursion on Tiny Ewell and his fascination with tattoos.

Page 211: Pemulis talking with Hal and Axford about DMZ, the incredibly potent hallucinogen he acquired on pages 169-171 and they discuss how and when they’ll test it before offering it for sale.

circle3Page 219: Joelle Van Dyne attends a film-student party at Molly Notkins and plans to kill herself in the bathroom. Joelle is veiled for some reason we don’t know yet. She is from Western Kentucky. The section mentions connections to Orin and Jim, then backtracks to earlier in the day, when she gave money to a man in a wheelchair.


Year of the Whopper
Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad
Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar
Year of the Perdue Wonderchicken
Year of the Whisper-Quiet Maytag Dishmaster
Year of the Yushityu 2007 Mimetic-Resolution-Cartridge-View-Motherboard-Easy-To-Install-Upgrade For Infernatron/InterLace TP Systems For Home, Office, Or Mobile (sic)
Year of Dairy Products from the American Heartland
Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment
Year of Glad

We return to Joelle’s memories, of Orin, “dodger of flung acid extraordinaire”, an ad she sees in the street of a man in a wheelchair holding a blank disk case in his palm, lineless like the earlier man she gave money to. Details of Joelle’s work with Jim, including an apology movie, see also p. 993’s note. Joelle got cocaine to freebase from Lady Delphina (whose stuff was described by yrstruly on p. 131 as “from bunk..all Monitol and kwai9 you might as well fucking cop XLax or Schweppes”) and talks to a man who asks about her veil of the U.H.I.D., the Union of the Hideously and Improbably Deformed.


Back to Joelle on the way to the party at Molly’s where she used to live with Orin and act in Jim’s films. She wonders about the logistics of Jim’s suicide, watches people dance and listens to fragments of film conversation, some about a mythic “cartridge-as-ecstatic-death” rumor. We learn Joelle is Madame Psychosis, she goes into the bathroom to commit suicide and ends up vomiting instead, perhaps due to the low-grade Lady Delphina stuff.

circle3Page 240: A description of Enfield.

Page 242: 5 NOVEMBER–YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT Hal and Orin speak on the phone. Hal describes the bizarre mechanics by which their father committed suicide, his horror upon discovering the body. Hal details how he was sent to a grief counselor and then finally deemed fit to play again. Hal is upset with Orin for not calling for 2 years, and skipping the memorial. He dodges many of Orin’s questions.


New Characters: Madame Psychosis, the host of “Sixty Minutes More or Less with…” on M.I.T.’s student-run radio station 109-WYYY FM, a program to which Mario listens religiously.

Infinite Jest Readalong Week 3 #InfiniTC

July 6th, 2015


This moderating thing is way more time consuming than one might think. Oy.

Welcome to week 3’s post on the Infinite Jest readalong.

The thing I notice most, especially on this, my second read of IJ, are the increasingly frequent connections to previous posts.

Lyle gives out wisdom like don’t lift more than your body weight, which is a metaphor for addiction.

The yrstruly section recalls the street slang of the Wardine section on p37 and finishes by saying yrstruly is going to detox. Some call this section racist and troubling. Question: is yrstruly black? Did you assume s/he was, or that yrstruly is a he? I did, first time through. Instead, I think DFW is emphasizing how addicts are desperate yet clever, hardworking, even, and the difference between them is both vast in language, privilege and circumstance contrasted with Hal and the Peemster, and yet nothing at all in that they’re all lonely and desperate and addicted, attached to a weight that is pulling them, not vice versa.

Hal talks to Orin and thinks about how much they might be lying to one another.

Ennet House is a detox. Might it be where yrstruly ends up?

An insurance form is filed for a bricklayer who tried to lift more than his bodyweight.

In this section, the section headings are long and complex, similar to those in Aeolus section of Ulysses.

In an essay, one of the ones referred to in Hal’s college interview, Hal wonders what the next generation hero of non-action will be.

Helen Steeply’s article, in which we learn that JOI committed suicide by putting his head in a microwave (how does that even work?) about someone whose external heart it stolen by a street person with a feather boa (Poor Tony from the yrstruly section.)

Why videotelephony failed–because it shattered the illusion that we were paying attention to one another, in other words, we weren’t being honest, just as Hal wondered about Orin.

Lots about Pemulis scamming, and compare it to the drug trafficking of yrstruly and Don Gately. “Manages to avoid losing my just one dento-dermal layer” (155)

The section on JOI and his father, JOI Senior, was long and disturbing, and furthers the emphasis on fathers and sons, as in Ulysses, Hamlet, and more.

Pemulis goes to get DMZ, again, note how classy he makes drug procurement, which is described as mold on mold, rather like what Hal ate in the memory from p10-11, and the reaction to it sounds like something Kate Gompert describe in her section, and what Hal seems like in the first. Hal is reading Hamlet to help Mario.

Mario’s film, narrated in second person.

The different addicts complaining to Patricia Montesian. Gately, Clenette, and that drug dealer with snakes are all mentioned.

I will likely embiggen this later, but this is a decent start. What did everyone else think?

Infinite Summer-y week 3, pages 127-181

July 6th, 2015

Welcome back, fellow Jesters. Here’s the recap for this week’s pages OF INFINITE JEST 127-181:

circle2p127 A sweat-licking guru lives in the ETA weight room and dispenses advice for sweat.

p128 yrstruly, Poor Tony, and C go on a crime spree, acquire heroin from Dr. Wo. The heroin is laced with Drano and C dies after shooting up. yrstruly is going to Detox.

circle1p135 3 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. Orin speaks to Hal by phone.

p137 Background of the Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House.

p138 Bricklayer story (DFW incorporates urban legend)

p140 Hal’s paper on active and passive heroes.

p142 Steeply’s article about the woman who had an artificial heart in her purse when it was snatched by a person with a feather boa.

p144 List of Anti-O.N.A.N. groups.

p144 Why videophony never took off.

circle1p151: Drug tests at E.T.A; Mike Pemulis sells sterile urine.

circle1p157 WINTER B.S. 1960 – TUCSON AZ: Himself’s father (Hal’s grandfather) prepares to teach Himself how to play tennis, tells of the incident that ended his own tennis career, and drinks heavily.

p169 — 4 NOVEMBER YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: Michael Pemulis acquires some “incredibly potent” DMZ.

p172 — TENNIS AND THE FERAL PRODIGY, NARRATED BY HAL INCANDENZA (etc.): Hal narrates a film made by Mario. The narration consists of a series of how-to instructions “Here is how to do individual drills …”

p176 — SELECTED TRANSCRIPTS … WEDNESDAY, 4 NOVEMBER – YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: A series of statements made by recovering addicts at Ennet House.



Lyle: Guru who lives in ETA weight room and apparently subsists off other people’s sweat.

yrstruly: Narrator of the “dopesick” chapter. Addict, criminal.

C: yrstruly’s companion who dies after shooting up with heroin laced with Drano.

Dr. Wo: Sells heroin to C and yrstruly but it’s laced with Drano to punish their crew-mate Poor Tony (waiting outside) for a past grievance.

Poor Tony: yrstruly’s companion, possibly suspected that heroin was laced but said nothing as C. shot up.

Guy Who Didn’t Even Use His First Name: So into the “anonymous” scene that he remained completely so. Founded the Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House.

Subsidized Years of INFINITE JEST

July 3rd, 2015

Notice, that some are still abbreviated, as Greg Carlisle in Elegant Complexity (helpfully) doesn’t spoil what we don’t know yet by page 127. These are details mostly from end note #24, JOI’s filmography. (and perhaps the main reason for that long endnote.)


INFINITE JEST readalong week 2 #InfiniTC

June 29th, 2015


All right, who’s still with me?

This week, after page 63 in Infinite Jest is where the rubber hits the road. Shit hits the fan. Pick your metaphor and run with it. Or roll with it, like the Association de Fauteuil Rollents, the Canadian wheelchair assassins.

And it’s on page 64 that I’m convinced that many people give up on this book. They’ve muddled through the out of sequence stuff and the years with names not numbers, and that Wardine chapter, then BOOM. Page 64 with note 24, eight and a half pages of TEENY TINY type on the filmography of James O. Incandenza, Hal’s dead father.

And even if you make it past that challenge, say by skipping or skimming it (because while valuable, it’s OK to refer back to later when you’re feeling more situated in the book) then you get to the Marathe and Steeply passage, with a guy in a wheelchair up on a desert ledge joined by another guy in drag, and both are spies, and then you get to note 39 that has subnotes, and one of those says to go to note 304, which is seven and a half pages, also has sub notes, about a student plagiarizing a paper from DFW’s imaginary future online that is actually pretty close to how the internet turned out. And that’s where I think many other people throw in the towel. You know, the towels that are wrapped like kilts around the boys in the locker room after there late, exhausting practice.

But if you can manage to read note 304, and learn about the history of Canada’s wheelchair assassins, then it’s hard not to be amazed by the bat$hit crazy imagination of it all.

It is very important, I assure you, to keep reading. Don’t give up! Do not let these end notes freak you out. Skim them, skip them if you want. There’s gold in them there end notes but if you’re not feeling up for it, they’ll still be there later in the book. This book is fascinating, and fun, and true and sad, but you have to keep reading.

For now, let me be super reductive:

End note 24: James O. Incandenza made a lot of films, both technical and artistic. He worked with a lot of actors and other people who have been and will be mentioned. His films often had to do with his personal obsessions: teeth, spiders, tennis, fatherhood, and his wife’s infidelity, a callback to Bloom in Ulysses.

End note 304: In Canada’s poor mining towns, the young men play “The game of the next train,” a coordinated type of Chicken in which a group of boys tries to jump in front of a train and not be the first, and not die. Many do die, many lose limbs, and some lose legs and become members of the AFR, the Canadian wheelchair assassins.

Now, back to the pages of the actual book we read this week, chapters 8-11, which I only know because I’m also reading Elegant Complexity, which helpfully keeps track of all those little moons, or meniscuses, if you will. Meniscii? (Meniscus, or moon, is one of the names of JOI’s film companies.)

I did a summary and list of characters in the earlier post, here. I remember having a hard time on my first read of IJ with the Marathe and Steeply sections, with all the politics and intrigue of the future dystopian-ish society, in which Canada gets stuck with all the dead, contaminated territories, and there are feral hamsters and infants.

I’ll say again that my best advice is just to read. Don’t panic. I bet I can find that somewhere on the internet written in large, friendly letters…


Or, in the timeless words of REO Speedwagon, “Hold On Loosely”. There is so much going on, and it will all come together, but if you’re not getting it, or can’t remember Struck from Stice, it’s OK. Just read.

I was most enthralled by the sections about Kate Gompert and her marijuana use and desire for suicide. It is hard not to read that section and think on the future suicide of the author.

It’s not wanting to hurt myself, it’s wanting to not hurt. (78)

Thankfully, though, there’s plenty of things to laugh about, as well, like the use of Pledge as a sunscreen, one that later can be peeled off in strips.

There are also lots of references, especially to Hamlet. Both Poor Yorick and Infinite Jest, mentioned in note 24, are from that play. The section that switches without breaks among the elder students and their little buddies reminded me of the chapter(s?) of Ulysses where it jumped from mind to mind for the stream of consciousness.

DFW was trying to challenge the reader, just as Joyce was with Ulysses. He’s telling a tale out of order, not giving us years to count by, skipping in and back in time and in and out of people’s lives and thoughts. He is NOT going by a straight line.

I’ll stop here for now. What did everyone else think? You can also tweet comments and questions with the hashtag #InfiniTC.

The rest of the schedule:

Tu 7-7 discuss and tweet to 181. Stop at: LATE OCTOBER Y.D.A.U. “Open me anothowone”

Tu 7-14 discuss and tweet to 258. Stop at: 6 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “White halogen off the green”

Tu 7-21 discuss and tweet to 321. Stop at: 8 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. INTERDEPENDENCE DAY GAUDEAMUS IGITUR

Tu 7-28 discuss and tweet to 398. Stop at: “FREAK STATUE OF LIBERTY ACCIDENT”

Tu 8-04 discuss and tweet to 489. Stop at: PRE-DAWN. 1 MAY Y.D.A.U. OUTCROPPING

Tu 8-11 discuss and tweet to 538. Stop at: “It is starting to get quietly around Ennet”

Tu 8-18 discuss and tweet to 619. Stop at: “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment: Interlace TelEntertainment, 932/1864”

Tu 8-25 discuss and tweet to 686. Stop at: 11 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “First thing after supper”

Tu 9-1 discuss and tweet to 755. Stop at: 11 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “Part of Mario’s footage”

Tu 9-8 discuss and tweet to 808. Stop at: “The ceiling was breathing”

Tu 9-15 discuss and tweet to 896. Stop at: “I was going to go back up”

Tu 9-22 discuss and tweet to 981. THE END!

#InfiniTC Summer-y week 2, INFINITE JEST 63-127

June 29th, 2015

Below are short summaries of each section, followed by a list of characters per section. Again, these are taken almost verbatim, from the original Infinite Summer-ers. Since I chose to do different page breaks at the chapters, I’m personalizing summer-ies to our pages.

AS OF YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: The history of ETA and its founder James Orin Incandenza (father to Hal, Orin, and Mario).

DENVER CO, 1 NOVEMBER YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: Orin glides into Mile High Stadium in a Cardinals costume; Michael Pemulis talks to his “Little Buddies” at ETA about drugs; Hal relates a dream that he used to have nightly.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: Kate Gompert is in the hospital, speaks about the depression her addiction to pot engenders.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: Tiny Ewell travels to the Enfield Marine VA Hospital Complex via cab.

A list of people gathered in the living room of the medical attaché house watching the Entertainment.

30 APRIL – YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: Remy Marathe of the Assassins des Fauteuils Rollents (wheelchair assassins) and M. Hugh Steeply of the Office of Unspecified Services (OUS) converse on a bluff outside Tucson, AZ.

A herd of feral hamsters rampages in the Great Concavity (which used to be Vermont, and is now owned by Canada)

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: Banter and exhaustion in the ETA lockeroom. Present: Hal Incandenza, John (N.R.) Wayne, Jim Troelsch, Michael Pemulis, Ted Schacht, Ortho Stice, Jim Struck, Keith Freer.

Marathe and Steeply continue their conversation through sunset.

3 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U.: Big Buddy meetings: first Hal (with Kent Blott, Idris Arslanian, Evan Ingersol), then Wayne, Troelsch, Struck, and Stice.

MARIO INCANDENZA’S FIRST AND ONLY EVEN REMOTELY ROMANTIC EXPERIENCE, THUS FAR: Millicent Kent tells Mario she has seen a tripod, confides in him, and tries to kiss him. Millicent, Mario, and Hal find the tripod on the way out of the woods.

30 APRIL – YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: Marathe and Steeply discuss the Entertainment, and possibility of an antidote (the anti-Entertainment).


Characters in bold appear to be major.


Dr. James Orin Incandenza (“Himself”): Husband of Avril, father to Orin, Mario, and Hal. Founder of ETA, filmmaker, inventor. Died in The Year of the Trial-Sized Dove Bar.


Michael Pemulis: Member of the 18s B squad at ETA; friend to Hal and Mario.


Katherine “Kate” Ann Gompert: Pot addict, depressive. First seen in hospital.
Unnamed: Kate’s doctor.
Gerhardt Schtitt: Head Coach and Athletic Director at E.T.A. Old; borderline fascist; friends with Mario.


Tiny Ewell: Diminutive recovering alcoholic, being driven to the Enfield Marine VA Hospital Complex.


Remy Marathe: Member of the Assassins des Fauteuils Rollents (AFR); is working as a quadruple agent—that is, his superior, M. Fortier, thinks that Marthe is working as a triple agent (pretending to work with the Office of Unspecified Services, while in reality reporting back to AFR), but Marathe is actually collaborating with OUS to secure medical services for his wife.

M. Hugh Steeply: Agent the Office of Unspecified Services. Currently operating in disguise as a large woman; Marathe’s contact.


U.S.S. Millicent Kent: Unkindly nicknamed Girls 16”²s Singles player who attempts to seduce Mario Incandenza.

INFINITE JEST Readalong Week 1

June 23rd, 2015


Welcome to the Infinite Summer, and Infinite Jest readalong, Twin Cities 2015 version. Anyone can read along. We can discuss the book’s sections (no spoilers) in the comments, and on Twitter with the hashtag #InfiniTC. This week we read to page 63. I posted a summary and list of characters for week 1 here.

Infinite Jest pages 1-63.

The first time I read Infinite Jest, I approached it like a diligent student. I took notes, wrote each character and when they appeared, and approached it like a puzzle to be solved.

I wish I’d just read the damn thing. Having gotten to the end, I know that what seems overwhelming at first makes more and more sense as you go along. The internet can be used to remind you of character lists and what happened in which section if you want to go back.

This time, because I’m blogging and tweeting the book, I have to nerd out, at least a little. I’m reading a guide, Elegant Complexity by Greg Carlisle. I will share bits of it each week, trying not to overwhelm with minutiae.

For first-time readers, I think the main thing to know is Infinite Jest jumps around in time and point of view and plot. It starts off as many little bits, and will coalesce into a greater whole. If you’re confused, that’s not only normal, it’s probably what the author intended.

In a 1995 radio interview, Wallace said that the structure of the unedited first draft of Infinite Jest was based on a fractal object called a Sierpinski Gasket, generated geometrically by an iterative process of cutting smaller triangle-sized holes out of larger triangles…readers of IJ construct narrative interpretations “as much out of what’s missing as what’s there” (IJ p681) (Carlisle, p20)


Here are some things I noticed on this read, many of which are questions:

DFW’s terrific and funny sentences, like “My chest bumps like a dryer with shoes in it. (5) and “I do things like get in a taxi and say, ‘The library, and step on it.’ (12) Or “a fit of febrile thrushive pique”that the attache is told to pay no mind, “because it’s just the yeast talking” (35). Or “promoted” as a euphemism for stolen. I keep finding more: “The rhinovirally afflicted man, gagged with skill and quality materials (59)

I think Pemulis is pronounced “PEEM you liss”

Why does DFW use single quotes for dialogue? Is it merely the convention he chose, or is it mean to imply that all of the book is in full quotes, so all dialogue is embedded?

The first line of Hamlet is “Who’s there?” The first line of Infinite Jest (a phrase from Hamlet) is “I am.”

This seemingly throwaway sentence haunts me with its questions:

I think of John N.R Wayne, who would have won this year’s WhataBurger, standing watch in a mask as Donald Gately and I dig up my father’s head. (16-17)

Wayne would have won, if not for what? Why are they digging up the father’s head?

Masking is a theme that will repeat through the novel. Another theme is defecation, as it was in Ulysses. Carlisle notes that several scenes take place “in men’s rooms, locker rooms, and toilet stalls–places in which waste is produced.” (Carlisle, 29) On page 9, Hal is in a “defecatory posture.” Later, Tavis is “a truly unparalleled slinger of shit.”

I urge you to visit, which features scenes from the book re-created with Legos.

I am rolled supine on the geometric floor. (13)

In Erdedy’s section we read about a drug dealer:

“he lived in a trailer and had a harelip and kept snakes” (18)

who shows up again in Bruce Green’s section:

“he and Mildred Bonk and tiny incontinent Harriet Bonk-Green lived just off he Allston Spur in a shiny housetrailer with another frightening couple and with Tommy Doocey, who kept several large snake in unclear uncovered aquaria, which smelled, which Tommy Doocey didn’t notice because his upper lip completely covered his nostrils and all he could smell was lip.” (39)

I’m not sure what makes me laugh more, the realization that tiny, incontinent refers to a baby, or “all he could smell was lip.”

Less amusing, though, is pondering how vivid the detail of Erdedy’s pot obsession was, which I surmise DFW knew from personal experience, just as the drug dealer was based on one in real life. This is a description from Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club(p76):

I knew a drug dealer once who collected them [snakes] in glass tanks all over his trailer. He had a harelip that somehow protected him from the stink, but the rest of us became, when dickering over pharmaceuticals with him, the noisiest and most adenoidal mouth breathers.

Karr and DFW were together for a time, which she writes about in her memoir Lit and talked about at Salon here:

He was in rehab and we’d met through friends; he was in rehab down the street and I lived in Belmont, Mass…. I was about a month clean; his sobriety date was about a month after mine. So we ran into each other a lot. He was in a halfway house where I did volunteer work.

Another question: Hal tries to communicate to the college people, then says ‘Call it something I ate’ before he relates a flashback to a scene of him eating mold as a child. Is there a connection between the mold and Hal’s inability to make himself understood?

EDITED TO ADD: DFW was a fanatic about usage, and one example is his repeated, correct but often misunderstood use of the word nauseous, which means causing nausea, not feeling it.

Also of delight, the term ‘howling fantods’ for extremes of creeped-out-ed-ness. Apparently the real DFW’s mom added “howling” to fantods (a real word) to coin the term, HT Brain Pickings.

Also, the site Howling Fantods is a wealth of DFW information.

I think that’s more than enough from me. What did everyone else think?

For next week Tuesday 6/30, read in books to page 127’s chapter break, marked with a shaded circle. E-readers, see text quotes on the schedule below.

The rest of the schedule:

circleInfinite Summer 2015

Tu 6-30 discuss and tweet to 127. Start at “AS OF Y.D.A.U. “The Enfield Tennis Academy has been in accredited…” Stop at: “An oiled guru sits in yogic full lotus”

Tu 7-7 discuss and tweet to 181. Stop at: LATE OCTOBER Y.D.A.U. “Open me anothowone”

Tu 7-14 discuss and tweet to 258. Stop at: 6 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “White halogen off the green”

Tu 7-21 discuss and tweet to 321. Stop at: 8 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. INTERDEPENDENCE DAY GAUDEAMUS IGITUR

Tu 7-28 discuss and tweet to 398. Stop at: “FREAK STATUE OF LIBERTY ACCIDENT”

Tu 8-04 discuss and tweet to 489. Stop at: PRE-DAWN. 1 MAY Y.D.A.U. OUTCROPPING

Tu 8-11 discuss and tweet to 538. Stop at: “It is starting to get quietly around Ennet”

Tu 8-18 discuss and tweet to 619. Stop at: “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment: Interlace TelEntertainment, 932/1864”

Tu 8-25 discuss and tweet to 686. Stop at: 11 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “First thing after supper”

Tu 9-1 discuss and tweet to 755. Stop at: 11 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “Part of Mario’s footage”

Tu 9-8 discuss and tweet to 808. Stop at: “The ceiling was breathing”

Tu 9-15 discuss and tweet to 896. Stop at: “I was going to go back up”

Tu 9-22 discuss and tweet to 981. THE END!

Infinite Summer-y 1

June 23rd, 2015

Pun and info copied verbatim from the original Infinite Summer blog. I’ve adjusted for page number. There first page goal was the same as ours–63, yet the first summery goes beyond that. Gah. So much formatting! Let me know if this is helpful. I think the best approach will be to do a separate post of Analysis to chat over.

YEAR OF GLAD (p3) Hal interviews at the University of Arizona; in a flashback, Hal eats mold as a child.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (17) Erdedy awaits a delivery of pot.

1 APRIL – YEAR OF THE TUCKS MEDICATED PAD (27) Hal speaks with a “professional conversationalist”.

9 MAY – YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (32) Hal, sharing a room with his older brother Mario, receives a call from the eldest brother Orin.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (33) A medical attaché discovers that his wife is out, and so selects an unmarked entertainment cartridge to watch.

YEAR OF THE TRIAL-SIZE DOVE BAR (37) Clenette describes Wardine, Wardine’s mother, and Roy Tony; Bruce Green falls in love with and eventually woos Mildred Bonk.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (39) Hal and Mario reminisce about their father (Himself) and his death; medical attaché continues to watch cartridge.

OCTOBER – YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (42) Orin kills roaches and wishes he could get rid of last night’s “Subject”.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (49) Hal smokes pot in the Pump Room.

AUTUMN – YEAR OF DAIRY PRODUCTS FROM THE AMERICAN HEARTLAND (55) Don Gately accidentally kills a man while robbing his home.

3 NOVEMBER – YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (60) Jim Troelsch—a student at the Enfield Tennis Academy (ETA)—is sick; someone has a nightmare about a face in the floor (told in first-person).

New Characters (those in bold appear to be major):

YEAR OF GLAD (page 3)

Harold (Hal) James Incandenza: Protagonist. Student at the Enfield Tennis Academy; son of James Orin Incandenza and Avril Incandenza; younger brother to Orin Incandenza and Mario Incandenza.

Dr. Charles Tavis: Hal’s mother’s “adoptive brother”; accompanies Hal to University of Arizona interview.

Avril Mondragon Tavis Incandenza (“The Moms”): Wife to James Orin Incandenza, Mother to Orin, Mario, and Hal. Dean of Academic Affairs at ETA; grammarian supreme.

Aubrey F. deLint: ETA prorector.

Kirk White: University of Arizona Varsity Coach.

Mr. Sawyer: University of Arizona Dean of Academics.

Bill: University of Arizona Dean of Athletics.

Unnamed: Dean of Admissions, Dean of Composition.


— Pot addict, who swears that each pot binge will be his last.

Unnamed: Female who promised to deliver pot to Eldedy.


“Conversational Professional”: Possibly Himself in disguise.


Mario Incandenza: Older brother to Hal; has some sort of deformity.


Unnamed: Medical attaché (first to watch the mysterious, unnamed cartridge)

Medical attaché’s wife.


Clenette Henderson: Relates the story of Wardine.

Wardine: Clenette’s half-sister and friend who is beaten by Roy Tony.

Reginald: Wardine’s boyfriend.

Roy Tony: Dealer; Wardine’s mother’s “man”.

Delores Epps — Clenette’s friend.

Columbus Epps — Delores’ brother, killed by Roy Tony four years ago (over Clenette’s mother).

Unnamed: Wardine’s mother.

Bruce Green: Husband to Mildred L. Bonk; father to Harriet Bonk-Green.

Mildred L. Bonk: Wife to Bruce Green; mother to Harriet Bonk-Green.

Tommy Doocey: Harelipped pot-dealer (possibly the source of Erdedy’s pot).

Harriet Bonk-Green: Mildred and Bruce’s daughter


Orin Incandenza: Eldest Incandenza brother. Plays football, sleeps with “subjects”, hates roaches.


Donald “Don” W. Gately: Enormous guy (over 6 ft., close to 300 lbs), thief, murderer (albeit by accident), and “active drug addict”.

Guillaume DuPlessis: Homeowner killed by Gately.

Trent ‘Quo Vadis’ Kite: Gately’s “associate”.


Jim Troelsch: Ill member of the 18s B squad at ETA.

INFINITE JEST Readalong! #InfiniTC

June 17th, 2015


EDITED AGAIN! NEW SCHEDULE! Honestly, I cannot figure how the original InfSummers got their page breaks for the original InfSum schedule. I’m doing page breaks that make sense to me. Chapters in Infinite Jest are marked with little moon-lookin’ things. I’m almost always able to end a week’s reading at a chapter break. Where I can’t, I’ve at least done it at a section break. I can’t give you percentages or Location, though I do list text to search for. Kindle or E-reader people, let me know if you need more, or can offer help to others.

I just finished Ulysses, and now it’s on to the next book, which is David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, yet another big book by a dead white male that many start but do not finish.

A few years ago, I read along with the group for the first Infinite Summer, and not only finished the book, but enjoyed the heck out of it, so I’m here to lead a round this summer. I highly recommend the group read, which is why I’m leading it here. I have a number of friends in the Twin Cities who say they’re up for the challenge, but everyone can read along. We’ll be tweeting with the hashtag #InfiniTC.

We start now, around the summer solstice and finish around the autumn equinox. Your assignment, should you choose to accept, is to start reading now and complete the first 63 pages by next Tuesday, when I’ll blog and tweet about them.

I cannot tell you how long I worked at trying to format a readable schedule, but me and tabs and this blog were not able to come to an agreement, so I hope the format below works for everyone. I really wanted to include the little moon-lookin’ thingies, but alas, it was not meant to be. I’ll include it as an image, instead.

circleInfinite Summer 2015

Tu 6-23 discuss and tweet to 63. Stop at: AS OF Y.D.A.U. “The Enfield Tennis Academy has been in accredited”

Tu 6-30 discuss and tweet to 127. Stop at: “An oiled guru sits in yogic full lotus”

Tu 7-7 discuss and tweet to 181. Stop at: LATE OCTOBER Y.D.A.U. “Open me anothowone”

Tu 7-14 discuss and tweet to 258. Stop at: 6 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “White halogen off the green”

Tu 7-21 discuss and tweet to 321. Stop at: 8 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. INTERDEPENDENCE DAY GAUDEAMUS IGITUR

Tu 7-28 discuss and tweet to 398. Stop at: “FREAK STATUE OF LIBERTY ACCIDENT”

Tu 8-04 discuss and tweet to 489. Stop at: PRE-DAWN. 1 MAY Y.D.A.U. OUTCROPPING

Tu 8-11 discuss and tweet to 538. Stop at: “It is starting to get quietly around Ennet”

Tu 8-18 discuss and tweet to 619. Stop at: “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment: Interlace TelEntertainment, 932/1864”

Tu 8-25 discuss and tweet to 686. Stop at: 11 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “First thing after supper”

Tu 9-1 discuss and tweet to 755. Stop at: 11 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “Part of Mario’s footage”

Tu 9-8 discuss and tweet to 808. Stop at: “The ceiling was breathing”

Tu 9-15 discuss and tweet to 896. Stop at: “I was going to go back up”

Tu 9-22 discuss and tweet to 981. THE END!

At the end of each specified day, you should be at or past the given page number or location. The schedule denotes the Spoiler Line for any given day. For instance, on July 7th please confine your discussion to only those events that transpire on page 181 of the novel and earlier. The Spoiler Line will hold both on the posts here and on Twitter. If you find yourself ahead of the pack and eager to chat with like-minded overachievers, or if you’re already read Infinite Jest and wish to talk about the novel in its entirety, please do so privately.

A note about the endnotes: The above schedule does not take the endnotes into account. And as some endnotes are long (like, 18 pages worth of long), that means the actual amount of weekly reading will vary. But, you know, it’s like agreeing to always divide the check up evenly when dining with friends: you may have to chip in a bit more occasionally, but it’s better than haggling over the math.

A note about editions: As it turns out, all (physical) edition of Infinite Jest have 981 pages: the one from 1996, the one from 2004, the paperback, the hardcover, etc. A big thank you to the men and women in the publishing industry who were kind and/or lazy enough to keep things consistent.

It looks like there is a group on Reddit reading as well, link here. There’s a group in Reno that has a Tumblr for Infinite Reno, and is on Twitter as well, @infinitereno.There’s a group at Infinite Summer 2015 who started before we did. We have a good excuse though. WE HAD TO FINISH ULYSSES.

ULYSSES Readalong: ch 18: Penelope

June 16th, 2015


“Molly Bloom (Caraid O’Brien),” by Louie Correia.

If you would like to listen to the last chapter of Ulysses, Penelope, read aloud, this link at LISTEN is a good one.

And, we’re done!

Chapter 18: Penelope, is Molly’s voice, and the last of the book. It’s interesting that we got 17 chapters of He Said, and that the 18th, She Said, is one of the most popular, with its famous last line

yes I said yes I will yes.

Though, since the foregoing chapter had no punctuation (Molly’s stream of consciousness is the most stream-y) this is technically the end of the one, long sentence.

Who finished? Who tried but didn’t?

ADDED LATER: Together, I think chapters 17 and 18, Ithaca and Penelope, were my favorites. I also think many things were revealed in them that might have had more impact for me if they hadn’t been foretold in the notes from earlier chapters. I’m not sure I could have read this entire book without notes, but I wish that the notes that exist weren’t so cavalier about the details just because this book has been around for over 100 years and others besides me have read it.

I thoroughly enjoyed Molly’s chapter, her voice, and her observations. That said, I think it’s important to remember that this is a chapter written by a man in a woman’s voice. It’s good, but I can’t say I stay up thinking about sex all the time and obsessing about how men view me, so while Joyce gets some of this right, I do think he sexualizes to an extreme that is more a male fantasy than an everywoman’s viewpoint.

Molly’s chapter is divided into eight “sentences” with no punctuation, so it can be hard to follow. The summary at is helpful. I took this to mean that her stream of consciousness is the “streamiest” and more water-y and mothering than those of the other men in the book.

I will do a follow-up post on the whole book, but this wraps things up for now. Thanks for those who have come along for the journey.

Past posts:

Week 1: books 1 and 2
Week 2: books 3 and 4
Week 3: books 5, 6
Week 4: book 7
Week 5: book 8
Week 6: book 9
Week 7: book 10
Week 8: book 11
Week 9: book 12
Week 10: book 13
Week 11: book 14
Week 12: book 15 part 1/3
Week 13: book 15 part 2/3
Week 14: book 15 part 3/3
Week 15: book 16
Week 16: book 17

ULYSSES Readalong ch 17: Ithaca

June 9th, 2015


“What caused him consolation in his sitting posture?
The candour, nudity, pose, tranquility, youth, grace, sex, counsel of a statue erect in the centre of the table, an image of Narcissus purchased by auction from P.A. Wren, 9 Bachelor’s Walk.” (U17.1426) from Joyce Images

Oh, fellow #TCUlysses readalong-ers, how I have dragged my feet on writing this post! I actually finished not only chapter 17, Ithaca, but also 18, Penelope, and thus the whole megillah (Judaism reference!) last Friday, and was just basking in the feeling of finished-ness.

A few days ago I steeled my resolve and went back to the notes. I read the pages about Ulysses in Joseph Campbell’s Mythic Words, Modern Worlds. They were interesting, especially the comparison to Dante’s hell, and the descent and return. A few too many “of course” and “obviously”s. Then I read the chapters in Blamire’s New Bloomsday Book. As usual, they gave a good reading of what I’d just read, helping me to understand, even if I did not always agree with the interpretation. Also, some “of course”s. If you write, don’t include “of course” because whatever you’re talking about is either obvious or in dispute, and if you write “of course” then you sound like a pompous blowhard. Then, as per my usual, I went to Ulysses Annotated, and friends, I got lost. It was as if I’d descended to hell, and could not slog through those 60 pages.

I found it interesting that I read chapter 17 rather quickly, and found it very accessible, not just in comparison to some of the more abstruse chapters. But the 60 pages of detailing a 70 page chapter exhausted me, and left me not much more enlightened, and certainly with more ill-will toward the book. Then I read the summary and analysis at schmoop, and those were a walk in the park, though as usual not entirely accurate.

Now that I’ve written ad nauseum about my experience of reading 17 and about 17, let me talk a bit about the chapter itself.

In 17, Bloom and Stephen go to Bloom’s house. They’re locked out, Bloom sneaks in, let’s Stephen in, they talk and drink cocoa. They’re revealed again as both similar and different. Bloom offers Stephen a place to stay, and is declined. They go outside to micturate before Stephen leaves. Bloom goes upstairs and hits his head when he enters the room because the furniture has been moved around. This is a callback to when Ulysses gets a stool thrown at him by one of the suitors when he returns to his home, disguised as an old man. There is other evidence of Blazes Boylan, including a dent in the mattress and flakes of potted meat. Poldy thinks about revenge but in the end works his way through it to forgiveness and understanding, both of Molly and the men she’s loved. He crawls into bed with Molly, head to foot, (69 position, I thought), and the chapter ends with a big fat black dot.

What was your interpretation of that black dot? The ones I read suggested it was Poldy’s place in the world, or other things. I can’t help feeling that it illustrates the wet spot from the earlier sex that poor Poldy has to sleep in.

Would I have EVER thought such a thing about a book before reading THIS book? I don’t know.

The chapter is written as a series of questions and answers, in the catechism style of Catholicism, which Poldy converted to in order to marry Molly. There is a reference to something in Judaism itching at my brain, some particular work that is structured also in question and answer, just as in the Passover hagaddah book, e.g., “Why is this night not like all other nights?” I thought it might be the work of Moses Maimonides, who is mentioned in the chapter. He wrote a book with one of my favorite titles ever: Guide for the Perplexed, but did not find evidence of such. Is it the Talmud? The Mishnah? Some other resource I can’t remember that is commentary on the Torah or the Talmud? If anyone knows, please enlighten me.

This little paragraph, in the section about Poldy finding Molly intellectually deficient, provides a great segue to our next, final chapter, 18:

What compensated in the false balance of her intelligence for these and such deficiencies of judgment regarding persons, places and things?

The false apparent parallelism of all perpendicular arms of all balances, proved true by construction. The counterbalance of her proficiency of judgment regarding one person, proved true by experiment.

Basically, Molly knows Poldy, and he knows that she knows him.

Join us here next week for the last post from the #TCUlysses read.

There is no punctuation in the chapter so it can be hard to parse. If you’re struggling, take a look at part 1 and part 2 of this, recommended by Ulysses vet Wilson Varga and see if it helps.

6/15/15 discuss and tweet section 18 and the whole thing!
6/16/15 Bloomsday!

Past posts:

Week 1: books 1 and 2
Week 2: books 3 and 4
Week 3: books 5, 6
Week 4: book 7
Week 5: book 8
Week 6: book 9
Week 7: book 10
Week 8: book 11
Week 9: book 12
Week 10: book 13
Week 11: book 14
Week 12: book 15 part 1/3
Week 13: book 15 part 2/3
Week 14: book 15 part 3/3
Weeks 15: book 16