All posts by Corrie Baldauf

When Microwaves Become Altars

Infinite Jest Project: Phase 3 photography by PD Rearick
Infinite Jest Project: Phase 3
photography by PD Rearick

I’m frozen. It isn’t just the cold of this granite tabletop under my forearms. See, I wrote my past posts at this restaurant called Inn Season. The problem is, I’m not going to make it there today to write this post. So like Hal, I find myself standing on one foot, not quite sure how to proceed.

What did you think of that conversation between Hal and Orin? Hal is trying to maintain his freshly clipped toenail launches into the bathroom garbage can while Orin, “after four years 216 days” of avoiding all things re: his father’s suicide, is finally asking “who it was who found him? His—who found him at the oven?”

The wording of that last sentence gets me every time, in the way that I think about it for at least a day and night, and then I completely totally forget it—until my next read of Infinite Jest.

The sentence turns an oven into an altar. “His—who found him at the oven?”

Imagining Incandenza standing at an altar, complete with a red ribbon bottle, sets a tone that reveals the ritualistic aspects that he borrows from his life to stage his death.

When I am standing at my microwave altar, the tone is a little more relaxed, but is still ritualistic. I tend to look out a window that is just to the right of me. And somehow, I think so far into the distance (probably more like Mario than Incandenza himself) for (38) minus (6) seconds. I usually look back at the microwave when it reads (6) seconds, and then I hit stop at (2) or even (1) second if I feel I am able to risk the possibility of hearing the awful succession of fast beeps that occur when the microwave timer hits (0).

And then, much like reading Infinite Jest, I do it again. I press in another (38) seconds on the microwave timer. Sometimes I don’t even check to see if the food is hot. Mainly because I do this so often that I know the food isn’t hot. And I like the food at my microwave altar to be really hot.

If you are at all an anxious prone person, or enjoy reading about the anxious prone people in Infinite Jest, then I just know you know where I am coming from.

“Something smells delicious—,” Want some pizza?

The thing about people with sick senses of humor is that they have probably been around the block and tend to be able to digest almost anything. If you have made it this far, you are either one of those people or you’ve spent some real time around one of those people. Or your parents did.

For some, it is almost easy to answer “yes” to all of the above. For Hal, this type of reality makes going to the library pretty damn relieving and at times urgent. You follow?

Keep doing the rituals that keep you from feeling too crazy, no matter how crazy they seem. And, see you next week!

Heavy Things Are Anchors

Infinite Jest Project (p 1-300) photography by PD Rearick
Infinite Jest Project: Phase 3 (p 1-300)
photography by PD Rearick

It is possible to place a robin’s egg between a blue river and dull black, gray surf. I know this because I found one, somewhere around, well at least I can say—definitely after page (229) in Infinite Jest.

I would not have known this was possible had I not found my way through those first (229) pages.

The amazing thing, really, about a gray surf, is just how bright it makes the robin-egg’s blue appear. If you have access to a plane, or storm-grayed skies, go ahead, test the brightness of that blue egg—you’ll find the same.

This is probably a good time to point out that I didn’t actually find a description of a robin egg in Infinite Jest. Just in case you were about to ask me if you could hold it. Or if we were about to get into a slightly absurd but intriguing conversation about how it feels to hold a robin’s egg in your mouth.

I don’t know how that feels.

Actually, what I found was a description of robin egg’s blue. Robin egg’s blue was simply describing the color of something, something that I don’t remember. So what shape is the memory of a color of a thing I can’t remember?

Wallace is also asking a lot of abstract questions. How are you doing with that?

The plan, I think, is to make something more concrete. Something that wasn’t making a lot of sense for him, and then now, hopefully the abstract or confusing aspects of Infinite Jest may make something more concrete for you.

Sorry if you were hoping I was going to say “more clear.” “More concrete” is definitely in the forecast for a while. I will say, if you are up for veering into an abstract way of thinking, that while concrete isn’t very clear (like a clean window)—it is very clearly heavy. And heavy things are anchors, of sorts, if used properly.

So, is it true? Have these first two hundred something pages brought some clarity as to what you are anchored to?

Tie down or loosen your grip. Or don’t (and it is so important to keep this as an option). If you are tying down, there may be space to attach robin egg’s blue balloons—at some point. Or robin egg’s blue sails, why not?! If you are considering loosening your grip, then well, there is some airtime ahead for you.

Lightness. And round, light, bright blue.

You. Me. And Infinite Jest.

Infinite Jest Project: Phase 3 (p 1-200) photography by PD Rearick
Infinite Jest Project: Phase 3 (p 1-200)
photography by PD Rearick

Drano with the blue like glitter shit. blue string. turned light blue. Orangeline. green pastures. Mmyellow. orange peels.

That, there, is a delicious line-up of images. This stuff gets me right back to feeling so fine, even though I have no idea who all these characters are—and how they can possibly fit into what seems to be a series of story lines flying by me at an almost standstill Kate Gompert pace.

I’m cool. Well, I think I’m gonna be cool—gonna be cool if I just focus in on remembering if my memory of drano includes…blue glitter?

I’m fucked.

red. and gray. school colors. undulating systems of flesh-colored squares.

Love it.

flesh-colored squares. blacktop. discolored. yellow balls.

What?!

brown color. dull-colored. Original color. bit-lip red. red of a well-bit lip.

This is so good! But wait.

I don’t actually know what this book is even about. No, wait. Hold on. I remember something crazy:

Someone stole someone’s heart, literally. But no one understood.

I do know some of what happened.

Someone died. Someone didn’t. Someone didn’t die, yet. Someone wished they were dead. Someone felt alive.

Someone seemed all consumed with waiting.

Waiting. Wait, are you waiting as well? Waiting for what, waiting to understand?

Waiting to understand. Wait, about the book, Infinite Jest—or your real life?

Both. Both?! Me too!

Ok then, let’s keep reading.

Thanks for doing this with me. Really. Thx.

From Citrus Colors to Kate Gompert’s Gray Lonely

Infinite Jest Project: Phase 3 (p 1-100) photography by PD Rearick
Infinite Jest Project: Phase 3 (p 1-100)
photography by PD Rearick
Kate Gompert really knows how to sink her teeth and hands and heart and feet into things. She has extraordinarily displaced tenacity. AND she has a brooding sexiness. Kate is a form of stationary proof (that isn’t a term— I made it up) in Infinite Jest. Proof that tenacity is attainable. People care most about how to find tenacity, not necessarily what type of tenacity in the moments when they have forgotten how to have tenacity at all.

For humans being so recently nomadic, not moving (nearly at all)—definitely has boldness to it. It is contrast. It is the idea that a person will likely die from not moving before they would die from being attacked. David Foster Wallace uses contrast to emphasize how extreme we can be in our differences and motivations. What happened in your head when the story shifts from the hot, bright and active tennis courts to Kate Gompert’s gray lonely? Check out the shift of colors and subjects between the two stories:

citrus colors
blue-blazered
fresh yellow
white sun-umbrella
hair white
pink-cheeked

blue jeans
dark-blue boating sneakers
green or yellow case on the plastic pillow
black bangs
pink Quiet Room
blue gum
gray lonely

For the first forty-something pages, keeping track of the colors helped me focus my way into getting hooked on Infinite Jest. On my second read (I wasn’t kidding about getting hooked) the list of colors became a clearly condensed narration of Infinite Jest when paired with the nouns they described. They also became a condensed depiction of the extreme transitions between stories. I think, in a way, it made the stories unfold more rapidly than they would have if I were not taking notes.

So what is revealing itself as you read? Have you thought about keeping track of anything in particular as you read, and how? My notes started as a focusing device and became an art project. Then the Infinite Jest Project somehow got me to try social media, and Infinite Jest readers got me to stay.

And this is how and why I’m here.

 

Looking Again and Looking Often

To avoid spoilers, the guides will comment on each week’s reading in the week that follows. We’ll use this first week to introduce ourselves and hope you’ll do the same in the comments.

infinite-jest-circle

Have you ever shit your pants? There are worse things. Really. Like affirming just how well you know someone because you are driving the car directly behind their hearse, on the way to their freshly open plot in the graveyard.

There are worse things. Really. Sure, the thought of shitting your pants is pretty high-volume terrible, but figuring out how to get out of those pants is really when resilience comes into play.

Curious as to why and how these descriptions may help you get hooked on Infinite Jest? The goal here is to confirm that you are on your way to a visceral, multi-sensory experience. Keep this in mind if you are at all disheartened by your first attempts at reading Infinite Jest. Pay attention to those details that finally get to you and pull you in. I have a prediction that those details will reveal a lot about who you are and what makes you get up in the morning, and I am really, really hoping that you will let us in on what you find.

I know we have a lot of artists participating in Infinite Winter, so I also know the finding is likely to be as visually descriptive as Wallace’s depictions in Infinite Jest. As you read, soak these descriptions up, in particular, Wallace’s descriptions of rooms and windows. Then bring these descriptions with you when you are dealing with your routine tasks. If you try this out, I predict that the walls you work in and the floors you walk on are going to gain intrigue.

And don’t stop there. Even the pages and screens that you read text on—in Infinite Jest, your cable viewing guide, and convenience store receipts have clues that can help you make sense of the story you are reading and the one you are living. Wallace not only has a way with words, he even has a way with the way the words are arranged on a page. Which words would Wallace break between typed lines to make you really think, while reading Infinite Jest? Words like “Un-
swallowabilty.”

Ah, yes. Now, think back to my first question:

Have you ever shit your pants?

Wallace is going to bring you through some intense human experiences, but as he does—he will also break words and paragraphs, and cause you to reread specific sentences. To make you think. In fact, word arrangements contribute to the calming ritualistic quality of reading Infinite Jest. Wallace takes a word like Un-
swallowability and all the feeling surrounding it and divides it: Un-
swallowability. Literally, between lines just like that. The actual composition of the words on the page helps me get into and grab onto the experience of hearing, seeing, and tasting Infinite Jest.

So, wherever you are, in your story, and in Infinite Jest—Keep going until you find something you can sink your teeth and hands and heart and feet into.