All posts by Nathan Seppelt

Paratext – Part II

There’s a certain, logical-seeming thing we have a tendency to do when we reach this stage of reading Infinite Jest. Confused, overwhelmed, under-denouemented, we delve deeper into the meaning of all the words between page three’s “YEAR” and “U.S.” on pee-ten-seventy-nine.

Such an approach makes a lot of sense. Infinite Jest contains a huge number of words; all of which (surely) are carefully chosen and have either very particular or multiple very particular meanings.

But this approach also has a crucial weakness. It overlooks the fact that a text, like Jest, is more than the sum of its internal words. A text doesn’t stand alone. It’s a node in a whole network of texts.

Think of the ways Jest draws from and alludes to other texts like Ulysses, Hamlet, Hill Street Blues, the O.E.D., Cheers, Star Wars, M*A*S*H, the works of Heidegger and Derrida. All these names are just stand-ins for different nodes in a vast textual network.

There’s another textual network that’s always already (as our good, good friend Derrida would say) at play. It’s the web of texts – paratexts – that surround a published “main” text and influence a way we read that (quote-unquote) main text.

The examples I gave in my Part I post included things like covers, copyright pages, forewords (did I say forewords?), drafts, criticism and I should definitely add things like ads, images and other maybe less-seemingly related things that nonetheless appear with or near the text that serves as our main focus.

I guess, then, that the point I’m trying to make here is that we shouldn’t ignore these paratexts when we read and try to interpret (I can’t help myself: construct) texts.

Especially not with Wallace. His Optional Foreword (which is itself a paratext to both the book and audiobook versions of the essay) to the book version of Up Simba (which is itself a paratext to the audiobook and magazine versions of the essay (and I should mention that I’m really talking about the Consider the Lobster book version, not the McCain’s Promise book version) shows a definite awareness of the paratexts that surrounded the original magazine version:

The point here is that what you’ve just now purchased the ability to download or have e-mailed to you or whatever (it’s been explained to me several times, but I still don’t totally understand it) is the original uncut document, the as it were director’s cut, verbally complete and unoccluded by any lush photos of puffy-lipped girls with their Diesels half unzipped, etc.

If that doesn’t quite do it for you, how about this from the Author’s Foreword that appears 66 pages (even though a footnote, for some reason says seventy-nine) into (again – Derrida’s partly to blame) The Pale King?

I obviously need to explain. First flip back and look at the book’s legal disclaimer, which is on the copyright page, verso side, four leaves in from the rather unfortunate and misleading front cover.

God, the rest of the paragraph just gets so, so much better; and if you read it, I promise you’ll understand perfectly why all this paratext stuff matters. (Wallace, DF 2011, The Pale King, ed.M Pietsch, Little, Brown & Company, New York, NY. ISBN 978-0-316-07423-0).

I also love this example from ‘The Best of the Prose Poem’ that appears (this is where I’ve read it) in Both Flesh and Not:

Of these 9, # that are by one Jon Davis, a poet whom this  reviewer’d never heard of before but whose pieces in this anthology are so off-the-charts terrific that the reviewer has actually gone out and bought the one Jon Davis book mentioned in his bio-note and may well decide to try to advertise it in this magazine, at reviewer’s own expense if necessary – that’s how good this guy is: 5.

(If you can track down a copy of the anthology, or at least a lit-bookleggish pdf, the ad’s right there. The temporal implications of which, w/r/t the main text [not that Wallace’s essay is the main text in the anthology], I’ll let you try to unravel.)

There aren’t (but let’s not trust my memory after last week) any direct references to paratexts in Infinite Jest (unless citations of fictional texts as if they’re actual real-world texts counts?), but Wallace’s contributions to the book’s copyright page still signals a paratextual awareness.

And now is where some central point should become apparent in this final post.

So.

If you’ve finished reading Jest‘s main text (and endnotes – which I am, here, including in the main text) and you haven’t yet done this one thing, I’m going to ask you to do it now.

Turn to page 1079 in your English-language copy of Infinite Jest. I have no idea whether this will work with translations.

Grip the bottom of the page – right where it says “1079” and maybe even has part of that circle-thing – and turn the page.

Read the page, recto side, you’ve just turned to.

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Arcs

Don’t worry about getting in touch with your feelings; they’ll get in touch with you.

This is maybe pretty close to verbatim what we hear during one AA scene (much) earlier in Infinite Jest and it seems that, as Gately recovers from a gunshot wound, he’s visited by more than candid AA-ers and wraiths.

Gately’s being contacted by (I’m [understandably] not quite comfortable with “being got in touch with by”) plenty of feelings, which he has to find a way to deal with. It makes an interesting contrast to Hal who, as he encounters Kenkle and Brandt (perhaps the book’s most Pynchonesque hat-tip, after the explosive and parabolic trajectory of Orin’s incredible punt [which, if you haven’t read Gravity’s Rainbow, you probably won’t quite get what I’m getting at – though it has something to do with long, encyclopedic novels with annular structures in which something taking a parabolic trajectory has some structural importance. Ahem, sorry.]), is experiencing either some disconnect with either his face or the actual feelings that are determining his face’s output.

What makes this interesting, in a more parallelish-rather-than-contrasty way (cf. Jenni’s awesome post yesterday) is that Gately is able to “abide” his most severe (albeit physical) feelings by essentially erecting internal walls around their (the feelings’) moments.

But where they do actually contrast in quite a significant way is around one of the book’s key – yet very under-explored – themes: memory.

From the discomfort of his hospital bed Gately gets to relive the memory (among others) of his bottom, as it’s known in Boston AA. Reading the story of Kite and Fackelmann and 60s Bob and the bet and match-rigging that went so horribly wrong and then so right and even more horribly wrong again and the Dilaudid in mountain form, the skittles and the Linda McCartney and the eyelid thing – well, it seems like there’s just so many opportunities for Gately not to take responsibility for it all. For his bottom.

But he does. He owns up to every choice that leads him to that situation and every opportunity to get out that he never took.

Circling forward to the book’s first scene (have you reread it yet?), let’s compare it to the way Hal “gets in touch with” the memory of one of his formative episodes:

It’s funny what you don’t recall. Our first home, in the suburb of Weston, which I barely remember – my eldest brother Orin says he can remember…

And if the point about Hal’s own distance from this memory hasn’t yet been brought home hard enough, there’s this:

O. says he can only remember (sic) saying something caustic as he limboed out a crick in his back. He says he must have felt a terrible impending anxiety.

So if you’re wondering whether Hal’s on an upward or downward trajectory I will leave you with this quote, from the end of the aforementioned Pynchon and, in honour of coming “full circle” (as Nick M. points out), a new version of the circle watercolour I closed my post #1 with.

And it is just here, just at this dark and silent frame, that the pointed tip of the Rocket, falling nearly a mile per second, absolutely and forever without sound, reaches its last unmeasurable gap above the roof of this old theatre, the last delta-t.

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Paratext – Part I

So what I’ve heard is that this is somewhere around the hundredth post for Infinite Winter.

If it is number 100, I’m sure you’ll all admire the way I’m totally resisting the pressure of the big number; but the thing I notice is not whether it’s any specific big number, but is – in general – a big number. For me this can mean only one thing: we’re getting pretty much towards Infinite Jest‘s pointy end.

As the book hurtles (possibly) towards (again, possibly) some kind of conclusion, you’d probably expect us guides to (well) actually guide, dive deep into the text and clue y’all in to just WTF is going on. But the trend I’ve noticed this week is pretty much the opposite. Your guides’ gas pedals have been eased up on and we seem – for better or for worse – to be giving you some space to do what Wallace really, really (I think) actually wants you to do. Decide for your selves. In slightly more theoretical terms: construct your own meaning.

So instead of getting too far into the text this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of something called paratext.

It’s something a friend has got me really interested in, is far less spooky and far cooler than it sounds, and is something I’ve only really picked up from talking about it and reading vaguely related things. So forgive me if I get this definition totally wrong.

Paratexts are kind of these “peripheral” texts that surround a main text and shape the way it’s read and reconstructed. If the text is (hypothetically, of course) Infinite Jest, the paratext would include things like the book’s cover, the copyright pages, special forwards by people with names like Eggers and Bissell, drafts and even all the criticism and blog-type posts about it.

I’m going to touch on paratext properly in my very last Infinite Winter post, but this week – seeing as this may be post number 100 – I want to pick out five of my favourite Infinite Winter posts by our regular guides (excluding me, of course).

A Noise Like the Historical Sum of all Cafeteria Accidents Everywhere – Mark Flanagan

This (not short) sentence in particular rang some pretty significant cherries for me:

“And so this very explicit notion of map v. territory, this Aha! moment with regard to an individual’s map versus his or her own territory, is that the elimination of one’s map is (merely) the death of the human form (the map), as opposed to the territory, that which underlies the individual’s map for which the map was purely representational, the territory of the individual being the true essence – their inner selves or even their soul or spirit.”

Both Pretty and Not – Jenni Baker

“No matter how much she turns her life around and tries to distance herself from her painful past, there it is, following her.”

Jenni’s deployment of “turns her life around” in her amazing analysis of the left/right dichotomy in Infinite Jest is just a thing to behold.

Mario’s Prescription for Calm – Corrie Baldauf

Because Corrie showed me something of Mario’s humanity I’d never seen before:

“But Mario can’t be found in his bed. He’s with his headphones, trying to remove himself from the physicality of the room and perhaps his own physical self. But he isn’t finding what he’s looking for—that voice that helps him get away from the waking hours of evening.”

The Psychoaesthetic Line – Dave Laird

“I can just imagine the spattery offscouring of lingual gray matter on restroom mirrors (the reflection of which you can even see, at the right angle), all over mirrors all across a nation that’s been hypnotized into developing a phobia that wouldn’t even have occurred to the grand majority of people.”

Dave just gets how Wallace finds the grotesque and the comic in the everyday, you know?

Abused Cats and Dead Extra-Terrestrials – Ryan Blanck

There are so many of Ryan’s posts I wanted to list, just for their brilliant titles, but it’s this post that made me laugh the hardest I’ve laughed in a long, long time:

“And sure enough, there’s poor little Gertie with tears streaming down her face, convulsing as the scientists try to zap E.T. back to life with the electric paddles. One of the most heart-wrenching scenes not just in this film, but in all of American cinema. And that is the last image these kids have etched in their brains as they head off to Spring Break.”

Honourable mention to Mike Miley’s Filmography: I haven’t watched all the films I probably never will, but I like to think I would.

Do you have a favourite post? Has there been one that’s really helped your reading of Infinite Jest? Let us know in the comments below – it’s great for our egos!

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Keep Coming Back

No one’s taken this title yet, right?

Alright. Good.

So what I want to do this week is (um) talk about Infinite Jest for a little bit – maybe take a bit of a break from (double um) talking about myself.

And as we’re getting to the really pointy end of the book now (I’m afraid it’s going to hurt a lot of you, for very different reasons) I want to make a point that’s (probably) gone unsaid (mostly) by most of us “guides”, but which nonetheless has been right there in most of our posts.

It’s that Infinite Jest rewards re-reading. Big time. Just this week I’ve come across three cherry-ringers I’ve never noticed before that I want to share with you now in case, like me, it’s taken you several reads to notice them.

We finally get to endnote 304.

Throughout at least five or six hundred pages Wallace has been trying to get us to skip ahead to the three-hundred-and-fourth endnote, promising juicy details about the wheelchair assassins and some kind of train cult.

When we finally get there, the information is presented as a quasi-academic paper framed by Jim Struck trying to plagiarise it, but what’s interesting is that the paper is by one G. Day – a character who’s familiar to us and is, right at the moment we’re taken to Struck, sharing a room with (none other than) Remy Marathe – an AFR and former train-cultist himself.

Steeply really is grotesque – in one of the ways it really matters

Remember Helen Steeply’s only putative published article for Moment magazine? Back on page 142, about the woman who’s handbag-receptacled Jarvik IX Exterior Artificial Heart was stolen? That contained all these advertorialish quotes and descriptions like “the extraordinary prosthesis”, “extroardinary heart in her purse,” and “That the prosthetic crime victim gave chase for over four blocks before collapsing onto her empty chest is testimony to the impressive capacity of the Jarvik IX replacement procedure” that made you question why the article so glowingly commended the medically miraculous exterior heart?

It’s much, much later when Marathe is drunkenly exposition-ing to Kate Gompert that we learn that he is Steeply’s Moment‘s article’s intended audience:

‘I have been knowing since the wedding night her death was coming. Her restenosis of the heart, it is irreversible. Now my Gertraude, she has been in a comatose and vegetating state for almost one year. This coma has no exit, it is said. The advanced Jaarvik IX Exterior Artificial Heart is said by the public-aid cardiologists of Switzerland to be her chance for life.

Yeah, you probably should take what Molly Notkin says in a fairly high-sodium way.

Notkin claims Joelle van Dyne’s (known, I believe, to the U.S.O.U.S. interrogators as only Madame Psychosis) is Lucille Duquette.

But we’ve seen the name Duquette before: in the James O. Incandenza filmography. And as a film-slash-film-cartridge scholar, it’s likely that Notkin knows Duquette (first initial: E) and has knowingly given the interrogators a false name.

Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but is this Duquette the priapismically guilt-ridden Pabst scholar?

Better question: what have you discovered this week?

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The Sads

As Hal’s post-Hope funk descends to true anhedonia, I thought that it would be timely to talk (more) about my own experience living with Itthe Horror, the Shadow of the Thing.

It seems to be a tradition, even with Wallace, who is so often so exact, to avoid calling depression what it really is. My own trite and denial-ridden moniker for it was: The Sads.

Like Hal, my depression manifested mostly as a kind of anhedonic numbness. A relatively low-grade sadness that, while not deep, was ever-present for long stretches at a time.

One of the particularly awful things about this kind of depression is that it seems like it’s something you could learn to live with, if you can just ignore (it’s way easier than you think) the small ways it eats away at your relationships, your energy and even your ability to really think.

Even if that does sound like the kind of thing you can live with, be apprised that one day it will grow claws. Your own mopish, silent sadness will descend to, say, things like spontaneous weeping, compulsive depilation and face-scratching. Then it will very quickly (think of that line from John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars about falling in love/asleep that’s just as true about ketchup and bottles) get much, much worse.

Despite all its pomo cleverness and high-theory hijinks the thing that speaks to me most throughout Infinite Jest is how vividly and faithfully it renders depression in all its forms. This is why I’m so strongly compelled to recommend this book to people I know and care about: I want you to be able to pick it up and know, even just the tiniest bit, how I’ve felt; what I’ve been through.

So if you’re maybe a certain kind of person who feels maybe they’re not quite ready to pick up Infinite Jest yet, but are following this blog to at least understand why it means so much to some people, I have one request.

Grab your copy of IJ that’s maybe just recently made it from coffee- to bedside-table – seriously, please – and thumb through to page 695 and read just nearly two-ish pages beginning with “The American Century as Seen Through a Brick‘s” and ending with “does not understand Its overriding terror will only make the depressed resident feel more alone.”

Maybe all you’ll learn from these pages is that you may never truly understand what it is to be depressed without living it – maybe that’s all you can learn; but that’ll be enough.

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Shadow of the Wing of the Thing

It’s probably pretty obvious, but I should say outright that I am a repeat Infinite Jest reader. I’m even reading it twice right now with Infinite Winter and my now much-overtaken reading for Drawing on the Infinite.

All week I’ve been aware that my two readings are converging somehow. Reading Joelle’s pre-attempted felo de se party scene (which I can still acutely remember from a few weeks ago) and Gately’s se defendendo where Joelle steps in and up herself has helped me better understand how she’s come from one point to the other, and where some parallels lie with my own journey since first the very first time I read Infinite Jest.

What I was completely unprepared for was reading both these passages (the first is Joelle, the second is Geoffrey Day, and I think is what Jenni alluded to earlier this week) early yesterday:

She is now a little under two deliberate minutes from Too Much Fun for anyone mortal to hope to endure.

And then more than 400 pages later:

Katherine, Kate, it was total horror. It was all horror everywhere, distilled and given form. It rose in me, out of me, summoned by the odd confluence of the fan and those notes. It rose and grew larger and became engulfing and more horrible than I shall ever have the power to convey.

Setting out to cause her heart to explode, Joelle is totally encaged. She, like the younger Day, is living in the shadow of the wing of the thing too big to see.

When I first read Infinite Jest I felt as Joelle felt then. I was encaged myself in the claustrophobically infinite space of my own head. That sounds contradictory but it’s somehow not, in ways that don’t think I’ll ever have the power to convey.

Depression lives in two places: in the head and the heart, and it’s hard to know which is in control. You feel the horror and your head starts telling you it’s real. The more you listen the worse you feel and as you feel worse you thing worse things, more often. You become more convinced.

I spent my days weeks listening to my head devour itself like this. At night I’d shut my eyes and in the darkness see something darker. The horrific shadow of the thing.

The worst nights – mercifully few – I’d lie foetally awake feeling nothing but a tingling current down my wrists, an unwanted invitation, and hope that if I could just stay curled up there in bed I could get through the night.

What’s perverse about Infinite Jest is that for all the pain it contains, it doesn’t drag you down into those dark, bottomless places but helps show you that you can rise out of them if you do the work.

Infinite Jest is an empathy machine. The least it does is teach you that if you can’t get outside your own head, you can still get outside your own self. The way it does this, I think, is to show you so much you have to empty your head of your own baggage – whatever it is – to fit it all in.

But what it does way beyond all this is to let you truly leap over the wall of the self, as Wallace would put it, to trade places with these characters and understand them, as I have with Joelle and Geoffrey and Kate this week.

Through their Ennet House residency, AA participation and totally, brutally honest self-inventory-taking, these characters are all learning to understand and take some control over what they think and feel. I’ve never been in a halfway house, I’ve never been to AA, and my own efforts at this kind of honestly probably fall way short of our characters’, but I’ve learnt much of what they’re learning; and that’s thanks in part to this book.

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238/1079 “She is now a little under two deliberate minutes from Too Much Fun for anyone mortal to hope to endure.”

The Bonerfied Truth

Telling the truth is fucking hard. That’s my big takeout not from Infinite Jest pages 507-80. It’s fraught is what it is.

Not only do you have to decide whether you’re going to tell the truth – whether you want to, even – but you have to know what it is. How do you know what it is? How do we help each other to tell the truth, to hear the truth and know the truth?

These are the questions I’ve been wrestling with this last week, just like Hal and Avril and Tavis, Steeply and Marathe, Joelle, Gately, Lenz and Green have all in their own ways struggled with finding and articulating truth.

We start our reading with the Dynamic Duo of compulsion: Dr. Charles Tavis and Avril “Dean of Females” Incandenza. While CT is presented as possibly the most pathologically open person on the planet – his “wordy and bluff” way of thinking out loud about thinking out loud re-buries, in their very exhumation, the capital K-T Kernels of Truth in a whole lot of lesser and parenthetical truths. You can just never know with him.

Avril’s a bit the same, openness-wise, except she takes it even further with what Orin and Hal have dubbed “Politeness Roulette”.

This Moms-thing that makes you hate yourself for telling her the truth about any kind of problem because of what the consequences will be for her. It’s like to report any kind of need or problem is to mug her.

While I feel (sorry) that Tavis’s openness is excruciating to behold because you have to experience the full recursive turmoil of a mind in reflexive overdrive, Avril’s is definitely more emotional and it’s more like she’s mugging you by making you mug her, no matter what you do.

[Orin] said she went around with her feelings out in front of her with an arm around the feelings’ windpipe and a Glock 9 mm. to the feelings’ temple like a terrorist with a hostage, daring you to shoot.

Avril’s emotional openness might be a form of honesty, but what good is this honesty without responsibility? What makes Avril the mugger here is that she’s ceding responsibility for her emotions to someone else (here it’s Hal who, judging by his literal orbiting of the Moms and delivering-the-goods-to-authority-type-figures compulsions, has enough maternal issues already thank you very much).

So which puts Hal in a difficult position vis-a-vis his own abilities/desires to be honest – not just to Avril, but we’ve seen time and time again how much Hal has struggled with being honest with himself – finding his own truths. (A brief bit of hand wringing: I don’t blame this on Avril at all – but it’s probably worth noting that many of Infinite Jest’s characters’ issues are inherited from their parents and their parent’s parents and so on – so I don’t think we can completely ignore Avril’s influence in this regard, re little Hallie (Orin and his issues pretty much go without saying). Like, which is the bigger disservice to Avril: to give her too much blame, or too little?)

Wallace shows us how these characters’ desires-slash-abilities to tell the truth (or otherwise) are caught in a kind of feedback loop with the social structures and dynamics that exist between them; but then over the next fifty or so pages lets us continue to ponder the questions way supra as he takes us through a few variations:

Steeply and Marathe are basically professional deceptors, but as they alternate between their deceptions, feigned candor, (possibly) real candor, it’s clear that they are both hiding important truths from their selves. We learn in this section that they each hide something true from their respective superiors – Marathe perceives Steeply needs to satisfy “some U.S.A. desire to hold some small thing back from one’s superiors”.

At Ennet House, a place who more-or-less must facilitate some level of personal/communal inventory-taking, Joelle and Gately are talking past each other – asking but never answering re their own yet-unfaced issues. The whole conversation feels very much like Hal and Orin’s grief-therapist and toe-nail-clipping phone call.

Lastly we get Randy Lenz struggling with whether he wants to tell Bruce Green to screw or not – with whether he wants Green to screw or not. (Sorry Jenni – this is as far into Lenz-territory I’m going to get: maybe Ryan, Corrie or Dave will have the guts).

To tell the truth or not. To know whether you should, or not. To live with the consequences either way. The hurt; the other’s potential hurt. To know what the truth is. To be able to give it voice at all. Wallace keeps reminding us just how fucking hard and complicated it is. How easy it is to be wrong.

If there’s anything we can learn about how to tell the truth from these pages – and not just how not to – maybe it’s that you have to be prepared to live with the consequences, risk the hurt and take responsibility for them.

I can think only of Don Gately’s own p.476 attitude towards developing some kind of rigorous-personal-honesty sense, being Progress Not Perfection.

"There."
“There.”

60 Minutes +/- w/o Madame Psychosis

How is it possible to miss someone you’ve never met?

Characters are constantly either floating up to or falling beneath Infinite Jest’s surface and, on the whole, it makes for a soothing rhythm. When one character waxes, another wanes. You don’t really miss any of them when they’re gone.

Except but I read this passage about the absence of my favourite character earlier this week:

Now WYYY was back to running ‘Sixty Minutes More or Less’ without anybody at all at the helm. For the past several nights Mario has lain there in a sarcophagally tapered sleeping bag of GoreTex and fiberfill and listened to them run the weird static ambient musics Madame Psychosis uses for background, but now without any spoken voice as foreground; and the static momentumless music as subject instead of environment is somehow terribly disturbing: Hal listened to a few minutes of the stuff and told his brother it sounded like somebody’s mind coming apart right before your ears.

I’m feeling the loss that much more acutely, right along with Booboo (who doesn’t know he knows Madame P.) this week as I’m also reading this earlier passage for Drawing on the Infinite:

Joelle is thinking about what she has in her purse. She sits alone in her linen veil and pretty skirt, obliquely looked at, listening to bits of conversation she reels in out of the overall voices’ noise but seeing no one really else, the absolute end of her life and beauty running in a kind of stuttered old hand-held 16mm right before her eyes

What I keep coming back to – as someone who was a musician before he became irretrievably stuck in books – is that aural image (I also have synaesthesia, so I’m allowed to mix terms this way) of static, ambient, momentum music that is, itself, subject.

So here’s my ‘Sixty Minutes More or Less With[out] Madame Psychosis’ playlist. The first track does feature spoken voice, and it’s the only thing I can think of that’s even vaguely like listening to M.P. on air. For the rest you’ll just have to make do without.

Just for something a little extra this week (we’re halfway through the book now after all), I also have a download of some of my recent watercolours. You can grab ’em right here.

If there’s any music you know that feels, listening to it, like reading Infinite Jest feels: let me know in the comments below and I’d love to have a listen.

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[Insert New Post Subject Here]

Well, shoot.

Because I’ve read Infinite Jest (ahem) a couple of times before, I’ve been looking forward to writing about the whole Lyle and do-not-underestimate-objects scene for a few weeks.

Thanks Mark. I gotta say, you nailed it.

If you’ve read Mark’s post, it’s probably going to be pretty clear that I had to toss my original plans to talk about how I start my day with my physical, actually-bound copy or Infinite Jest out the window. Also, all the object-oriented ontology stuff that’s hashed out in the comments.

And in the spirit of total honesty, I don’t know what else to post about, now.

Here’s a couple other object-related things that’ve been kicking around my head this week:

  • Hal calling out Orin for actually meaning the obverse when he refers to his (Orin’s) seductions’ Subjects.
  • Ennet House’s neighbouring objay darts.
  • That Mario’s annually screened film’s subjects are, in fact, socks – surely something in the tip-toppest tier of domestic objects. (Oh: and hey, while we’re on it, notice the difference in the ways socks “signify” in Mario’s film and the game of Eschaton that precedes its screening by a few hours? I don’t know what it means, but – cool.)

The ways objects can denote/signify a subject (by which I really mean a person (or, really, a character): but I’m almost obliged to keep up the subject/object rhetoric here. It’s like mandatory) – or at least, a facet of one – is something I’ve become increasingly drawn to with my Drawing on the Infinite project. Here’s a few of my own favourites.

125/1079 "U.S.S.M.K.'s hairbow became detached and fluttered down through Mario's sightline like a giant crazed violet moth."
125/1079 “U.S.S.M.K.’s hairbow became detached and fluttered down through Mario’s sightline like a giant crazed violet moth.”

I wrote about this a few weeks ago, but I found, on my last read-though, a lot of tenderness and sweetness to the “romantic” scene between Mario and the USSMK, despite the grotesquerie of its humour. The image of Millicent’s bow fluttering captures this perfectly for me.

167/1079 "the way a slouching Brando would just rip a letter open with his teeth and let the envelope fall on the floor all wet and rent and torn?"
167/1079 “the way a slouching Brando would just rip a letter open with his teeth and let the envelope fall on the floor all wet and rent and torn?”

(Maybe I should have written about this during the week we covered Jim’s father’s lengthy monologue on objects and bodies and Brando etc etc)

182/1079 "and gets a Millennial Fizzy out of the vending machine in the sephenoid sinus"
182/1079 “and gets a Millennial Fizzy out of the vending machine in the sephenoid sinus”

I just like this one because I had so much fun coming up with a logo for the Millennial Fizzy (it’s a Narcissus flower).

Which brings me right to this week’s new pic: an object and a subject whose confluential consequences we now know all too well, and which needs basically no introduction at all:

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Till next week – keep coming back!

Easy as EN123

Fix yourself a drink, if – I’m almost probably impelled to add, legally – you’re above whatever the legal drinking age in whatever like jurisdiction you’re in, because I’m here to talk about the Eschaton scene. (My drink recommendation, IYI, is as follows):


GIN AND ESCHATONIC

Pour one-ish measures of quality gin into a short and attractively etched crystal tumbler – one of the ones that reflect fingerprint-sized coins of rainbow light onto the surface around the glass that the glass is on.

Fill all but about half an inch of the tumbler’s remaining space with very cold tonic water.

Shave ice and sprinkle it onto the GIN AND ESCHATONIC recipe.

Serve with red-skin peanuts and spectation.


Okay but are you ready for this now, because this is the post where I’m really bending the “don’t get too recursively, abstractly, prolixly academic” mandate us guides were given before Infinite Winter even began.

Because I’m not going to talk about Eschaton itself, or maps vs. territories etc etc. What I’m going to do is shake a finger at (aside: it strikes me that this is what pHD candidates might mean whenever they use expressions like “gesturing Deleuze”) some of ways Hal and Pemulis put the state of authorship under question. Particularly in – and hence this post’s terrible, terrible title – endnote 123.

Endnote 123 is basically transcribed or quoted from Pemulis/Hal’s Eschaton guidebook. Although the book’s ur-author-figure type author type of person doesn’t introduce the endnote with any kind of all-caps heading (like pretty much any other time “another” text is quoted in Infinite Jest, it’s pretty clear that this section is by Pemulis and Hal because Pemulis makes it pretty clear: Pemulis here, dictating to Inc”.

So Pemulis is responsible for the words, while Hal’s just an instrument for getting them on to the page. He’s basically the equivalent of a pen. Except that but unlike a pen, Hal’s a conscious sentient being and he understands what his and Pemulis’s roles are supposed to be. Hence all the little [sic]s that litter the text. A simple pen would never do this (on its own) – there’s no way it needs to throw up its little pen hands and say that whoa, that this mistake isn’t my doing.

But Hal does.

There’s kind of a typically multi-levelled Wallacean irony at play here. Hal knows he’s not the author, but he knows that he’s still in a position where he can be seen to be responsible for the text’s errors and following that logic, for the text itself. So to absent himself from this position of potentially perceived responsibility, he drops [sic] every time Pemulis drops the ball. The sort of ironic bit is that whenever he does he’s pointing to himself – showing how he is present in the text.

Not to mention, even, all the times Hal does consciously alter the text with his “occasional verbal flourishes” and Trump-like endowment-defensive addendums.

So who’s the real author here? And what I’m really asking is: who is ultimately responsible for what the text says?

Here’s the thing that really interests me about EN123 though:

It’s going to be interesting to see if [sic] Hal, who thinks he’s just too sly trying to outline Eschaton in the 3rd-person tense [sic]

So, wha?

If we flip all the way back to wherever it is (must be around p340) in the book’s main text where the superscript linking to this EN123 is; is all the “this is what Hal’d say if he had a gun to his head” posturing just a smokescreen? That it’s just Hal pretending to be some omniscient 3rd-person narrator getting into Hal’s head, or imagining what it’s like in Hal’s head?

Can the book’s characters do this?

Can we ever be sure just who is addressing us in this book?

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