Category Archives: Posts from the Guides

In the Recliner

InfWin Guide here. I got into this thing knowing that I had no business being here. I tried to hang in there, but have fallen embarrassingly behind in the reading. Now, I am grasping at straws (at least there are lots of straws) to produce something thoughtful and meaningful for each week’s blog post. So this week, I’m gonna pull one out of the pomo-meta hat and reflect a bit on this experience.

Image 48 EntertainmentI’ve begun to feel like the Middle Eastern medical attache. I – in a metaphorical sense – came home after a long day at work, popped in this unlabeled video cartridge, and sat back in my La-Z-Boy recliner to enjoy an evening of mindless entertainment. Except that the video cartridge is actually the novel, Infinite Jest, I have no recliner at home, and reading said novel is anything but mindless entertainment.

But I was greatly looking forward to the experience of reading Infinite Jest again, this time with hundreds of my closest friends.

Image 49 EntertainmentBut somewhere around week 5, I began to lose my way. And by lose my way, I mean that I got pulled in too many directions by all my various jobs and responsibilities, and but so my well-worn and well-loved copy of Infinite Jest found itself sitting on my end table or going for rides in my car, tucked away in my backpack with my laptop and my lunch box. The novel became like my tote bag of grading; I take it with me everywhere with the intention of doing some reading/grading, but it just sits in the back of my car or the corner of the living room.

Image 50 EntertainmentIt became like that unlabeled video cartridge sitting in the medical attache’s video cartridge player, set to play on an endless loop. Except that it wasn’t being played – or read – on an endless loop. It just sits there. Untouched and unread.

For weeks, I’ve been telling myself to just give up. Throw in the towel. Call it quits. Just tell Mark and the others that I can’t finish and that they need to find someone to pinch hit for me in these last three posts.

But I can’t do that. I can’t do that because I am a man of my word and I keep my commitments.

Image 51 EntertainmentAnd I can’t do that because I am in the metaphorical recliner. I sucked in. I can’t stop reading this damn book.

Image 52 EntertainmentJust pass me a napkin in case I start drooling on myself.

The Churchillian Fantods

One particularly striking feature of Infinite Jest is its odd blending of actual historical people with those of the fictional world that it presents. So far, we’ve seen the likes of Marlon Brando, David Lynch, Venus Williams, Jean Chretien, and now, recurring again this week, Winston Churchill. Wallace’s inclusion of these historical personages functions along the lines of theorist Brian McHale’s discussion of “transworld identities” in the world of literary fiction—in his 1987 book Postmodernist Fiction—whereby real-life people inhabit the world of fictional characters.

I wrote about this in my 2015 DFW Conference paper, in relation to Wallace and Infinite Jest’s cryptic inclusion in Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem. I said that Lethem takes this idea even further in his book by fictionalizing Wallace by naming him Ralph Warden Meeker, and calling his “opus” Obstinate Dust. Many other parallels abound, such as the book constituting a “heft” that “must have been a thousand pages long” and instilling in its readers the feeling they’d “incurred a responsibility, [were] somehow doomed to the book.” Feel familiar?
chronic_city

I’m thus curious this week about the invocation of Winston Churchill yet again, and wonder what Wallace’s fascination with the man’s aesthetic failure signifies. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the British WWII P.M., having heard the legend of U.H.I.D.’s name origin as being coined by him, and Ortho Stice’s perfect Greco-athletic body being stuck with the face of Churchill himself:

The Union of the Hideously and Improbably Deformed was unofficially founded in London in B.S. 1940 in London U.K. by the cross-eyed, palate-clefted, and wildly carbuncular wife of a junior member of the House of Commons, a lady whom Sir Winston Churchill, P.M.U.K., having had several glasses of port plus a toddy at a reception for an American Lend-Lease administrator, had addressed in a fashion wholly inappropriate to social intercourse between civilized gentlemen and ladies….W. Churchill — when the lady, no person’s doormat, informed him with prim asperity that he appeared to be woefully inebriated — made the anecdotally famous reply that while, yes, yea verily, he was indeed inebriated, he would the following A.M. be once again sober, while she, dear lady, would tomorrow still be hideously and improbably deformed. Churchill, doubtless under weighty emotional pressures during this period in history, had then proceeded to extinguish his cigar in the lady’s sherry and to place a finger-bowl napkin delicately over the ruined features of her flaming visage. (226)

Hence, the U.H.I.D. veil.

&

Stice is one of those athletes whose body you know is an unearned divine gift because its conjunction with his face is so incongruous. He resembles a poorly spliced photo, some superhuman cardboard persona with a hole for your human face. A beautiful sports body, lithe and tapered and sleekly muscled, smooth — like a Polycleitos body, Hermes or Theseus before his trials — on whose graceful neck sits the face of a ravaged Winston Churchill, broad and slab-featured, swart, fleshy, large-pored, with a mottled forehead under the crew cut’s V-shaped hairline, and eye-pouches, and jowls that hang and whenever he moves suddenly or lithely make a sort of meaty staccato sound like a wet dog shaking itself dry. (636)
churchill

From what I can gather, Churchill actually did say something to this effect to the politician’s wife, but it appears Wallace may have taken creative liberties with that last part, from which U.H.I.D. gets its name. And we can just picture Stice now, forehead fastened to the window, Hal trying to defenestrate him, and the Churchillian visage pulling away to reveal “for a second…what might be considered Stice’s real face, his features as they would be if not encased in loose jowly prairie flesh: as every mm. of spare flesh was pulled up to his forehead and stretched, I got a glimpse of Stice as he would appear after a radical face-lift: a narrow, fine-featured, and slightly rodential face, aflame with some sort of revelation, looked out at the window from beneath the pink visor of stretched spare skin” (871).

And so Gately’s dream in this section about Joelle van Dyne’s undressing to disclose “an incredible female body, an inhuman body…this body to die for,” with the removed veil revealing the “historical likeness of fucking Winston Churchill, complete with cigar and jowls and bulldog scowl” (847), really drives the point home, visual fantods-wise.
Winston Churchill, 1929

As to what Wallace’s fascination with Churchill’s mug indicates, I know not, except that he continually mashes up the grotesque with the aesthetically desirable in a great many places throughout the book. Think of Orin with his gargantuan left side, forearm and thigh in stark disproportion to his starboard side, and E.T.A. players with gorilla-esque arms pasted on the bodies of children. I read a 2001 essay on this subject by Catherine Nichols in a directed studies class with my MA supervisors a few years back, entitled, “Dialogizing Postmodern Carnival: David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest,” and I think she is very much onto something there.

Theorize what you think all of this Churchillian invocation might signify in the comments below.

Thoughts Capitalized

Having a person speak on your behalf is a powerful thing. A real potential game changer. A big scoot in a new direction.

Gately is in the hospital and he is getting vivid visits from Joelle. Some of the visits are so vivid they are revealed as imagined or hallucinated. Note that I am not labeling these visits as unreal.

After one particular visit from Joelle, Gately gets a chance to get his voice back. Well, not exactly. He gets a chance to create a new voice.

A written voice.

The feeding tube is still full on lodged in his throat, something he is at first extremely aware of and then basically almost always in disbelief about.

The visitor said you’d requested this, because of the tube.
p 884

Confirmation! Both Joelle and the tube have physically visited Gately’s body in the hospital (post a real big night of pavement and guns).

And Lo. Gately is handed a stenographer’s notepad and a blue pen.

Track back some hundred pages to another voice desperately trying to re-establish itself, with a blue pen, over at the Enfield cafeteria.

The sign used to say MILK IS FILLING, DRINK WHAT YOU TAKE until the comma was semicolonized by the insertion of a blue dot by a fairly obvious person.

Track back again to last week’s read and Hal is clutching the walls of the Enfield hallway imagining all the food he is going to live through eating, or a room full, chalked, stacked with fried, frozen chicken patties. I’m trying to figure out if it would be possible to squeeze in several thousand blue pens, you know in momentary pen-sized openings across and along the meat earth layers only appearing to 100% filling the room.

A cross section would look like a sequence of textured orange-tan line segments interspersed with the blue dots of the bic cap heads.

Maybe with the pens included, Hal has a chance.

AND things are manifesting into tangible space for Gately. At first, in trying to form his thoughts in the hospital, he has to imagine his thoughts as printed words.

He probably didn’t have permanent voice damage. Thank God. He made his thoughts capitalized.
p 859

Now, he is fumbling forward as well as a bed-ridden Gately armed with a pain (auto-correct selects “pain” and I’m trying to say, “pen”) – Armed with a pen.

Gately struggles with one hand to flip the notebook open and write ‘YO!’
in block caps.

p 884

Bonified legible, outside of the imagination, block caps. Hands are the machines that make ideas into words.

Except there’s nothing to really hold the notebook up against and write; he has to sort of balance it flat on his thigh…
p 884

And he really tries to manifest a new form of communicating.

more like drawing than writing
p 885

And wow, do I follow. I’m like leaning in to imagine see what he will write.

you feel…gratitude at your abstract distance from anything that doesn’t sit inside concentric circles.
p 891

Reroute.

This sounds like some sort of sense of calm?! In Infinite Jest?

Yes. Think back:

The easy squeak of your head’s blood is like bedsprings in the friendly distance.
p 890

Think back a little more and we get Ferocious Francis ringing with existential truth, or like some sort of really relevant quote to live by, there in the hospital:

He’s the one that’s feeling it. He’s the only one can decide.
p 889

Forwards.
Backwards.
Forwards.

Now. The idea of proceeding…

…right to the very finish.
p 892

Soak it up.

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!

IMG_3570

Contest: #InfWin Meets #NaPoMo

 April marks not only the winding down of Infinite Winter, but also National Poetry Writing Month (abbreviated as NaPoWriMo, or NaPoMo for short). This month, writers around the country are challenging themselves to write 30 poems in 30 days, leveraging prompts like those we’re providing over at The Found Poetry Review for inspiration.

This week, I’m using my post to issue you a challenge: create a piece of found poetry sourced from or inspired by this week’s  Infinite Jest reading. Found poetry is the art of excerpting language from a source text and remixing it or transforming it to craft something new. Read more about found poetry.

Post your work (or a link to it) here in the comments section – I’ll choose my favorite piece out of those shared and send the author a signed Erasing Infinite print.

IDEAS TO GET STARTED

The inspiration for your piece of found poetry should come from this past week’s reading – pages 833-907. Here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Choose a character featured prominently in this section – for example, Gately, Hal or even the wraith. Compose a beau presente (or beautiful inlaw) poem for one of these characters using only words that can be made from the letters in his or her name. For instance, if composing a poem for “Don Gately,” you could use the words atoned, tangled, alone, daylong, delay notedly, only and alone. You can use tools like WordSolver or Litscape to generate a list of possible words from a character’s name.
  • Pick a letter of the alphabet and write down all of the words in this section starting with that letter. Compose a poem – known as a tautogram – from the words you’ve copied down.
  • Compose a prisoner’s constraint – a poem which forbids the use of letters with ascenders (b,d,f,h,k,l,t) and descenders (g,j,p,q,y) – in empathy with Gately’s and Hal’s struggles to communicate. Pull out words from the text containing only the following letters to craft your poem: a,c,e,i,m,n,o,r,s,u,v,w,x,z.
  • Select a series of twenty pages to focus on. Read through the text and copy down the first three words of every sentence. When you’ve finished, use what you’ve written as your word bank for crafting your poem.
  • Photocopy one or more pages from this week’s readings and make a visual collage incorporating the words and images from this section.

Post your completed work in the comments section below by Sunday, May 1, to be eligible to receive the print.  I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Chewing the Colloquial Fat

I had a bit of a scare last week.

You know how we all use two bookmarks while reading IJ – one for the main text and one for the endnotes? Well, I’ve been using a pen to mark my page in the main text. I write prodigiously in the margins, and this is how I’ve ensured not only having a pen, but having the particular Foray Needle Tip 0.7 mm blue ballpoint that I’ve enjoyed using throughout Infinite Winter (I’m on my second).

My endnotes bookmark is a folded sheet of 8.5 by 11 inch paper. Throughout Infinite Winter, Corrie, colorologist extraordinaire, has extolled the treasure-hunting virtues of finding something to track and collect in the text. So, early on, I found something that piqued my lexical interest. It’s a particular Wallacism I’m calling the “split idiom” and, since page 31, I’ve been collecting instances of this phenomenon on the folded sheet of paper I use as my endnotes bookmark. On Friday, I noticed that I had lost that bookmark.

It would be a bit strong to say that I panicked, but you can bet your in-it-for-the-long-haul Infinite Winter ass I was disappointed when, as my bus pulled into Denver’s Union Station and was putting IJ into my backpack, I discovered the sheet was gone. It had probably fallen out on the bus the previous day – I wasn’t sure how I’d lost it, but it was most assuredly gone. What would I do? I’d probably have to start over. Actually, I probably wasn’t going to start over, but it was a feeling of disappointment that I could relate to a previous experience I’d had.

A couple of years ago, we were exchanging houses with a family in England (We’ve found the house exchange phenomenon to be a practical route to enjoying long vacations in far-flung locales while far-flung families enjoy similar in our locale.). Shortly after arrival in the country, I found myself holding a £2 coin with a fantastic image of Charles Darwin and a chimpanzee looking squarely in each other’s eyes. How cool is that? I thought, resolving to take the coin or one like it home with me (a new and entirely different collection). But I quickly ended up spending the coin – probably on one of those delicious Cornish pasties you find at a tube stop stand – because it never occurred to me that the Darwin-chimp coin wasn’t the standard coin, but a complete and utter anomaly. We spent three weeks in England, and devoted as I was to finding another, I never did.

Come to think of it, that wasn’t a great analogy to what I went through with my endnotes bookmark, but it was disappointing all the same. On the bright side, I found the sheet of paper this weekend. Which brings me back to the topic at phraseological hand:

“Dad, I’ve got a duly scheduled challenge match with Schacht in like twelve minutes, wind at my downhill back or no.” [31]

Charles Tavis instituted the practice and calls it the Big Buddy System in the literature he sends new kids’ parents. So the parents can feel their kid’s not getting lost in the institutional shuffle. [98]

It was, finally, only the proud and haughty Quebecois who whinged, and the insurgent cells of Quebec who completely lost their political shit. [311]

Hal was confident Pemulis would remove the insouciant hat the minute they were called in on what was presumably going to be the carpet. [509]

R. Lenz lived by his wits out here, deeply disguised, on the amonymous streets of N. Cambridge and Somerville, never sleeping, ever moving, hiding in bright-lit and pubic plain sight, the last place They would think to find him. [717]

Plus he wouldn’t mind knowing what the fuck Thrust was thinking of, scaring Lenz off and letting him screw off into the urban night leaving Gately maybe holding the statutory bag. [821]

You get the idea. It appears to be something of a Wallace trademark, at least in Infinite Jest, where you can’t swing a dead issues-resolution type cat without hitting one of them. Awesome, right? I’ve collected close to 50 instances of this. And while treasured, prized, and mounted (with a data card and an insect pin through each one), I’d trade them all to you today for a single £2 coin.

Truth be told, I have to thank my wife, the found sheet of paper (and its location) springing to her clear and luminous mind when I told her what it was I was looking for and that I had wanted to share it with you guys. She suggested that perhaps I should have done so earlier, so that you could have treasure-hunted these little Easter eggs with me, as opposed to now when we’re about to come to a screeching end of the book halt. Which I agreed with her that I kind of screwed the Infinite Winter pooch on that one, but that, absent a time machine, this was all like water under the temporal bridge.

administrative-shoe

WWDGD: What Would Don Gately Do?

I have been a Christian all my life. I formalized my commitment to my faith as a high school sophomore, but I can’t remember a time  – ever – that my faith was not a part of my life. That being said, aside from maybe CS Lewis and Tolkien, I am not really a fan of Christian fiction. As a writer and literature teacher, I have a hard time with the general lack of artistic quality. But as a Christian, I have trouble with the oversimplification of life’s problems and the seemingly easy solutions that one’s faith and one’s God offer in these stories. A simple prayer and a little faith is all it takes.

Which is one of the reasons I love Wallace’s fiction so much. His fiction – or at least a lot of it – is some of the most “Christian” writing I have ever read. He gives the most honest portrayal of Christianity anywhere. He writes about real people dealing with real issues and struggles, trying to figure out how God fits into the mess they have made for themselves.

DSCN3726Even though he is kind of a schmuck, I really appreciate Wallace’s treatment of Lane Dean, Jr.’s internal struggles over Sherry’s pregnancy. In Claudius-like fashion, he prays for reprieve, not repentance. He wants to do what is right, but doesn’t want to admit his wrongs. The jumbled prose, the internal wrestling… it’s all so… real.

And then Don Gately and his forced prayers to a God he does not even believe in. This “God as He Understood Him,” upon Whom Don Gately’s success or failure in recovery lie. Don is forced to depend on something he doesn’t understand and doesn’t really even believe in to keep himself clean and sober.

I love Gene M.’s f-bomb-riddled analogy of the cake mix:

“… just imagine for a second that he’s holding a box of Betty Crocker Cake Mix, which represented Boston AA. The box came with directions on the side any eight-year-old could read… Gene M. said all Gately had to do was for fuck’s sake give himself a break and relax and for once shut up and just follow the directions on the side of the fucking box. It didn’t matter one fuckola whether Gately like believed a cake would result, or whether he understood the like fucking baking-chemistry of how a cake would result: if he just followed the motherfucking directions, and had sense enough to get help from slightly more experienced bakers to keep from fucking the directions up if he got confused somehow, but basically the point was if followed the childish directions, a cake would result. He’d have his cake.”

How much of our lives – whether we are religious or not – is based on that childlike faith that we will get our cake in the end? I don’t know the “fucking baking-chemistry” of how cake batter turns into a delicious cake when placed in the oven for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. I just know that it does. I don’t know how or why an internal combustion engine works, but I know that it does work and that the one under the hood of my 2004 Honda Civic will get me to and from work each day. I have faith that these things will work and, most of the time, they do.

Image 82 Don Gately PraysAnd for Don G. and his cravings for drugs, this act of getting down on his hulking knees and pretending to fumble around for his shoes and keys while praying to this God of His Own Making worked. After several weeks of this, the cravings begin to subside. And after a few months, he begins to forget that he’s not having cravings anymore. “He couldn’t for the goddamn life of him understand how this thing worked, this thing that was working. It drove him bats.”

Then later:

“Gately’s complaint that there was no way something he didn’t understand enough to even start to believe in was seriously going to be interested in helping save his ass, even if He/She/It did in some sense exist. Gately still doesn’t quite know why it helped, but somehow it helped when Ferocious Francis suggested that maybe anything minor-league enough for Don Gately to understand probably wasn’t going to be major-league enough to save Gately’s addled ass from the well-dressed Sergeant at Arms, now, was it?”

And that, in my experience, is the beauty of faith. I consider myself to be a “recovering evangelical.” I grew up in a church and denomination that prided itself on knowing and understanding the Bible. Any question you may have, they had a nicely packaged three-point sermon or acronym to answer it. Everything was easily explainable.

While this upbringing provided an important foundation for my faith, as I grew older, I realized that life is a lot more complicated and these pre-packaged answers didn’t always work. Questions and doubts crept in, but rather than dismantling my faith, they strengthened it. I embraced the mystery and the uncertainty and the ambiguity. Like the father of the demon-possessed boy in the Gospel of Mark, my prayer became, “I believe, but help me overcome my unbelief.”

I have come to realize that I don’t have to understand the nuances and complexities of theology. I don’t have to reconcile every apparent contradiction. My faith is not based on my knowledge or understanding. Like Don Gately, I need something bigger than my minor-league understanding to save my ass. I need a major-league-sized God, one bigger than my ability to comprehend.

So, thank you, Dave, for creating Don Gately to give a voice to my own struggles in faith.

Three M’s

Nice work getting into the 800s, team. The end is starting to feel close, for better or worse. Do you feel nervous that the book might have a hard time resolving in the remaining 150 pages? Or that you’re good and ready for this whole kertwang to be over and done with?

For me at this time, I’m still very much enjoying the ride, but finding the reading/writing schedule to be a bit intense to juggle with all the other life things happening right now. For example, my wife and I are looking to relocate cities and are in the midst of selling our house this week (and were looking at houses last weekend in the other city), my thesis defense got a tentative date put on it for this summer (so now I’m really under the gun to finish), I had to do report cards for my teaching job late into the evening the other night (report card week, any teacher will tell you, being full-on and no fun at all), I had a Netrunner tournament last night (which I won, you’ll be relieved to know), there’s a Great Concavity episode to finish editing and get out ASAP to the adoring masses, plus a bunch of other commitments too banal to mention.

And so, to keep it light this week (as opposed to my heavier posts about morality and psycho-spirituality in the last month), here’s a list of things (all categorized as starting with M) that made me laugh and kept me having fun during this week’s reading:

Mario. Mario. Mario.

  • His conversations in this section are just so funny. Talking to LaMont Chu, and getting this exchange: Chu—“Jesus, Mario, it’s like trying to talk to a rock with you sometimes.” Mario—“This is going very well!” (759)
  • Mario’s observations in the Moms’s office that “some of the prints in the deep shag he can see are shoes, and some are different, almost like knuckles” and of “a couple odd long crinkly paper strips of bright red hung over the side of the wastebasket,” which reminds us of the bewildering John NR Wayne and Avril football/cheerleader fantasy scenario the Peemster happened upon not long ago. (764, 766)
  • Mario to Hal: “I like the fans’ sound at night. Do you? It’s like somebody big far away goes like: it’sOKit’sOKit’sOKit’sOK, over and over. From very far away.” (772)
  • Mario to Hal: “Hal, pretty much all I do is love you and be glad I have an excellent brother in every way, Hal.” (772)

Marathe

  • “I know what it is you are meaning” (774)
  • “Out of a blue place, in one flashing instant.” (775)
  • “It is a long story to the side of this story, but my part of the Swiss nation is in my time of no legs invaded and despoiled by stronger and evil hated and neighboring nations, who claim as in the Anschluss of Hitler that they are friends and are not invading the Swiss but conferring on us gifts of alliance.” (776-7)

Miscellaneous

  • That the Incandenza family idiom for leftovers is “Many Wonders.” (762)
  • “Kertwang” – I’ve been using this word all week as many times per day as I can reasonably fit it contextually into conversation, both as a verb and a noun.
  • The alliteration of “[Trevor and] Pemulis’s penises.” (784)
  • Molly Notkin’s assessment of Wild Turkey being “some very gnarly-tasting liquor indeed” (790). (Personal side note: When I was on my way home from the DFW conference in Illinois last year, I came across this display in the Chicago O’Hare airport, moments before I randomly bumped into Matt Bucher whilst I was buying popcorn, and then having a several hour conversation about literature with him, without which The Great Concavity probably would not exist in its current form.

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 12.57.21 AM

  • The sheer volume of kitchen appliance suicides and demappings, with recurring mentions of J.O.I. and the microwave, and now Joelle’s mother having “committed suicide by putting her extremities down the garbage disposal—first one arm and then, kind of miraculously if you think about it, the other arm” (795). Jeez.
  • Basically just the entire Inner Infant scene, with poor old Kevin Bain crawling on all fours by scene’s end, “his face unspeakable” (808). And again that revelation that Lateral Alice Moore was in the chopper that went down and killed Bain’s parents on the Jamaica Way commuter road.
  • Tiny Ewell’s recollection to Gately of “the Money-Stealer’s Club” (810). I don’t care what anyone says; this is the best name for any club ever in history.
  • The wraith. Just in general. So yeah, there’s a ghosty thing in the book now. And he appears to be very tall, and to incept Gately’s mind with specifically regional and filmic terms like LATRODECTUS MACTANS, CHIAROSCURO, BRICOLAGE, SCOPOPHILIA, SINISTRAL, POOR YORICK, etc., making it pretty clear who this revenant is. Could this be the…thing(?)…responsible for the mysterious goings on of the tripod-in-the-thicket, Ortho Stice’s bed moving in the night, and brooms X’ing in the cafeteria of the Enfield Tennis Academy?
  • Pemulis’s comforting of Todd Possalthwaite in endnote 324 about the capital-T truth of “math. As in Matics, Math E. First-order predicate logic. Never fail you,” &c. (1071)

And probably a whole bunch of other things I laughed out loud at in public this week—having been kicked from our home during a great many real estate showings—but missed in my skimming over of the section.

I look forward to hearing about your favorite moments from this week’s section in the comments below.

Attachments and Agreements

Infinite Jest Project (Phase 3) photography by PD Rearick
Infinite Jest Project (Phase 3) photography by PD Rearick

Last week we confirmed that there are at least five Infinite Jests. I’m talking about films by Incandenza, but I’m thinking, why and how exactly I have more than five copies of Infinite Jest. Three of them are thoroughly devoured by color tabs. If one of the films kill you, what about the books? Or, how about all of us folks knee deep in our second, third, fourth, fifth reads? I’m just happy that I am in fact still able to do other things.

Mostly.

I would like to point out that photo that I posted last week…Well; the problem is that scene wasn’t staged. It concerns me. I was standing looking at my bed, thinking about the fact that there were two genuine color tabbed copies of Infinite Jest on one pillow. “Choose your attachments wisely,” and I did. The oversight, or blatant sign of blindness, is that I never mindfully agreed to share my bed with two copies of Infinite Jest.

So here is my question, those attachments you’ve chosen…have you thought much about where you bring them, leave them, who exactly gets subjected to them?

The attachment is a thing to consider, but so is the context. And the frequency.

Shit.

It doesn’t help that I figured this out while I was making my bed. Before bed. This would be a good time to point out that this timing, between when I make my bed and when I get into it, lets me know if I have it together or not. Mainly because there was a point when I decided that making my bed was a thing worth doing. It was a way to prepare a comfortable place for my night self to sleep. It was a way of reminding myself how important sleep was, is. And based on that photograph, I’ve a little bit lost track of that agreement.

Do you have any type of large or small barometer for checking in on how you are doing, and what exactly is up with you? This type of thing may seem subtle or insignificant to an outsider, but it is one absolute way to keep track of your track.

Notkin’s Believe It or Not

As Mark duly noted in yesterday’s post, we’re well into the pages where the novel shifts into overdrive and everything seems to be happening all at once. Characters are meeting, plots are intersecting, and the story in some sections is clear as mud. You don’t know who to trust, and unreliable narrators abound.

In last week’s reading, we saw the return of Molly Notkin, a character you probably never thought you’d see emerge again. She has a mouthful for the U.S.O.U.S interrogator and for us, who have been silently interrogating the book as we’ve gone along. Nothing in her narrative seems outright unbelievable — in fact, with all of the messed up families, weird sexual relationships and stories from people on substances, her revelations seem pretty run of the mill.

And yet, we’re encouraged to look at her narrative with a skeptical eye. Wallace writes:

And it was this, the harsh light on her fully exposed post-Marxist face, more than any kind of tough noir-informed grilling from R. Tine Jr. and the other technical interviewer, that prompted M.I.T. A.B.D.-Ph.D. Molly Notkin…to spill her guts, roll over, eat cheese, sing like a canary, tell everything she believed she knew.

Here are some of the things Molly reveals in this section. Which do you believe (and not)? What do you make out of some of these ambiguities?

  1. The Infinite Jest (V or VI) cartridge features Joelle Van Dyne (Madame Psychosis), naked and hugely pregnant, representing death, leaning over the viewer while explaining that “Death is always female, and that the female is always maternal.” Her face is “hideously deformed” and hidden, and she may or may not be holding a knife.
  2. James Orin Incandenza (JOI)’s kitchen appliance suicide may have been inspired, at least in part, by Joelle’s mother, who killed herself by putting her arms – one at a time – down the garbage disposal.
  3. Joelle and JOI were not sexually involved.
  4. Joelle was not present at JOI’s suicide, funeral or will-reading ceremony.
  5. Joelle was named a beneficiary in JOI’s will.
  6. Avril Incandenza doesn’t have any connections with anti-American groups, cells or movements.
  7. Joelle only agreed to star in Infinite Jest under the condition that JOI stop drinking alcohol.
  8. JOI was sober for three and a half months, up until the day of his death.
  9. Avril placed the bottle of Wild Turkey next to JOI’s body, upset that he had been unwilling to give up drinking for her, but that he would “for” Joelle.
  10. Joelle is hideously deformed, after indirectly getting hit in the face with acid.
  11. Avril (possibly) had incestuous relations with Orin.
  12. That Joelle’s real name is Lucille Duquette.

When it comes to these revelations: believe them or not? I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.