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]
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?