Shambles, or The World According to Crapitalism

Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment
June 16, 2010, 10:44 am
Filed under: Infinite Jest | Tags: , , ,

So, uhm, just finished (like, literally, just) finished the first 63 pages of Infinite Jest (again) and at this point, just trying to wrap my head around the characters DFW is throwing at me and how they all, jigsaw-puzzle-like, fit together:

Harold (‘Hal’) Incandenza + E.T.A. & Co. (including the fams – Moms, Himself, Orin, Mario), superstar kid at E.T.A. with some apparent impediment to normal speech. I.e. thinks he’s articulating himself very well, but that articulation ends up frightening the shit out of those around him.

Erdedy, guy who has a kind of hilarious addiction to dope who is currently waiting for Randi to get the pot from the harelipped dealer.

the medical attache, the personal physician of Prince Q–, who, on a Wednesday night, is watching a blank, mysterious cartridge and eating something congealed because his wife has gone off to her Wednesday night tennis-ing

Wardine/Clenette/Reginald/Roy Tony/Wardine momma. uhhhhhh.

Bruce Green, the kid who took up weed to hook up (ah, I’m such a college student. I probably mean “be in a relationship with”) the beautiful, misnomered Mildred Bonk, and who now works  both now live with their babby in a trailer with the infamous hare-lipped Tommy Doocey: pot dealer who is probably supposed to give Randi some quality shit to give to Erdedy.

Don Gately, oral narcotics addict who usually sticks to petty burglary, but has inadvertently murdered, via smelly washcloth gagging, the Quebecois terrorism coordinator who was all Ny-Quil-ed up and had not enough strength to forge another small pinhole-sized pathway by which to exhale CO2/inhale O2.

and oh hey, a link to the infinite jest wiki, complete with glorious annotations and hopefully definitions of all those words that i circled but didn’t bother to look up.

… an Infinite Summery from 2009. just read the next 10 pages (up through 73) and then you won’t feel spoilered. they do a better job with the character summaries than I do.

That said, any thoughts? How are y’all liking the book so far? I’m not really feeling the strains of Hamlet like I was in Ulysses aside from the “Who’s there? I am…” thing at the very beginning, but it is still pretty early on in the book. I’m enjoying the writing so far, but I have looots of questions, such as:

… Does anybody have any clue as to what’s going on with DFW’s chapter titles? like YDAU? or, the opener, Year of Glad?

What on earth are these Interlace cartridges supposed to be? Some form of entertainment, understandably, but… what exactly are they?

(Now opening the floor to discussion/comments/please, please somebody else say something, even if it’s just to heckle.)


7 Comments so far
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So, I think I can somewhat answer the year’s thing, in that they are actual points in time, and the whole story is put together out of order like a Tarantino movie. I started trying to put them together chronologically based on events in Hal’s life. So far I don’t have much, but in the order I’ve figured out thus far:

Year of Tuck’s Medicated Pad: Hal’s 10 (turning 11 in the year)

Year of Depend Adult Undergarment: Hal’s 17, so maybe a year or too before Year of Glad

Year of Glad: Hal’s trying to get into college, assuming things are the same in DFW’s world as in ours, Hal should be 18-ish.

Also, cahoonra and I were discussing the possible homage to Salinger’s Glass family. Most noticeably Hal calling his brother, Mario, Boo Boo. Also just the precocious, idiosyncratic nature of Hal fits with the Glass family paradigm. Though I may be reading into it it seems the Incandenza family as a whole could be an homage to the Glass family. Of course this doesn’t necessarily add to the conversation at present. It might just mean someone’s going to tell people to stop looking at his feet and trying to be a sneak about it and then subsequently commit suicide on the bed across from his wife.

And lastly, it seems Hal is a functioning, communicative human being up until the Year of Glad. So, I would presume based on the incident at the beginning of the book that something crazy went down somewhere during the YDAU and YG, which we’ll see unfold later. At least I hope so.

Alright, there’s my blurb.

Comment by hillnich

Hey, my name is El, it’s nice to meet you all. I look forward to reading IJ together this summer.

I have been having some of the same questions, here are the answers got. (Thanks to Patrick LaForge of The New York Times for helping me out.)

1. DFW uses what’s called subsidized time which is “The result of naming years after product names. The chronology is given on page 223” (via).

The cartridges are what we would today call dvd’s.

<Be sure to read this post "How to read infinite jest” by Jason Kottke.

Comment by El Heller

I like it.
I read ahead enough (I’ve never been much good at restraining myself in that department) for a few things to become clearer to me, but only a few, and minimally. DFW definitely seems to enjoy keeping things in a state of disjoint for as long as possible. I trust that all will become (more) comprehensible in time, though, and I’m enjoying the confusion-suspense.

I also am not really getting any strong Hamlet allusions. Actually, as far as Shakespeare goes, I’m reminded more of Henry IV – V, which includes the only other literary “Hal” (Prince Hal) that I can think of.

And as hillnich mentioned, the Incandenzas seem to me like a Salinger-esque clan, but I tend to see the Glasses in any gifted and neurotic family, rightfully or no. Apart from them, though Hal also reminds me a lot of Teddy (from Nine Stories), particularly when he’s with the “conversationalist.”

The psych major/nerd in me is also curious about what might possibly have gone wrong with Hal, clinically: aphasia? apraxia? dysarthria? Hopefully DFW indulges me, at some point.

Hmm. Anyway, these are my thoughts for now.

Comment by rcahoon

things i am currently amused by: the 8+ page span of j. o. incandenza’s filmography. i feel like dfw is teasing me with mysterious names of production companies, like latrodectus mactans (which, ahahah, is this guy. Oh late dfw, you joker, you infinite jester, you).

Comment by Ivy

“The Night Wears a Sombrero” really needs to be an actual movie, that title is too good to pass up.

Two things worth wiki-ing: Heliotrope (one of the production companies) and, if you’re feeling biblical, Onan.

Comment by rcahoon

hmm, that’s interesting – i didn’t realize the name Onan had biblical roots (i only knew it from Lord Byron’s comment about the onanism of Keats’ poetry (mental masturbation is more or less the modern equivalent)).

i was ruminating about the hamlet thing, and while i suppose we don’t know enough about any of the characters to say definitively that hal is hamlet, etc., i think, at the very least, that there is a structural similarity: E.T.A. is a bit like a kingdom, founded by Hal’s dead father and taken over by his uncle CT; the mother survives; there are mentions of Yorick (in the aforementioned filmography-footnote; i think it’s something like “poor yorick entertainment unltd”, which i find especially… entertaining, because, y’know… yorick was hamlet’s old court jester).

okay, i’ve just pulled out my copy of hamlet, so if you’re curious, the famous yorick passage (traditionally performed whilst hamlet holds a skull and contemplates life/death/temporality/many other profound things) is in Act 5, Scene I, approximately lines ~165-185, which I will transcribe here for everybody’s viewing pleasure… or maybe I’ll just create a new post.

Comment by Ivy

also, to return to the idea of O.N.A.N. – i had been wondering about the prevalence of C.T.’s use of the word “seed” in reference to Hal’s tennis abilities (which, upon beginning the book, i found kind of… hilarious/strange, in an adolf gottlieb-ian kind of a way), like “justifying his seed” (p. 5), etc. – but in the context of the U.S. (reimagined as onan) as somehow impotent, it begins to become somewhat coherent for me.

rcahoon: w/r/t “the night wears a sombrero”: uhhhmm… this obviously calls for an alum tithead feature.

also, i hope i’m not spoiling anything for anybody, but i absolutely love les assassins des fauteuils rollents.

Comment by Ivy

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