Shambles: Summer of Infinite Jestation


Of turnipcuts, embryoglios, and prosfeces

And also, the end of Infinite Summer’s weekly summeries, because apparently by this point in the novel, people seemed to have raced ahead to the finish.

I’m definitely tempted to, seeing as I still am not quite sure what this book is about–drug-use? entertainment? tennis? dysfunctional famblies? addiction? map-elimination? loneliness? depression? None or all of the aforementioned? Does anyone have a concrete clue?

All I know is that it’s hilariously fun to read sometimes, and completely depressing on some other levels. I think the fact that it has sustained my interest/confusion/mirth for over 883 pages is quite something though. For those of you who still dig some kind of a synopsis or summary, here’s a pretty exhaustive site, though if you scroll too far too fast you risk spoilering things for yourself.

So this week’s reading seemed to be heavily concentrated in the mind of D. Gately, which is good, because I’ve just been waiting and waiting whilst enduring excruciating amounts of worry and suspense about his probably critical condition. After all, he has Noxzema and y’know, a few bullets here and there. And JvD visits him, and we’re introduced to D. Gately’s attempts not to Step #13 her in his befogged state.

But so yeah. What’s up with the Hamlet references that’re rife through Gately’s section? Is he supposed to somehow stand in for Hal as Hamlet? Is there even a Hamlet? DFW does something really sneaky with the se offendendo footnote (#337) by suggesting that Ewell’s blunder is a “subtle jab at Gately from a Ewell intimate with the graveyard scene from Hamlet, namely V.i.9” (1076). I mean, DFW is all over the place with authorial intrusion (especially in the footnotes), but this one bothers me (I don’t mean bothers in the sense of annoyed, just causes me to think/wonder).

Weird fluttering dream v. reality sequences aside, the Wraith that visits D. Gately sounds (suspiciously at first, then unmistakably) like the Mad Stork. Why has Hamlet’s father’s putative Ghost come to visit, converse with, and divulge information to Don Gately of all people? I do like that we get the Mad/Sad Stork’s point of view (and he does seem both mad (in the slightly marbles-akilter sense) and sad), finally – we know his purported motive for creating the Sodom & Gomorrah-esque Entertainment stems from his desire to… some how connect with Hal? The exact quotation, taken from page 839 follows:

Games hadn’t done it, impersonation of professionals hadn’t done it. His last resort: entertainment. Make something so bloody compelling it would reverse thrust on a young self’s fall into the womb of solipsism, anhedonia, death in life. A magically entertaining toy to dangle at the infant still somewhere alive in the boy, to make its eyes light and toothless mouth open unconsciously, to laugh. To bring him ‘out of himself’, as they say. The womb could be used both ways. A way to say I AM SO VERY, VERY SORRY and have it heard. A life-long dream. The scholars and Foundations and disseminators never saw that his most serious wish was: to entertain.

Wait, what? So the whole point of the creation of The Entertainment was to grasp prince Hal–yes, that’s how, on p. 875, oddly ageless janitors Kenkle and Brandt (somehow, in their capacity as stewards, reminding me of less intelligent versions of Horatio) refer to him. Prince Hal, indeed–by the figurative lapels to reverse his apparently tragic thrust in the direction of solipsism/anhedonia/death in life? I guess that explains why its actual effect is to do the diametrically opposite thing to everybody else, i.e. grasp everybody else by the figurative lapels and draw them into a feature so entertaining that not only are tragic thrusts reversed away from solipsism/anhedonia/deathinlife, but they’re also diverted so far in the other direction–the “out of themselves” element–that they come full circle to death in life via over-stimulation of pleasure.

Also this week, we got into Hal’s mind, first person again, which hasn’t happened since the beginning of the novel. I wonder why this is. But it’s certainly nice to hear get inside this relatively emotionally with-held person (though honestly, I’d love to get inside one Avril Incandenza’s mind as well). There are beginnings of Hal’s “Year of Glad” ailment, something to do with his inability to control what his facial muscles are doing circa p. 874ish.

And that tennis tournament that the AFR are trying their level best to infiltrate to get close to Hal, while the Bureau of Unspecified Services tries to get their Public Service Announcements together enough to help protect citizenry from The Entertainment with Phil the Ass. Ortho Stice’s forehead skin gets stuck to cold glass.

Does anybody have any theories as to what this has all been about?

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