Shambles: Summer of Infinite Jestation


‘sa goddamned lie.
September 10, 2010, 8:23 pm
Filed under: Infinite Jest | Tags: , , , ,

I have no idea what any of you other readers are thinking, but, like some of the roundtablers of Infinite Summer, I definitely did a double take. I definitely checked very carefully between p. 981 and the footnotes to make sure there weren’t like, extra pages in there that I’d missed. Like there are so many pages in this book, where is the missing, resolved ending? WHERE IS IT, DFW?!

That is what I get for expecting anything remotely structured/expected from DFW, which I suppose I should have been prepared for after going through all manner of hoops laced with fire w/r/t structure.

So but yeah. I guess I’ll always have questions about the interim (like how exactly Hal descends into the uncontrollable facial contortions that don’t match his what he thinks he’s doing, and also the Gately/JvD relationship), but I think, with that ending, I can sort of see at least one of DFW’s overarching concerns/themes is related to Entertainment (or generally things that are addictive). It’s certainly a orgiastic smasher of an ending, all kinds of bodily fluids being transferred and excreted… I especially like (or was struck by) the image of the Fax’s eyelids being sewn open while on Dilaudid and Sunshine, which just seems to point back in the direction of the other kind of Entertainment…

More on Hamlet in these last few pages (Prince Hal explicitly referencing it on p. 900), though, given the ending, I’m having even more trouble actually trying to frame the story in that context. I kept on expecting Hal to suddenly reassume center stage, since he starts the book, but it seems like Gately, ever since his incident with the Nucks has been edging Hal out in terms of page content.

And actually, (my) interest as well; what we get is D. Gately having a sort of revelatory/epiphanic moment in his mental beach, in the end. And prior to that, multiple visitations from the Ghost, which is interesting, because that seems to transfer favored son status to Gately from Hal, though now the Ghost seems like a much more benevolent figure than I’d imagined rather than whatever it is in Hamlet.

I guess I also like that Gately is at the edge of the water at the end, which reminds me oddly of Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses, liminal and ready to become. Aside from the initial stunnedness, the more I think about the ending, the more it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Nice DFW, nice.

I could ramble on more about this for awhile, but am curious as to what others think. So, thoughts?

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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?



Abandon All Hope (Ye Who Enter…)

I made it all the way up through page 809; Infinite Summery reads through 812.

But so, interesting: Joelle recalls some really awkward/uncomfortable/facially traumatic Thanksgivings past in the footnotes; Marathe gets into Ennet House; John Wayne goes apparently apeshit; (relatedly) Pemulis is about to be Xed administratively (probably because of his blackmailing Mrs. Inc b/c of her… extracurricular activities… well, that and the possession); Hal, in his attempt to leave Bob Hope behind, seems to be salivating a great deal and accidentally walking into non-NA meetings involving men with underdeveloped inner infants who excrete large amounts of fluid and can projectile-cry (impressive, in my opinion).

I don’t know if I buy Ms. Notkin’s recantation of Joelle’s thanksgiving facial disfigurement. I suppose this is owing mostly to D. Gately’s glimpse of JvD’s lovely unblemished chin. That, and what JvD tells Don – that her loveliness is so extreme as to be disfiguring – though he doesn’t believe her… But evidently, the authority figures all know about the Entertainment, called Infinite Jest (V + VI?), and would really like to locate it, which Marathe seems to be quite on the verge of doing.

I’m also not surprised, but definitely a bit offput by the corroborative accounts of Mrs. Inc from both MP/PGOAT/JvD and O/Orin. On that note, interesting incest stories from both households (and also in Pemulis’s house… lots of weird Oedipal-ish undertones) – of Mrs. Inc’s indiscriminate Xing things with Y chromosomes (Orin included? hopefully not. but then who can say?), of JvD’s crazy “purist love” father, and the Mad Stork’s sobriety prior to his death by exploding head in microwave. Madame Psychosis is becoming an increasingly intriguing character; I sort of like her psychoanalysis of Orin and his serious Daddy issues, and find her perception of the second saddest family, ever, to be useful for my own understanding of them. Why is it that she has such a negative reaction to Mrs. Inc, like why so physically repulsed/disturbed, to the point of individual hairs/hackles raising? The whole S. Johnson debacle sounds horrific, Mrs. Inc’s response does seem… rather incorrect, which accords with the disturbing heliotropic effect she has on her offspring/fambly.

And now that we know more about both the background and Mrs. Inc’s creepy, JvD’s private conjecture as retold by Molly Notkin that IJ (V/VI) might actually be the Mad Stork’s take on Mrs. Inc… well, the parallels between the fertile/maternal/morbid nude figure so paralyzingly entrancing/engrossing to behold and how Mrs. Inc described effects on her family… seem to me to be too uncanny. Mrs. Inc as Death?

In any event, I found her conversation with Mario to be unsettling, and I think DFW is doing a great job of making her constant kindness and desire to be the most supportive/unobtrusive/caring mother ever to be completely eerie, like she’s hiding something sinister.

And then there’s Marathe’s + Katie Gompert’s conversation. Concussion aside, Gompert seems to be doing alright and it is becoming increasingly revealed that she likes romance. Esp. given how Marathe repeatedly emphasizes his relationship with his skull-less wife. Choosing to love in order not to want to die, which Gompert sees as not true choice, but the kind you make when there’s a gun to your head–I love particularly in that section that she repeatedly tries to correct the story to fit her romantic notion of what love is (her definition and Marathe’s are obviously worlds apart). And then I sort of wonder about DFW’s actual take on human romantic (or platonic) love, which I imagine, given his stance on empathy, as a version of Shelley’s description of poetry/art as empathy (in his “Defence of Poetry“), a looking continually outwards to imagine how it feels to be in somebody else’s shoes, etc.

I hope Pemulis doesn’t get totally and irrevocably Xed, though it certainly seems as though he’s crawled into a very very deep hole.

And as much as Hal kind of creeps me out too, with his unnaturally fabulous memory, I’m relieved to see at least that he also finds something perfidious about his mother’s constant glowingness and gratitudinousness (in his convo with Mario). I wonder if Mario has also inherited the Moms’ creepy conciliatory nature and just constantly giving and accepting (on the Shelley-ian note again: too much empathy?). Anyhow, hopefully Hal will find a real outlet for his Abandon All Hope descent into lord only knows which level of hell it is to try to pry oneself away from addicted substances. Because I don’t think the whole teddy-bear hugging regression to infantile begging plus snot and tears dripping from face is going to help him too much.

Oh, I found a sound recording of DFW’s commencement speech at Kenyon.

DFW on the Magnificent Narcissists (in the vein of John Updike) — this article is also included in the essay-anthology Consider the Lobster.



The Night Wears A Sombrero
August 18, 2010, 11:01 am
Filed under: Infinite Jest | Tags: , , , ,

Infinite babes, I hope y’all are getting through the book alright.

If you’ve read past p. 728/9 and up to where Infinite Summer recommends for the week (p. 738, which is about as awkward a place as any to stop reading, just so you know), then you/we are officially well into the 3rd trimester of jestation and good lord, it is way too late to safely abort.

So, Hal is obviously going through some kind of substance withdrawal, which is very lonely-inducing–I feel like depression is something that comes up quite a bit in DFW’s writing (which isn’t terribly surprising)–and then DFW sort of rambles from anhedonia on to psychotic depression, neatly tying together K. Gompert and Hal… We’ve essentially got only a few months before Hal disappears into an unintelligible shell of his former lexically brilliant self.

We get a bit more of Hal reflecting on The Mad Stork’s oeuvre, and a play by play of Blood Sister: One Tough Nun.

We learn more about Mike and Matty Pemulis’ childhoods. Iiinteresting. And that Matty Pemulis is a prostitute who knows Poor Tony. And Poor Tony attempts to rob K. Gompert + listener-independent streak-talking Ruth v. Cleve… and steps into that highly commendable/repulsive pile of human turds.

And something strange might have been detected in an unclean fridge by those 14-and-unders in the labyrinthine tunnels of ETA. Perhaps a Concavity-addled hamster? Or maybe mold that is beginning to grow legs?

There’s definitely something fishy going on w/r/t the Poutrincourt-Steeply exchange above ground (well, + deLint, although Aubrey seems to be generally kind of oblivious) during the Stice/Inc show down. Everybody seems to be trying to get a hold of the Master copy of the Entertainment, so now we know why all these assassins des fauteuils rollent are wheeling sneakily around Enfield/ETA/Antitoi Entertainnent/associated halfway houses.

Avril obviously knows the Steeples (gotta love that correspondence between Bain and Steeply, a la footnote 269. Does he even know her/his name?), since DFW mentions that Avril makes a phone call to Blasted Expanse Blvd. DFW is definitely tearing into the Steeply disguise narratively–maybe it’s just me, but I feel fairly confident in asserting that the male pronoun has come up a lot more lately w/r/t the enigmatic Steeply, who seems only to really have launched Orin’s figurative ship. I wonder though, is Steeply, representing the US Bureau of Unspecified Services, also seeking to locate the Master Copy of the Entertainment? If so, I’m not sure I can quite figure out what purpose that would serve other than stopping the AFR/militantly secessionist Quebecois in their anti-ONAN-tist tracks. I also wonder who Steeply’s wife is.

J.v.D. wants (in some small way) Don Gately to see her face! AHHH! I smell some serious schmaltzy romance here. It would be ironic in a nice way of D. Gately hooked up with Madame Psychosis.

Also, this description of Lenz on page 717 makes me think of The Night Wears A Sombrero:

“Lenz wore fluorescent-yellow snowpants, the slightly shiny coat to a long-tailed tux, a sombrero with little wooden balls hanging off the brim, oversize tortoise-shell glasses that darkened automatically in response to bright light, and a glossy black mustache promoted from the upper lip of a mannequin at Lechmere’s in Cambridgeside… his pallor an almost ghostly aspect in the sombrero’s portable shade”

Aww yeah.

**Minor Spoiler Alert for p. 729-38**

Ahahaha, some guy that Marathe talks to at Ennet House (he’s so warm and he doesn’t know it…) delivers this hilarious Matrix-esque conspiracy theory, all while our dear assassin de fauteuil rollent repeats combinations of the words “I am Swiss [putatively, eh]”, “I have (desperately) come here (desperately)”, and “I am addicted and deformed, seeking residential treatment…” culminating in some beautifully hilarious anglais, comme ca: “I am Swiss, seeking residential treatment with desperation”.

I suppose I’m also a bit relieved that J.v.D. thinks of the Incandenzas as the second saddest fambly she’s ever known, in addition to filling us in on her opinion of the creepy nicknames in the fambly (The Mad Stork, the Moms).



Carved out of what, though, this place?
August 11, 2010, 10:34 am
Filed under: Infinite Jest | Tags: , , , ,

Just FYI, I stopped on page 662*, right before the Steeply/Saprogenic** Greetings correspondence, while Infinite Summer has chugged up through p. 665.

This was a really intense section:

Mario will turn 19 soon.

D. Gately’s map is quite nearly eliminated. Erdedy discovers that J.v.D. likes D. Gately extracurricularly. D. Gately realizes a) that Lenz is Bing-ing, and b) that J.v.D. is Madame Psychosis.

That, and Mario also nearly stumbles upon Madame Psychosis herself. I really want them to meet: Mario, as one who has been approached by U.H.I.D. and refused to wear the veil, and J.v.D., Orin’s love from which he has never recovered, P.G.O.A.T. in the most ridiculously irresistable sense, who asks to don the veil because the extremity of her non-hideousness and non-deformity makes her feel very much a part of U.H.I.D.

Hal almost gets pwned by Ortho Stice.

Orin fills out an interesting survey form for one of his allegedly adoring/wheel-chaired fans who has a putatively Swiss accent, much like the putatively Swiss hand-model who smokes and dives into the covers… minus an autograph ruse.

Steeply encounters many left-handers at E.T.A.

We get Steeply’s version to Marathe of how his father developed the Misplaced/Lost look akin to those who have been sucked away by The Entertainment after slowly descending into convoluted apocalyptic theories involving the T.V. show M*A*S*H*. And the two (Marathe + Steeply, that is) finally, finally, part ways after a correspondence that has been chopped up and scattered about since the beginning of IJ.

Like Girl Detective (who commented in this week’s Infinite Summary) and Marathe, I’m a bit suspicious about the story that Steeply tells about his father. Indeed, why the change from Mummykins to Mumkinsky? It was certainly a tragic tale, but it mirrored accounts of what The Entertainment does too eerily well. Steeply may be a cross-dresser in the Shakespearean sense (which in my opinion really ties in well to the Orin romance – which is a slightly edited version of Orsino, a la Duke Orsino in Twelfth Night, although Orin is a hilarious caricature of the worst kind of philandering lothario), but who’s to say that this kind of (gender) duplicity doesn’t bleed into other aspects of his/her life? (Granted, Orin seems to have quite moved on… but he seemed remarkably interested in H. Steeply as a potential Subject/object for awhile.). Steeply especially seems to abound with liminality (i.e. his/her relationship with Marathe – who’s telling what and for whom and who knows who knows?). Although we do know Steeply had/has a wife.

I didn’t intend to make this all chock-heavy with Shakespeare references (looking especially to the is/seems philosophical debate), but again, Steeply brings up a really interesting point towards the end of this section (like p. 660-2ish) about The Show (with Players, though in this case, they are tennis players and not actor Players) – it being called The Show and all, and tennis being a “spectator sport” – and then there’s DFW’s seemingly free-floating digression about spec-ops, about how there’s a kind of recoil in his dystopia into “real live performance”, where the cleaning of the duckpond every year brings thousands of concentric rings of viewers.

So but Steeply’s question about E.T.A. (founded by a film director, no less, of The Entertainment) sounds to me like a legitimate one – carved out of what, indeed?

*the reason being that, accompanying Steeply/Saprogenic’s correspondence from pages 663-5 is a footnote of epic proportions… and even though the 70 preceding pages certainly whetted my appetite for something, it was certainly not that.

**FYI: saprogenic, in case you were wondering, means caused or produced by putrefaction or decay. I can’t even begin to imagine what a Saprogenic Greeting is. Or how they do business.



See Note 304 sub.

Zomg, most intense footnote to date. Although J.O. Incandenza’s filmography footnote is definitely up there.

I’ve already mentioned this elsewhere, but is anybody else in love with the idea of Les Assassins des Fauteuils Rollents (“pretty much Quebec’s most dreaded and rapacious anti-ONAN terrorist cell” p. 994 and how “heard the squeak” has ominous connotations of a grisly/gruesome death instead of a mouse infestation)?

Anyway. I don’t even know where to begin with summarizing the plethora of new characters we’ve just been introduced to (Marathe/Steeply), but again, all the hard work has already been done by Infinite Summer.
Although I’d be careful, as I think the calendar I’ve set up isn’t quite in line with that particular blog’s summeries (so read ahead about 10 pages to 147 before reading the last block).

Some things that are ridiculous that have been bouncing around in my skull: the hamster rampages in the wasteland of Vermont/Canadian territory (the Great Concavity). Gigantic babies wreaking havoc (… what?). And I only barely understood the section on page 130-5 involving yrstruly, Mr. Wo, C (well, the late C via Draino), Poor Tony (interesting, lots of people in drag – Roy Tony a la Wardine is also mentioned in this section).

Overall: greatly enjoying the book, despite more than likely (severely) lacking in comprehension. There is a satisfying amount of slapstick and ridiculous and, yeah, I do keep my laptop/dictionary next to me when I read. What?

And some linx:

on editing infinite jest (how does one….?)

dfw’s boringest book ever, to be published next year…