Shambles: Summer of Infinite Jestation


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.



Samizdat and stuff
July 28, 2010, 11:48 am
Filed under: Infinite Jest | Tags: , , , ,

Wow, we are like totally TOTALLY more than half-way done with the book!

Even if you’re not reading ahead, we’re over 50% done, and especially w/r/t to this book, that is something; I, for one, can barely believe that I’ve committed to  reading something for such a long time.

Of course, the Infinite Summery for this week – it’s up through page 516.

Okay, so. As of page 451, DFW lets us know that – as I suspected, “it’s not entirely impossible that [Tavis] may have fathered” one sleeping, bradypnea-afflicted Mario Incandenza.

Ohboy. It’s nice that this sort of fits into my framework for the Hamlet resemblances, however, I’m not sure how much else there could possibly be. There doesn’t seem to be room for an Ophelia, aside from Madame Psychosis/PGOAT/Joelle in a really roundabout sort of way; most of the resemblances I’m seeing tend to be thematic.  As far as the actual juicy tidbits of what on earth might have transpired emotionally/sexually between the Moms and C.T. (“Villain, I have done thy mother!” from Titus Andronicus), I don’t know if that’ll get delved into later on in this novel, but I surrrrreee hope it does.

Things are, as before, slowly sort of gelling together, but only sort of: so the infamous squeaking AFR have done away with Lucien/Bertraund Antitoi in their search for the Master copy of the infamous but illusory Entertainment, which was purportedly being held by DuPlessis who died because he had some intense nasal-passage-blocking cold and asphyxiated due to a combination of cold symptoms and nasty dishrag stuffed into his mouth by narcotics-abusing thief-turned armed robber Don Gately.

All this while Steeply of Troy and Marathe converse on some weird cliff-hangerish shelf in Arizona in the early May 1st light of YDAU about the progress their respective nations have made w/r/t studying/studies of the Entertainment, which seems to be able to cause your terminal-p endless stimulation upon one viewing, slash and burn no return style.

As far as the Master/copyable version of the Entertainment goes, I wonder if Lucien + pea-soup ingesting broski did have it, but had neither the proper 585-rpm-drive TP nor the knowledge that cartridges on 485s that play static-y and blank might actually be 585 Masters… whoosh, the sound of suspense.

I guess the only other way, so far, that this really ties in at all with the Hamster is this concept of a play (I mean, yes, “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king” (Act II, Scene II, 605-606)), as on page 490, when “with a really sophisticated piece of holography you’d get the neural density of an actual stage play without losing the selective realism of the viewer screen. That density plus the realism might be too much to take”. But the ties aren’t really all that clear – I don’t know who’s guilty, or who’s conscience will really be revealed/caught by the entertainment (perhaps that of Johnny Gentle, Famous Crooner?), or if that’s even applicable, though it’s certainly interesting to think about.

I guess all we can do is wait to see whether or not the kiddos get in trubble for the hilarious Eschaton disaster.



Gaudeaumus igitur

Or De Brevitate Vitae, or Let Us Rejoice.

And um, there might be spoilers in here up through page 367.

Of course, Infinite Summer’s weekly summery.

Things are kind of coming together (well, okay. They’ve been coming together for about 200 pages now, so maybe they’re not really coming together, or at least not in the sense of resolution). We now know what prorectors’ courses at ETA sound like (Introduction to Athletic Spreadsheets; The Toothless Predator: Breast-Feeding as Sexual Assault); Orin’s sudden interest in Quebecois separatism a la beautiful if Reubenesque reporter (and the sad way in which he avoids his ma); Mario’s many superficial defects (so many so that he was approached by UHID to don a veil); Marathe and Steeply stuck on a cliff somewhere near Tuscon, AZ; Eschaton (O, Eschaton – I will dwell shortly); and what makes Boston AA so unique (a welcome to Madame Psychosis/PGOAT).

The game of Eschaton, especially with Pemulis/Lord (haha, playing God. Of course)/Ingersoll’s debate about the real world versus the map that only seems and does the snow falling in real time count as Real-Snow or Snow-Falling-On-A-Representation-Of-Territories, recalls for me some scenes/themes from Hamlet (the kids are even called Players on p. 338, which is what Shakespeare’s stage directions also indicate) with regards to the age old philosophical problem of is/seems.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the speed at which Eschaton devolved from a cold cerebral exercise into a crazy, blood-letting battle royale, complete with the youngsters running around a faux map of the world (haha, I LOVED the slapstickness of all the kids stomping over countries) and vomiting into oceans, etc. (here’s a forum).

I’m also pretty impressed by DFW’s ear for dialects – especially the Irish truck driver who soliloquizes about his amazing, practically breathing turd.

And maybe it’s just me, but the thematic Hamlet stuff seems to be piling up – I’m still waiting for something incestuous to happen or to be revealed w/r/t Mrs. Incandenza – but Hal, especially with the drugs, seems to be adequately not doing anything (again, that section on Eschaton really got me, the way Hal was just so fascinated by watching the Players do their playing that he couldn’t bring himself to… any real-time action).

Entertainment as a action-inhibiting source of thrall? Well, I suppose we’ll see what happens with Marathe, who is obviously aware of this video that causes medical attaches + wives to watch and watch and watch and die watching leaving a room smelling very bad indeed.

and also, (thanks alf), this made me sigh.



Welcome, Madame Psychosis

I am still about 10/15 pages ahead, so I’ll try to not spoil anything.

First off, I need to take issue with this hallowed-be-thy-page-223 crap. Although I suppose that was really my memory’s fault; I thought, for some idiotic reason, that it would explain everything. But this is pretty much what it is: a chronological listicle of subsidized time. I have had to continually refer to it, to be fair, just to keep track of when everything occurs, and what all the abbreviations signify… I’m glad not everything has been explained, because I feel like we’re just beginning to dive into the messy meaty head-exploding in microwave oven part of the book.

And oh yeah Shakespeare, I hear you. DFW actually used the word “usurp” (+/- -er, -ed)  in reference to C.T. (again, this Claudius business). I wonder, if, in the somewhat near future (next 70 pages, I hope?) we’ll start to see a kind of unraveling of a really F-ed up affair between C.T. and the Moms. Because we already know that C.T., prescient of Himself’s death, had begun to move in and run things at E.T.A. And Ms. Avril Incandenza seems to have a knack for attracting old dudes, which I find hilarious (and see the Royal Tenenbaums links below, if you’ve watched the movie/like DFW/like Wes Anderson).

The Infinite Summer recap of this section – they’ve gotten onto p. 285 in case you’re worried about spoilers, and yes, it is totally worth reading up to, because you get to learn how Orin and Joelle get together. Apparently, we’ve now been introduced to all the big deal characters, so we can relax and breathe a little, because there’s nobody big and important to whom we’ll be introduced/have to keep track of.

So, things:

It was really strange to read the section about J.O.I’s microwave oven death, and then watch the movie Kick-Ass (which you should all watch, because it is deliciously hyperviolent/fun), because I totally knew how the guy who got put in the industrial microwave would go… (oh, potato with no slit. I hope that doesn’t spoil anything for anybody?).

I actually kind of enjoy the ridiculous amount of detail DFW goes into w/r/t to the tennis matches (like the details about each player’s serve, Orin being a lob-man, which actually becomes important to the development of him + J. van Dyne’s relationship later, which leads to her becoming Madame Psychosis, I think).

And I especially like that we finally, finally learn about the particulars of J.O.I’s death (despite how gruesome it was), that Hal was the one who found him, and that Hal had to go to grief therapy and swallow books and go through some really funny hoops in order to textbook-ize himself to get out of grief therapy. That counselor’s small hands…

And why, Madame Psychosis/Joelle, are you trying to Have Too Much Fun? You’re Orin’s P.G.O.A.T! I’ve noticed that, especially in this book, overdosing on one form of entertainment or another seems to be some strange reverse psychology way that certain addicts try to unaddict themselves to X-substance (Erdedy).

Also, guess who made the Whataburger invitational? That’s right: Pemulis. Pemulis, who undergoes what seems to be substance withdrawal symptoms during matches (poor Schacht and his big volleyball knee). So y’all know what that means.

Around Thanksgiving weekend-ish, Y.D.A.U., with a nice 36-hour buffer time in case something apeshit and insane happens, some of our lovely E.T.A.-ers will be trying some of Pemulis’s artifact-ish DMZ/Madame Psychosis tablets, and, more likely than not, tripping some serious acid-based ballz.

And didn’t Orin mention something about statistically impossible numbers of wheelchair-bound people in his vicinity? Oh man, I smell Les Assassins des Fauteuils Rollents, i.e. some kind of an invading Fortinbras-ish invader from the Great White North? O, those, Quebecois separatists.

DFW and cinema:

David Lynch & DFW

The Royal Tenenbaums & IJ (although, it must be noted that there may be spoilers, since we’re only supposed to be somewhere around/under page ~300…)

And I realize this was, like 100 pages or so ago, but I like this blogpost on Infinite Summer, and think it really helps with contextualization/my wondering what on earth this passage was doing in IJ.



Poor Yorick Entertainment Unlimited

Hamlet, Act V, Scene I, Lines ~165-185:

FIRST CLOWN: … The same skull, sir, was, sir, Yorick’s skull, the King’s jester.

HAMLET: This?                        [Takes the skull]

FIRST CLOWN: E’en that.

HAMLET: Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath bore me on his back a thousand times, and now how abhorr’d in my imagination it is! my gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kiss’d I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now, your gambols, your songs, your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now to mock your own grinning – quite chop-fall’n*. Now get you to my lady’s [chamber], and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favor**  she must come; make her laugh at that. […]

*note from editor: 1) lacking the lower jaw, or 2) downcast

**ne: appearance