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?



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?



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.



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.



The ONANtiad

Guys, we are almost halfway through this beastly brick of a book!

Forget Shakespeare, enter Homer. Well, okay, maybe not entirely – I guess we could defer to one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries – , but the biggest revelation I’ve had all week w/r/t IJ (and I feel like I could have figured this out earlier had I been paying more attention) concerns Marathe’s “humored doubts that the meaty electrolysized face of Steeply would be responsible of launching even one ship or one vessel” in 30 April/1 May, YDAU (p. 375).

Holy crap, Steeply, Hugh Steeply, has somehow, in the few months leading up to becoming a (faux-)reporter for Moments or whatever cover that is supposed to be, managed to become a weirdly erotic/attractive Helen Steeply to Orin Incandenza. Maybe y’all figured that out before me, but OMG THAT TOTALLY BLEW MY MIND/had me cackling deliriously for a solid 5 minutes.

I’m really, really curious to see how Steeply manages to tame his mannerisms and acquire some semblance of feminism, especially since in all the passages relating to his escapades in the April/May months of YDAU are hilarious – his wig is askew, his fake breasts don’t seem to be located quite appropriately/diametrically, and where I’ve just left off, he has lipstick on his teeth (how does this sort of a creation compare with PGOAT?). Nice.

To return back to the ONANtiad/Illiad, I can definitely see this Entertainment as sort of a Trojan Horse – a pleasure/gift you seek out of your own will that later deprives you of choice/ends up killing you/leaves you in a room staring at a screen smelling very bad indeed. Maybe I’m stretching my references a bit, so you know, excuse that.

Infinite Summery up through p. 443. And now we’ve gotten to the point where the characters get their own update page.

Anyway, other things I really enjoyed seeing this week:

DFW’s little note on the different hats everybody is wearing to the banquet/sugarfest.

DFW’s giving us a glimpse into guru Lyle’s conversations with ETAers. Definitely interesting w/r/t to character development, and definitely interesting to learn who sweats easily (and where) and who doesn’t.

The discussion of the origin of InterLace (omg with the tongue scrapers, the fall and rise of the big pussified Four and the effect of the fall on advertisements).

And various interpretations of the formation of the ONANtiad, the Territorial Reconfiguration (via Mario and supported, I think, by Hal).

I’m still trying to figure out Marathe’s and Steeply’s relationship; I can’t quite tell who holds the power when.



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.