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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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.



I predict this will take two minutes at most…
August 4, 2010, 12:04 pm
Filed under: Infinite Jest | Tags: , ,

infinite summery up through p. 590-ish.

So, first things first: Oh, Pemulis – I’m just a little sad he didn’t waste everybody’s time and ask if he was interrupting, but I guess that’s all part of the suspense/hilarity of the situation. Those Nucks, role-playing football and godknowswhatelse. I wonder what Avril really does in her spare time….

Naturally, I’m also very curious to know what exactly happens in the soul-sucking too-pleasurable Entertainment; however, that (for now, anyway) seems to be another facet that will not be explained, as all explanations tend to be cut off when the Entertainment reaches is pleasurable zenith. I wonder how Joelle ties into this (I mean, she’s obviously the veiled female in it), because she sounds a lot like Medusa/Odalisque. I’m also sort of waiting to see how the idea of extreme “good” (i.e. beauty, pleasure) that becomes extremely “bad”, if we’re going to reduce these things to Manichean terms (I don’t know that this is necessarily wise or helpful), will play out – how exactly does Joelle’s extreme beauty affect people? Perhaps its exactly as she says (so D. Gately should take her seriously), where the extremity of her beauty becomes a deformity, forcing her to don a U.H.I. veil. What she says about herself in her conversation with Gately makes her sound like a kind of human embodiment of the Entertainment, which makes me wonder what exactly happened to make her fall out with the big, hilarious O. Who, if the top of page 567 is alluding to what I think it’s alluding to, has never recovered from cutting ties with the lovely Madame Psychosis*.

Along with the idea of success not bringing happiness as alf mentioned in her last comment – bringing instead destruction – (though admittedly, as in the case of Clipperton, this isn’t exactly… eh, kosher, legitimate success, so perhaps there’s a nuanced caveat that I’ll have to think more carefully about), DFW seems to be playing around a lot with polar opposites collapsing upon one another. I’m thinking primarily of Pemulis and Arslanian’s conversation about Booger’s crippling anxiety that inhibits him from grasping the concept of annular fusion/annular energy cycles, and how the Concavity, because it is sustained by extreme toxins and sort of blackhole when you force them upon one another (vague expl. on p. 573), is so “fertilely lush it’s practically unlivable” (and, rofl at this, filled with herds of gigantic rampaging infants and other herds of feral ex-domesticants like hamsters. I just imagine rabid versions of Alvin + associated chipmunks).

Anyway, in other news, Lenz seems to have totally gone off his rocker, what with his creepy rodent -> cats -> somebody’s large pet dog killing. That and he’s totally Bing-ing away, which Green seems accutely aware of. And the AFR/wheelchair mafia seems to have resumed fanclubbery status around Orin.

What of the Eschaton debacle? I’m also waiting for DFW to reveal to us how exactly our creepily diction-precise Hal of YDAU, Novemberish, becomes what appears to be trapped in a frothing, incomprehensible body in Year of the Glad.

*maybe that explains his current manwhorishness? In a related tangent, I love that DFW is keeping up this practice of calling things what they are not, or featuring these naming oxymorons – i.e. Orin’s “The Subject”, who he really treats as objects, etc.



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.