Friday, June 17, 2016

Infinite Jest: Pages 17-49: Erdedy, the Howling Fantods, and the Infinite Jest Entertainment Cartridge

A lot happening. Very little overt connection. Erdedy. Wardine. The Medical Attache. Mario. Orin. The professional conversationalist. The Appropriation Artist. Oh my.

The Erdedy chapter is priceless. Erdedy is someone completely alone with his anxieties. We can all (most of us anyway) relate, if not to the anxious waiting to score weed then to the very condition however it arises of being extraordinarily anxious about something.

It wasn't that he was afraid of the dope, it was that smoking it made him afraid of everything else. (p22)

I have a new acronym to write in the margins when I encounter some phrase or passage that blows me away: HFS. It stands for Holy Fucking Shit!

The bottom half of page 22 earned an HFS, as did the sentence: The last woman had been sexy but not pretty, as the woman he now didn't want to see but was waiting anxiously for was pretty in a faded withered Cambridge way that made her seem pretty but not sexy. (p23)  HFS.

Endnote #3 earned a loud HFS.

At Random

Is Hal mute? Is the scene with the professional conversationalist (who turns out to be his own father) actually dialog that goes on in Hal's mind but that he doesn't actually say? Remember, the opening scenes of Hal's meltdown occurs when the administrators insist that Hal speak for himself - and he can't. Or doesn't. And freaks out.

What's with Wardine and the Black vernacular? (p37)

Hal, Orin, and Mario are brothers. Orin is an NFL punter. Hal a tennis prodigy. Mario the youngest, apparently disfigured or handicapped with an over-sized head.

The Medical Attache is succumbing to the Infinite Jest entertainment cartridge.
fantod (by Edward Gorey)

The howling fantods first referenced on page 45. Roaches gave him the howling fantods.

Hobbesian Sewers (p45)

Who starts a sentence like this?! And so but since the old CBC documentary's thesis ... "And so but since..." that is really ballsy. (p47)

Infinite Vocab

phylacteryish - a phylactery is a small leather box that contains Hebrew texts and that is worn by Jewish men at prayer as a reminder to keep the law. (p47)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Infinite Jest: Pages 3-17: Hal's Meltdown

Infinite Jest: Notes from Pages 3-17 

Hal's meltdown. Told in Hal's first person narrative.

Note that page 3 in the 20th anniversary paperback is actually the first page of the novel. The first phrase that grabbed my attention occurs on the first page.

"... the impermanent quality of something stamped into uncooperative material ..." (p3)

I love the idea of "uncooperative material," as if "material" had a will, as if inanimate objects have preferences or manifest purposeful resistance. And then there are these gems:

The familiar panic at feeling misrepresented ... (p8)
Jet contrail

... the defecatory posture of all athletes at rest ... (p9)

The blue sky is glassy and fat with heat ... (p15)

The jet's movement and trail seem incisionish, as if white meat behind the blue were being exposed and widening in the wake of the blade. (p16)

Infinite Vocab

IJ is a vast trove of quirky words and curious references. Keeping a dictionary handy helps the reading experience.

Kekulean Knot (p6) - a sideways reference to Friedrich August Kekule.

Brewster's Angle (p10)

presybyopic (p11) - a vision condition that develops around the age of 40 when people experience blurred near vision when reading, sewing, using the computer, etc.

creatus (p12)

enfilade (p13) - a volley of gunfire directed a long a line from one end to the other; or, architecturally, a suite of rooms with doorways in line with each other.

hypophalangial (p16) - missing one or more phalanges from fingers or toes

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Rereading Infinite Jest: The Beginning

In my last Lescaret post way back in February, referring to Infinite Jest, I wrote:

"There is so much in this book, so much extraordinary writing, so many vivid descriptive phrases, that reading it only a single time seems inadequate."

Today I set out to remedy the inadequacy of having read it only once.

Two close accomplices, ND and LL, and I have agreed to take on this enigmatic and confounding masterpiece, reading it concurrently and sharing thoughts & comments via email. We're reading the paperback 20th anniversary edition from Back Bay Books (February 2016). All pagination references pertain to this edition and the novel itself will be referred to subsequently as IJ.

Neither ND and nor LL have read IJ before but both are familiar with DFW and have read some of the non-fiction.

I read IJ more than four years ago (see Infinite Vocab 101 and 1,079 Pages, in Paperback). Fascinated with the enormity of the novel, I wanted to know more about its author. Some would argue for the separation of art from artist, that great art stands alone, irrespective of its creator, and should be approached that way. Less ideologically committed, I always want to know the memoiristic details of my author heroes and mentors. I want to understand the Artist in relation to her Art; therefore, I want to know both - the art and the artist.

So for more on DFW, I read Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace (2010, David Lipsky) and Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace (2012, D.T. Max). And dipped into The Legacy of David Foster Wallace (University of Iowa, 2012, edited by Samuel Cohen and Lee Konstantinou), and Conversations with David Foster Wallace (University of Mississippi, 2012, edited by Stephen J. Burn).

All are worth investigating, the first two in particular: The Lipsky book for its intimacy and its day-in-the-life-of qualities (in this case, week-in-the-life-of), and Max's biography for the DFW's years at Amherst College. As a note of personal connection once removed - the years DFW spent at Amherst (1980-1984) roughly coincided with my years at UMass-Amherst (1981-1985). It's not inconceivable that we passed each other more than once browsing the bookshelves of the then numerous independent bookshops in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Of course, whether you know the biographical details of David Foster Wallace or not when approaching Infinite Jest is irrelevant. In this instance, the art speaks for itself.

In the coming posts I'll visit our reading progress, list vocab words that sent me to the dictionary, cite sentences or passages of extraordinary composition, and offer general comments and insights that emerge from ND, LL, and myself as we go.