Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Infinite Jest: Pages 67-128: Kate Gompert suicide watch, surprised blue eyes, Steeply and Marathe, Gerhardt Schtitt and E.T.A.

We are moving slowly. This is hyperbolic understatement. "We" meaning the initial trio of readers, the three Jest-a-teers, each of us in Life's full embrace. 75 pages a week? More than a month has passed and even I, the docent, have only gotten to page 128 (though that does include thirteen pages of footnotes, wink) (but still).

I will say this. It's fucking awesome the second time.

This time around I'm savoring everything. Circling whole sentences with admiration and awe. Making notes in the margins. HFS. WTF. WOW.

Poor Kate Gompert.
There are dark halls and sad places

... the sour odor of medical waste awaiting collection ... (p69) Kate Gompert in the psych ward

... sarcasm and jokes were often the bottle in which clinical depressives sent out their most plangent screams for someone to care and help them. (p71)

On a single page, we get circumorals, thigmotactic, dentate, and synclinal. (pg75)

The Enfield Tennis Academy (E.T.A.) and Gerhardt Schtitt, the Head Coach and Athletic Director who ... has the creepy wiriness of old men who still exercise vigorously. He has surprised blue eyes and a vivid white crewcut of the sort that looks virile and good on men who have lost a lot of hair anyway. (p80)

Surprised blue eyes.

We also get a hefty dose of the tennis student-players themselves, teenage boys mostly, but also some girl players, and we start to form a picture of the culture at E.T.A. (which, I should say, is an abbreviation I find jarring and unpleasant to behold; it makes me think of the Basque separatist group ETA).

Hmm, but maybe that's DFW's point, to subtly insert the acronym of a famous international separatist group so that the fictional Quebecois separatist group in IJ seems completely plausible.

Note (from Google):

ETA (Basque: [eta], Spanish: [ˈeta]), an acronym for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna(Basque pronunciation: [eus̺kaði ta as̺katas̺una]; "Basque Country and Freedom") is an armed Basque nationalist and separatist organization in northern Spain and southwestern France.

Perfect entry for Marathe and Steeply (Marathe p87, Steeply p88) ... though not before the Infinite Jest entertainment cartridge strikes! (p87)

The first time I read this section, I had no idea what the fuck was going on. It was surreal and disconnected to anything that came before it. Who ARE these people and are we really talking about a guy in a wheelchair and a guy in drag way the fuck up on some cliff overlooking a city in Arizona?

Actually, yes. and - SPOILER ALERT - Marathe is a member of the A.F.R, Les Assassins des Fauteuils Rollents, the Wheelchair Assassins, ... pretty much Quebec's most dreaded and rapacious anti-O.N.A.N. terrorist cell; and  Steeply is an Unspecified Service's field operative. (We'll have to deal with what "O.N.A.N" is later on).

Marathe to Steeply (a LOL margin note), commenting on Steeply's woman's disguise:

And your tits, they have become cock-eyed, I will tell you, Services Without Specificity, they have given you ridiculous tits, and now they point differently. (p92)

Steeply is described as some type of brutal-U.S.-contact-sport athlete now become fat. Priceless.

Hal at E.T.A. The Halster. Halorama. Halation. (p97). I've written in the margin "Hal is the young, troubled, genius".
Hal Brushed

Hal is sleek, sort of radiantly dark, almost otterish, only slightly tall, eyes blue but darkly so, and unbearable even w/o sunscreen, his untanned feet the color of weak tea, his nose ever unpeeling but slightly shiny. (p101)

Hal is a stoner. This is DFW knowing what that means and describing Hal as if he, the author, were stoned and noticing Hal. There's a scene in the boys locker room, a bunch of kids are sitting around tired after a huge practice. In the margin I have written next to this "This is deep noticing!"

Hal's face's reflection just fits inside one of the wall-tiles opposite, and then if he moves his head slowly the face distends and comes back together with an optical tang in the next tile. (p104)

Are you fucking kidding me?

And then, 16 pages later, Mario, Hal's weirdly deformed (elephant head, claws for hands) younger brother, gets sexually molested by U.S.S. Millicent in the thicket on the perimeter of the grounds. I know. WTF.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Infinite Jest: Pages 49-66: Hal in the Lung Tunnels, Gately! Dr. James O. Incandenza, Filmmaker

It's like mining a hermetic text for clues to the Great Mystery, or like exploring the crevices and fissures of reality with an accomplished and garrulous guide. You need to read slowly, paragraph by paragraph, a notating implement in hand. I use a mechanical pencil.

The team's pace has slowed to a crawl, to a stop really. I have lost both ND and LL. The fabled 75 pages a week was a pipe dream; at current rate, we will finish (rather, I will finish) in approximately 15 months. Absurd!

Of course the question, from the docent's point of view, is - should I go on alone? Right now the answer is yes, albeit slowly. I am like a cat at a screen door sniffing airborne temptations wafting in from outside.

How can it be that every measly span of pages (less than 20 for this entry) delivers brilliance and amazement? The margins in my copy are well-scrawled-in, almost every page. How can a mere 20 pages of a 1000+ page novel deliver plot hints and directional foreshadowing? Maybe it takes a second reading to recognize how much is going on in every passage, in every sketch and interlude, in every endnote.

Hal with "his little brass one-hitter" getting stoned by himself in the Lung Room deep under the Enfield Tennis Academy, in the tunnels. Every preppy stoner past & present relates immediately to this chapter:

A one-hitter, sort of like a long FDR-type cigarette holder whose end is packed with a pinch of good dope, gets hot and is hard on the mouth - the brass ones especially - but one-hitters have the advantage of efficiency: every particle of ignited pot gets inhaled; there's none of the incidental secondhand-type smoke from a party bowl's big load, and Hal can take every iota way down deep and hold his breath forever, so that even his exhalations are no more than slightly pale and sick-sweet-smelling. (p49)

HFS, absolutely. He nailed it.

Endnote madness! Page 53, in one paragraph come endnotes 5 - 9, all drug-explications.

Gately's first appearance! (p55). Autumn - Year of Dairy Products From the American Heartland. An utterly horrifying vignette that introduces one of the central characters of the ensuing thousand pages and suggests future passages of cringe-inducing stories and imagery.

... ferocious jolliness... (p55)

The thing started out looking like tit on a tray, burglary-wise. (p56)

Then there's the passage (beginning on p63) on James O. Incandenza, Hal's father (deceased), founder of the Enfield Tennis Academy but, more importantly, the noted avant garde filmmaker and creator (one learns if one reads endnote #24) of the eponymous cartridge/entertainment, Infinite Jest.

Endnote 24 is staggering. The James O. Incandenza Filmography, nine pages long. There are footnotes within the endnote!

And there are crucial details and clues to the whole novel contained within the film descriptions. Each film listed in the filmography warrants a close read because the details and synopsis are so fucking rich and wacky and make you write in the endnote margin HFS. To wit:

Pre-Nuptial Agreement of Heaven and Hell. B.S. Latrodectus Mactans Productions/Infernatron Animation Concepts, Canada. Animated w/ uncredited voices; 35 mm; 59 minutes; color; sound. God and Satan play poker with Tarot cards for the soul of an alcoholic sandwich-bag salesman obsessed with Bernini's "The Ecstasy of St. Teresa." PRIVATELY RELEASED ON CELLULOID AND MAGNETIC VIDEO BY LATRODECTUS MACTANS PRODUCTIONS. (p988, endnote #24)

I mean, the whole filmography is a creative achievement in its own right. Hilarious, twisted, really Out There in a laugh-out-loud sort of way. Not to mention that the last entry cited in the filmography is Infinite Jest, the film. Essential to read this. Anyone skipping the endnotes is automatically disqualified from the club of Infinite Jest Totalists.

Sentence Alert! On page 64, the middle paragraph is comprised of two sentences, the first one a 145 word gem (the word count disputable depending on whether you treat hyphenated words as one or two words, i.e., hard-drinking or U.S.-spoused). Regardless, the paragraph is not to be missed.

Infinite Vocab

parget(ed) (p51) - plaster or any similar wall covering.

apocopes (p57) - the cutting off or dropping of the last sound or sounds of a word.

bolection (p62) - a molding that projects beyond the surface of a panel

reglets (p62) - (architecture) a flat, narrow molding, used to separate panels.