Thursday, May 17, 2007

Infinite Jest: How David Foster Wallace Has Failed Me and Why It Doesn’t Matter

I find myself with a unique perception of Infinite Jest and the experience we have all gone through due to the simple fact that I hail from a culture and mentality crucially different from that of David Foster Wallace's intended audience. (This digression is important for my preception of the merits of the book later on to make sense.) The crucial difference[1] between easternly and westernly culture (w/r/t the Iron Curtain[2]) lies in that the former is fundamentally empathetic, whereas the latter is fundamentally sympathetic. Despite the two words having similar connotations, their denotative meaning is notably distinct: to empathize is to understand and share the feelings of another[3], while to sympathize is to feel pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune[4]. Thus, easterly sensibilities, which I posses due to spending the first sixteen years of my life in Bulgaria[5], have molded me to expect and seek in art an emotional evocation of introspectively cathartic properties. Westernly sensibilities, on the other hand, dictate a certain emotional detachment[6] which burdens all artists with the American public as their target audience since any depiction of true-to-life emotional breakdown is easily mistaken for pretentiousness and is thus ineffective.

The target audience of Infinite Jest is precisely the American public and David Foster Wallace carries the burden described. Consequently, he is never able to satiate my desire for emotional catharsis as he is never able to build up emotions to the necessary level to begin with. Instead, Infinite Jest is a masterfully written[7] but paradoxically cold and detached treatise on the theme of human communication.

That one of Infinite Jest’s themes is human communication is immediately apparent, but that it is the primary one is not. The book is manifold in its aspects and all of them I claim deal directly with the breakdown of human interaction. There is the Incandenza family, within where Mario[8] is the only one able to converse. Avril is the founder of the Militant Grammarians of Massachusetts, which founding is an act that implies Avril has an impeccable control of language. Ironically, she is compulsively determined not to impose on her children, not to betray any form of personal sentiment that would be potentially binding. This desire is an honest one, as described by James Himself through the Mother Death mythos in Infinite Jest (V), but because of her ambiguous at best approach has inspired exactly the opposite. Hal feels as if all of his actions need to conform to her explicitly non-established expectations of The Moms, which near subliminally burdens him. Orin in turn sees this as a subversive, outright evil parenting technique which coupled with Avril’s various other compulsions (dread of enclosed spaces, overhead lighting, love for plants, and tendency adultery inclinations) force Orin to consciously demonize her. Hence, he has broken off all contact with her while his life has become an incredibly weird reenvisioning of Oedipus’ complex. Orin, as well as Hal, are both unappreciative of James’ apparent recession, which recession was, judging from the nature of his movies, due to an inability to communicate on any standard level with his children or wife. The primary reason he established ETA was to foster a higher understanding of tennis within specifically his prodigal children, but in a much more efficient manner than the way his father before him had attempted to. Then, he immediately moved over to film because he observed(and James was very observant) a scary regression in Hal’s abilities to express thoughts(despite that Hal was mowing through the OED), which needed to be acted upon right now as opposed to the long-term plan of the Tennis Academy. Finally, Hal Incandenza is for the most part of the book a self-described empty, devoid of substance character, whose most glorious moment in terms of spiritual richness is the epilogue first portion during Year of Glad. In that portion, Hal’s inability to communicate has inverted as he now seems to not be able to communicate externally when he actually does internally, as opposed to preceding times when he appeared much conversational but felt empty inside. Curiously, that is also James’ perception of Hal literalized, but given James’ purpose with Infinite Jest (V) to awaken interest in Hal and the film’s paralyzing effect, it seems James’ perception was as well inverted.

Then there is ONAN, interdependence and Quebecois Separatism, whose primary reason is again the breakdown of communication, this time on an international, intercultural level. Outside the philosophical tones of Marathe’s & Steeply’s discussions, the mode of operations of the A.F.R. and the Gentle administration, these portions of the book serve to illustrate how not only are Quebecois and USA culture vastly different, but that discourse between the two cannot lead to holistic mutual understanding, despite existent mutual understanding of the concrete ideas. Furthermore, notice how, even though distorted by Mario’s puppet show interpretation, Gentle is figurehead of ONAN and so there has never been direct feedback from the administration to the public. This is also present in the discussion regarding the warning video regarding the Entertainment, which discussion is focused on effective relation of information based on pure analytics, which is similar to the current video’s contrast to previous educational videos. Simultaneously, Tine Sr. and Tine Jr. are at near-row point while Mr. Yee epileptically faints and needs to not have that relayed to him.

Then there is ETA, which is grounds for a silent power struggle between players and instructors, while Schitt’s theory and Lyle’s esoteric psychology are drilled little by little into the heads of the students. The academic virtues of the school are dubious at best, given the hilarious description of the various elective programs run by the coaches. So then, the primary purpose of the academy is clearly a holistic education through the means of tennis, while everything else exists due to the anti-confluential quirkiness of founder James Incandenza. The various traditions at ETA are notable for the fact that while they are bonding and build a sense of community (Escathon, Tunneling, Interdependence Day videos, Big Buddies) the communication is left at a level just before any actual personal interfacing. As a result, everything non-tennis related is artificially formalized, as James expected students to achieve enlightenment through the spiritual implications of plateau-hopping.

Finally, there’s Don Gately and the Ennet House Residents, all of whom are necessarily the addicts. Notably, from the first description of the nature of addiction (Erdedy’s breakdown), a primary motif is the purposeful isolation from every other human being. Substances replace human contact, which to the addicts in order for all of them to have started has been missing to begin with. Such is the case with Gately, Kate Grompert, Hal Incandenza, Randy Lenz, Poor Tony Krause and the rest: they are all acutely and destructively alone in their lives, unable to interface properly with anyone. It is no wonder that Joelle van Dyne and Don Gately’s love subplot has them for each other a driving force, as together they cease to be alone. Regarding Joelle van Dyne, notice that her relationship with Orin, Himself and then her Radio Show all were various expressions of an inability to communicate, a fundamental lack of understanding in how to convey and reach out others. The Madame Psychosis segments are important in this regard, as while they are considered incredibly ant-confluential by most, Mario is able to correctly gauge their sadness and actively empathize. Gately functions also as a canvas for the ideas of AA to be presented. AA in fact is focused on exactly communication, on Identifying, which is exactly the reason it works. AA breaks down the barriers between people and allows them to relate, to express their pains, however contrived. This is not surprising as AA is anti-substance, anti-anti-people thus.

In my perception then, the breakdown of communication is what the book is ultimately about[9]. But the book is even more than that because of the awesome style David Foster Wallace uses throughout. The first 400 pages contain the largest range of diction I have ever read, while the lateral 600 contain what is essentially a streamlined version of the first 400’s style. Still though, the read was incredibly enjoyable because David Foster Wallace really knows how to actually write and has an admirable mastery of the English language (unlike the peasant Palahniuk). However, this streamlining of the style did disappoint me as it made the initial sections seem as personal experiments. And so the novel does not have a holistic idiosyncratic direction that would maintain my fascination in terms of form.

The largest flaw of the book though is its cold portrayal of everything. Despite the incredibly personal subject matter DFW deals with and the often times gross and extreme acts he depicts, he remains a certain distance away, a distance maintained by the overwhelming style he uses throughout. I recognize that the book is in fact meant as a satire and social commentary but its nearly self-conscious irony of both style and content simply does not allow DFW to work on a subtle emotional level in a powerfully evocative way. If he did, the tragic circumstances of most characters would seem, to the average American reader(who is his audience[10], much more of a farce because the average American’s westernly sensibilities do not tolerate raw emotions. I, on the other hand do, and thus feel that David Foster Wallace has failed me as all these cathartic moments are hinted at, but are never investigated fully. This is perfectly acceptable for the genre of satire and comedy he has aimed for, but then I wish for him not to have written in that genre. This too, however, doesn’t matter because as a satire and comedy, Infinite Jest works really well and the tints of emotive catharsis are only bonus points. A third however, however, the information a satire or comedy communicates is information that could easily be gotten from any dry encyclopedic text; the genre envelope only provides for an entertaining read. Thus, the value of Infinite Jest as a work of art to me, personally, is ultimately and unfortunately, low.

[1] (as I have perceived and interpreted)
[2] This seperation actually dates back like two thousand years back to the cultural differences between Slavs and Anglo-Saxons/Germans/Celts/whatever peoples in Western Europe at the time
[5] Former USSR Satellite country originally founded in 681 by a composition of Slavs and the semi-nomadic Bulgar tribes who had gradually migrated from central Asia
[6] Which my mother has summarized in that a title for her observations of American life would be “America: At Arms Length”
[7] (for the most part)
[8] Mario is the single spiritually and emotionally pure character in the whole book, I maintain
[9] This is unfortunately a very general statement as conflict arises from the interaction between people and interpersonal actions imply some form of communication.
[10] Infinite Jest is a national bestseller: a fact I find difficult to wrap my head around

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Man, it's quiet

And so the Infinite Jest ends; which is to say it doesn't. As the book came to a rather abrupt halt I found myself doing something eerily similar to those who have seen the Entertainment (it becomes funnier in light of our theory that the book is in fact a textual representation of the movie): I stopped for a second, thought, then turned it right back to the start and started reading again. That couldn't have been it, I must have missed something. Why's Hal like that in the beginning? How'd he meet Don Gately? Whatever happened to the DMZ and Pemulis?

I've been trying to compile at least a loose list of ways/ places the book talks about itself, but coming up surprisingly short:
Hal's The Emergence of Heroic Stasis in Braod$cast Entertainment (a few people mentioned Gately as the static hero mentioned at the end of the essay)
The note in the back about anticonfluentialism (the book itself could be very much seen as anticonfluential)

The end?

seriously, that's it?

that wasn't a satisfying ending at all.

What's with the ghosts?
What's with the incest?
What's with the Entertainment?
What's with the suicide?

Joelle VD says that JOI killed himself because he couldn't have alcohol anymore, but that's just stupid. I was expecting some sort of huge revelation at the end. Why did DFW end with Gately getting high with C and Fackleman? Why not end with something about the incandenza family? Why does Orin hate JOI so much? Whatever happened to Wardine and her daddy who don't treat her right? So Everyone knows about Avril's affairs (none of which are incestuous) and doesn't care? What did the short excerpt about the man trying to see his son have to do with anything? How does that email about the guy and the bricks fit into any of this? What exactly is The Entertainment and who burried it with JOI's body (if that was in fact where it was hidden)?

I saw the Hamlet reference where Hal asks why Hamlet doubts everything but the existence of the ghost, and that he may just be pretending to worry about everything. Hal doesn't worry about anything really, he doesn't care that his Mother is screwed up, he doesn't show any emotion towards his father's death (i think Hal says that he doesn't have anything inside of him at all), all he really cares about ever is in these last few pages when he wants to stop playing tennis and considers hurting himself to do it. He can't figure out whether he enjoys getting high or playing tennis more.

Maybe JOI killed himself because he was (as Hal suggests) just really bad at making movies and was detached from his family. It seems like there should be more but the stories just kind of end without any sort of closure. Why did Himself decide to have this one intimate moment with Orin rather than Hal or Mario? Why couldn't he "hear" Hal ever? Is this just because he is so distant from his children that he literally can't hear them?

I'm really upset and confused and have lots of questions that I really want answered tomorrow.

Hopefully after going through it in class everything will make a lot more sense.

Right now it just seems like the moral is that these characters' lives are terrible and screwed up, and they're just making it worse all the time.

Subjects and Objects and Rings, Oh My!

So, since we're, ::gasp::, done with IJ (reading, that is), I'm going to talk a little bit about subjectivity/objectivity as I feel this concept draws together so many of the concepts of the book (I found the seminar before last very enlightening). We're also going to connect this to our earlier talk(s) about the breaking of annularity (harmful or unsustainable or precarious cycles/rings).

Let's go back to our concepts of freedom. We had two, basically. The Americans had a concept of "I play by my own rules"/"Nobody tells ME what to do"/"I'm the boss of my own body"... the Canadians (slash Europeans) had a concept wherein you were only able to choose amongst restricting influences to (dis)obey -- i.e. choose your temple. The reader may remember that I felt this American view was subjective (i.e. I only care about myself) whereas the Canadian view was objective (as the Canadians are choosing from outside factors). The two sides seem incredibly intractable. The AFR (& co.), in fact, choose as basically their sole goal the elimination of those subjective b******s. Marathe and Steeply have a whole long debate about the merits of freedom.

I believe this conflict characterizes much of IJ. The result of the meeting of the two opposed sides is, unfortunately, usually destruction (except to those cool few who are able to walk the line between both). This is the reason why the Entertainment is destructive, why the Concavity/vexity is so dangerous, and why the Incandezas are so messed up.

Let me bring the concept of annularity up an abstract knotch. Certain cycles effectively shield people from having to accept "the other side." e.g. Addicts use their drugs to ignore problems with the outside world, the EH teachings can remove people from their emotions to too great a degree (more on that & Gately a bit later). We can think, then, of a circle that encloses an "inside"/(subjective) and "outside"/(objective). When this circle/cycle is broken, however, the two sides are forced to meet far too quickly for a peaceful resolution.

Let's look at the triumphs and failures of both subjectivity and objectivity in terms of people.


Mario (or equivalently Lyle), in my view, is the champion of objectivity. He's clearly pretty objective -- he can't even feel himself getting burned. Really, he's just sort of an impression of everybody else (e.g. the scene where Hal says that Mario accepts the lies that everyone tells him). For all that, however, he is the only one who understands people like Clipperton and Loach and is the only person who seems to be able to do anything constructive with these people. There's an innocence and beauty about Mario that is hard to overlook. If he seems weird, it's because, well, we expect people to be a little selfish, but Mario is not at all.

Avril is the failure of objectivity. Seriously, lady, stop worrying about how what you say will affect everyone else and just be yourself. Your kids would have turned out a lot less messed up if you had.


After some thought, I put down first-half-of-the-book Hal down as the poster-child for subjectivity. This isn't perfect as we know what happens to Hal from pg. 1 (OK, like pg. 10, which is, to be fair, the same as pg. 1 for a 100 page, regular, book.), but here goes. Hal has the whole thing where he can't even really conceive of a world outside of himself. He's pretty subjective. For all that, he achieves fantastically high levels of performance in tennis, academia, ... And he isn't, generally, a major asshole to anyone. Way to go.

Lenz is pretty clearly a failure of subjectivity. 'nuff said. Or Orin. Take your pick.

Some conflicts and implosions...

Most of the addicts' troubles (especially Hal's) represent the breakdown of subjectivity. Every addict has the story where they realize that their drug is destroying everything else in their life. They are then forced to face objective reality. I feel this point is especially hit home at the end where Fax (pretty degenerately subjective/addicted) has his eyes stitched open (ew), and is thus forced to literally "see" the consequences of his addiction. Gately, also, catches a glimpse of his own face which has a similar effect. In the end, Gately wakes up cold and utterly alone, probably at the beginning of his Road to Recovery, after seeing his own face in a sort of mirror. He's basically forced to see that his addiction has destroyed everything he might care about (thus the empty beach) and that he will have to build everything back up coldly and horribly alone.

The US also seems to have similar problems (it's why we're worried about the Entertainment, why the cellphone image thing is so weird, why the media is so weird, why Canada hates us...).

Yet, somehow, EH doesn't seem to be exactly the way to go, either. Someone (sorry, can't remember who) once commented that both Marathe & Steeply (objectivity and subjectivity if I ever saw 'em) are both painted to be ridiculous. The wheelchair assassin and the transvestite SS agent? Heh. (Are the AFR in wheelchairs because they reject the importance of the self? What does that say about Steeply being a girl?) Gately, in fact, seems to be the one facing the problems of objectivity at the end. Like, seriously, he goes into this whole EH program and gets REALLY into it and starts believing in the whole objectivity/belief in a higher power thing. What does he get? He gets screwed over in terms of wages in his job, he gets nearly killed for Lenz (who DEFINITELY does not deserve that sacrifice), and is unable to accept pain relievers because he can't relapse. Seriously, man, a LITTLE selfishness can be justified. Poor Donnie G (Job is a pretty accurate description, Gately has been forsaken by his God/Higher Power). :( It's not even clear that he's going to be able to get the girl.

Canada (plus AFR, Marathe) have similar problems. Specifically, Canada is a pushover for US waste-dumping ambitions. Also, the AFR's basic plan is to kill a bunch of the USA and provoke the US into a practical genocide against (the newly seceded) Quebec. Oh, great, that'll make everyone happy. Marathe's story mirrors this: while Marathe tries to give himself over to an ideal, he, basically, gets depressed. He realizes that his fight for an ideal is impossible without some consideration for himself.

Heck, Pat M can't even keep her kid from doing drugs...

So, we see how that conflict pops up in USA vs. Canada/AFR. It also seems that the Incandeza's problems are due to this divide: Mario and Avril are objective people whereas Hal and Orin are subjective people (we'll get to Himself in a second). Talking is, thus, very, very hard. EH vs ETA is a similar conflict. ETA's physical superiority (in altitude) probably reflects the prevailing view in the US of A...

JOI seems pretty objective (isolated as a kid, can't communicate), but the essence of his work is the breaking of annularity and thus the divide between subjectivity and objectivity (Blood Sister:OTS's closing scene shows BS, on her own, breaking out of her bad habits once and for all [sort of a weird mix of giving up her subjective, streetwise ways for objectivity, but doing it on her own. She accepts neither the chaotic subjectivity of the street nor the rigid objectivity of the convent]. In Wave Bye Bye to the Bureaucrat, the Bureaucrat finally accepts that he can quit his job [Bureaucrat is clearly a "public"/objective official, but he gives up his job for some subjective peace of mind]. In Medusa vs. Odalisk, we see the "monsters" of both cultures: the beauty of subjectivity [only seeing what you want to see] of Quebec's Odalisk and the hideousness of objectivity [seeing what you don't want to see] of our Medusa. The audience is caught as the two ideas fight. etc.).

This brings us to IJ 5/6 / The Entertainment. Here's what we know: JVD waves hi to an old friend and the two try to meet each other, but they simply end up walking around in revolving doors. Finally, we see (as babies), Joelle apologizing to us (presumably for our death given the whole mothers were our killers thing).

I don't have a good sense of the meaning of this, but I feel that the revolving door connects back to good ol' annularity and that "our" death in the cartridge is representative of the destructive nature of the meeting of the objectivity/subjectivity from the breaking of this cycle. This sort of puts one of Steeply's counters to Marathe's arguments into context: the Entertainment kills both Americans and Canadians alike. It's a challenge that's common to both nations.

This, in fact, is a conflict that JOI was attempting to resolve in his own life (he wanted to reach out and communicate, i.e. become more objective), but, finally, failed to do so. His experiment with AA (complete objectivity) failed, as in, symbolically, BS:OTS. In the end, he kills himself because he cannot reconcile his addiction (subjective force) with his vow not to drink (objective force). Are we doomed to this conflict between the two until we die? Is death the result of the breaking of annularity?

Odds and Ends:

* At the end, Hal is immobilized because of a breakdown of his subjectivity (like Ken Erdedy in the very beginning). Similarly, Gately is immobilized by outside forces.

* The AFR are portrayed as the most heartless of murderers. I suppose at the end Bobby C is pretty bad, but the AFR is incredibly cold about it all. Which is very fitting...

* The tables are pretty much literally turned on Orin in the end. What connection does his fear of roaches have to his personality (he can't control them? They represent his views of other people? They somehow connect to the Moms?). Why exactly does he say "Do it to her!"? Is this his mom? Maybe Joelle?
Considering this is the last time to post (basically), I think it's a good time to reflect.

I know I'm not going to finish the book, but that doesn't mean I won't finish it over the summer or eventually. However, of the parts I did read, I really did enjoy the majority of the parts involving Hal. One of the greatest things about this book in my opinion, is how you really do get to know an incredible amount about each of these characters. Instead of just looking at a time line though, and seeing all the important moments in their lives, DFW throws the reader into each of those situations, as well as a few others. Although, admittedly, at times this seems a little overwhelming, it made it easier to get into the psyche of each of these very complex characters. I mean, come to think of it, it'd probably be really hard for him to convey these characters any other way. Their complexities are so wide-ranging and their histories so ridiculous that a novel of this magnitude is almost (dare I say it) justified.

Yet, one of my largest questions remains horribly and angrily unanswered. Why does he constantly need the freaking endnotes? I just don't understand how they enhance the story at all or the feeling of the novel. They just frustrate me in every way possible. I remember at the beginning of the year that Mr. K said it would help to think of this novel as a movie in terms of the consistency and how the novel switches topics often. I don't think that helped when I was reading the novel because when I was reading, I would get way too into the readings to consciously create an image. I mean, I have images in my head, but they're just things I imagine subconsciously. If I have to focus on the image it slows me down and I get lost. Maybe I'm just not that great of a reader, but I think taking this book as a book is the best way to go.

Overall, I'd say the experience with Infinite Jest was a positive one. I know I did not finish, but I do expect to finish the book sometime in the future (aka the summer), and I look forward to the ending then. However, of the parts I did read, I (for the most part) greatly enjoyed it, and I don't regret it. Then again, I'm always going to be frustrated with the disgusting amount of time I have to put into reading this book. Despite this, it was very good and I enjoyed it.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


I’m posting a day late! But I figure that a slightly late blog is better than no blog at all (and I’ll be doing some wiki-ing later to make up for this and the countless other things I’ve missed). So! Without further ado:

Definitely a main part in this section centered around Gately’s period of time spent in his hospital bed, which is a kind of abstract stream of consciousness, where sometimes the reader knows exactly what is going on (as in during Ewell’s revelation) or has no idea if Gately is in a dream or experiencing reality or if anything is even making sense. I thought one of the coolest and weirdest parts was when Gately was having a vision about the wraith in the hospital room.

The section with the wraith is so bizarre because at one end its like this really eerie horror-movie-esque (or at least psychological thriller-esque) sequence in which some disembodied ghostly form comes to in a sense haunt Gately. But at the other end this is not your ordinary specter, he has distinct brown socks and a hairy nostril and is self-piteous and drinks coke and explains himself to be “an ordinary garden-wraith” as if he was no more out of the ordinary then some animal in your backyard. This absurdity is funny and sets the stage for the scene.

As it is not clear whether Gately is actually sleeping or awake, though he claims to be in a dream, the whole atmosphere of this part is completely ethereal and detached from our notions of reality. The wraith actually seems to have a sense of humor, although he clearly has a very purposeful reason for being there. I think that his speech about background actors connects to Gately in that Gately always felt like he played a background role in any scene between his mom and the M.P., even if he was in the room during beatings he would quietly remove himself from the situation.

Another interesting thing about the wraith is that once he talks about filmmaking J.O.I. pops into my head. Another indicator of J.O.I. is his explanation of being sober for the last 90 days of his life (is this consistent with J.O.I.? Too lazy to check…). It is very possible that the wraith and J.O.I. are in fact different people but D.F.W. strikes me as too perceptive an author to just toss these coincidences around. If indeed there are meant to be connections between the characters, I wonder which Incandenza son is the feared backdrop. I think the one that makes the most sense is Orin, it is clearly not Mario, and Orin displayed the most disconnect from the family especially in giving up tennis, hating Avril and not showing up to his father’s wedding. In a sense Orin has become sort of a background, while he is a pro football player he only has a small role and he is also somewhat the background in many women’s lives. If any T.V. show or book followed one of Orin’s “subjects,” Orin would be nothing more than one night of pleasure and one small footnote. In this way, while Gately knows noting about the Incandenza family, the wraith provides a connection between different plot lines and shows people can Identify with other people with seemingly completely different backgrounds.

That section was what I found to be the most drawing during my reading of this section of Jest. I am both excited for and unhappy about reaching the end of this long (almost ‘infinite’)

EDIT: Busted! I'm not completely caught up on today's reading, so if the wraith is later absolutely confimed to be J.O.I.'s wraith, forgive me for my talk about speculation.
Please excuse the late post, but I was very sick last night, and I just wasn't ready to get out of bed and do my post. I just mainly wanted to talk about what we discussed in class last time.

In class, we talked a lot about the difference between objective and subjective. One of the biggest questions we came up with was, could anything ever be subjective? I don't want to rule it out right away, but initially, I would say no. Anything we ever hear or read about, is unavoidably somebody else's opinion. By the sheer definition of it being an opinion, then it must be subjective. There is nothing we can see or read that won't also be subjective by this definition. However, in my opinion, this creates an awful lot of unnecessary ambiguity.

If everything is subjective, what reason do we have to believe what we are told? Must we always take every story, every anecdote, with a grain of salt? In my opinion, thats overly paranoid about whatever the "truth" is. I mean, if everything is subjective, there's no clear definition of the "truth," except maybe Cory's definition of the intersection of all opinions (which could still have problems). In my opinion, I think we should just accept certain things as objective and move on. Like in the book, we can clearly tell when Randy Lenz is stalking the Chinese lady, that he is clearly the one following her and clearly crazy. THAT is the objective idea of it all. That is not subjective in the least. We need to accept what is possibly subjective and focus on the things that are undoubtedly subjective to get a clear view of the story. By putting some trust in the characters perception of real world events (or at least items and such), we can understand the stories more fully without having to worry whether or not its the truth.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Let me apologize in advance for this post, the contents of which will concern material likely read many weeks earlier by the better lot of you. Clearly I'm just a bit behind on my reading. Hopefully my tardiness won't invalidate or in any way make less valuable my comments.

I'd like to discuss in brief the section in which the WYYY M.I.T grad-student engineer is abruptly abducted. Of Wallace's merits, I think his penchant for that strange and peculiar brand of humor, the one that provokes pity, discomfort, and riotous laughter simultaneously, is critical to the success of the novel (that is literary/artistic success, not market success though i suppose the two are intertwined). This little vignette is deceptive-- it's short (620-626) and the action is almost entirely passive but it's still wildly funny, and in my opinion one of the better testimonies to Wallace's supposed comedic brilliance insofar.

Wallace introduces the scene patiently and quietly. He spends the first few paragraphs (which I feel are a bit separate in regards to themes and actually warrant their own discussion) transitioning into the section's setting and immediately breaks into meticulous detail once he gets there. The scene he reveals is one of relative, if not still entirely bizarre, serenity: a crowd gathers to watch the annual pond draining on a bleak autumn day as a variety of characters mill about on an adjacent hill. Yes there is the M.I.T student tanning despite what sounds like inappropriate climate and the assortment of bums, one of whom is wretching violently, but these are irregularities that have come to help constitute normalcy in IJ. For the most part, Wallace's prose is slow-- it is clear that he intends to convey the perfect essence of the moment. He creates a mellow atmosphere, choosing to include every subtlety about this apparently routine day. It isn't until the quick mention of a conspicuous white van, interjected in the middle of a tangent about the absence of Madame Psychosis, that Wallace allows the reader to feel that anything is really amiss (again images of bums spewing blood and bile have become banal as a result of ubiquity). Here Wallace begins to charm with his brand of humor-- he makes a reference to the white van's handicap sign; though the Wallace makes clear that the van's sudden presence is suspicious, the fact that the driver of said van is in someway physically disabled rips away its credibility as any sort of villainous entity. Wallace continues unphased, making sure to indicate that nothing really notable has changed in the scene with exception to the unnoticed arrival of the van. When the second white van arrives and a ramp portrudes from interior (this one at the top of the hill) it is clear that something sinister is about to transpire-- yet again, the image of the disabled and the diabolical stand in stark and ridiculously hilarious contradiction. The scene erupts moments later when a man in a wheelchair explodes from the white van at the top of the hill and comes roaring down the hillside and snatches up the sun-bathing engineer in a sort of scooping contraption connected to the front of his chair. Wallace describes this entire event in one long and laborous sentence that extends nearly have a page. Here, his stylistic choice is well suited for the content's satire-- up until this point the passage has been pensive, but all in anticipation for the sudden change of pace that captures the reader in this final paragraph. The peculiarity of the action and the abrupt transition in tone make for an overwhelming reading experience, but nevertheless one that leaves you reeling with laughter immediately. The entire notion of wheel-chair assassins is in itself funny (there's something wonderfully impossible and thus entertaining about devious paraplegics) but to actually witness them in action is many times funnier. That they are actually successful in their scheming further emboldens the humor. Turns out abduction is really very entertaining when executed by the least likely to abduct.

I'd also like to give mention to what I feel are some profound insights, whether intentional or unintentional, in the first few paragraphs of the section. First, a quote that deserves more analysis (both interpretive and evaluative) than I'm capable of providing: "nobody but Ludditic granola-crunching freaks would call bad what no one can imagine being without" (620-- reference page for context). Second, a few sentences later, is Wallace's description of total personal spectation (basically you can watch everything from the confines of home) as "total freedom, privacy, choice". Of course what resounds about this characterization is that these are all ideals that persist as the foundation of American democracy. It seems that Wallace is being quietly sardonic when he describes the opportunity for total reclusion because of all the readily available entertainment.

Some Like It Hot. Some Like It Cold. Some Like It In The Pot 92 Days Old

I really liked Hal’s story with “The Darkness’” (Orth) head stuck to the window. During the whole 20 November section in first person the story keeps switching between Hal and Orth and Gately and Joelle, which suggests parallels in their stories.

The first one I noticed was the idea of being trapped against your will for the purpose of ultimate betterment of oneself. Gately talks about being kept for 92 days in the holding cell to keep him from returning to “The Bird”. It reminded me of the part in The Shawshank Redemption, imagining being trapped in a hot room where each moment you’re in agony from going cold turkey. Ultimately, though Gately acknowledges that it was worth it. In Orth’s case he puts his head against the cold window to cool off because he was too worried about the upcoming games and celebrations and hoopla. So in a sort of similar way he’s trapped there with nothing to do but count the seconds. I’m not sure yet if this will benefit him anyhow, but it’s interesting how they’re tortured by doing nothing pretty much. Orth hallucinates (or DOES he?) and thinks that he sees a ghost. There’s a lot of paranormal stuff in this reading. Hal’s answering machine message, the conversation about Himself and Mario’s paranormal experiences, lots of the word choices suggest things about ghosts, and Gately’s dream about death being Joelle Van Dyne. Speaking of which, isn’t it weird how Death is this seductive woman who has to become your mother in the next life in order to make up for killing you?
That seems like it would be plausible for Avril. She’s obviously got something incestuous going on and Joelle says how she thinks it’s weird that Avril seems nice but that it’s never sincere enough. Maybe she’s only being nice to make up for being death? Or maybe I’m not looking at it deep enough.

Now for something completely different:

I’d also like to point out how Joelle says that she thinks it’s odd how newly sober people always look up to people who have been sober longer because that’s what they aspire to be, to be in control of their lives. But Joelle doesn’t believe that she is. She’s always talking about “recovery” related topics to her thumb and can’t get away from this idea of having to fix herself (by being sober). These addicts spend all their lives trying to fix themselves that once they achieve what they want, they have nothing left to do. Their freedom is, in a weird way, trapping them. They become addicted to getting better.

Things to think about:
-Why Winston Churchill?
-Why doesn’t Hal want to play a game for the first time he can remember?
-Why the paranormal stuff?
-Why the Incest?-That’s about it.

Sean's Post

I think the connection to Hal's term paper that A. "Dove" Lempke made is rather insightful, and of considerable import to our discussions regarding the subjective and objective nature of various characters. In his paper, Hal makes a distinction between the modern hero, chief Steve Mcgarret of Hawaii 5-oh, and the post modern hero Frank Furillo of Hill Street Blues. He states that McGarret, the hero of action takes charge, acting upon others, as the subject, while the retiring Furillo is acted upon, is the object of forces outside, and greater than, himself. Moreover McGarret acts on the basis of actual evidence, objective evidence. This creates a sliding scale, where as time goes on American heroes become increasingly the object of others. This is explored to its greatest possible degree in Gatley, who is entirely subject to, and the object of others machinations. Even his infirmity is brought about by external forces.
Throughout the story we can see that various characters are reduced to objects by external forces. It is the nature of addiction that the addict surrenders their ego to a greater force, allows the addiction to suppress their fundamental sense of self. Even AA requires the surrender of dominion to the divine. The characters are essentially buffeted by a perfect storm of external forces that keep them from ever acting with facility in their own interest.
In response to the point raised by Cory about Canadians/Americans, I would say that Americans as we see them are objects, while the separatists are as much subjects we can find. (Please note that I said objects and subjects rather than objective and subjective, which would have the opposite meaning that I intend here. The terminology is somewhat muddled.) The Canadians are able to view themselves as agents of their own destiny precisely because they have made the move from subjects to objects, they act upon others rather than being acted upon by external forces, (drugs entertainment etc.) In choosing their temple, they make the conscious choice not to become an object for others to control.

" math. As in Matics, Math. E"

"First-order predicate logic Never fail you. Quantities and their relation. Rates of change. The vital statistics of God or equivalent. When all else fails. When the boulder's slid all the way back to the bottom. When the headless are blaming. When you do not know your way about. You can fall back and regroup around math. Whose truth is deductive truth. Independent of sense or emotionality. The syllogism. The identitiy. Modus Tollens. Transitivty. Heaven's theme song. The nightlight on life's dark wall, late at night. Heaven's recipe book. The hydrogen spiral. The methane, ammonia, H2O. Nucleic acids. A and G, T and C. The creeping inevitablity. Caius is mortal. Math is not mortal. What it is is: listen: it's true."

"Not 'If thus-and-such.' Not 'unless a gladhanding commercial realtor from Boardman MN in $400 Banfi loafers changes his mind.' Always and ever. As in puts the a in a priori. An honest lamp in the inkiest black"

In addition to being a beautiful passage of pathos and although contained in footnote 324, this speech by Pemulis is an important addition to the philosophies presented in the book so far.
We have, most notably, the AA philosophy of following the already established system, irrelevent of whether or not you believe it, just because it works, the AmericanQuebecois dichotomy of perspectives on freedom, Schtitt's theory of a game's beauty/complexity due to its rules. All of them, including Pemulis', presuppose that you put your trust in the system and that the system will take care of you. Choose a temple. Follow the 12 Steps the cliches. Play by the rules. Essentially, every single one of these theories is a theory of submission, a neccessary submission in order to feel good about yourself and your life. To resolve all of your spiritual conflicts by submitting your free will, your own perceptions, to what boils down to folk wisdom.

Coupling that idea with the discussion of subjective/objective we get the following. As the main problem of distinguishing between objective and subjective is individual perception, the only way to achieve spiritual tranquility, a sense of being a meaningful part of the world, knowledge of the whole that surrounds us, is by submitting this perception to the perception that is emergent on a level much above the indiviudal. Noone, who in the book has achieved freedom, or is succeeding on their way to achieving freedom, does so on their own. Everyone has assembled themselves into groups. AA, Ennet House, A.F.R.

Pemulis' math works the same way, in that it's pure. As long as it is not applied to real life, as long as it is self-contained, its observation gives the mathematician a sense of security, a sense that things make sense, that they are "true". But to do that, the mathematician leaves hisher personal ideas, personal perspectives completely behind in favor of a complex system.

In my opinion, the primary characters, who are complimentary in their purposes, of the book are Don Gately, James Incandenza and Hal Incandenza. While Don Gately's associatated descriptions directly deal with the above philosophies concrete effect on a human being, the Incandenzas stand in counterpoint. The problem of the Incandenzas is not being burdened by their personal perspectives, but not being able to express them(JOI) or feel them(HAL) on any level.

To explain, JOI, as well as the rest of the family, is unable to communicate with any human beings in a direct manner. His only mode of communication is film, which is always wildly misinterpreted by other people. Whatever his personal perspective on the world is, he is unable to relay it. According to the latest passage, this hurt him when he saw his most gifted child, Hal, begin to lose any personal perspective, and JOI was not able to do anything about it. His final attempt was a film (Infinte Jest (V or VI)), upon whose completion JOI killed Himself. Now, back from the grave, as a wraith, it appears JOI is still desperately trying to communicate. Given the Entertainment's lethal quality, JOI has obviously placed the personal above all else. In essence, the entertainment is the opposite of AA's 12 Step: it is full indulgence of the personal perspective (or so gathered from MaratheSteeply's retelling of 1960-1970s "pleasure" experiments). Notice that JOI has made the Entertainment altruistically, to stop his son's regression of personality. This is also contrary to the selfish reasons of all other philosophies in the book.

Hal, JOI sees as personally regressed, which is something Hal calls loneliness. In addition, he feels empty on the inside, having nothing to say. Yet, Hal is precise, having memorized the OED. Notably, Hal is claimed (by Pemulis) that he is not wired for math, nothing beyond precalculus or maybe calculus. This, given also Hal's nightmare regarding the infintely convoluted Tennis field suggests that Hal is not able to follow folk wisdom, and is instead, as his father claims, wired for exhibiting personal perspective. It is also important to note that Hal's suppressor, Avril(who according to Orin suffocates everyone), an explanation for her role is directly given by the Entertainment's alleged content.

So, JOI and Hal, quest for not submission but expression of their personalities. Thus, they seem as the only truly free characters.

P.S. Notice Hal's diction in Year of Glad is very mathematical. Notice also that in Year of Glad his great essays are mentioned, whereas his standardized test scores are abysmal, which also shows the dichotomy between the submission to the existing system and personal expression.

P.P.S. This is all just a certain angled interpretation, I'm not sure I believe it 100%, having written it out, maybe I'm tired, but it's an interesting one.

Parabnormal Garden-Variety Wraith

A central character to this reading was the wraith/JOI, which I assume really does exist, because of the great lengths that both it and DFW go through to show that it does (nose hair, PIROUETTE, etc.) It also seems to show up multiple times in the book; when "The Darkness" gets himself frozen to the window he asks Hal about "parabnormal shit" (Page 870) mentioning a figure coming and going also, a few times already we have heard about objects at ETA showing up in the weirdest places for no good reason which for the time being it seems likely to be the JOI wraith's fault. Once again JOI has astounded me. Never have I seen a character who has been dead for the majority of a book have as much influence as him.

Toward the end of this week's reading we also begin to see a weird facial tic developing for Hal, which hints at what was happening in the beginning of the book (I think we've seen a milder form of it before, during the Eschaton debacle, when Hal was feeling his face, I'm not sure). I think someone predicted that the tic was caused by drugs (the DMZ in particular), but now it seems to be becoming more pronounced because Hal has been "Abandoning all Hope".

This might be completely unrelated, but when Hal is considering the etymology of anonymous, he cites the Olde English on-ane, meaning All as One or As One Body, which struck me as sounding suspiciously close to ONAN for what is essentially an arbitrary tangent by Hal. This goes along with what we know about about how ONAN is supposed to work (Interdependence and whatnot) and what Steeply was talking about (where each person chooses what's best for them and this is supposed to lead to maximum well being for all people).

Blame Canada

Any thoughts on the JOI wraith, ya'll? I mean, his personality made sense. Why exactly did he kill himself, though? I mean, if I saw my son making the same mistakes I did, I wouldn't "eliminate my own map." I think.

Also, JOI provides an interesting contrast to Avril given her openness proclivity. Ah, the different forms of silence in the Incandeza family...

A snippet of thought on Canada/USA/objectivity/subjectivity: The AFR bit of Canada seems to, in an indirect way, represent objectivity whereas the USAers represent subjectivity. Like, the AFR proceeds with their plans regardless of harm to themselves. Their only objective, really, is retribution for those [explicative] USAers. They care, basically, about things other than themselves/their temples (i.e. they are Objective). The USAers, in contrast, stereotypically care only about themselves (i.e. are Subjective). Just a thought.

Odds and Ends:

* Anyone have something interesting to say about why anonymous is related to onan (pg. 797)?

* If your mother is your killer, who are the bad mothers? (pg. 850)

The Catatonic Hero (Special Bonus Feature: The Hamlet Parallel, Part Two)

So, long before JOI's wraith enters the scene and starts proving himself not a hallucination, we have Don Gately, lying in a hospital bed unable to move, talk, or really interact with any other character even though many characters come and interact with him. The first connection my aimlessly drifting mind made was to Hal's essay far earlier in the book, where he calls for film and literature to take on a new kind of hero, a catatonic hero, who lets experience pass over him without the possibility of action. I, of course, had thought this to refer to Hal or JOI-- and it still does-- but in this section, hasn't Don Gately become the most literal embodiment of that idea?

We have a new suicide on our list, Gately's old neighbour. The list gets ever more staggering.

The most obvious thing to notice about the wraith scenes is that DFW and the wraith both put a lot of effort into proving that it isn't a hallucination. JOI's ghost refers to people, things, and most noticeably words, of which Don Gately has not the remotest knowledge.
No more needs saying on that score. What interests me more is that this is a continuation of the Hamlet Parallel that I detected before. The dead father/leader appears as a ghost to beseech a living character. JOI, unlike Hamlet's father, does not contact the son. My theories for why he doesn't contact Hal himself are A) JOI's whole problem is inability to communicate with Hal in a way that has any impact and B) JOI is quite familiar with Hamlet and doesn't intend to repeat Hamlet's father's mistake.
I also wonder if the wraith is the one moving things around at ETA, out of either boredom or desire to cause a stir.

I've been thinking a lot about the character of JOI, and generally, it seems that every other character is either a foil or a parallel for him, and he is either a foil or a parallel for every other character. Tiny Ewell and Don Gately seem like a good parallel for his alcoholism, although examples abound, Hal matches well with his inability to communicate, etc. Actually, the Pemulis' Da seems like a parallel for JOI's father-- something about them really strikes me the same way, even though one is a relationship of physical incest and the other isn't. The one that interests me right now is Kate Gompert as a parallel for his psychotic depression. I want to know how JOI was able to work day in and day out on the Entertainment without dying, and I wonder consequently whether it was because he was depressed. Therefore, the question stands: if Marathe shows Kate Gompert the Entertainment, will she or will she not die?
I want to know.

I confess, I'm having a little trouble remembering some of what happens in this reading, since I finished it at least two weeks ago (I didn't go any further, so now I should be at the right place in the reading.) Everything above is just a list of the things I hazily remember thinking when I read it. I'll try to refresh my memory before seminar tomorrow.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A great adventure awaits

It seems that DFW spent a lot of time going into the history of the great concavity and how it came about and the politics that surrounded its creation, prevention of refugees, etc. But otherwise we havent seen very much about how the modern people actually behave in response to the fact that there is a gigantic biohazard along the once American/Canadian border. I think we heard about one group of religious people that would venture into the concavity (and not come back) but besides that the rest of the characters seem completely unaffected by its existence. In the earlier parts of the book, the characters made no indication that thousands of miles of land were now uninhabitable. When I first read about the concavity, it took me by surprise, not only because of the nature of the concavity and its creation, but because it didn't seem to fit with what previously had happened in the story. No mentions of feral hampsters, of pollution, of annular fusion.
In this section we finally see a modern recognition of the concavity. When the young ETA kids went adventuring in the tunnels to hopefully find a feral hampster, that was the kind of behavior I would expect of kids who live in a country with a concavity to have. The concavity would sound like an out-of-bounds area filled with mystical creatures and mysteries just begging to be explored. Now of course the kids at ETA do not live close enough to the concavity to go there on their own, but it made sense that they would be very excited about pursuing a feral hampster.
I'm also curious how the government has been so successful (I'm guessing they havent been) at containing the contents of the great concavity. I know they have a big wall, but the concavity's border is, unless I am mistaken, thousands of miles long. Sealing a border that large would surely be a logistical nightmare, and would be a task that would be difficult to do successfully. Still, there have been no mention of giant toddlers strolling around through inhabited cities.


When Men Were Men and So Were Drug-Addicted Biker Chicks

BS:OTS was a pretty intriguing film, IMO, and another instance of where we indirectly receive information about JOI through writings, narration, etc. If I could relate the purpose of the film to annularity... basically, JOI rants about how annular Ennet House etc. is a flawed cycle. The way it's supposed to work is nun A, saves nun B, who saves nun C... but somewhere along the way, this one nun DIDN'T get saved, which corrupts the entire cycle (it's annular). On the other hand, the film implies the nun is going to go to the muffler shop and sort of reform on her own (I think). Perhaps JOI's hope for himself? For all of JOI's work with annularity and creating it, all he really wants to do is get the heck out of it (which he does via suicide).

Wave Bye Bye to the Bureaucrat is also about breaking cycles...

I think it's interesting that Hal + JOI have basically the same problem and there's another sort of cycle seeing Hal come into EH.

It's also interesting that the narrator implies that EH isn't not a good place for really depressed people (who might kill themselves). Actually, it talks a lot about depression. Probably in connection with JOI?

It seems like none of the Incandezas can really talk to each other. Hal/Mario, Orin/Hal, Mario/the Moms (maybe not Hal/the Moms) all lapse into these weird little double monologues instead of dialogue. Is it just the parents? The two are sort of polar opposites. Both of them are very confusing with how they (truly) feel, but (so then and therefore, like) Avril does it by acting like she isn't whereas JOI tells absolutely nothing. If JOI represents annularity, what does Avril represent?

Let us congratulate ourselves on making some predictions:
a) MP's face not being all it's cracked up to be.
b) IJ being the Entertainment, JOI being the filmer
c) The AFR is looking for the Entertainment and are thus stalking Orin & co
d) Orin/Avril in an incestuous relationship (I think, the MIT lady mentions just "son"; it could be Hal. Please NOT Mario)
e) JVD/HoPD in an incestuous relationship (connotations thereof, rather)
f) JVD and DG are in loooooove!


This section actually answered a lot more than it made (for me). My big question, though, is
1) Does Avril REALLY love her boys? If so, why does she sort of act like she's compensating for NOT loving them?
2) Who's working for the AFR? Avril? Poutrincourt? J'NR'W?
3) Are random things showing up in random places because of the AFR or some other weird reason?

Odds and Ends:

* Why is Steeply bad with words ("Quandarical"...)? Isn't (s)he educated?
* DFW does his research or knows chemistry. He mentions Iron + Thiocyanate, which, actually, DOES react to form a red solution (Fe3+ + SCN- -> FeSCN2+)
* DFW adds in interesting social commentary about crime/criminals: "watching the two recede [PTK and RvC, during the purse-snatching], both seeming to be shrieking for help" (716).

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Families With Low Self-Esteem

I liked what Marlon K. Bain says about abuse, saying that abuse can manifest itself in two very different ways, the more conventional way and the “loving” way. Avril and James were guilty of trying to act like loving, caring, understanding parents that their actions lost any true love or compassion or understanding (Hal says that Avril thinks she understands him but really there’s nothing about him to understand since Hal is an empty person). Their parenting is focused more on themselves and less on the betterment of their children.
The point is that the abuse that M.K. Bain talks about can be related to the abuse of an addiction. Ennet House shows the gritty, cruel side of abuse, and of course ETA is the more docile side of abuse (of course the Incandenzas run ETA). The students are taken to a school focused on this game they are supposed to love, but because the students have to live up to the expectations of a good tennis player the fun and love of the game is gone and in the end the moves are there but the game becomes devoid of feeling.

On another note, what was with Blood Sister? I didn’t understand why they went into so much detail about the film which was basically just ridiculous. I’m guessing that it’s supposed to parallel another character (Orin? Someone at Ennet House?) who will/has done the same thing as Blood Sister (maybe not exactly the same, but something pretty bad like that) and this is just setting up for it. I wouldn’t put it past David Foster Wallace to do it.

Oh and Poor Tony’s back! I thought that it was strange how the first thing he thinks about after waking up is all sex related somehow. This is probably his most uplifting story. But then the Creature came after him (are the Creature and the Thing the same “person”?). This part felt like a nightmare or something, being chased by a “creature” with sharp nails/claws and no one will help. It says that Poor Tony was out of rehab and “Withdrawn” so I’m not sure if this is real or if it’s just some sort of weird hallucination-side effect of something. It was pretty strange all together.

Finally, Marathe is in Ennet House, part of a cult, and missing a bunch of teeth. I felt bad for him because I had no idea what was going on and the only guy who’d talk to him would only tell him about the robots in control. This whole reading was just filled with lots of crazy stuff that I wasn’t totally sure what to think of. Hopefully this is really the beginning of a series of answers in the story instead of just more questions and crazy twists.

A Fook in t'Boom

I'm growing increasingly disturbed by the sheer amount of parent-child incest in this book. Whether it's actual sexual actions happening or just weird feelings of attraction between child and parent, we have Matty Pemulis and his Da, Joelle and her Own Personal Daddy, possibly AMI and Orin, that one girl at the AA meeting with the catatonic sister being incestuously diddled, and probably more.
What that means, I can't determine, althouhg it does get me thinking about how Wallace always has multiples of everything in this book.
He doesn't have just one pot addict. He doesn't have just one 'drine addict. He doesn't have just one person who nails their own offspring. He doesn't have just one sibling who just lies on the other side of the room and ignores their own brother or sister being violated by their father. He doesn't even have just one Lenz; he alludes at some point to a younger ETA whom people suspect of abusing animals in much the same way (I can't find the page, or rather don't want to take the effort since i haven't the slightest recollection of where this was.)
For every major character that has a problem or condition, there is a minor one or mentioned one who has the same thing. I think DFW does this in order to show that these aren't the freaks on the far fringes of the society he's portraying, but actually quite common-- problems that are more societal than personal. It's a society where the social norm is completely imaginary, and everybody pretends to be living a decent lifestyle while they all, more or less without exception, are riddled with bizarre addictions and sins.

There have been a couple of "Lenz-is-going-to-kill-a-human" fake-outs in this section. I don't know where DFW's going with that; is he going to eventually kill a person for pleasure, and then die? I hope not, since I'd much rather see him suffer a horrible death solely on the basis of what he did to the animals. Hopefully Wallace is showing something of the elaborate nonsensical lies that addicts cook up to justify their actions. The substance addict says "Well, if I only do it once a [month/week/year/whatever time interval] then it isn't really an addiction," the sex addict says "well, it isn't really cheating if it's only [manual stimulation/head/her twin sister]," and Lenz, the killer, says "well, as long as I don't go over the line to killing people, it's all right." Hopefully that's what Wallace is going for here, not that Lenz is goign to eventually cross that line and it will for some reason be relevant.

Reading the conversation between Mario and Avril was possibly the most excruciating thing ever. Neither of them can communicate at all.

This actually reminds me of something I noticed a week or two ago, which is this: the Incandenza family literally has two and a half kids. Does this make them the average American family? You certainly wouldn't think so, with all the eccentricity they have, but could it be that they are typical, and merely a little extreme? Their complete inability to communicate, and their plethora of serious addictions (JOI's alchohol, Hal's pot, Orin's sex, Avril's OCD) certainly apply to the rest of the characters in the book.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Lost. Misplaced.

The repetition Gately uses to describe his duties at ETA seems like a very good method of keeping someone off of an addiction and on task. At the same time, it resembles the way some of our favorite druggies use their drug use, with the same monotonous routines and actions, or even methods for getting off of their addictions like Erdedy’s method of curing himself of his smoking habit. Though much of this description is in the third person, it resembles the way Gately would describe his actions if he were describing them himself; it includes his observations about some of the tasks, like visiting the woman’s quarters, and also the diction seems to get more and more… frustrated, perhaps, with the mundane repetition of the tasks he must perform on night staff. For example, as he talks further about the ‘fucking mess’ made by McDade, in the kitchen, with the Krispie treats. We also see Gately in action, narrated by a less omnipresent persona, reacting to Joelle and Erdedy in a muddle of chaos, after hearing much about the bland repetition of his normal routine.

Marathe’s discussion with Steeply on the TV show MASH is another connection we see to our own culture, somewhat dating the conversation, and also relating to something we know to be a concrete idea, as opposed to some of the potential realities discussed.
I get the feeling that Ennet House is not really the best way for its tenants to recover from their problems. I guess this might be that I don't completely understand how Ennet House is structured and what their strategy is, but it seems that it doesn't really do anything to help its residents. From my understanding, the residents have jobs, curfews, certain rules about when they are allowed to leave the house, who they are allowed to be with, and are of course always subject to screenings for any trace of substances. However, the characters always seem to be in great danger from being kicked out of the house. They would be kicked out of the house for breaking rules, or the worst case scenario, testing positive for some substance. However, I think that those people that would be kicked out for insubordinate behavior, disregard for rules, or substance abuse, are exactly the people that need the most help recovering. It seems to me kind of like a hospital that throws out a patient that gets mortally injured.
One reason I considered is that the fear of getting kicked out motivates the residents of Ennet House to keep all their toes in line. They are afraid of being kicked out. But then that raises the question of why the residents wish to be in Ennet House in the first place. What do the residents believe will be the benefit to abiding by curfew, facing strict rules, eating Gately's awful meals, and managing the fear of losing something of value to them (their residence at Ennet House)? Maybe its like AA in the sense that if they believe staying at Ennet House will help them, then they can eventually "fake it till they make it". I guess also they are all living together and undergoing a similar experience, so that camaraderie between the residents might help them work through their addictions. But between the camaraderie and the "fake it till they make it" ideal, whats the benefit of Ennet House over simply attending AA?


Lining up dominoes

I'm feeling particularly lacking in the ideas-to-blog-about-for-IJ department this week, but I'll try to make up for it with gratuitous comments on other peoples' blogs, I guess.
Only two scenes really interested me in this week's reading. The first is, ironically enough, the scene in which they're draining the pond (with the WYYY student engineer). At first it seems ridiculously slow-paced (which isn't the first scene that seems this way) with this excess of fragments of, often unnecessary, information (did I really need to know that the unconscious hobo with the shopping cart has only one, shoelace-less, ash-colored-sock-bearing shoe?), but as it moves on, in a literary show that makes me imagine DFW setting up dominoes, this overly detailed setting comes together for an action-packed (single-sentence) paragraph that ties into just about every one of those details. The second scene that interested me (it's actually a lot like the pond-draining scene in that narrator-building-up-the-setting sense) is the Don Gately fight scene. Again, the majority of the entire scene's action (the fight) takes place in a relatively short length of text (2 page fight -20 page scene). For what it's worth both scenes make me think of a line from William Gibson's Neuromancer: "The brown laminate of the table top was dull with a patina of tiny scratches. With the dex mounting through his spine he saw the countless random impacts required to create a surface like that." More so because we are looking at all the little "random impacts" that emerged collectively as the action in the scene, than the fact the the character was on drugs when he experienced the sensation (Although that old theory that DFW was on something when he wrote IJ comes to mind).
The passage about Ennet House certainly was intense. It is rather amazing how disturbed these people are- beyond just their addictions- and it makes me wonder whether they are being helped at all be being treated there. They are not at all taking responsibility for themselves, and they are certainly not starting to live "normal lives" without drug addiction, so I have to wonder if any successes they had there would be sustainable in the normal world. Really, the way that they interact there represents the substitution of collective mental illness for individual mental illness, and I think that that is characteristic of their society as a whole. The law requiring people to switch which side of the street they are parked on at midnight comes to mind- in order to make money, the state has arbitrarily made the decision to impose this absurd burden on its peoples lives, a choice that is virtually as insane as it would have been had there been absolutely no reason. And yet it strikes me as rather realistic. I think that that is David Foster Wallace's message here- that American society may be degenerating to the point of this kind of insanity, or that it has the potential to do so. Within the context of that insanity, I think that freedom becomes nonexistent- first because even a liberal state that largely respects fundamental rights could pettily strike at any aspect of people's lives if it were this irrational, and second because when living in such a society would present oneself with only such abnormal choices for human interaction that, even if you could make the choices in your life freely, you wouldn't be free to make a choice to live a non-destructive life because there was no such way to live in your society. This is something that we should watch for.
I think this has been touched on before, but I'm interested:

At some point in this section, DFW was writing about Orin and Joelle and said something like "before she was deformed." Obviously we still don't know what the deal is with Joelle's veil, but the way she described it bluntly to Don Gately was that she's so beautiful that people lose all interest in everything else and can never get over it.
This idea is recurring lately; everyone who has seen the Entertainment is incapacitated and can only mutter gibberish about it. Same thing with the rats with the pleasure-providing buttons, who forgot about all of their other needs. The rat thing was mentioned as explanation for the effects of the Entertainment, but I'm starting to suspect that the reason the Entertainment is so captivating is that Joelle is in it. Orin and Hal call Joelle the PGOAT, and obviously she couldn't have been so captivatingly beautiful when Orin dated her since his sanity is still intact...but could the "deformation" that Orin referred to have made her more beautiful?

On another note, I think Ennet House is becoming more and more interesting. I think it's interesting that DFW goes out of his way to make it such a motley crowd; you have a few people who are entirely dysfunctional and probably shouldn't assimilate into normal society (Randy Lenz & the fork-stabbing woman), and a few people who seem pretty high-achieving and normal disregarding their drug use (Erdedy, Kate Gompert, Joelle). You always hear the shtick about how drug abuse isn't confined to any particular group of people--case in point.

Somersaulting With Your Hand Nailed to the Ground

I titled this post the way I did because I wanted to talk a little bit about cycles. Specifically, it's beginning to hit home just how much of this book is about unsustainable cycles (I really want to call them "annular cycles" but that's redundancy since "annular", mainly, just means ring-like). Certainly any addiction is like that. A lot of other things fall into this category, though: Hal's development, while in some ways an addiction, can, I think, be better described as an unsustainable course of intellectual and athletic improvement. Steeply's Dad's addiction is also very cyclically destructive: it's based around the regular showing of M*A*S*H. On another level, the US's current political situation seemed to come out of the unsustainable cycle of American democracy. Basically, the same old elections/mismanagement kept dissatisfying everyone so they voted third party (& lived to regret it. Take that Green Party & Co!) & everything went downhill. Tennis, also, always comes back to the same place but eventually ends/is unsustainable (i.e. Every serve starts out at very similar position, & then there are sets so even more new positions). Finally, we can't, of course, neglect annular fusion which is a highly unstable cycle. There are more but I think this paragraph is getting too long. Thinking of a few circle images: tennis balls, wedding rings, wheelchair wheels.

I think the somersault w/hand nailed to the ground captures this pretty well: you're cycling (somersaulting) but your hand is nailed to the ground which will, presumably, break your cycle and result in some nasty consequences.

Entertainment destroys circles. Or, rather turns them into single points (circle w/radius = 0?).

A few (more) words on Steeply's Pa: His addiction really mirrors "Marijuana Think" in that he becomes broadly interpretative/abstract about something dumb & then ceases to be able to function. Ah, the quandries of being too intellectual: you can justify anything (as we've seen). Further, he loses the barrier between actor/character in a way somewhat similar to the loss of distinction between conscious and unconscious needs for addiction. (Also, there's the impossiblystuck metaphor)

Also, I was wondering if this was supposed to be slightly self-referential (what isn't?) in the following way: Steeply's Dad basically finds really weird symbology in M*A*S*H because there's SO MUCH of it. Just like you can find interesting sentences in the Bible/Moby Dick/any long work by looking at every nth letter. Is DFW making a slight jab at himself/IJ/us? (i.e. You think there are so many themes, but really this book is just REALLY REALLY LONG).

Oh, & Steeply's Da was right about the new type of time (subsidized!!). Eerie...

A bit on the Incandezas. First of all, a lot is randomly dropped by the section semi-narrated by Steeply (I presume) about the tennis match. First, JOI is definitely the director of Entertainment. Second, Steeply is NOT that pretty (according to Hal). What's up with Orin's taste? What does this say about JVD? Oh, speaking of which, I forget where this was dropped but she was disfigured. Why the Acteon (sp?) syndrome, then? This gets odder still as she still seems to believe that she's really, really gorgeous (her face). Does she know/is she in denial?

More evidence is also given w/r/t Orin's good lovin'. In addition to the liking women with children, Bain gives us pretty solid evidence that Orin is basically just passing on the bad treatment of his mother to his Subjects (i.e. Too much lovin'. Too Much Fun, perhaps? Which was how JVD tried to kill herself... hm.). Not 100% sure how I think this connects back to Avril/J'NR'W being together, but, again, it's clear that Avril needs to feel REALLY good about herself.

In terms of Orin/JVD's breakup, we're given a little tidbit in note 269 (3e) (pg. 1047). The first paragraph of (3e) seems like the BS reason (Bain indicates his doubts & we know that Orin knew that JVD & JOI weren't together). The "fact", however, refers, I think, to a section way back when where Orin writes the name of Avril's lover in the fogged window. It then reappears when JOI is driving and he figures out what's happened/that Avril is cheating on him. (Uncle CT seems a likely candidate for this person, although who knows) I'm not sure exactly how that works out, though. Perhaps it's some chain event (an "incident" is mentioned). Thoughts?

Odds and Ends:

Mario's disease about not being able to feel pain seems to mirror his mental (dis)abilities quite well.

The Canadian Resistance (sans the AFR), is really... well... not that great. There's Lucien & his friend who are pathetic, the guys who get beat up by a bunch of (ex?)-addicts, their leader is killed by a stuffy nose... etc. Gately seems to be single-handedly taking down the Canadian Resistance!

Lenz is, ironically, saved (from Gately's wrath) because some people come to try to kill him.

Why are things disappearing at ETA? Is this connected to Steeply/AFR?

Why does Marathe never think Steeply is being frank? Does he overinterpret just like Steeply's Dad/addicts?

"Saprogenic" (as in "Saprogenic Greetings") = to promote decay. Heh.


This is one of those posts that it would be great to get comments on, to add to the picture I'm constructing here.

I wouldn't accuse DFW of writing something as unsophisticated as a straight-up allegory, and IJ seems more complex than that, but I'd like to type up this as a brief hypothetical thought: what if it were a straight allegory?

More on that in a second. I'd just like to interject that DFW is an obnoxiously good manipulator of his readers. I mean, here's the picture: the character I badly want to see horribly suffer and die is separated from his would-be destroyers by one thing. What is the one thing? A character I very much don't want to see harmed or killed, namely Don Gately. My desire to see Don Gately not die ultimately outweighed my desire to see Lenz die, so I was glad to see him wiping the floor with the Quebecois.

OK, back to the allegory thing.

What if different characters in Infinite Jest represented different motivating forces, aspects of humanity, philosophies?

I'm a big fan of Lyle. I think he's just about the smartest character in the book (for example, I think DFW applies the most elevated vocabulary to the narration of Lyle's sections, few though they be.) And since he's a guru, I think he would represent the mystical side of human understanding. He gives advice of a vague and loosely interpretable nature-- but often very helpful-- in exchange for sweat. The sweat-drinking seems bizarre, and it could possibly stand for the kinds of bizarre rituals that we take for granted in religion and mysticism. It also means he gains his sustenance completely from other human beings, making him sort of parasitic (a little like religion.) His advice usually works, though, except when confronted by a single problem: the threat of suicide. Neither with Clipperton nor JOI does his advice successfully stop self-slaughter. It's like suicide is the one issue beyond his scope. Is DFW saying that religion or mysticism is somewhat effective but falls short when placed against issues of the severe degree that is required for suicide?

Hal would pretty obviously be intellectualism.

Mario would be intuition and empathy: he inherently feels for Hal on a gut level, he cares for all, and he understands things amazingly well despite a lack of-- intellectual-- mental power. He is fearless. He is also (worth noting) very small and under-developed in the modern world. He also finds it harder and harder to connect with Hal as his brother gets more and more wrapped up in his own intellect and addiction (AA says that intellectualism is the cathedra from which addiction rules. The Mario-Hal thing would suggest that they're right.)

Orin and Lenz, even though I actually like Orin, could to some extent be the same thing: the desire for power, or rather, the illusion of power. They exert their will over other beings (Lenz kills, Orin nails) to resolve internal issues with power and control. Lenz's animal-abuse and Orin's childhood Mario-abuse seem very much akin, come to think of it. I accidentally read a bit too far and found other stuff that I think supports this parallel, but I won't mention it for obvious reasons.

Would Joelle be shame?

Don Gately is pure fanatical devotion; in a way, maybe he and Marathe are the same? In any case, Don Gately, once he has dedicated himself, is in all the way. He's dedicated himself to sobriety, so he gets Active. He's dedicated himself to being an Ennet House staffer, so he's willing to fight three armed men and get himself injured to protect the people he's sworn to take care of, even though the main target, Lenz, is someone he personally detests (good old Don.)

Avril would be the desire to maintain complete and absolute control.

I'm going to stop here, but anyone who reads this, add comments on the above and consider other characters. Some other good ones to get down would be Steeply, Poor Tony, Michael Pemulis, JOI of course, his father, and John Wayne (I think those characters are likely to click into this hypothetical allegory.)


This week's has several important in terms of character development sections.

Fist is Mario, who is revealed to physically have difficulty feeling pain and thus have somewhat of an invincibility illusion. More importantly, however, he appears to be currently the most spiritual of all primary characters as he honestly believes in God. Simultaneously, he is the most open of all characters, to the point of naivette, since he even has trouble understanding others' secrecy and discomfort and the spiritual. Passignly, he notes that he can no longer read Hal's state, which he finds distressing.

Next is Orin, who is described as what essentially is an emotional carnal symbiotic parasity, feeding upon his Subjects' emotions and carnal pleasure, which he himself provided. Simultaneously, he attempts to make himself exclusive and unique within their lives; he wants to practically take over his Subjects' minds.

Then there's Gately, whose relationship with the Residents is extended through the description of his managerial stess and professionalism regarding certain rules(curfew, urine sample) and lax attitude for others(smoking). Gately appears much colder and egotistical in this reading, as all of his actions are done because they are his job, because him not doing them would result in a lot more distress the following day. It is important to note that his protection of the Residents is motivated priamrily from the worry of what would happen if a resident died on his shift. Similary, his beef is something, although he fears admitting it, actively enjoys. His sacrifice is both in the name of his personal enjoyment and temple(job at EH)-recognition, not interpersonal assistance.

Finally, Hal has, misteriously, decided to sober up, to give up on his subtance of choice. The circumstances around his primary motivation is as of now unclear. His descriebd thoughts that he deserved to lose to Stice, however, appear to communciate a certain humility, which was not previously present. Curiously, DFW reiterates during the game in the conversation between DeLint and Steeply Schitt's theory of the inside, unchewable world. An implicit connection is thus that Hal's has finally understood Stice's inclinations(which fits in the chronology, as Hal being high during Eschathon led him into trouble, while later during a.m. drills he was constantly pained by his tooth, whose faith is as well unclear, but I presume has began corroding due to his substance-related activities and may be in part motivation for Hal).

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A rainforest of sterebolic anoids.

The passage that begins “Orin (‘O.’) Incandenza stands embracing a putatively Swiss hand model in a rented room. They embrace. Their faces become sexual faces.” , (which is a peculiar but otherwise great line in the first place, describes the sexual interaction between the two in a way that carnal encounters are not often considered, or at least discussed outside the realm of physical or emotional connections of a love/lust combination (p 565-566). Love is an object and O is the victor; sex is made a possession, a necessity, similar to drugs in many cases: they no longer drugs and no longer addressed in the usual manner; they are temples, they are personality traits, they are daemons and they are friends.

The Concavity is spoken of in a manner similar to the way we talked about it in class last week in a conversation that resembles one go on in a math room at Payton, from sports and experimentation to random bits of information of people involved at school to God and triangles to conceptual physics and toxic waste, all the while including phrases like ‘my head is spinning on its axis’ (p 517).

In this weeks’ section, Joelle talks directly about her veil, and the concept of hiding, related to the shame in wanting to hide. I found very interesting the way she speaks of hiding from hiding, putting one’s self out in plain view and being forced into exactly that which you want to shrink away from. Though perhaps a bit counterintuitive, this is potentially logical if the intent is to fight the urge to hide or the related self-esteem or deprecation in terms of the physical or mental cause of one’s veil, whether literally a physical veil such as hers or a veil of one’s actions, traits, or addictions.



Last time in class we talked about whether or not it was funny when that one family all died because the one son drank the poisonous NesQuik. That seen was pretty ridiculous and grim to say the least, but it really made me realize how disturbing some of the violence in this book has become. I read that section and did not find it funny at all. Maybe if it had been an isolated story I read in a tabloid or an urban legend, maybe then I would have enjoyed it. But at this point in the book it just really makes me question why DFW is putting the readers in a position to be completely disgusted.

There have been many accounts of violent or graphically distubring events taking place. There is of course people shooting up on Drano and dying. There are certain suicidal fathers who nuke their own heads in microwaves leaving "delicious" aromas. There's the NesQuik incident, spikes driven through people's eyes, forks stabbed into people, etc. Now we can add to that list of disturbingly violent images a drunk being shot in the head and being forced by friends to walk off the wound, and a compulsive animal killer. Maybe these graphic events were funny the first time (I did enjoy the tale about the construction worker being hit by the bricks, although he didn't die, and the story was clearly fabricated). But I can't see what purpose DFW is trying to accomplish by bombarding his readers with these ridiculously graphic images. Does DFW perceive reality to be so graphically violent? Does he believe society is heading towards a point that demands a certain level of graphic violence in order to be entertained? Is it all supposed to be a joke? I certainly don't find his 'joke' very funny. I can only imagine the violence's comedic appeal by thinking of it in comparison to a Three Stooges-esque slapstick comedy. Except give Larry, Moe, and Curly all chainsaws and tasers, and coat every surface with rusty spikes. Is it still funny when they all tumble down a set of stairs in those conditions? Now give them 30 clumsy ways to explore their new chainsaw filled, spike laden environment. Still funny then? The constant flow of graphic violence is just sickening.


So what’s with Mrs. Inc? In the part with Pemulis and Avril, Pemulis is having a discussion about the “Oedipal child” and the mother figure as the Barbie Doll. Then, conveniently, we meet Avril doing splits in the cheerleader outfit with the football player. This reminded me a lot of Orin and Joelle (football player and cheerleader) and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this happened. I think David Foster Wallace is hinting at some sort of relationship between Orin and Avril. But that’s gross. Maybe that’s why he avoids her all the time. And why James blew his head up. Maybe it's why Orin dates married women, so they will be occupied with him instead of their kids like Avril was with Orin.
There’s an interesting section when Gately is talking to Joelle about the man (Chuck?) being shot in the bar. Gately says that they tried to help Chuck by walking with him instead of taking him to the hospital and it ends with Chuck dieing from the wound. But the men were too drunk to realize that what they were doing wasn’t working. This might be a parallel to Ennet House or AA. AA’s methods only work for some problems, and some people have problems that can’t be cured by AA. Just like Gately and his friends, the AA staff believes that they can cure everyone but in reality may be making their problems worse.

The whole part with Idris Arslanian was kind of odd.

Postmodernism and Infinite Jest

After reading this part of Infinite Jest, I first came to the conclusion that it might only advisably be read in small portions, much as I would imagine it is with the ingestion of arsenic. After partially recovering from the experience that made me come to that conclusion, I next wondered whether the very existence of postmodernism is a significant sign of the possible decline and fall of western civilization, and whether it is intellectually valid only as a target for shooting practice. On reflection (and post-recovery), I think that the book may in fact be trying to make a statement about that. It has been fun to read the various passages of I.J. when not trying to analyze it as if it were a "normal book" in structure whose meaning were straightforward, and I particularly enjoyed parts like the description of the Harvard beach party on page 584. In his use of collectively incoherent stream-of-consciousness passages that do not seem so maddening individually, I think that David Foster Wallace may be parodying the intellectual incoherence and indulgent expression-sans-logic of postmodernism, showing how absurd and nonsensical a philosophical and intellectual system it can be when taken seriously.

Am I the only one who doesn't read these titles?

I'm on character watch as far as those job things are still in effect, and the character of the hour is Randy Lenz. Weird compulsions: knowing the time to an unnecessarily accurate degree, traveling N-NE and being in those parts of the room, and killing things/watching things die. For a while, to me, it seemed as though Randy Lenz wass being introduced for the first time (I could have potentially missed something obvious), but page 562 suggests that we've already met Lenz, under the guise of 'yrstruly' from the weirdly narrated parts:"thundering around due north of where yrstruly and Green strolled through the urban grid"

Also since last time we discussed the book we mentioned destructive cycles and how they don't just apply to individuals (we specifically mentioned broadcast TV/the advertisement agencies as an example) the whole explanation of annular fusion and DT-cycles sounded vaguely familiar. Here's a brilliant idea that seems logical at every step (the processes cancel out each other's poisons) and yet on the whole is terribly destructive (skull-less babies, giant feral hamsters, insects, etc.).

I hope Lenz is eaten alive by feral cats

"Echt and Tavis were both standing, now, in there. Their handshake looked, for the first split-second he looked, like C.T. was jacking off and the little girl was going Sieg Heil." This is a throwaway detail, but I just wanted to point it out because the image of a tiny person (an American incapable of making decisions at a level beyond that of a child) giving a Nazi salute (a pledge of fanatical devotion) to a man masturbating (the pursuit of personal pleasure) seemed like it summed up a lot of what this book is talking about in a nice little image.

I'm pretty sure Lenz is just about the most despicable character I've ever read about; I hope he gets what he deserves, whether its from the owners of the last dog (who conveniently enough seem to be Quebecois separatists, so they could be sufficiently vicious) or from just random misfortune (it'd be poetic if he somehow found his way into the eastern Concavity and got torn apart by an angry mob of feral cats [or hamsters.]) Anyway, my point is, I hope Wallace brings him to a terrible end; I want it to be painful, I want it to be slow, and I want to watch.

Unrelatedly, from way earlier (somewhere in the 420's) Marathe and Steeply argue about how two people ought to decide who should get a can of pea soup that has just become free for anyone because the two people's friend, its previous owner, has just abruptly died. Something about the absurdity of this situation, the idea that your friend would die and you'd be there arguing over his pea soup, seems very intentional. As though Wallace is suggesting that Marathe and Steeply are arguing over the wrong thing, or arguing something irrelevant, or that Canada and the US are doing the same; it's hard to tell with Wallace. But in general, I don't think we're supposed to agree with either Marathe and Steeply, because they're both made completely ridiculous by the narration. I don't know what the third perspective is, or whether their argument really matters. I think Wallace has been hinting at something though, and that he might clarify it later.

Since we hear a lot in this class about how useful lists are, and since suicide is one of the major motifs in the books (up there with drugs and tennis, which we have discussed) I thought I'd make a list of suicides, w/o/r/t success and intentionality.

JVD (unsuccessful)
C (unintentional)
Kate Gompert (unsuccessful)
Tennis Player Who Injests Poison

I thought the list would be longer than that, so I may have forgotten some. Does anyone remember any others.

w/r/t what DFW is actually supposed to be saying with this suicide motif, my only real observation is that it may be connected to the idea of the Temple.
The Temple is supposed to be that for which you would be willing to die, and obviously if you will directly kill yourself because of something, it's probably your temple. JVD's temple of Too Much Fun leads to her suicide; Clipperton's temple is tennis success, and once he achieves that goal his temple seems taken away and he actually goes through with suicide; marijuana leads to Kate Gompert's suicide, just as heroin leads to C's unintentional self-slaughter. One can't be sure why exactly JOI put his head in the microwave, so one has to in turn wonder what his temple was.

Also, just as a note, I've had this thought for a while, but in case anyone hasn't thought of this, don't we think the ETA situation is somewhat Hamlet-like? This makes sense, since the book's title comes from the play. The father is the headmaster (maknig him a sort of monarch), he is dead, the son's uncle is the new monarch (is C.T. amorously involved with Avril? Or at least, was he at some point? I felt that this was implied at various points, though the new John Wayne development puts a bit of a twist to that,) and Hal seems sort of like a syncopation of Hamlet (just cut out the "m" and slice off the "et".)

I haven't thought about it enough to extend that parallel any further.
Hamlet and IJ certainly have themes of suicide in common.