Wednesday, May 02, 2007

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.


Blogger Alexander Dove Lempke said...

Posting a comment on behalf of Sean

Incest is, with the exception of the intentional murder of an other human being, the most socially innate taboo. Nearly every society carries some sort of prohibition against incest, and it is therefore one of the most basic, almost axiomatic, revulsions in most of the people likely to read this novel, and, as such, characterizes a most extreme loss of self control. To be unable to resist the temptation of narcotic drugs is anti-social, to be unable to resist the temptation of ones own family members is to reject society itself. Either metaphorical or literal incest is a source of considerable revulsion, a fact which DFW is cognizant of, and therefore we can interpret these mentions as a deliberate self conscious attempt to inspire a certain kind of reaction in the reader. The various incestuous characters, therefore, are "addicts" of the very worst kind, unable to control their most banal and loathsome urges. He sometimes uses this revulsion to create other effects, as in the case of the AA girl, where the scene is absurd and almost seems like it is attempting to be comical, which is in and of itself another deliberate choice worth noting, as the readers reaction to this aspect is something which DFW has almost certainly taken into account.

It kind of seems like the entire book serves as a kind of parable of postindustrial society, as an exploration of the end result of any society conceived and arranged principally around the satisfaction of personal desires. Incest, and abuse, is merely the most apparent anti social and hedonistic indulgence, the most visible admission that we have no temple but ourselves. It is as medusa is to the Greeks, as the odalisque, and the parallel Asian myths are to their respective cultures. It is an exploration of what we find most mysterious and tempting in society.

It seems like the whole book explores the ides of post industrial spiritual malaise, and is conscious of the influence of media, and I would agree the problems of various characters are principally social. This also offers some insights into the idea of multiples. Characters act in a few predetermined ways because they are socially conditioned to do so. Media fundamentally alters our perception, as we are inclined to imitate the behaviors we see in various media, so that those behaviors become actually socially expected. A person's perception of the world becomes fundamentally altered by watching video productions, which, after all bill themselves as a miniature imitation of reality. This can be seen in the so called "mean world syndrome" in which watchers of TV violence become convinced that the actual crime and homicide rate is much higher than it actually is.
Another example of this inability to separate reality from film can be seen in the case of steeply father and mash, where steeply's father was unable to separate the physical effects of aging in the real world from the fictional characters in the imaginary world, and was thus unable to reconcile the idea of the show with that of the real world, and attached far too much significance to the fictional aspects.

The novel is deeply aware of the importance of media and the role it plays as an expression of social trends, and it itself, in kind of an odd post modern way, self aware of its role as a novel.

I hope my thoughts were not too rambling and disjointed, I am rather tired and have allowed myself to essentially free associate. My next entry will be more cogent, scout's honor.

5/02/2007 10:53 PM  
Blogger Alexander Dove Lempke said...

In response to the comment I posted on sean's behalf,

are you serious? Are you saying that the "diddling" characters are addicts of a worse kind than someone like say , Randy Lenz, who kills for pleasure?

5/02/2007 10:54 PM  
Blogger Cory said...

See, I guess I'd always conceived of Medusa vs. Odalisque as American vs. European conceptions of freedom in a certain sense. Neither is really correct... in a vague way, Americans are unable to see displeasure (ugliness) while the Europeans (like Marathe) sort of can't see pleasure (dude, Marathe's wife??). Probably a bunch of ways to look at it, though, this just my $0.02.

5/03/2007 1:25 AM  

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