Saturday, January 3, 2009

Infinite Jest: 17-39

When my brother read IJ, he noticed all the allusions to masks. Something to keep an eye out for.

This second bite of IJ covers several segments. Isaac covered the first one -- Erdedy's anxiety-ridden wait for a drug connection -- with nice insight into addiction. I'll just note that I'm impressed at how DFW deftly sketches the addictive mindset while simultaneously depicting it as a Jonsonian sort of sickness: Erdedy's all hunger & displaced libido. His last moment, caught in brain-freeze between doorbell & phone, is hilarious.

Section two -- but first, section one had the first footnote. It's a quicky, on the subject of mind- & mood-altering substances. They won't all be so prosaic.

Section two -- but second, notice that gibbon moon that separates sections? Any thoughts on that? There's a lot of lunacy in this novel. I'm gonna keep an eye out for a lunar motif.

Okay, section two: flash back to Hal, aged 10 (so eight years before Hal's big opening interview, for those of you playing at home), at another interview. It's a pretty strange conversation, with a man who claims to be a professional conversationalist but soon gets revealed as Hal's father (AKA Himself, which sounds pretty Biblical) in a mask. He's ranting about a suspected connection between his wife (the Moms) & several Canadian agents.

Of all the strands that make up Hal's life, this is the most memorable: the Pynchon-like sci-fi setting. At this point, all we can say is that it involves Canadian espionage. And that his late father cybernetically augmented his own brain & body following a detox. And that Hal's a virtual battleground for his parents, who both schtupped him with steroid-like "mega-vitamins" from infancy. So, yeah, weird but thrilling to this overeducated comic-book-reading Infinite Jester.

After the quick section three (Hal's late-nite colloquies w/ hypercephalic brother Mario & estranged bro Orin), we get more on the Canadian front, via
a Canadian-Arab medical attache. Left to his own devices (his burka-wearing wife is playing tennis: a good image), this attache watches a strange "cart" that's arrived in the mail. I'd guess a cart's basically a DVD, but I imagine it resembling an old Atari game cartridge. Six pages & 43 minutes later, he's still watching...

Tonally, however, this segment is closer to Erdedy's realistic inner monologue than the day-glo surrealism of Hal's sections. There are a few touches of satire, like a catalogue of burka beach-wear. But DFW writes here with a light touch, not rancor, mainly because his target is American hyper-capitalism & not religious fundamentalism.

Incidentally, we're told that the US has not only started auctioning naming rights to years, but that the winning bidder gets its stock showcased by the Statue of Liberty (AKA "the Libertine Statue").

Our reading today ends with a seemingly out-of-place segment about ghetto child abuse, written in an African-American dialect. I'm not sure what to make of this bit. I don't remember how it plays out or fits in with the rest of the novel. So that's something for me to discover. Till tomorrow!

1 comment:

Aaron Riccio said...

There's a footnote (somewhere in the thirties) that refers to the O.N.A.N. subsidized calendar as being a lunar one. Perhaps that explains the gibbon moons? As for why Wallace chooses to accent some breaks in the cycle (or to date some entries and leave others ambiguous), I've got no idea.