INFINITE JEST pp. 399-502 (notes 156-208)
No activity on the blog this week. ive been chronically tired, that is exhausted, heavy head, foggy thinking, all the time regardless of how much i sleep or how well i eat. It happens pretty often. (It took a while to recognize this as one of the symptoms of depression since it’s not in the routine narrative.) Moreover, i actually dont have a lot to say about this reading set, even though it’s huge. i liked it quite a bit tho. Especially the brief history of advertising, involving some surreal and shocking art used to sell aspirin — these data dumps are my favorite strands by far. Forgive me if i just gloss over this section. i cant vigilantly address everything that happens all the time anyway.
Here are some great insights i heard from the last book club meet-up. i take absolutely no credit for them. In fact, i barely contribute anything to these discussions, except to help keep track of all the trivial details and connections, such as the soda brand Joelle’s sound engineer drinks or Hal’s flashback to a scene of digging up his dad’s head (even though it exploded in a microwave?) with John Wayne standing watch.
- In the novel, AA is the one promise held out to these poor souls to break out of the System. (This system is addiction, language, society.) Nobody really knows why it “works,” it just does. Even though it’s saccharine and silly with all the proper nouns, even though the stories of these characters are savagely bleak and hopeless, you just follow the rules, go to the meetings, “Keep Coming,” pray to your Higher Power of choice, and it will work. This is also the promise of the novel. Even as it is squarely unpleasant and offensive at many moments, you have to keep coming, and it will work. Maybe.
- The treatment of women in the novel is being tracked. We get statistics of ETA’s studentry, and it’s around 45% girls, but you’d never know from that narration. Women are always regarded through male gaze and straight judgement. And a woman who shares her experiences under a rapist foster father is a “whiner.”
- Page 200 is the best example of where the JEST actively provokes your resistance. This is the long-ass list of “exotic facts” learned at halfway houses. Many of them are funny and feel true. But among them are things like “That black and Hispanic people can be as big or bigger racists than white people.” Where exactly does this come from? Gately’s consciousness? Maybe but it’s not explicit. Here we tread on the Intention Fallacy, but it cant be helped bc DFW’s presence is so overwhelming, and we’re near desperate for a place to make the text intelligible. i try to keep the author’s identity out of what im reading, but there’s commentary that we too easily recognize as the product of the center, the white het dude experience. And this is a writer who brazenly presents the experiences of trans women and the extremely poor and black people in contemptible ways. But this is a deliberate move. What could it mean?
- The Eschaton game can be read as a mise-en-abyme of the novel. It’s a convoluted and esoteric system. There is a desire to break out of it. This is by breaking the rules (“the map is not the territory”) but still acting in an intelligible way, hitting actual people on the territory to take out the nuke apparatus they represent on the map. It’s an anarchist or rhizomatic sensibility come to think of it: subvert the dominant system by starting a new game inside it and hope more folks join in. It doesn’t turn out well for the ETA kids, granted, but this is still the most appealing response to the biggest dilemmas in the JEST. But maybe we’re to be cautioned against this in favor of AA’s “irony-free zones.” How boring!