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Infinite Jest
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Infinite Jest - Spine 2012 > Discussion - Week Five - Infinite Jest - Page 398 (418) - 491

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Jim | 3032 comments Mod
This discussion covers Page 398 (418) – 491


Begins: FREAK STATUE OF LIBERTY ACCIDENT KILLS FED ENGINEER – Header;

[As noted in last week’s post, page 398 is in the middle of a lengthy episode about Interdependence Day, which I didn’t recognize when first establishing the reading schedule. My most humble…]

Marathe probes Steeply’s belief systems using the old ‘soupe aux pois’ technique, but its efficacy is très limitées. Clipperton stops by E.T.A. for guidance, but ultimately opts for a self de-mapping instead. Stavros and Gately shovel shit. After a brief interlude about the perils of mixing achievement and Nesquick, Mario’s puppets reenact the birth of Subsidized Time. Gately shares his frustration with Step 3 of 12, so BOB DEATH tells him the one about the fish (What the fuck is water?). Later that night, bimmy gets in touch with Sir Osis of Thuliver. Missing Madame Psychosis messes with Mario’s mind. Dawn drills a perk for top ETA players? Peut-être. More Gately/Montesian/Ennet House/higher power stuff, plus cake directions. Pre-dawn, still standing on a desert outcropping, Steeply probes Marathe about p-terminals and cages. Gately takes the Aventura for a spin and les frères Antitoi hear the squeak. Steeply asks Marathe, “aren’t you curious?”


To avoid spoilers, please restrict your comments to page 398 – 491 (and the earlier pages).


Phil Semler Random thoughts on week 5 pages.

Joelle: I made a note on page 223 where Joelle describes Orin as “dodger of flung acid extraordinaire.” Whether physically damaged or not, something happened. Other clues: her father abused her (her own “Personal Daddy”) and he’s a chemist, seemed to be jealous of Orin at dinner in KY.

Fish Story: I talked with a guy who’s been part of “Brother Bill” for 23 years. I told him the story. “Wise old whiskery fish: ‘Morning, boys, how’s the water?’ And swims away. The 3 young fish look at each other and go: ‘What the fuck is water?’” he said he heard it in AA.
I remember that story in Wallace’s published speech he gave to college grads somewhere just before he killed himself. I really like it.

Himself: “This is how I first became interested in the possibilities of annulation.” I looked up the word but don’t get it.
“Ringlike anatomical structure. Fusion self-contained. Amputated knob.”
Himself said it’s like “Trying to turn somersaults with one hand nailed to the floor.”
Is this an element of The Entertainment?

More on Entertainment:
Page 471 Steeply talks with Marathe about Department of Euphoria. The neurotransmitters of pleasure and the auto-stimulation lever. Rats stimulate the p-terminal over and over again thousands of times an hour ignoring all else. Rats dying of dehydration or fatigue. “Not of the pleasure itself.” Unless lobotomized, can’t stop ’em. Then the human volunteers around the block. –young Canadians want to try it. Implantation and stimulation. Volunteering for the fatal addiction to the electrical pleasure. By free choice. Steeply makes analogy to Entertainment,
“Do you ever think of viewing it?” he asks Marathe.
“Lost a couple already during the testing. Not just volunteers. Head of data analysis himself. In four-point restraints now. We too have lost persons. It is serious,” concludes Steeply.
The filmmaker, says Steeply, used “cutting-edge optics. Holography, diffraction. Neural density of actual stage play with losing the selective realism of the viewerscreen. Important Annulateur.”
There’s that word again now in French.

Gately: The murder-2 investigation of the botched burglary taken over by Non-Specific Services Bureau. Other cases Closed Without Finding.
Does he feel anything about killing M. DuPlessis? Implication that Gately is now the center of the book.


Matthew | 86 comments I agree with you about Gately, but I had a sneaky suspicion that he will feature prominently in the rest of the book. He does act as a counterpoint to the drug using characters in the book. His passages are shining moments of lucidity and parity.

Oh and The Entertainment. There was a quote from a few weeks back that I remembered which said that "entertainment is blind." I believe it was Madame P remembering JOI. (Pun intended I suspect) I have a sneaky suspicion that we won't see a point where the Entertainment begins, because the quote suggests not being able to recognize it at all. Perhaps the Entertainment has already begun.


Matthew | 86 comments Oh and before I go back to work: how was Videodrome Jim? Long live the new flesh!


Matthew | 86 comments Whoops I misposted above: I meant parsimony when I said parity. Parsimony is just keeping things as clear and simple as possible. Which they ask Gately to do going through recovery. That's a big part of any recovery for substance abuse. While those that are in their addictions in this novel seem to keep things as complex and confusing as possible, which tends to be a side effect of overthinking and obsessive thinking.

Okay I should really go back to work being on the clock and all.


Phil Semler Matthew,
good parsimonious interpretation. Parsimony is Occam's Razor--the the best explanation is usually the simplest one. No B.S. that's Don G. Certainly not a characteristic of most of these characters, not counting Mario. Of course, one might not like the novel unless he/she could emphasize with these painful brains. I like Gately for relief. Anyway--what do you think of Himself's annulation?
also--what a scary thought about the Entertainment. I have to admit I am chilled by this thing. I know it's farfetched but chilling nevertheless. on a minor note, it makes me think of Huxley's "Feelies" in Brave New World.


message 7: by Jennifer (last edited Nov 15, 2012 07:40PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jennifer Graham | 8 comments "Himself's annulation." That phrase is quite chilling.

I've read the book about six times and am still only fuzzy on annulation, but it's got something to do with the infinite, yeah? Time warps in annulation, speeding or slowing depending on who you ask. It refers to something cyclical in a weird lopsided way. I have an instinct for how it works thematically in the book but I don't know if it holds a clue as to how the Entertainment is supposed to work.

EDIT: Actually, I'm *sure* it holds a clue as to how the Entertainment is supposed to work, but I'll be damned if I know what that clue is.


Michael Dworaczyk | 9 comments DFW used the word "annulation" in a variety of contexts sixteen times in the book (did a search on my kindle version.) The book itself is a ring-like structure in that the end folds back to the beginning. And I would hazard a guess that the entertainment is designed the same way, which is why you can't stop watching it.


message 9: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3032 comments Mod
I've been thinking of annular in the sense of cyclical. A few times, annulation is described as "doing somersaults with one hand nailed to the ground" by Mario, and in a similar way by Himself. There is a lengthy discussion about this between Pemulis and Idris in our next week's discussion, as it relates to Tex Watson's Energy survey class, which is really messing with poor "Booger" Doucette's melon.

And so, a cycle of life type thing - birth, growth, decay, death (or lather, rinse, repeat). There is a strong pull to death - thanatos - in this book related to suicide - both actual and flirting with it via addiction. There is also a pull towards the womb - the pleasure principle - in the form of The Entertainment, and coincidentally, to the use and abuse of substances. I don't remember where I read it, but there is a short description somewhere about the combination of optics and the presence of Joelle's map that feeds the pleasure principle in an immediate, irreversible, and completely addictive way. Steeply and Marathe's discussions of the samizdat pose a lot of interesting questions about this willingness to surrender one's life (suicide) in pursuit of total pleasure. Samizdat as ultimate drug experience, or suicide by pleasure.


message 10: by Phil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Phil Semler All those comments help. I will continue to ponder.
"turning and turning in the widening gyre..."
The above description by Jim is pretty much the philosophy of WB yeats. Perhaps Hawking can shed some light ;)
In the book, it's only lobotomy that stops the level pulling.
Michael--if you have a kindle, perhaps you should look up the word "acid" regarding Mme. Psychosis.that word has come up several times re: face disfigurement.


Matthew | 86 comments @phil: thanks for the philosophy comparison. I remember vaguely Occam's Razor. I actually learned about parsimony in a psycholinguistics class back at SF State. I know there are tons of analogies to philosophy I could make for IJ, but my memory of philosophy goes as far as what I remember from A philosophy 101 class and whatever seems to resonate enough for me to remember.

I was quite suspect after the first section of reading that this would be a circular read of sorts. So I kind of agree with Jim's response to your comments.
From what I've been reading online as a definition of Annulation it is an organic chemistry term used to define the formation of cyclical or ring structure molecule due to chemical reaction. When I think of that, I think of said new ring being different from said previous molecular state, thus a "new structure" is "born" while the older molecular state is no longer the same, burned off in the chemical reaction perhaps. At least that's how I'm understanding it.

Also when I think of annulation in terms of Himself's, I think there are a variety of interpretations. I keep thinking in terms of creating a new molecule being analogous to a new life, ie Hal but also in terms of his death by supposed suicide.

Annulation also makes me thinks of annual and calendars which are in themselves kind of "rings" in the way they circle back.

The more I think about calendars the more I think it as a specific way of putting the novel and its events outside of time. Also when I think of new regimes and calendars I think of Robespierre and the French Revolution, which also concerned heads separated from bodies.

I can't help but notice that the difficulty of reading here is quite purposeful , Wallace wanting the reader to not be entertained but thinking constantly. Now, I have to get back to reading. All of this annular thinking makes me want to focus and finish this weeks reading which I'm quite behind because I keep thinking/writing about the reading. Grr.


message 12: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3032 comments Mod
Matthew wrote: "I can't help but notice that the difficulty of reading here is quite purposeful , Wallace wanting the reader to not be entertained but thinking constantly. Now, I have to get back to reading. All of this annular thinking makes me want to focus and finish this weeks reading which I'm quite behind because I keep thinking/writing about the reading. Grr..."

He is definitely giving us a good workout - no brain pain, no brain gain...

BTW, if you need more time for any of the sections, please take it! I split the book into 100-page/week discussions, but with this book, that's actually quite a bit.

Since we're drilling down into the meaning of "annulation", I'm wondering if any of you are using a reader's guide? I decided for my first read of this book to go it alone and have only looked at the wikipedia page for character bios and the Subsidized Time explanations - otherwise I'm putting my trust in Wallace to give me everything I need within his published 1079 pages.


message 13: by Phil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Phil Semler Jim, I love this pace. I'm reading a lot of other things simul but they're easier like Telegraph Avenue by Chabon, or now Lush Life by Price. I usually read the 100 pages of IJ on Sat and Sun.

Also, as I mentioned, I read the book before when it came out 15 yrs ago. I also read secondary sources at the time, though there wasn't a lot at that early time. I pretty much forgot everything,which is always a sure sign to reread a book that you remember you liked but didn't understand.

This time I am reading without secondary but all of you out there who've commented have really increased my enjoyment and understanding of this book. I am happy to ask questions and have somebody respond. I don't know a single person who's read this book.

so, what I'm trying to say: Thanks everybody!


Matthew | 86 comments On my end, I'm not reading a guide to help my read. However, I do go down the little rabbit holes of the Internet when I find a word Wallace invented anew. I should probably consult a character description list.

I actually did myself the service of buying the book today, so hopefully that will alleviate some of my concerns about reading the library copy before it has to be returned. Also, it's most certainly a book that I will want to return to for a re-read.


message 15: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3032 comments Mod
Phil wrote: "Jim, I love this pace. I'm reading a lot of other things simul but they're easier like Telegraph Avenue by Chabon, or now Lush Life by Price. I usually read the 100 pages of IJ on Sat and Sun ... so, what I'm trying to say: Thanks everybody!..."

de nada! strength in numbers...

@Matthew - Before I read a single word by Wallace I remember thinking that the cult-like adoration that many feel for him seemed a little odd. But after reading his non-fiction and short stories earlier this year, and now totally engrossed in the tale o' the samizdat, I can certainly understand and feel the love is based on merit and excellence in thought and philosophy. I'm not yet ready to don the bandanna, but I am definitely a strong supporter of his work and would recommend him to anyone. In short - it's good you bought the book 'cause you will surely read it again!


message 16: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3032 comments Mod
Matthew wrote: "Oh and before I go back to work: how was Videodrome Jim? Long live the new flesh!"

Merde!!! Will try and remember to watch it this weekend.


message 17: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3032 comments Mod
don presnell wrote: "Debbie almost hit her
aureola Ouch!"


Although if memory serves, she didn't give'em up. I watched Videodrome last night and realized it's been ten years or more since I last saw it. Debbie Harry as a pain freak, Barry Convex, Professor O'Blivion - I think Wallace may have been a Videodrome fan. There's certainly a whiff of the film in the samizdat and the Quebecois separatists. I was also thinking about his essay "E Unibus Pluram". I'll have to re-read that and see how much samizdat theory is in there.

BTW, here's a piece from 1993, which is in our week six reading.

http://harpers.org/wp-content/uploads...


Ellie (EllieArcher) | 252 comments I'm reading Elegant Complexity by Greg Carlisle which sometimes helps & sometimes is at least as hard as the novel itself!

I'm reading at an impossibly slow pace-plus we found out this week we have to find a new place to live in the next six weeks which has further slowed my reading. :(
(at least the kindle is easy to pack).


message 19: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3032 comments Mod
Ellie wrote: "I'm reading Elegant Complexity by Greg Carlisle which sometimes helps & sometimes is at least as hard as the novel itself!

I'm reading at an impossibly slow pace-plus we found out this week we hav..."


The description for this book sounds very interesting, specifically that it presents a way to read the book chronologically. It's an interesting idea, but then, the reader is reading their own version of the book rather than Wallace's version. I suppose that's okay??!?


Ellie (EllieArcher) | 252 comments Is it? I think I might be better off reading it after reading Wallace's own version of his work.


Nicole | 143 comments In re: Joelle, the thought had occurred to me that perhaps the veil is not about disfigurement in her case, but rather about her status as the P.G.O.A.T. That is to say, perhaps she is so beautiful that she finds it actually interferes with her life/interactions with others (see the unwillingness of the football team members to approach her despite desperately wanting to), and she decides to hide it as a sort of disfigurement. This idea hovered all through her "60 minutes" radio broadcast of the list of disfigurements, like maybe she was sort of hoping for one of her own.

I'm still about p.530, though, so it may turn out that I am dead, dead wrong.

Somehow she's connected to the Medusa/Odalisque/temptation/fear/turned to stone thing, I think as well. Maybe she's both too pretty and too hideous to look at, the veil a kind of schroedinger's box.


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