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Infinite Jest - Spine 2012 > Discussion - Week Eleven - Infinite Jest - Conclusions

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message 1: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
This discussion covers Conclusions/Book as a whole

It has been a challenging ten weeks of reading and discussing this amazing book. At once horrifying, hilarious, scary, and deeply moving, whatever your final response is to the work, it’s safe to say it has an effect on the reader that is quite powerful.

For this discussion, we can talk about the book as a whole, and how it begins and ends or doesn’t really end. The opening scene with Hal in Arizona during The Year of Glad takes place a full year after the ending scene with Don Gately in The Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment, writhing in feverish pain and remembering all kinds of horrific episodes from his days of crime and addiction.

What happened during that lost year? Did Pemulis get the shoe? Did Hal and his friends take their planned DMZ trip? Did Avril and Wayne eventually score? Did the master tape surface? Did Joelle lift her veil? Most of the major questions are left either open, ambiguous, or completely unanswered. There is much to contemplate, so let the speculating begin!


Casceil | 90 comments As discussed last week, I think Pemulis managed to dose Hal with DMZ on his way out the door. Hal was showing signs that night--odd facial expressions, oddities in consciousness, lying on the floor a long time, etc. Since he was supposed to be studying for upcoming boards, the "subnormal" board scores would fit. Perhaps years of intensive training have left him able to play tennis still, even if he can't talk or otherwise communicate without appearing to have a fit. I'm curious what circumstances could have developed to result in Hal and Gately digging up himself's skull. There has been speculation elsewhere that the master tape was buried in the skull, but that never made sense to me, since it would have required the post-suicide cooperation of someone else. The book appears to be deliberately ambiguous on the subject of what Joelle looks like under the veil. The account of her having had acid thrown in her face seems to come only from one unreliable source.


Matthew | 86 comments I don't think there is any concrete confirmation on wether or not Hal is on the dmz. I think the aphasia may in fact have more to do with being off the stuff. I think Hal is having a true moment but that moment is also some sort of crisis. Hal is feeli g things for the first time but unable to communicate. Or is the world unable to communicate with him? Maybe Wallace was saying something about being unable to connect in our modern society.
But that being said. It almost feels like the Year of Glad section is an improvement, but also a look back. Even the year title subsidy brings back the image of JOI's own father.
Maybe, its about fathers and sons. I felt that. The book itself is dedicated To Wallace Senior. So in some ways it feels like its about how fathers and sons communicate with each other or more specifically what we leave to our sons and what we take from our parents. Hal is in a sort of "becoming" that develops from the first time you read IJ to the time you reread the first sixteen pages. To me it speaks to the idea of cultural inheiritance and what we learn from our immediate predecessors (parents or otherwise). And how it is both good and bad? The dmz I think is its own red herring.

The missing year I thought of as either indicative of some period where Hal was in a recovery period. Or possibly a period that something catastrophic happened in regards to the entertainment? It's left unclear I feel. Wallace is letting us do some of the filling in I think. And yet, it works as a ploy because it makes us reread and identify even more with his characters.

But rereading also brings in other texts. I certainly see the similarities between this and the Book of David (and Ab-Ab as well because of that). Thus reinforcing the other idea of cultural inheritance, through literature.


message 4: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
Matthew wrote: "I don't think there is any concrete confirmation on wether or not Hal is on the dmz. I think the aphasia may in fact have more to do with being off the stuff. I think Hal is having a true moment bu..."

For the Year of Glad episode, it might be reasonable to look at the situation as a panic attack, from the perspective of the administrators, but simultaneously, Hal is having the conversation of his narration in his head. He's hearing his explanations clearly and cogently, just as we're reading them, but in the real world of the conference room, he's making animal noises.

A pre-cursor for the onset of panic, p. 896-7:

"I was moving down the hall when it hit. ... It was some variant of the telescopically self-conscious panic that can be so devastating during a match. I'd never felt this way off the court before. ... But the panic was there too, endocrinal, paralyzing, and with an overcognitive, bad-trip-like element that I didn't recognize from the very visceral on-court attacks of fear. ... And another, dimmer room, filled with the rising mass of excrement I'd produce, ...I had to put my hand out against the wall and stand there hunched until the worst of it passed."

And so, I think you're right about the YDAU moments as being a result of withdrawal from the Bob Hope and the beginning of both panic and accompanying depression that mirrors some of what Kate Gompert experienced as part of her Hope withdrawal.


message 5: by Merinde (last edited Dec 28, 2012 08:53AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Merinde | 3 comments I found his inability to communicate during the interview at the start an interesting parallel to Himself apparently at some point not hearing Hal speak even when he was right in front of him, when he was his very wordy and overly talkative self(if I remember correctly. I finished the book some time during the night and started dreaming of it afterwards, so uh...).


Matthew | 86 comments Panic attack is a good way of looking at it actually. It describes what he is feeling pretty well. I am also reminded of how addicts relapse and how recovery is something you repeat any number of times in the way the narrative loops back here. But still, maybe the panic attack has something to do with the way that even in sobriety we are still far away from connecting with other people. For Hal it seems like much therapy is in order. And yet, the novel itself satirizes our own addiction to self-help. Maybe because the bridge between two people, even intimate people, is still a bridge. It's just human nature. P13 and Hal at the end of his initial panic attack: "I am not what you see and hear. I am not."


Ellie (elliearcher) I am thrilled-thank goodness for Xmas breaks! I have almost caught up-page 942. I'm bogged down in Gately's memory/hallucination of his friend's dilaudin death but feel exhilarated & exhausted by the intensity of the book.

It's not a book that can be read little bits at a time. I have to hold my breath & dive in deep & stay there, at least a couple of hundred pages at a time. Also between page 600-700 I hit some kind of block-I found that section so difficult. But once the street fight hits, it was like a roller coaster ride!

It seems that Gately is dying, although I don't want that to be the case. And with DFW, there's usually enough ambiguity to allow for denial.


message 8: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
Ellie wrote: "I am thrilled-thank goodness for Xmas breaks! I have almost caught up-page 942. I'm bogged down in Gately's memory/hallucination of his friend's dilaudin death but feel exhilarated & exhausted by t..."

It is an intense read to say the least!

The Gately hospital scenes are some of the most intense writing I can think of. Badly wounded, unable to communicate, refusing painkillers because of AA, but really needing relief from excrutiating pain, strange visits from Ennet House members and from the ghost of Himself, plus incredible memories of his pre-sobriety life with Fackelman and company. And of course, Wallace drags it out forever until we just want to scream "take the drugs already, ya big dumb maroon!!!" And of course, while all that's going on, a little part of your mind is wondering "Gee, how is he going to meet Hal and travel to Quebec to dig up Himself's grave??"

A pretty engrossing experience, no?


Ellie (elliearcher) Totally. I'm so grateful to this group-& you-for helping me to read this book. This has been such an exciting year because of BP-books I've so wanted to read but couldn't tackle or finish on my own.

Thank you. Thanks to everybody. Now back to the very end...


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