Infinite Summer 2018 discussion

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James Orin Incandenza's filmography

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message 1: by Josh (new)

Josh Mock (joshmock) | 17 comments Mod
whewwwww. that footnote alone took me a good 20 minutes to digest on its own.

I skimmed it the first time I read IJ, and I'm glad I slowed down to take it all in this time. I took a lot of notes, not all of which I'm sure yet are relevant, but all are at least interesting.

that's kind of a thing thus far: if you're reading carefully enough, you're probably seeing a lot of things that seem interesting but it's hard to discern yet if they're important. I'd suggest taking note of these things regardless. there are so many threads to follow here, some of which seem to be purely for DFW's own delight, which I find is definitely a big part of enjoying IJ: it might look complex on the surface, but every detail is delightful.


message 2: by Alex (last edited Jun 27, 2018 11:35AM) (new)

Alex (aezell) | 7 comments That filmography was intense. I have the same sense as you that there's a ton of threads going on and it's hard to know which to give space and time to.

That said, I'm struck how many different ways DFW talks about seeing, being seen, or being hidden. There's a ton of stuff in just the first 70+ pages that relates to characters or events being watched, seen, highlighted, or the opposite: hidden, secret, invisible.

That's not necessarily something important to the plot but as someone who reads somewhat critically, I'm interested in how those topics are worked out. With the name of a mystery film as the title of the book, there's clearly some interest in the notion of watching and being watched. With that in mind, I read the filmography pretty closely. Lots of nuggets in there.


message 3: by Matthew (new)

Matthew Buchbinder | 11 comments There are a lot of youtube videos out there where film students have shot trailers, etc. of the filmography entries. I think there was an film exhibit to the same effect that was written up in the New Yorker (I believe it was called "The Failed Entertainment"). I don't have a comprehensive list, but maybe we can compile them under the resources page! Someone made The Entertainment, which is definitely worth watching (but is NSFW).


message 4: by Matthew (new)

Matthew Buchbinder | 11 comments One related theme in Infinite Jest I'm interested in is entertainment as a subject of worship. Two examples of this we have seen so far in the short portion of the book we have read: (1) James Incadenza is seen a martyr in many ways, his filmography left as his legacy, and him being worshiped as a filmmaker beyond his death, the kids calling him "Himself"; (2) the medical attache ritual-izing the consumption of entertainment.

As will become increasingly apparent, Infinite Jest can be interpreted as a loose "remake" of Brothers Karamazov, or at least an exploration of many of its themes in modern times. DFW's Dostoevsky article (and specifically the timing of the article) makes it clear that the book was a huge influence on him in https://www.scribd.com/doc/164736651/... . One of the most apparent parallels is the theme of three brothers, each representing a different philosophical viewpoint.

Of the three brothers, Mario Incandenza clearly represents the Aloysha, the principled theist from Dostoevsky's work. Here, Mario is a student of film, just Aloysha begins BK in seminary. Just as Aloysha uses religion to try to make those around him better by encouraging others to adopt his moral viewpoint, Mario uses his filmmaking techniques to make the students at the academy better by making tapes for them to correct technique (54-55).

This even works on a meta level as, within DFW studies, the literature on Infinite Jest being utilizing and interpreted as a holy text is becoming more and more robust. Infinite Jest has also been interpreted as serving as a stand-in The Entertainment that is at the heart of the book, specifically the impulse to begin it from the beginning as soon as you're finished and the apparent excesses of it's execution.

Anyways, I don't have a concise thesis in all of this (obviously) but the thematic richness of this book captivates me every time I read it.


message 5: by Michele (new)

Michele | 2 comments One of the little nuggets I found interesting in this footnote is the names of the various production companies. One is Lactrodectus Mactans, which is the binomial name for black widows - something it has been made clear that James Incandeza's father was obsessed with/horrified by. I thought that might have been a tongue-in-cheek name choice. The other is Poor Yorick, which is a line from Hamlet (as is "Infinite Jest").

I feel like reading this book is like completing a puzzle. Collecting pieces of the right colour until you find the right place for it.


message 6: by Alex (new)

Alex (aezell) | 7 comments Those names caught my eye as well.

Given that this is my first read, I've tried really hard to avoid the mindset of trying to solve a puzzle while reading it. Yes, I'm taking notes and making observations. But, I'm trying very hard to read it as a novel and a piece of literature and let the puzzle bit fall to the wayside.

This is sort of the way I read S. which lent itself to puzzle solving. Instead, I want to understand the story and the larger themes as I they appear to me and maybe leave the spelunking for another read.


message 7: by Josh (new)

Josh Mock (joshmock) | 17 comments Mod
I think that's a smart strategy.

Like Matt said, it does become clear that the book may be self-referential, in that after you finish the first time, you may feel strongly compelled to go right back for a second read. So much stuff that reveals itself slowly.

I think just being a mindful and attentive reader rather than trying to blow through it is what will make your first read pay off.


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