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The Infinite Jest Liveblog: Blue

November 29, 2011

This is the latest entry in Words, Words, Words the ongoing liveblog of David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest.” 

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November 29, 2011, pgs 508-530/1034-1036.  The importance of “The following things in the room were blue” eludes me, except as some indication that Hal is beginning to see things with slightly heightened senses. He is focusing strictly on a single color, and he is also troubled by “a kind of rodential squeaking that gave Hal Incandenza the howling fantods,” an affliction he shares with his grandfather from a few chapters back. The walls outside C.T.’s office are covered in “the overenhanced blue of the wallpaper’s sky, which the wallpaper scheme was fluffy cumuli arrayed patternlessly against an overenhancedly blue sky.”  This is the same wallpaper in the dentist’s office that Hal has just returned from and is, of course, similar if not identical to the (most popular) cover of the book itself. Thus it seems somehow relevant.

Except that Wallace did not choose the cover of the book, and with all the other tightly planned and intricately placed revelations in this book, this one could bear less weight than it seems and be potentially misleading. Wallace’s original choice for the cover was an image from the set of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. He told the story in “Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself,” while on an airplane leafing through the safety guide:

[Closes it, looks at cover. Clouds and sky.]

This was my major complaint about the cover of the book. …Is that it looks — on American Airlines flights? The cloud system, it’s almost identical.

[On safety booklet for 757]

Oh, that’s funny. What did you want instead?

Oh, I had a number of — there’s a great photo of Fritz Lang directing Metropolis. Do you know this one? Where he’s standing there, and there are about a thousand shaven-headed men in kind of rows and phalanxes, and he’s standing there with a megaphone? It wouldn’t have been…Michael [Pietsch, Wallace's editor at Little Brown] said it was too busy and too like conceptual, it required too much brain work on the part of the audience….

Because you were making a metaphor on the cover?

No, I just thought it was cool —

So an apparently deliberate and significant reference to the cover of the novel may not mean much at all, it turns out.

While I’m not sure about the blue, I know the following things in this section are true:

Avril’s hair has been vividly white “as of the last few months before Himself’s felo de se.” She has a way of establishing herself at the “exact center” of any room she’s in. The whole apple thing with her and Hal seems a little, or a lot, like some weird Garden of Eden thing where Avril is the Eve and the Serpent and the Tree all at the same time.

Mike Pemulis is the Paranoid King (see: “YES I’M PARANOID — BUT AM I PARANOID ENOUGH?) and his greatest fear is “of academic or disciplinary expulsion and ejection, of having to schlepp back down Comm. Ave. into blue-collar Allston diploma- and ticket-outless, and now in his final E.T.A. year the dread’s increased many-fold.”

Lateral Alice Moore was in a helicopter crash.

C.T. is one of the most intensely annoying characters ever created, but can also be formidable.

Clenette, current Ennet House resident and controversial narrator from the opening chapters of the book has been in C.T.’s office while the students have been waiting outside — and it is unclear why. Also in the office is the “scrubbed young button-nosed urologist” who is presumably there to chart the inner chemical states of Hal et al.

Marathe and Steeply are discussing mythological/cultural precedents for The Entertainment while the dawn begins to approach.

Read the full Infinite Jest Liveblog

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