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The Infinite Jest Liveblog: Have a Cigar

August 31, 2011

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


August 26, 2011, pgs 193-219. We continue to cycle back and forth between Ennet House and Enfield Tennis Academy, starting with a quick layout of the Ennet House complex’s buildings and the afflictions they hold. Building #7, we learn, is “rented” by ETA up the hill, since it was apparently almost buried during the academy’s construction. Those wanting to know more can check out James O. Incandenza’s Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad short film (At Least) Three Cheers for Cause and Effect, in which “The headmaster of a newly constructed high-altitude sports academy becomes neurotically obsessed with litigation over the construction’s ancillary damage to a V.A. hospital far below, as a way of diverting himself from his wife’s poorly hidden affair with the academically renowned mathematical topologist who is acting as the project’s architect.” Old “Vector  Field” strikes again.

Then to the ETA weightroom, where Kornspan is loudly maxing out on the bench press while Lyle dispenses knowledge. Possible Hamlet Sighting: Is Lyle Polonius? The last bit of this short section is LOL funny, but given that Lyle’s issuance was about the pursuit of success and the willingness to fail, I think it also gives some insight into the elusive nature of achievement. No matter how much weight you can throw up, and how vocally you do it, there’s always going to be someone like Mike Pemulis who knows better.

Contrast this with what’s going on at Ennet House, where there seems to be some actual contentment — not exactly happiness — but at least a sense of peace with past failures and a focus on getting to normal. Right at the end of a long section on the various tattoos of Ennet residents, Gately refers to his own prison-made tattoos as “Rung Bells,” expressing a “Second-category attitude, with most of the stoicism and acceptance of his tatt-regret sincere.” That sincere regret is an accomplishment in itself, not the kind of thing Pemulis could joke about. This importance of it is built up in the early parts of this section, where Wallace repeats the method of the Mario’s tennis prodigy film section with the repetion of “many exotic new facts” one picks up in halfway houses. Some are sad, some are funny, some are thematic: “That certain persons will simply not like you no matter what you do…That no matter how smart you thought you were, you are actually way less smart than that…That it is statistically easier for low-IQ people to kick an addiction than it is for high-IQ people.” A few more highlights: “That boring activities become, perversely, much less boring if you concentrate intently on them,” which sounds like the first seeds of “The Pale King.” “That most Substance-addicted people are also addicted to thinking…That it is simply more pleasant to be happy than to be pissed off…That pretty much everybody masturbates. Rather a lot, it turns out…That there might not be angels, but there are people who might as well be angels.” The following inventory of tattoos also serves as an inventory of the dramatis personae: Doony Glynn with the black lines around his neck is the man of bricks and pulley from 139-140. Bruce Green has MILDRED BONK on his triceps, and first appeared on page 38. I think Emil Minty is “yrs truly” from 128 etc. There are a few I don’t remember, then Erdedy, who was the pot smoker from way back when we were just getting started on page 17.

Then some info and planning, regarding the drugs Pemulis has recently procured, that are worth paying attention to.

In “Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself” Wallace told David Lipsky that the book is broken into chunks by “sort of obvious closures or last lines that make it pretty clear that you’re supposed to go have a cigar or something, come back later.” I think this is one of those times.

Read the full Infinite Jest Liveblog.

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