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The Infinite Jest Liveblog: Waste Displacement

September 18, 2011

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


September 14, 2011, pgs 240-270. These 30 pages have giant catapults tossing waste into the subannular (?) regions of the Great Concavity, Hal tossing clipped toenails with mystic accuracy into an across-the-room waste basket, and Pemulis tossing his cookies into a bucket at the Port Washington tournament.

Orin’s got “Helen” Steeply around, and I think we all know there’s much more to his wheelchair admirers than he or Hal recognizes. The conversation, which begins “Mr. Incandenza, this is the Enfield Raw Sewage Commission, and quite frankly we’ve had enough shit out of you,” also features discussions on interred bodies and freed souls before turning to the death of James O. Incandenza. With that in mind, Hal’s Orin-esque slip that “Launching the nail out toward the wastebasket now seems like an exercise in telemachry.” (emphasis mine) raises a handful of issues. Telemachus being Odysseus’s son is thematically important in a son waiting/searching for his father kind of way; Telmachus also being the model for Stephen Dedalus in “Ulysses” presents possible Hal I/Don G and Stephen Dedalus/Leopold Bloom parallels at work; and ‘telemachry’ (i.e. search for father) being the replacement for ‘telemetry’ has significance regarding the (to be seen) eerie behavior of objects around ETA and the presence of lost father — which counts as a Hamlet Sighting.

Hal was the one who found JOI after his suicide (on April 1 — infinite jester indeed), and was forced by the adults in his life into some intensive mental rehab from the experience. The talk about self-help books warrants a link to this glimpse into Wallace’s self-help library, which is light-shedding on the attitude the author has on this stuff and will come in handy later when it comes to AA cliches. It’s hard to tell if Hal’s need to perform and excel in his healing is more anxiety inducing than his actual traumatic experience, and we learn that he was the first-person narrator “dreaming of a face in the floor” way back when.

Then the ETA kids wail on some of the Port Washington preps. Schacht (another one of Wallace’s normal-ish but really-hard-to-figure-out-how-to-pronounce names) is relatively at peace with his lot in life.

Read the full Infinite Jest Liveblog.


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