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The Infinite Jest Liveblog: Finding Drama

December 14, 2011

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


December 14,2011, pgs 550-567/1037-1044. Plot points abound as our seemingly anti-confluential drama moves along. Pemulis, attempting to look insolent but actually looking “less insolent than just extremely poorly dressed,” uncovers a sordid bit of role playing between John Wayne and Avril. I suppose it’s worth remembering here that in Oedipus’ story, he actually married his mom.  What’s happening in Avril’s office is an important piece of information, but what’s missing is an answer to the question: What did Pemulis have to say to Avril as he swaggered into her office dressed that way?

It’s no accident that the section immediately following opens with a description of Lenz’s equally cartoonish attire. Lenz on coke becomes a fact-spewing machine, lending a hand to Wallace who can have him jabber about everything from the “dreaded Estuarial crocodile” to Real Estate Cults in S. Cal. (see T. Pynchon, “Inherent Vice” for extended and excellent commentary on the subject) to his wildly obese mother. Wallace’s prose is particularly suited to the unstaunched flow of coked up monologue. While Lenz is undoubtedly doubtable, not everything he’s saying is bullshit. He mentions both La Culte du Prochain Train and something that sounds curiously like The Entertainment. One wonders what else he is saying has factual backing and possible relevance. Toward the end of one of his sections, he refers to himself as “yrstruly,” harkening back to an earlier section in the book and a first-person narrator hanging with Poor Tony who could be Lenz but doesn’t really seem to fit the part.

Hal lies on his bed, doing nothing. “We await, I predict, the hero of non-action, the catatonic hero, the one beyond calm, divorced from all stimulus, carried here and there across sets by burly extras whose blood sings with retrograde amines.”

Gately is interfacing with residents at Ennet House “UP TO ABOUT 2329H., WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 11 Y.D.A.U.”

Orin’s extended endnote interview yields the following information: JOI invented “that new kind of window glass that doesn’t fog or smudge from people touching it or breathing on it,” presumably after seeing a certain name written into the fogged up window of a car. The Mad/Sad Stork was, in a manner of speaking, a functional alcoholic. The Mom’s is a functionally insane person. According to Orin, Hal “is so shut down talking to him is like throwing a stone in a pond.” Echoing Gately and AA in general, “The Mad Stork always used to say clichés earned their status as clichés because they were so obviously true.” Marlon Bain’s parents died in a strange accident, he is (or was) non-functionally insane, he bears a serious grudge against Avril, and he recently sold his Saprogenic Greetings company, which I believe we last saw for sale in Antitoi Entertainent.

Credit: Chris Ayers.

For all the absurdities of Orin’s interaction with the hand model, this section has some extraordinary writing about sex for the Oedipally-stricken. Here Wallace rivals Pynchon in his ability to create a situation that is comical and ridiculous, and then drill swiftly down into the honest, human heart of the matter. It is worth slowing down to read that “It is not about consolation…It is not about conquest…It feels to the punter rather to be about hope…” and so on. You get a sense of Orin’s true and deep sadness, as he searches for whatever it is he’s searching for in the one activity he seems genuinely interested in. Once again, it seems no accident that these pages with the football player having sex with a mother are in close proximity to a section with a mother engaging in sexual role playing with a young man dressed as a football player.

Read the full Infinite Jest Liveblog

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