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The Infinite Jest Liveblog: “…”

February 25, 2012

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


February 25, 2012, pgs 809-845/1076. Gately is laid up in the trauma wing of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, mute and only non-narcotically medicated.  As such, he has become a target for Ennet House visitors eager to unload their memories, and for his own mind to unload a few of his own memories as well. Tiny Ewell is first, along with a “tall and slumped ghostish figure” and “the blurred seated square-head boy” who is likely to be Otis P. Lord with the computer monitor still stuck over his head. Ewell’s story of his school boy days makes him sound quite a bit like an early Mike Pemulis. Gately keeps dreaming about “Orientals” for some reason that I can’t identify.

Gately talks about the “airless and hellish, horrid” condition of being unable to speak and it seems that, as we approach the final pages of the book, both of our main protagonists are fighting the temptation to take drugs.  Hal sees faces in the floor and Gately sees breathing in the ceiling.  Gately’s bed is moved like Stice’s and he ends up next to a crying patient with a very deep voice.  No clue who that is.

Enter ghost.  The figure that has been resting its tailbone on the window sill (like JOI’s mother in previous scenes) is JOI Himself. The Hamlet Sightings are off the charts here, with the se offendendo that Wallace notes in the endnotes to JOI being the ghost of Hamlet’s father to his insertion of the word LAERTES into Gately’s thoughts. Bear in mind also that Laertes is the father of Odysseus, so there may even be some James Joyce/Homer sightings taking place here as well. We learn from the ghost of JOI about figurants, and how he felt like one his entire life and how Hal had started to become one just before JOI’s se offendendo. The figurants conversation also offers a hefty justification for why this book pretty much features “every single performer’s voice, no matter how far out on the cinematographic or narrative periphery they were.”  Immediately the early Clenette chapter (“Wardine say her mama aint treat her right…”) comes to mind.

We learn that the purpose of The Entertainment was for JOI to connect with Hal, “To bring him ‘out of himself,’ as they say. The womb could be used both ways. A way to say I AM SO VERY, VERY SORRY and have it heard. A life-long dream. The scholars and Foundations and disseminators never saw that his most serious wish was: to entertain.” I’m not certain of the exact timeline here, but it seems possible that JOI-as-wraith might be able, at some point during these interactions with Gately, to whisk up the hill to ETA and see his son actually watching and presumably being entertained by his father’s movies.

Gately slips in and out of consciousness, remembering the MP who abused his mother.

Read the full Infinite Jest Liveblog

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anthony Shepard permalink
    February 29, 2012 10:01 am

    I remember this being one of my favorite and most frustrating parts of the book. Favorite, because the physical discomfort of Gately and the psychological unloading of the ghost and Ennet House residents, as you put it, was really well written. Frustrating, because after looking for Hamlet sightings throughout the entire novel I began to realize that the bulk of this book was more of a reimagined prequel of the Shakespeare play.

    The novel, as far as I can tell, does not really start to correspond with the plot of Hamlet until after this moment, with the strange night at the Enfield Tennis Academy and the boy’s (I forget his name) head glued to the window staring out into the night like a night watchman. From there, the story, which is left mostly off the page, begins to line up with play pretty well–Hal slipping into a kind of madness (with method in it, as he explains in the first chapter), his uncle trying to dump him off in a far away land in the first chapter (as Hamlet’s uncle Claudius tried to dump him off to England), the grave digging with Gately.

    It would be interesting to think how much we can surmise about the destinies of Hal and Gately after the conclusion of this novel based upon the play’s plot. Thoughts?


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