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Matthew Baldwin

Missed Connections

07.13.09 | 78 Comments

Warning: This post does not contain spoilers in the traditional sense of the word (i.e., information to which you have not yet been privy), but it does synthesize some data points to reveal a (IMO, non-critical) fact to which you may not have tumbled yourself. There are likely many more in the comments. If you prefer to make all the connections yourself, feel free to skip today’s entry.

Consider the following:

  1. On page 64 it says “Professor James O. Incandenza, Jr.’s untimely suicide at fifty-four was held a great loss in at least three worlds.”
  2. On page 157 the header is “WINTER B.S. 1960“.
  3. On page 159, James O. Incandenza, Jr.’s age is given as ten.
  4. One page 172, the (abridged) header is “TENNIS AND THE FERAL PRODIGY … IN THE YEAR OF THE YUSHITYU 2007 MIMETIC-RESOLUTION-CARTRIDGE-VIEW-MOTHERBOARD [etc.] … ALMOST EXACTLY THREE YEARS AFTER DR. JAMES O. INCANDENZA PASSED FROM THIS LIFE”.
  5. On page 223 we learn that the Year of the Trial-Sized Dove Bar fell three years before YY2007MRCVMETIUFI/ITPSFH,O,OM(s).

So, let’s see. James was 10 in 1960, so he was born in 1950 (or possibly 1949, if the passage set in 1960 transpired before his birthdate). He died 54 years later, in the Year of the Trial-Sized Dove Bar. 1950 + 54 = 2004. Therefore, the Year of the Trial-Sized Dove Bar is 2004, and The Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment (which falls five years later) is 2004 + 5 = 2009. Plus or minus a year, depending on the exact date of his birth.

I feel compelled to tout this particular instance of deductive excellence on my part because it is the only one I have successfully completed.28

Meanwhile, in the forums, readers blithely mention connections that I totally, completely missed. “X said Y and Z said Y, therefore X is Z.” That kind of stuff. It makes me want to turn back to page 3 and just start over, and this time transcribe the novel into a notebook line-by-line, to ensure that I don’t miss a thing.

It also makes me feel like George Michael. No, the other George Michael.

(Just mentally replace the phrase “math problem” with “contemporary post-modern masterpiece”.)29

I love a good mystery as much as the next guy, but finding clues in Infinite Jest sometimes feels like trying to find a pattern in the digits of pi, or solving various quests in an adventure video game (“You seek the Crown of Midas? Alas, it was broken in seven pieces, each of which was placed in a different world. Run around for the next 35 hours and collect them all, why don’t you?”).30

How say you? Do you like the treasure hunt aspect of the novel, or do you occasionally find yourself wishing Wallace would quit with the coy and give us the straight dope? What connections have you unearthed thus far?

Misc:

Thunder Stolen: My original topic for today’s post was going to be the Wardine and yrstruly sections, but on Friday that particular discussion broke out like a brawl in a soccer bar. It’s even spilled over to yesterday’s Roundup thread and, frankly, I am now kind of relieved that I wasn’t the one to first throw a folding chair.

Self-PUNK’D: I finished the 14-page endnote 110 (yeah, I’m a bit ahead of schedule–shhhh!). It’s so long that I had to take a break in the middle of it. When I returned and saw my bookmark one centimeter from the end of the novel rather than the beginning, I had a momentary, electric thrill. It was like finding a $20 bill on the ground, and then remembering that you are in your own bedroom.

Art Imitates Life: My friend J. was going to participate in Infinite Summer, but then she decided that she had too many other books that she wanted to read . “Funny thing, though,” she told me over the weekend. “The first book I read was The Emperor’s Children, which had a character who was trying to read Infinite Jest to impress people on the Internet.”

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