Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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 Post subject: Re: What happened to Hal? (Spoilers)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2009 6:13 pm 
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testforecho wrote:

I had a similar experience on my first read. I think I was so busy trying to catch all of the pieces falling out of the book that the first chapter seemed like one of the many pieces but not an overall important piece. It wasn't until on the second read that I thought of how important and how sad the first chapter is.

On the second read I also thought more about how the blue-collared, unlicensed nurses aide, security guy or orderly looks at Hal in the eye and asks "So yo then man, what's your story?". To me this lays out the book. This last sentence is saying if you want to know the real story, if you want to look in the eye of these people and hear their story, if you are willing to listen and not look past them or get distracted, this novel will tell you the story of these people's lives including all of the gritty, sad, humorous, frustrating, and sometimes seemingly irrelevant details. You may not get to hear the end of their life story wrapped up with a nice bow but you will learn about these people's real lives, like it or not.


i absolutely love this interpretation--i feel the same way, and it makes me so, so happy to know there are others out there reading it with a similar inflection. thanks :)


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 Post subject: Re: What happened to Hal? (Spoilers)
PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2009 11:52 am 
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Quote:
I had a similar experience on my first read. I think I was so busy trying to catch all of the pieces falling out of the book that the first chapter seemed like one of the many pieces but not an overall important piece. It wasn't until on the second read that I thought of how important and how sad the first chapter is.

On the second read I also thought more about how the blue-collared, unlicensed nurses aide, security guy or orderly looks at Hal in the eye and asks "So yo then man, what's your story?". To me this lays out the book. This last sentence is saying if you want to know the real story, if you want to look in the eye of these people and hear their story, if you are willing to listen and not look past them or get distracted, this novel will tell you the story of these people's lives including all of the gritty, sad, humorous, frustrating, and sometimes seemingly irrelevant details. You may not get to hear the end of their life story wrapped up with a nice bow but you will learn about these people's real lives, like it or not.


I found this thread by searching, after reading the Gately/Wraith conversation and realizing with an (almost audible) clang that the entire book deals with the issues of frustrated muteness (real or perceived), the struggle to be heard, and the value of really hearing others (the AA refrain of "Glad to hear you"). MisterAyed really hit the nail on the head, and this post fills in more gaps. Thanks!


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 Post subject: Re: What happened to Hal? (Spoilers)
PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2009 4:10 pm 
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I first read this when it came out, and I've since harbored a theory about Hal that may or may not work.

What happens to Hal is a combination of two "molds." We have the "organic" mold that he ate as a child, that gave Avril the howling fantods and which, we presume, is still somewhere in his system. The other semantic way to look at this is there is a "mold" that represents his family's expectations: trying to impress his moms with his vocabulary, his father with his ability, trying to fit a "mold" that his family has prescribed for him.

Then, the extremely potent DMZ: a "synthetic" mold. The expectations of "the show," of life at Enfield Tennis Academy, of a life he hasn't chosen but which is rushing up to meet him despite his intentions. It doesn't matter who dosed Hal, although I suspect John N.R. Wayne, presuming he is a mole for the AFR and wants Hal as docile as possible for the inevitable technical interview, dosed his toothbrush.

But it's a combination of the two molds: organic and synthetic, familial and environmental, that collide in Hal and render him incoherent. The "molds" he's trying to conform to completely destroy the self inside, and that's what we experience in the first ten pages: the raging self, aching to be heard and understood, completely destroyed by the molds he has ingested, literally and figuratively.


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 Post subject: Re: What happened to Hal? (Spoilers)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2009 2:04 pm 
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Sorry if this theory has been posted before. But we know that Hal's father (JOI) was buried west of the Concavity, and that his funeral was delayed twice because of the cycles of annulation (or whatever). Hal later dug up JOI's grave with Don Gately (we are led to believe).

So what if Hal was somehow affected by the annulation? We don't know much about its effects, except that it apparently absorbs toxicity, resulting in hypertrophy, etc. However, I think those are the effects on the eastern side of the concavity, and the burial site is on the western side.

Now I realize that the timeline is off, in that Hal seems to have trouble communicating well before he would have been at his father's grave. But anyway I thought I'd throw this out there, since I hadn't seen it in the thread so far. Maybe exposure to annulation could explain why Hal could partially recover from the DMZ, or why he might not have suffered the same effects from the Entertainment as other people.


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 Post subject: Re: What happened to Hal? (Spoilers)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2009 3:19 pm 
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Hmm. I suppose the visit to the annular wastes of the concavity could suggest that something about Hal's experience is becoming annular --- since people have already pointed out that time might be seeming to speed up or slow down for Hal (and that this might relate to why he looks so bizarre when he tries to speak), perhaps his sense of time (or ability to act in time) is acting like a planet on an elliptical course: if I remember correctly, the planet basically slows down as it gets farther from its sun, then accelerates as it is drawn back to the sun, going fastest during he part of the orbit when it is closest to the sun. Whether the visit to the concavity affected his "cycle" directly or not, its own annular pattern might be a hint to something about Hal's experience.


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 Post subject: Re: What happened to Hal? (Spoilers)
PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 12:31 am 
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Well, right, but I was thinking something more literal - like maybe the annulation stripped Hal's body of all toxins, including the residual THC in his body fat, whatever DMZ he might have taken, etc. But that's just an example, really, I don't mean to focus entirely on drugs, or on detoxification.

For reference, from p. 573 (Pemulis speaking):

"the only kertwang in the whole process environmentally is that the resultant fusion turns out so greedily efficient that it sucks every last toxin and poison out of the surrounding ecosystem, all inhibitors to organic growth for hundreds of radial clicks in every direction."

However, this seems to refer to the eastern Concavity. And from p. 574 (Pemulis speaking):

"The eastern Concavity of course being a whole different kettle of colored horses from what Inc calls the barren Eliotical wastes of the western Concavity, let me tell you."

Recall that Hal has been to the western Concavity for his father's funeral. So anyway, we don't really know what goes on in the western, but maybe some kind of radical detox for Hal.


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 Post subject: Re: What happened to Hal? (Spoilers)
PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2009 9:55 am 
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So if Hal took the DMZ, I'm wondering what the consensus is as to under what circumstances he ingested it. If he had done it voluntarily, he would have most likely done it with Pemulis, right? Or is it possible that this is part of what Pemulis wants to talk to Hal about? That he thinks Hal may have been the one to take it?

But if he was dosed by someone, what would the motive be? I don't see why Pemulis would do it. Someone suggested John Wayne, working for the AFR, to make Hal more pliable for interrogation, but wouldn't giving someone a dose of a powerful hallucinogen just come closer to guaranteeing faulty information?


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 Post subject: Re: What happened to Hal? (Spoilers)
PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2009 10:26 am 
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minderbender wrote:
Well, right, but I was thinking something more literal - like maybe the annulation stripped Hal's body of all toxins, including the residual THC in his body fat, whatever DMZ he might have taken, etc. But that's just an example, really, I don't mean to focus entirely on drugs, or on detoxification.


I was so focused on the possible annulation that your post inspired for me that I admit I failed to grasp your more radical suggestion, which is marvelous. I don't know if the explanation we've been given of how the detox in the Western Concavity occurs to know if it could leach toxins from a briefly visiting mammal, but, as long as it theoretically could, this is one of the most -- perhaps the most -- workable ideas that I have seen to explain the timeline of the expression of Hal's symptoms. I picture John Wayne and Gately having to help the suddenly afflicted Hal out of the concavity after their mission to the gravesite.

As to the question of Hal's previous visit to the W. concavity for JOI's funeral, that visit would easily precede his adolescent substance experimentation and habituation, but not his childhood ingestion of the mold that may or may not have been DMZ-containing. Does anyone have a page reference for whether the W. Concavity is ALWAYS in toxin-suck mode, or whether it has more of an annular variation between toxic and toxin free? If the latter, then perhaps Hal's earlier visit was during a sort of Spring or Fall period when the concavity was at neither peak, and so would not have detoxified him of the childhood exposure?

(eta "briefly" to first paragraph)


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 Post subject: Re: What happened to Hal? (Spoilers)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 11:33 am 
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One thing to recall from chapter 1 is that Hal, about to be put in the ambulance in Phoenix, remembers "At the only other emergency room I have ever been in, almost exactly one year back, the psychiatric stretcher was wheeled in...".

I infer from this that Hal experienced some kind of breakdown very soon after Nov 20 YDAU, possibly later in the day after the events in the text. His hospitalization offers a chance to encounter Gately.

What sends them with John Wayne to dig up JOI's grave in L'Islet County I have no clues; neither the AFRs, to which J."N.R."W. has some connection probably via Bernard, nor Tine/Steeply's USOUS seem likely to send this motley crew to do the job when their own operatives are available, so who does that leave? Joelle or Avril? Agoraphobic Avril looks like the better possibility. Wanting the Master Cartridge for the Quebecois or for her own ends, she would certainly be able to persuade Hal and John to go.

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