Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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 Post subject: Madame Psychosis (spoiler)
PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2009 8:59 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2009 7:36 pm
Posts: 42
Location: Korea
aka Joelle, she is wearing a veil. I do not remember reading if she was disfigured or not. I remember she talked about the U.H.I.D on her radio show. Is she disfigured?


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 Post subject: Re: Madame Psychosis (spoiler)
PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2009 9:13 pm 
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I love this question since I think I find it even more engrossing than deciding what happened to Hal.

My feeling is that she is not disfigured. Leading with my best reasoning (or perhaps leading with my chin): she performs in IJ after being allegedly hit by the acid; she doesn't join the UHID until a year after allegedly being hit by acid; she makes no mention of being disfigured to Gately; JvD told Molly Notkin that she was hit by acid so she (Molly) would stop asking about the veil, and to see her (JvD) without it.

That last part was conjecture.

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"Because so that was let's see."


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 Post subject: Re: Madame Psychosis (spoiler)
PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 1:06 pm 
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Location: Washington, DC
Pardon me if this "duh"-level obvious, but just in case it isn't to some readers: "Madame Psychosis" = metempsychosis. DFW nod to Joyce/Ulysses and (though I need to keep re-reading to refresh my memory) IMO the key to various dream or seemingly improbable sequences and perhaps other elements of IJ as well.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metampsychosis, which includes the following:

"In the 1996 David Foster Wallace novel Infinite Jest, the mysterious Joelle Van Dyne broadcasts from the MIT college radio station under the on-air name "Madame Psychosis," a play on the term appropriate to the character, who is described as being two different people before and after a freak disfiguring accident (and recovery from cocaine addiction)."


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 Post subject: Re: Madame Psychosis (spoiler)
PostPosted: Fri Jul 03, 2009 4:08 pm 
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Posts: 35
I've read IJ several times, and I've never been able to figure out whether Joelle was disfigured by the acid in her father's basement. But here's something I came across. Joelle is in the emergency room on November 11 YADU after ODing on freebase. This is several years after any disfigurement would have happened. Endnote 134 on page 1025 says the emergency room physician taking care of her "had looked upon her unveiled face and had been deeply affected, and had taken a special interest . . . ."

Being "deeply affected" by her otherworldly beauty seems more likely than being deeply affected by a horrible disfigurement. Furthermore, the ER guy calls Pat Montesian, "in whose case he'd also taken a special interest" to get Joelle into Ennet House. If I remember right, Pat Montesian was also extremely beautiful before her Substance stroked her out.


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 Post subject: Re: Madame Psychosis (spoiler)
PostPosted: Fri Jul 03, 2009 6:33 pm 
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I'm with you. I finally settled on the opinion that she wasn't disfigured.

In addition to the doctor in the ER, there's her own description of herself to Don Gately on p. 538.

Of course, she could be in massive denial about the accident, but she doesn't appear to be.

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 Post subject: Re: Madame Psychosis (spoiler)
PostPosted: Fri Jul 03, 2009 11:53 pm 
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Oh, I don't know. Orin is described fairly early on (certainly long before the actual scene transpires) as an "acid dodger extraordinaire" or something to that effect. I only noticed it on the second reading.

Also, why do they break up, if it isn't his unheroic response to her disfigurement?

Of course, she could still be *not* disfigured, even if he *did* dodge the acid -- and goodness knows there's plenty of psychological impairment, on both sides, for a breakup.

But I lean towards the idea that she *is* disfigured. Partly because I feel like it would be almost willfully misleading of the author if she's not. And I'm not smart enough to figure out why an author would be willfully misleading, as opposed to simply opaque, or ambiguous, or difficult.

But partly I lean towards that interpretation because I kind of *want* her to be disfigured -- we know so much, through movies and novels, about the inner lives of beautiful women. We almost never get to read or see much about the inner lives of plain or disfigured women. It seems fresh to me -- a kind of twist.

On another note: I read somewhere that Madame Psychosis' character is based in part on Mary Karr (poet and author of several memoirs) whom DFW dated for awhile. She has a new memoir coming out this fall about her recovery from alcoholism, and there are a few pages about her relationship with him, though I think she just calls him by his first name.


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 Post subject: Re: Madame Psychosis (spoiler)
PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2009 12:50 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jun 30, 2009 11:36 am
Posts: 36
Maybe she's not kidding to Don Gately :) She's disfigured by beauty.


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 Post subject: Re: Madame Psychosis (spoiler)
PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 5:24 pm 
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It seems to me that JvD is too beautiful; on p 290 she is described as "hideously beautiful" and on p 298 "...the prettiness getting visibly worse day by day, Joelle had been maiden, still, when Orin met her. She'd been shunned theretofore...the beauty had repelled every comer." I think she is wearing the veil so she can have some kind of relationship with other people. If they just see her face, no one will even approach because they fear her.


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 Post subject: Re: Madame Psychosis (spoiler)
PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 7:01 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2009 7:36 pm
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Location: Korea
Later on, around 534 or so, Joelle is talking with Don Gately about U.H.I.D and mentions that she is deformed by having "too much" beauty.


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 Post subject: Re: Madame Psychosis (spoiler)
PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 8:42 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 10:10 am
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Here's a full quote from p. 538:

"Don, I'm perfect. I'm so beautiful I drive anybody with a nervous system out of their fucking mind. Once they've seen me they can't think of anything else and don't want to look at anything else and stop carrying out normal responsibilities and believe that if they can only have me right there with them at all times everything will be all right. Everything. Like I'm the solution to their deep slavering need to be jowl to cheek with perfection."

It's also important that Joelle is speaking to Gately at the Ennit House as she is beginning her recovery. She's not being sarcastic. Total Honesty is what's required.


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