Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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 Post subject: Ergot (Spoilers... kind of)
PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 2:12 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jun 28, 2009 7:56 am
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A few months ago I came across an article about Ergot and the Salem Witch Trials. There is a theory that a mold could have caused the "mania" that began the accusations of witchcraft. That these girls were suffering from Ergot poisoning. "Ergot is essentially a type of mold that grows on grains like rye." One type - convulsive ergotism - causes mania, psychosis, barking like a dog, etc. No matter how much you refine the grain down and even make it into bread you won't kill the mold.

This all sounds familiar, right? It sent me into an Infinite Jest rabbit hole that took 3 hours to climb out of.

A quick search through a .pdf of IJ that I have came up with 10 or so instances of the word ergot/ergotic/etc.

Two thoughts:

1. When talking about DMZ, Pemulis says: "'I got on MED.COM off Lateral Alice's WATS line and went back and forth and up and down through MED.COM. Plenty on lysergícs, plenty on methoxy-class hybrids. Vague and almost gossip-columny shit on fitviavi-compounds. To get anything you got to cross-key Ergotics with the phrase muscimole or muscimolated. Only a couple things ring the bell when you key in DMZ. Then they're all potent this, sinister that. Nothing with any specifics. And jumbly polysyllables out the ass. Whole thing gave me a migraine.'"

Muscimol is the major psychoactive alkaloid present in many psychoactive mushrooms of the Amanita genus. Unlike psilocybin, a tryptamine, muscimol is a potent, selective agonist of the GABAA receptor.

Muscimol is a product of mushrooms. Ergot is a type of mold that grows on grains.

I can't find anything called a fitviavi compound. I believe that it was noted elsewhere on these forums that Fit Via Vi means "A Way Made by Force." Could this refer to a forcing-together of muscimol and ergot?

We could talk all day about Hal's eating the mold... so... Moving On...

2. The last three instances of the word ergot in IJ pertain to a drug that Whitey Sorkin (Gately's old boss who was double crossed by Fackelman) takes for migraine headaches called Cafergot.

Beside the first instance of Cafergot in IJ there is a footnote (#368). It says: "Cimetidine — ®SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals — 8oo-mg. spansules for generalized cranio-vascular woe (derived, kind of interestingly, from the same ergot rye-mold as LSD)."

There are a few inconsistencies here.

First, both of these are real drugs produced by Smith Kline and French (now GlaxoSmithKline). I assume that DFW had to change the name for legal reasons.

More importantly though:

Cafergot "is the proprietary name of a medication consisting of ergotamine tartrate and caffeine. This combination is used for the treatment of vascular headaches, such as migraine headache."

Cimetidine is actually a completely different drug that has nothing to do with headaches or Cafergot. Cimetidine "is a histamine H2-receptor antagonist that inhibits the production of acid in the stomach. It is largely used in the treatment of heartburn and peptic ulcers. It is marketed by GlaxoSmithKline under the trade name Tagamet" [A.]

My question is: "Why would DFW substitute Cimetidine for Cafergot in the endnotes?" He treats them like they are variations of the same drug when in fact the only thing they have in common is their manufacturer. Why spend the extra energy referencing an unrelated drug? How many other instances are there in IJ of seemingly insignificant invisible things that are obviously done purposefully?

- - - - -

A. - An interesting side fact is that Cimetidine is occasionally used recreationally along with marijuana.

"It is believed that consuming Cimetidine an hour before smoking Cannabis, would potentate the Cannabis's effects. It is believed because Cimetidine inhibits the CYP-450 enzyme, and metabolism mainly occurs in the liver by cytochrome P450 enzymes CYP2C9, CYP2C19, and CYP3A4. Due to the inhibition of the CYP-460 enzyme, THC, the psychoactive substance in Cannabis, would not be able to be metabolized until the inhibition of the CYP-450 enzyme is lifted, which may take hours, thus increasing the duration of the narcotic effect."

Ergotism is also called "St. Anthony's Fire" for the monks that cared for victims of ergotism.

When MP is reading that religious booklet on-air at the beginning of the book and listing victims of certain ailments she includes "the ergotic of St. Anthony."

The complete sentence is "'Nor are excluded the utterly noseless, nor the hideously wall- and crosseyed, nor either the ergotic of St. Anthony, the leprous, the varicelliformally eruptive or even the sarcoma'd of Kaposi.'"

Kaposi Varicelliform Eruption "is a rare but severe disseminated herpes infection that generally occurs at sites of skin damage produced by, for example, atopic dermatitis, burns, or eczema.[1] It is also known as Kaposi varicelliform eruption. This condition is most commonly caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 or 2, but may also be caused by coxsackievirus A16, or vaccinia virus.[1] This infection affects multiple organs, including the eyes, brain, lung, and liver, and can be fatal. It can be treated with systemic antiviral drugs, such as acyclovir or valaciclovir.[2]"

Kaposi's sarcoma refers to a form of cancer involving multiple lymph nodes that mostly occurs in people with depressed immune systems (specifically patients suffering from A.I.D.S.)

And further and further along. I could do this all day.


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