Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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 Post subject: Does the entertainment end the world in the Year of Glad?
PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2009 6:29 pm 

Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 10:10 am
Posts: 35
Bear with me.

First of all, I'm assuming that there's a one-year gap between the action at the end of IJ, which takes place on 11/20 YADU just before the WhataBurger tournament, and the scene with Hal at the beginning of IJ, which takes place just before the WhataBurger tournament during the Year of Glad.

If you want to check out the evidence for this one-year gap, go over to the discussion titled Infinite Jest (V?). And if jumping back and forth between topics in different discussions reminds you--and it sure reminds me--of turning back and forth between the text of IJ and the endnotes, then that's a good thing, no?

Anyway/whatever: On page 17, Hal remembers John Wayne "standing watch in a mask as Donald Gately and I dig up my father's head." This had to happen during the one-year gap because Hal and Gately never meet in the novel.

On page 934, Gately has the same dream, but he's dreaming of something that will happen in the future, a kind of deja-vu in reverse: "He dreams he's with a very sad kid [Hal] and they're in a graveyard digging up some dead guy's head up and it's really important, like Continental-Emergency important . . . and later the sad kid is trying to scream at Gately that the important thing was buried in the guy's head and to divert the Continental Emergency to start digging . . . [and finally] the sad kid holds something terrible [JOI's head exploded in the microwave oven] up by the hair and makes the face of somebody shouting in panic: Too Late."

So what're they trying to dig up? Maybe it's the master copy of the entertainment; maybe it's the antidote, an anti-entertainment, but all the cartridge masters "designated Unviewable . . . were, in fact, along with his case of special lenses, [and this is important too, but even more stuff inside of square brackets gets too messy] interred right there with J.O. Incandeza's dead body" (n. 160, p. 1030).

A footnote to this note reveals that JOI is buried in "the now over-lush potato-growing country . . . [in] Quebec, just over the border from what is now the eastern Concavity." In another fever nightmare, Gately "dreams he's riding due north on a bus the same color as its own exhaust, passing again and again the same gutted cottages [abandoned during Reconfiguration? (see pp. 398-407)]. Previously, Gately has never left the metro Boston area in his entire life, and "due north" is in the direction of irradiated wastelands and giant feral hamsters--Quebec.

So well yeah, Gately and Hal are at JOI's grave in Quebec digging up what's left of his head, but it's "Too Late"--capitalized and italicized, no less--to avert the "Continental Emergency." Maybe the anti-entertainment is unavailable or maybe the master copy is missing, but whatever it is is Out There.

Could be, too, that it's been Too Late for a while. Obviously, the mid-Eastern medical attache received a copy. On her way to the party where she tries to commit suicide, Joelle may have come across a copy in "an odd advertising display of . . . a man in a wheelchair, in a coat and tie, his lap blanketed and no legs below, his well-fed face artistically reddened with some terrible joy, his smile's arc of the extreme curvature that exists between mirth and fury, his ecstasy terrible to see . . . looking straight up, or having a seizure, or ecstatic, his arms also up and out in a gesture of submission or triumph or thanks, his oddly thick right hand the receptacle of the black spine of the case of some new film cartridge" (p 224). Sounds like someone who's viewed the entertainment

The cartridge is like the one the medical attache received: "no mention of title, no blurbs or quoted references to critics' thumbs, the case's spine itself bare black slightly pebbled generic plastic, conspicuously unlabelled" (p. 224). Immediately after looking at it and putting it back in its display, Joelle thinks of JOI, who "at the end had filmed her at prodigious and multi-lensed length, and refused to share what he'd made of it . . . . Her mental name for the man had been 'Infinite Jim' (pp. 224-5).

In the next few pages, there are numerous references to JOI's last film, "the allegedly fatally entertaining and scopophiliac thing Jim alleges he made" (p. 230), and when Joelle gets to the party, people are discussing the "ultimate cartridge-as-ecstatic-death rumor" that's "been going around . . . since Dishmaster" (p. 233), about four years earlier. One party-goer reports a friend saying "he's lost contact with three colleagues. He said a good bit of Berkeley isn't answering their phone" (p. 223).

So for sure, the entertainment is Out There, maybe its been Out There for a while, and maybe it's spreading. Continental Emergency, indeed.

Finally, buried in the middle of n. 114 (p. 1022) is the fact that the Year of Glad is "the very last year of O.N.A.N.ite Subsidized Time" [my emphasis]. Why would it be "the very last year"? Did everything stop sometime during YG? Maybe because everybody, or almost everybody, turned into ecstatic zombies like the medical attache? Maybe that's why it's called the Year of Glad. And unlike the other years of Subsidized Time, the Year of Glad doesn't advertise a specific product--it's simply Glad--which is sponsored by the Glad Flaccid Receptacle Corporation (p. 1022). "Flaccid receptacle" would be a pretty good description of someone who's viewed the entertainment.

So one possible reading of IJ is that the world ends sometime during the Year of Glad. It solves some--namely, what happened?--but not all of the puzzles in the novel.

On the other hand, things (other than Hal) seem pretty normal at the U of A during his interview. People are at work, and the WhataBurger's in progress. My head's going around and around, back and forth through the text like an endless tape loop, beginning at the end and ending at the beginning, an infinite jest, for sure.

 Post subject: Re: Does the entertainment end the world in the Year of Glad?
PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 2:49 pm 

Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2009 5:27 pm
Posts: 20
dude, Philip, I posted a lengthy and detailed response to this query, and LO! It has disappeared!
que paso? Did I get edited for swearing? I'm not sure if I swore, but and LO! It is gone.
I will have to reread later and resend, and hopefully I'll still be of the same opinion I was last time! And but, so, I do not think it is the end!

 Post subject: Re: Does the entertainment end the world in the Year of Glad?
PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 9:58 am 

Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 4:56 am
Posts: 10
I'm going to take an optimistic view and say the world doesn't end but O.N.A.N. does, partly because the Year of Glad is described as the last year of O.N.A.N.ite (my emphasis) sponsored time, rather than describing it as the last year ever or just the last year of sponsored time. If the phrase were "the last year of sponsored O.N.A.N. ite time" then I would think that sponsored time stopped but O.N.A.N. didn't. My logic probably isn't very strong but that's how I interpret it.

Of course mostly I think this way because I really don't want the world to end. I've spent a lot of time getting to know this world and it's inhabitants and I hate to think that they all eventually become drooling catatonics sitting in front of the TP. I'd much rather believe that they've found a higher calling, something better to give themselves to.

 Post subject: Re: Does the entertainment end the world in the Year of Glad?
PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 12:10 pm 

Joined: Thu Jul 23, 2009 7:28 am
Posts: 1
my first time through IJ ...
Thanks Philip, this post catches a nice netful of glimpsed details.
I'd forgotten Hal's early reference to digging up the grave with Gately. Gately's vision
of the trip due north on a bus the color of its own exhaust had confused me.
I agree with you as far as Gately and Hal making a trip to Quebec to dig up
JOI. (How can Gately dig with a fucked up arm?) I like the revelation about why Year of
Glad might be called that. Still don't know however how Gately and Hal met (I like idea
though of them meeting in hospital; the doc and hot nurse are preparing bed next to
Gately's with gothic restraining skeleton; Hal mentions at start that he'd been
hospitalized once before Arizona hospitalization) and how/why John Wayne/AFR need them to
dig up the father's grave. (Maybe Hamlet itself holds a key clue?) ("Hal met" is an
anagram of "Hamlet.")
I'm just bothered by how Gately gets drawn into Hal's circle. He killed some Nucks and is
tight with Joelle. Maybe the Q-separatists make him their slave as punishment for
eliminating (rearranging rather) those Hawaiian-shirt bros' maps. Maybe they have found
Joelle and Gately tries to protect her and they grab him. I mean for some reason JOI
wraith picks Gately to visit. Why? Cause the author had two main story lines, tennis and
AA, Hal and Gately, and they just have to come together at the end, for banal
novel-must-resolve reasons?
Why can't Steeply or Tine protect Joelle Gately and Hal from the Nucks?
Maybe Hal and Gately are the only two people on Earth who can withstand the entertainment
and digging up JOI somehow risks exposure so they're the two who have to do it.
JW wearing a mask while they dig -- maybe it's a mask all Q-separatists wear to avoid
exposure to entertainment. And when they get JOI's head and Hal says Too Late -- if that
implies it's the antidote they're after, it raises the question of why the Q-separatists
would be after the antidote: Don't they want to destroy ONAN?
Most of all though I disagree with the theory that world ended in Year of Glad because the first scene of the book is from the end of Year of Glad and the world is
still there and recognizable, undisturbed, carrying on in tennis and college admissions.
what do you think of the idea that only ONAN ended? Still that's a lot of political upheaval slash rearrangement for just one year. Maybe Gentle was deposed and so subsidized time stopped but not ONANism.
And what about the meeting between Glad rep and Veal and Veal (what was the name?) ad agency and Tine Sr. and Tine Jr., where they're planning a PSA to warn kids about the entertainment. Suggests it was becoming a problem. When did that meeting take place again?

 Post subject: Re: Does the entertainment end the world in the Year of Glad?
PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 1:04 pm 

Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 10:10 am
Posts: 35
There's an entire one-year gap between the end of the novel and the beginning, so almost anything could have happened. That's why, to me at least, IJ is infinitely entertaining: I can read it and re-read it and re-read it again trying to figure out the details and fill in the blanks, and but even after reading and re-reading I'm still not entirely sure of what happens, and but so I'm still curious.

As far as Joelle getting snatched by the AFR, Steeply beat them to it: "She'd . . . turned right for the quick walk back up to Ennet and a grotesquely huge woman whose hose bulged with stubble and whose face and head were four times larger than the largest woman Joelle had ever seen had grabbed her arm at the elbow and said she was sorry to be the one to tell her but that unbeknownst to her she was in almost mind-boggling danger.

It took rather a while for Joelle to look her up and down. 'This is supposed to be news?'" (p. 934).

Steeply's interview with Joelle is on pp. 938-41. It contains some important information about the entertainment itself and the location of the master copy.

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