Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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 Post subject: Re: John Wayne and Avril Conspiracy Theories
PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2009 7:59 am 
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Posts: 91
Re: what J.O. tells Hal about having the cartridge in his head and about Avril putting something in the cereal:

I've tended to read both of these as paranoid delusions of J.O., just like his conviction his son does not speak. Which isn't to say these delusions aren't twisted versions of some real actions/conspiracy by Avril or others.

As far as the origin of Hal's special abilities, I've always tended to hypothesize their origin in the childhood scene -- introduced in that very first chapte*r -- where Hal, as a child, finds and eats mold from the basement. It makes sense to me both because of the relation of the creation of both LSD and DMZ to molds and because of the weird self-reflexive nature of the mold he finds -- it was a mold that grew on top of a mold, not to mention the wordplay with other definitions/ideas of a mold or molding.

Essentially, my somewhat inchoate theory involves Hal, because of his childhood exposure to the first mold, having a risk of responding extra-weirdly-and-tragically to an exposure to the DMZ (? was the childhood mold, perhaps, a "ditchweed" natural producer of DMZ?). Or, again because of the childhood exposure, he is, even without further DMZ exposure, subject to a sort of Schizophrenic** personality alteration as he undergoes withdrawl from Bob Hope or depression or similar. Or, of course, could give him a unique reaction to exposure to the Entertainment (as I recall, the scene later in the book where he is watching cartridges alone is full of a number of hints about mislabling/misplaced cartridges that it is just possible that we are meant to suspect a copy of the Entertainment still exists at E.T.A. -- correct me if I'm wrong.)

As far as relating back to the conspiracy angle, there is, of course, the origin of the DMZ Pemulis scores: he gets it, as I recall, from the Antitois, who are intimiately tied into the plotlines of the Quebequois conspiracy tangles, as well as to how the Entertainment manages to get disseminated.

Have read the book (several times before), but am currently only midway through Mario's post-Eschaton puppet show film, so any second half of the novel references to any of this mold stuff I am quite likely forgetting. I am also forgetting where the childhood home was that Hal would have found the mold in (i.e. was it close to the concavity and was it before or after the concavity was created, facts that could influence whether the mold is supposed to be linked to the mutating effects of the concavity, thus even more literally than the "feral prodigy" film linking Hal to the feral hamsters and giant babies of said concavity).

* aware that Hal knows of this scene through Orin's retelling of it, but the details of it seem spot on enough (especially Avril's reaction) and the reasons for lying about it seem difficult enough to imagine that I tend to trust its veracity as a childhood incident.

** as I am writing this, am just now making the connection that, as schizophrenia has its highest level of onset in late teens/early 20's and is also one of the most strongly genetically linked mental illnesses, there may be intentional material here to explain Hal's condition. Of course, J.O.I.'s delusions seem as much if not more likely products of chronic alcoholism than straightforward schizophrenia, and the introduction of any trope of schizophrenia would certainly not rule out possible weird inter-reactions with DMZ/childhood mold/Entertainment exposure that would otherwise explain Hal's condition.


Last edited by doubtful geste on Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: John Wayne and Avril Conspiracy Theories
PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2009 1:10 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2009 5:27 pm
Posts: 20
As regards Hal and schizophrenia, and inheritable addictive tendencies,
lets' not forget the brutal depictions of juvenile JOI as an oaf, a giant baby, someone perhaps autistic ( his preoccupation with the glass of tomato juice, the lights, the math and lenses...) etc. He seemed to me before his own addictions to be a person of limited social skills. Because the narrator of these sections is a fly on the wall type, (when JOI's drunk dad is telling him about tennis, and drinking, and berating him) it is very much like he is a less-than human. And I kept thinking in the whole story, that what happens to the grandfathers, the fathers, happens to the sons, too. I'm thinking Avril, grandfather binge drinker, father binge drinker, Avril marries JOI, drinker. James' dad tells story of his own dad's ignoring and mistreating him, he goes on to ignore and mistreat JOI, who then ignores and mistreats his sons (with exception of Mario, who is clearly not his son). I kept wondering how JOI married Avril at all, she so sexed up and he presumably not at all.
So is it surprising that someone with a mind that can "recall" a page he has read and then read it verbatim, is socially awkward to begin with? How far is it really, from where Fully Functional Hal stands to where a completely isolated Hal ends up tied to a stretcher? The line between genius and savant is very thin sometimes; history is full of people who precariously straddle the line.


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 Post subject: Re: John Wayne and Avril Conspiracy Theories
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:42 am 
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See 2nd paragraph page 726

Great pickup and some really interesting infomation:

"An employee at the Academy of Tennis of Enfield had been recruited and joined the Canadian instructor and student already inside for closer work of surveillance" (726)

- Canadian student has to be John Wayne
- Canadian instuctor? The easy answer is Avril, but the E.T.A. has a number of Canadian employees, including, Ms. Poutrincourt, the instructor of History of Canadian Unpleasantness.
- An employee? Sounds different than a teacher...


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 Post subject: Re: John Wayne and Avril Conspiracy Theories
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 11:39 am 
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Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2009 5:27 pm
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Sal Paradise wrote:
See 2nd paragraph page 726

Great pickup and some really interesting infomation:

"An employee at the Academy of Tennis of Enfield had been recruited and joined the Canadian instructor and student already inside for closer work of surveillance" (726)

- Canadian student has to be John Wayne
- Canadian instuctor? The easy answer is Avril, but the E.T.A. has a number of Canadian employees, including, Ms. Poutrincourt, the instructor of History of Canadian Unpleasantness.
- An employee? Sounds different than a teacher...


I think it has to be Poutrincourt. Isn't she the one speaking to Steeply during the match, who seems to understand that Steeply isn't a woman, and her accent is Parisian rather than Quebecois? It seems to me her convo with Steeply betrays her true self.


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 Post subject: Re: John Wayne and Avril Conspiracy Theories
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 1:44 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jul 13, 2009 1:11 pm
Posts: 91
only half way through this re-read, so sketchy memory of exactly what Steeply and Poitrincourt, for example, discuss, but I have tended to slot Poitrincourt as an "instructor." Even as I admit that the prorectors certainly fall into a weird nether-zone as ex-students/pseudo-asst-coaches/pseudo-instructors, my gut feeling is that an outside observer/describer would lump them with either teachers or coaches, not with "employees," which, in this context, brings to mind basically every non-athletic coaching, non-teaching/senior administrating job there. Will keep my eye on references to the janitors, to Lateral Alice, to the de-wimpled Carmelite, etc, on this readthrough.

For what it is worth, while Avril is certainly capable of radical action (and, of course, iffy choices of appropriate sexual partners), and appears to have crossed paths with important figures in the past, such as the medical attaché, that darn gut of mine just doesn't see her as a big picture AFR or similar conspirator. I see her as the kind who gets so obsessed with the things that really get to her (10 items or FEWER, dammit!) that she doesn't really easily make the leap to "big picture" radical actions like separatist terrorist cells.


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