Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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 Post subject: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 12:22 pm 
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I have been wondering about this ever since I first read IJ.
Regarding the DMZ theory, the timing seems to make it unlikely that it was the cause of Hal's poor SAT performance AND whatever happened to him at his interview.
Hal’s interview is on November 26 of the year of the Glad.
The DMZ incident would have been in November of the year of the Depend Adult Garment; an entire year before that.
Hal’s SATs would have been in December of the year of the Depend Adult Garment.
So, it would make perfect sense that an overdose or unwitting drugging of DMZ caused Hal to do poorly on his SATs, but isn’t it unlikely that it would still affect him a year later? (Hal also makes reference to the fact that the other time he had been hospitalized was a year earlier)
It seems likely to me that whatever caused Hal to do poorly on his SATs must have been the same thing that happened to him to cause him to act in that manner at his Arizona interview, but since those dates are a year apart, a single drugging incident seems unlikely to me.
What do you guys think?


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 4:00 pm 
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Thanks for pointing out the time sequence here. I had been plowing along erroneously thinking that the UA interview happened weeks after the DMZ discussion, etc. in the YDAU. The fact that the book begins with Hal in Tucson a year later had not registered. As this is my first time reading IJ that I've gotten past p. 150 or so, I am trying to withhold speculation for now on what might have happened to Hal.


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 5:17 pm 
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I'm only about 300 pages in right now, but I got the sense that Hal had been permanently affected by his run-in with DMZ (which hasn't happened yet but appears tragically inevitable). If he was hospitalized last time he took it and it ruined his exams, why would he take it again? If he was addicted and THAT incapacitated, why is he still at ETA a year later? CT must know that Hal is under the influence of a drug--unless the one time he took the drug permanently fried his ability to interface on a conversational level? I'm dying to know what takes place in the interval between Nov YDAU and Nov YG.

Also, Wallace has made a big point of demonstrating that a college tennis track upon graduation from ETA is actually a kind of failure--and that wasn't obvious to me when I was reading that opening scene for the first time. I thought Hal was on the brink of realizing a lifelong goal, but it's more complicated than that. As of what I know right now, around Interdependence Day in the YDAU, Hal's ONAN tennis ranking is high enough that he could expect a ticket to the Show barring some unforeseen collapse. So, if in November of the Year of Glad he's interviewing for a university scholarship, he must not only have lost linguistic ability, but something went awry in his tennis career as well.

Gah! this is like reading Hamlet. it's painful to watch such an intelligent character self-destruct. I just want to scream at Hal, "DON'T TAKE THE STUPID DRUG FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!"


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 6:28 pm 
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The interesting thing about Hal's tennis is that as far as I can tell, it's the one thing that hasn't been affected. On p. 16 Hal notes that his bad ankle hasn't ached once in the intervening year before the U of A interview. Also, at that interview, Hal's reached the semis of Whataburger and seems overly confident that he'll make the finals. He was also one of the higher seeds since CT notes that he's justified his seed by making the semis.

However, he does note that were J NR Wayne playing, he'd have won the tournament. But this could just be because Wayne was already well above the level of everyone his age.

As for whether the DMZ is the cause, there's an endnote much later on (en. 269) where ... Spoiler! "Marlon Bain says
Quote:
[I gave up tennis] because a couple of really negative methoxy-psychadelic experiences left me with certain Disabilities that to this day make normal life an exceptional challenge, and which I tend to blame on having done deadly-serious hallucinogens at a sort of larval psychological stage during which no N. American adolescent should be allowed to do hallucinogens.
Presumably Marlon has worked back to the point that he can communicate, but I think we're meant to take this as an indicator of the kind of thing that could have happened to Hal."

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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 7:42 pm 
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w/r/t the DMZ, I struggle with the vocabulary Hal employs in the opening section. He's so precise and has a seemingly firm grip on the mental joystick that makes it difficult for me to construct a reasonable chain of events. If he's still capable of playing stellar tennis and apparently never had a crash moment (no Dean ever mentions any sort of drop off in his tennis abilities, only in his test scores/grades), he must have/had control over his muscles. If he can speak (well, I guess it's technically thinking) this well, the brain seems to work. So what did he lose? How do we swallow that Hal only suffers from a brain/body breakdown when it comes to communicating? Why can't he type or write the way he thinks (Is the muscle movement involved too fine for his brain to accomplish? He does say that typing would look like an infant banging on a keyboard...I'm paraphrasing.)? Why can't he talk? Why can't he control his facial expressions very well? What I'm getting at is a doubt that DMZ actually has anything to do with Hal's status in the Year of Glad.

Who has some theories?!


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 8:48 pm 
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There are several theories in this thread: viewtopic.php?f=12&t=112

One very good point against the DMZ theory is noted here: viewtopic.php?p=638#p638

Mainly, that Hal's communication issues begin before he could have taken the DMZ. (On the other hand, there are theories that Pemulis doped his toothbrush with the stuff.)

I waffle among several theories, and the issue of his tennis apparently being okay while his communication is not leads me more to the discussion he and Pemulis have in one of the later end notes about Hal not taking the DMZ and quitting marijuana permanently. Pemulis councils against both since it could negatively affect him psychologically, particularly the part that needs him to smoke pot; or needs the escape from his daily grind. With the focus on tennis in the book, it's logical to assume that the withdrawal will affect his tennis (and it might have against the Darkness), but I think it's also possible that he smokes pot to deal with the pressure and expectations the Moms has for him being a lexical prodigy. Hal doesn't appear to like being a lexical prodigy anymore (see pps. 97, 101, 525) while he doesn't appear to hate playing tennis as much (fact check is needed here). So I've started to wonder if his condition has more to do with something Avril related than DMZ related. But again, that's just one theory of several.

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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 9:03 pm 
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Yeah, I've read the book a couple times now and I know the traditional DMZ, toothbrush, etc. theories. I guess what I want to see (probably a touch selfish here) is a re-hashing of them with all these dedicated readers out there. I'm playing a mix of devil's advocate and socrates with my posts. I don't claim special insights to the book, just the experience of traveling my eyes across the pages a few times.

Spoiler! "Avril theories definately interest me- what with the witch qualities (the hat, the poster of the wicked witch, etc.) and offering Hal (of all foods) an apple while he's in the blue waiting room. The alleged steroids in the food stuff always comes to mind with that apple."


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 9:22 pm 
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Sticking with the Avril thread for a second. Flipping around for my last post, I came across a few passages where it's noted that Avril is nowhere to be found on the grounds of ETA. I had forgotten about these, and don't remember their context well, but at the moment they stick out as quite odd to me. Red herring is always a possibility, but what are we to make of it?

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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 11:06 am 
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While I understand the issues around the DMZ theory, there has to be some significance to Hal telling the deans, "Call it something I ate," followed by the childhood mold-eating story (whether you interpret that as an actual component of his problem, or a foreshadowing of future DMZ use).

Also, we know that Hal entered a hospital emergency room roughly one year prior for similar psychiatric reasons, which points to some sort of concrete event that caused same. That seems to shed doubt on the gradual psychological breakdown theory, absent some specific trigger; digging up Himself's head has been cited as such by some folks, but that apparently happened after Hal and Gately somehow hooked up in the hospital (with or without Joelle's help). There's also the theory that Hal watched the Entertainment, but there again are timing issues with that (i.e., if he and Gately are still looking for the master cartridge post-hospitilization), and Hal's particular condition bears little resemblance to the known effects of the film (though it would be delicious irony that the very thing his father created to draw Hal out instead forced him back inside himself, perhaps permanently).

There are, of course, also timeline issues with the DMZ theory, vis a vis the fact it probably would have to have been ingested prior to Hal's discussion with Stice (will be paying real close attention to the sequence of events once I reach that section in my re-read). But there are compelling clues as well, not only the spoiler cited above by "storm" (hmmm, spoiler-alerts in a forum where spoilers are fair game - is that sort of like an endnote?) but also Hal's DMZ dream about being unable to communicate. And DMZ is certainly touted as the hallucinogenic to end all hallucinogenics, sort of the drug equivalent of the ultimate Entertainment (and DMZ is nicknamed after the film's star - proceed into "metempsychosis" analyses at your own risk).

As for the initial post here about timing and the SATs, there's no specific reference in the text to SAT, just standardized tests in general, and the SAT is given several times a year, into the spring. It seems like a bit of a stretch to think Hal would have been in a position to take any such test in December YDAU, given all the heavy shit going down in late November; on the other hand, we know that things were back to "normal" for him, at least tennis-wise, by February of GLAD, which is when UA starts recruiting him.

Another loose thread is the contradiction between Hal's continued tennis motor skills, and his inability to make even simple gestures in the interview with the deans. My initial thought was that he was only losing control in the interview because of the stress of the situation, while he's comfortable on the court. But then there's that reference to his typing resembling an "infant's random stabs at the keyboard" - ??.

Finally, a (possibly?) unrelated nugget to chew on: I didn't pick up on this until my most recent umpteenth rereading of the opening chapter, but what about Hal's statement in that amazing laundry list of observations/recollections beginning on page 16 where he declares, "I have become an infantophile" - what are we to make of that, particularly given what we know about the Entertainment's subject matter/effect on viewers?


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 12:02 pm 
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Babbo wrote:
As for the initial post here about timing and the SATs, there's no specific reference in the text to SAT, just standardized tests in general, and the SAT is given several times a year, into the spring. It seems like a bit of a stretch to think Hal would have been in a position to take any such test in December YDAU, given all the heavy shit going down in late November; on the other hand, we know that things were back to "normal" for him, at least tennis-wise, by February of GLAD, which is when UA starts recruiting him.?


On p. 784, Hal says, "Jesus and then the SATs in December, I'll have to finish prepping for the Boards and then take the Boards while still in abrupt withdrawal." When Pemulis and Hal are working out when to take DMZ (p. 218), they note "before starting both the pre-WhataBurger training week and the bell-lap of prep for 12/12's Boards." On the tennis front, U of A watched him play the YDAU post-Thanksgiving WhataBurger (from p. 14), "[w]e watched him through the whole WhataBurger last fall. Not a waggle or a noise."

But of course, they didn't talk to him, just watched him play. I've also wondered if he might have skipped the 12/12 exam and taken them after the new year, but DFW seems to want us to take the 12/12 one as the legit one where he did so poorly. Particularly odd that the school would have let him take the exam at all if we assume he was symptomatic starting around 11/21 or so. But then, they let him play in WhataBurger, so perhaps he was just focusing on tennis and studying and didn't really talk to anyone in the intervening couple of weeks. (Aside from the ONANTA urologist, though he probably could have submitted his sample without much talking.)

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