Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 12:18 pm 
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[quote](and DMZ is nicknamed after the film's star - proceed into "metempsychosis" analyses at your own risk).[quote]

IS it the case that DMZ is nicknamed after the actress? I thought DMZ dated from the 1970s, well before Joelle and JOI started collaborating. It's more likely that she earned her nickname from the drug. Whatever the Entertainment that she starred in does, it acts like DMZ. "Madame Psychosis," then, might symbolize something other than a drug or a person or an Entertainment. It's a relation--a kind of addictive relation that can be incited by a variety of triggers.

Hal might have been triggered into some kind of addiction-like psychosis by a variety of things (including the messed up sexual dynamics within the Incandenza family, the mother-figure of which is a highly desired sex symbol who cuckolded JOI on a regular basis--I think that's implied, right?)

I also think it's significant that it's language that he's lost--which used to be his greatest strength, his most obvious claim to prodigy status. I think there's an important psychoanalytic reading to be made connecting linguistic prowess, the demise of his father, and the sexual anxieties and ambiguities surrounding Avril and James's relationship.

On the other hand, at its simplest, it could be that Hal becomes disconnected from his gift and morphs into an "infantophile" and pursues a mediocre career via collegiate tennis instead of the Show in order to refuse the pursuit of "greatness" that destroyed his family. Maybe he's deathly afraid to succeed?


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 1:10 pm 
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levingard: Thanks for that SAT citation. The sequence of events around late November-early December YDAU (much of which occurs outside the actual framework of the book) certainly is murky - seems like a stretch that Hal could've been hospitalized, met Gately and dug up his father's grave (amid whatever circumstances might have surrounded that) and still been back in time to play in the Whataburger, so maybe all that happened after the tournament (but before Hal took the SAT, whenever that was)? We do know from Gately's dream/vision, to the extent that's reliable, that Hal was having difficulty communicating verbally during said grave-digging.

thinkIcanhearyou: The quote from the text (p170) is, "DMZ is sometimes also referred to in some metro Boston chemical circles as Madame Psychosis, after a popular very-early-morning cult radio personality on M.I.T.'s student-run radio station WYYY-109," not that it necessarily matters all that much which is the chicken and which the egg, for thematic purposes. You make some interesting points, though the term "infantophile" is rather less benign that it might appear from its usage in your post - I'm still confounded over that one.


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 1:43 pm 
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Babbo wrote:
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).


I've recently been toying with the idea that "call it something I ate" does not link to the mold. Sure it's juxtaposed to the childhood memory, but that seems way too easy and out in the open for DFW. This is a book we grow into; we begin to realize that these characters lie to one another (Orin, Hal, etc.), misremember (Marathe), witness the world from their own perspecitve which contradicts the perspectives of others, etc. This is a book as much about the difficulty of knowing things with concrete certainty (Just like Hamlet) as it is about anything else. But because we don't get to that realization until later in the text, a lot of what happens at the beginning of the book gets treated with the blind faith we often bestow of books and authors; we expect to be let in on the secrets at some point. DFW makes us hunt them down. I believe part of the experiment that we call IJ was to recreate the critical involvement with our media that TV has successfully dissolved.

Another problems I have with the mold is that it's a memory given to us by Orin. We know that Orin lies to cover his tracks with the Moms in the incident with her dog, what prevents this from being another such lie? In one telling of the event, Hal is in a red one piece zip up pajamas with footies. In another he has on slippers with smiley faces. I believe there are a few other discrepancies though I can't remember them now. Is Orin struggling to get his story down pat and forgetting details?

And yes to all the stuff about muscle control and time spans that's been added since my last entry, there's something fishy about all of it.

Finally, the spoiler thing: I don't know what came over me, I became semi-convinced I was in the Daily Discussion and tried to protect the young readers...but I suppose it does have a footnote-ish quality to it, doesn't it?


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 2:25 pm 
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I don't see the "something I ate" as a reference to the mold per se, but rather to the DMZ - which is indirectly suggested by the mold story, though the first-timer doesn't realize that until later when they find out more about the origins of DMZ, if they're paying close attention. (I'm definitely not buying any of that internal-synthesis-of-DMZ stuff.) But I suspect the bottom line is that, as you say, we'll never know for sure what really happened, just as DFW intended.

p.s. - btw, loved that "young readers" reference - sort of a Big Buddy-ish relationship, huh?


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 4:08 pm 
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Babbo wrote:
The quote from the text (p170) is, "DMZ is sometimes also referred to in some metro Boston chemical circles as Madame Psychosis, after a popular very-early-morning cult radio personality on M.I.T.'s student-run radio station WYYY-109," not that it necessarily matters all that much which is the chicken and which the egg, for thematic purposes. You make some interesting points, though the term "infantophile" is rather less benign that it might appear from its usage in your post - I'm still confounded over that one.


thanks for the citation! you're right, of course. it is important, actually--I'm trying to figure out what's being used as a metaphor for what--is Madame Psychosis's paralytically powerful sexuality like an incapacitating hallucinogenic drug, or vice versa? I think it would have been more interesting if DFW hadn't come out and said that DMZ got its nickname from MP--I liked the idea that neither one preceded the other, that they're both versions of the same thing; the idea of Madame Psychosis as a floating condition whose origin couldn't be traced. I guess you can still read it that way, but the direct statement of the linkage makes it a little less mysterious.

Also: I'm linking "infantophile," even in the relatively simple "fear of success" scenario, to a kind of psychoanalytic pathology. I didn't go here in the last post because I'm shaky on my Freud, Lacan, and Mitchell, but a loss of language could be thought of as a kind of hysteria linked to infantile regression. The symbolic order of language is, of course, often referred to as the "law of the father" that mark's the infant's consciousness in the very moment that that consciousness emerges--she comes to herself and knows herself only through this marking. There is no linguistic life (or subjective life, for that matter) "outside" this order. The law of the father guarantees the stability of linguistic structures and authorizes its truth-telling capacities--there is no Absolute Truth without it. So when the authority of the father is undercut (say, via various Incandenza family promiscuities), the stability of the symbolic order is also shaken (this is also Hamlet's problem). So, Hal's inability/hysterical refusal to speak could be a drawn-out result of the struggle he's been experiencing about the status of his father's "head" or "mind" in the aftermath of his father's death, a status that seems to hinge on the deeply sexualized (Madame Psychosis) Entertainment. He could be refusing to become his father, he could be afraid of his own linguistic power because he saw the destructive effects of his father's power, etc. etc.

Or something. :)


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 4:11 pm 
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thinkicanhearyou wrote:
Also: I'm linking "infantophile," even in the relatively simple "fear of success" scenario, to a kind of psychoanalytic pathology. I didn't go here in the last post because I'm shaky on my Freud, Lacan, and Mitchell, but a loss of language could be thought of as a kind of hysteria linked to infantile regression. The symbolic order of language is, of course, often referred to as the "law of the father" that mark's the infant's consciousness in the very moment that that consciousness emerges--she comes to herself and knows herself only through this marking. There is no linguistic life (or subjective life, for that matter) "outside" this order. The law of the father guarantees the stability of linguistic structures and authorizes its truth-telling capacities--there is no Absolute Truth without it. So when the authority of the father is undercut (say, via various Incandenza family promiscuities), the stability of the symbolic order is also shaken (this is also Hamlet's problem). So, Hal's inability/hysterical refusal to speak could be a drawn-out result of the struggle he's been experiencing about the status of his father's "head" or "mind" in the aftermath of his father's death, a status that seems to hinge on the deeply sexualized (Madame Psychosis) Entertainment. He could be refusing to become his father, he could be afraid of his own linguistic power because he saw the destructive effects of his father's power, etc. etc.

Or something. :)


PHHHHEW! That's some 'heady' thinking! I like it...gotta chew on it for a bit...but I like it.


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 4:43 pm 
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[/quote]PHHHHEW! That's some 'heady' thinking! I like it...gotta chew on it for a bit...but I like it.[/quote]

Ditto here. But what about the clinical definition of "infantophile" - to wit, "An adult who is sexually attracted to babies and young children 0-5 years of age"?


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 4:49 pm 
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uh. yeah, i don't know about that clinical definition. that's...gross. DFW is so careful with his definitions, he HAD to know that's what it meant. well, there goes Freud, Lacan, and Mitchell :)


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 4:55 pm 
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huh--a quick google search turned up this link from the wallace listserv:
http://waste.org/pipermail/wallace-l/19 ... 03648.html

it says:

Quote:
>>Secondly, on page 16 of IJ, Hal is narrating, and he says, "I have become
>>an infantophile." I've looked the word up everwhere, including an O.E.D.,
>>with no definition... Any ideas or solutions?
>
>Umm, lover of infants?

No. The secret is found in the definition of infant, which comes from
a Latin word one of whose uses means "unable to speak". Hence
"infantophile" either means "lover of the inability to speak" or, more
loosely, "lover of being mute". This fits with Hal's state on page 16.

--PR, who knows this from back when he was trying to decide when his
infants were no longer infants...


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 5:05 pm 
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I'd sure like to think that's more what Wallace had in mind, though he had to be aware of infantophilia as well - a particularly disturbing double entendre, perhaps?


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