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 6:23 pm 
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Another factor which i think weighs against DMZ as the cause of what happened during the interview is that when Hal was 10, he already was allegedly having issues with respect to "conversing" and being unable to communicate and be understood (the conversationalist scene pg. 27) even though his tennis seemed unaffected.

He ate mold as a kid
YTMP- At 10 he is having difficulty conversing but his tennis is fine
November YDAG – possible DMZ incident
November YDAG – Hal plays well in whataburger (tennis is fine)
December YDAG - bombs SATs
November YOTG – Hal plays well in whataburger (tennis is fine); but cannot converse at Interview

It doesn’t seem consistent that DMZ could be the cause of this behavior and yield these results.


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 7:15 pm 
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I'm still wondering about the DMZ's ability to affect the user's own "time/space" continuum. DFW mentioned it in the endnote about hallucinogens and also when Pemulis is talking about his research in the dorm room. I just found it interesting since we're missing the events of that chunk of time.

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"The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you." DFW


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2009 7:59 am 
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graciousme: Hal's alleged inability to communicate as a child is likely a misperception on the part of his increasingly unstable father; he seems to have no problem in verbal interactions with anyone else until late November YDAU (including the "conversationalist," until things spin out of control late in that scenario), and in the JOI filmography endnote (p992-93), the plot summary for "It Was a Great Marvel That He Was in the Father Without Knowing Him" reads, "A father (Watt), suffering from the delusion that his etymologically precocious son (Smothergill) is pretending to be mute, poses as a 'professional conversationalist' in order to draw the boy out."


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2009 5:28 pm 
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Babbo, that makes sense, and i didn't catch that. But isn't it a bit of a coincidence that Hal is alleged to be unable to communicate as a young boy (even if his father is mistaken) and then alleged to be unable to communicate as a high school student?
And even if his father was mistaken, there is still a year gap between the alleged DMZ incident/the SATs and the Arizona Interview. Thats a long time to be feeling the effects of DMZ, no matter how strong it is. Not to mention the fact that he is still playing tennis well and continuing with school. Didn't someone get dosed at the Port Washington tournament and it affected their ability to play? I don't recall. Was that DMZ?


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2009 6:38 pm 
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quick hits (some of which I've opined on elsewhere a day or so ago but can't remember in which thread):

-Pemulis' DMZ research is replete with people who NEVER recovered from its effects, so for Hal to still be affected by it a year later is entirely possible. It seems fairly clear to me that he wasn't necessarily "ok" when he left first hospitalization, but, rather, that he was allowed to go back to ETA where he is protected/watched over by Tavis et al. The real mysteries are more to do, as raised in posts above, with the fact that he is apparantly quite sane inside his head (just unable to communicate/express this) and that he remains a good (even improved?) tennis player.

-I tend to ascribe a lot of explanatory power to his childhood mold incident (the recounting to him of which by Orin seems to be a fairly old memory from before the recent years when Orin has gotten more pathological): I link the mold to his lexical genius, as well as to why he might react particuarly oddly to DMZ, since it, like LSD, owes its discovery to molds. If he was tweaked one way by the original mold eating (which might even be hypothesized to be ditchweed DMZ), then a second dose in YDAU might tweak him to a more unique place than most, especialy if combined with any mental strain (anhedonic depression, etc) from his THC withdrawl.

-The tennis playing bothers me less. There are all sorts of common examples of people who have great difficulties with expression or motor control in certain conscious activities, but not in other either more "unconscious" or rote or, simply, already mastered areas. The country singer with the terrible stutter except when he sings, or a multitude of anecdotes of peole with things like Tourettes except when on stage or broadcasting, or a grab bag of odd combinations of ability/disability in Oliver Sach's case studies. This seems especially likely in a book where ideas about things like "losing yourself" in an activity or avoiding "analysis paralysis" are prominent themes. Think, for example, of the difference between Pemulis and Wayne, one of whom is a masterful analytic tactician (math, eschaton, etc) whose nerves criple him in tournaments, and the other of whom is a true tennis genius notable for his tendency to talk very little or seem very interested (or obsessed/tortured) by over-analyzing things. Hal's condition during the Year of Glad may reflect this.

-This leaves the question of when did Hal go to the concavity with Wayne and Gately, and how did he manage to communicate with them enough to carry out such an endeavor? Well, among other things, we have Wayne being inadvertantly dosed, Gately seeing the ghost of Hal's father (and being, anyway, an increasingly adept companion/guide to people crippled by their addictions or withdrawls), etc. Seems possible to come up with some slightly hand-waving explanation that allows this particular threesome to actually carry out the mission with the help of these odd alternate sources of communication or alterations of experience that are available to (or, rather, forced upon) them.

-in honor of the recent thread noting links between Harry Potter and Hal Incandenza, a final theory: by birth, fate or DMZ, Hal, Gately, and Wayne have all become adept at Parseltongue, and in Hal's case, he can no longer speak anything else.


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2009 12:37 pm 
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OKay,
So what about the scene in the infantilization support group with Bain's brother? The whole "infant in a crib trying to get someone to help him" scenario? Combine this with the Gately hospital-bed's "giant crib," him in dreams in the storm, with the hole in the ceiling, and also Hal speaking without anyone being able to understand him. That was another concern Hal had, that in the sober months leading up to HImself's suicide, he said Hal refused/couldn't/wouldn't communicate with Himself. And Hal notes that he even asked Mario if he could understand him because Himself said he couldn't. Also the memory (Orin's) where a baby/toddler Hal goes to his mother with a mouth full of spores and cries and needs help and his mother (who can't even change diapers!) loses her mind? How's that for a baby who cannot get his needs met?

I think the detox is what cripples him, the lack of pot, particularly the BOB HOPE, seems to have been holding him together. Same was true for Erdeddy and Kate, both getting their pot from B Green's roomie, assuming Hal did too, through Pems. Once they quit they were overwhelmed with emptiness.
I hadn't considered the Pemulis drugged him scenario- what was that about him going to the ceiling tiles and they were all broken, but no sign of a shoe? was that where he kept his stash and someone, the prorectors, found it? Was that where they got the hat?
ohh, too many questions!


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 11:36 am 
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Brains are very weird. It is completely plausible that Hal could have a neurological impairment that would allow him to play world-class tennis, but not speak or gesture coherently.

Eg, consider: Speechless: Dilbert Creator's Struggle to Regain His Voice


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Wed Aug 05, 2009 9:36 pm 
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I'm a believer in the idea that DFW intentionally puts forward several conflicting leads to account for Hal's aphastic state in Arizona---thematically, it was necessary to keep it ambiguous. However, it's still really fun to play the what-happened game.

kindermommy wrote:
So what about the scene in the infantilization support group with Bain's brother? The whole "infant in a crib trying to get someone to help him" scenario?


I agree! Going along with the marajuana withdrawal/depression theory, it seems to me that Hal's breaking point was when he drove out to the Boonies to get some AA support, and (due to a communication error) instead wound up in a room full of sad, sad men attempting to get in touch with their inner infants. Hal wanted to get out of there, that much was clear, and it seems obvious that the pathetic display of teddy bear clutching and crawling made him uncomfortable. But, on some subconscious level, Hal could probably relate to the men. After all, we're dealing with a lexical prodigy with a profligate mother who treated her sons as adults (correcting trivial grammatical mistakes and completely trusting their decisions, as if they were her developmental equals) and a Sad Stork of a father, who had communication issues and tried relating to his sons by founding a tennis academy for them. In other words, ironically enough, Hal has inner infant issues that are prior to his drug issues, and he probably would up at the appropriate support group. But, Hal's smart, and he has to appreciate that soliciting a hug from a stranger across the room is not a meaningful way to get your needs met, that the whole concept of needing to get your needs met is meaningful, but that this is at best a bastardization of what the needy really need. Maybe Hal realizes that he has too much pride to seek support from a group, that he can only go through this alone. Somehow, he retains his dignity, but only for so long. And that brings us to Arizona, where (yet another irony) Hal can't help his having been reduced to that infantophile state.


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2009 5:34 pm 
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i'm ahead of the spoiler line, but not far enough ahead to get all the references (to the support group, etc.) that are being made here...i'm getting the sense that by the end of the novel i'm not going to find out, definitively, what brings Hal to the state described in that first scene. Which is SERIOUSLY irritating--but in many ways, it could also be said to be the only solution. This is a novel that takes pleasure in exhaustive detail, precision, etymology, minute chemical terminology, etc. and yet--it leaves a big fat hole around the axis point of the "plot," the question driving my interest in the novel when i first picked it up. for an author so obsessed with explanations and technical detail, there's GOT to be something at stake in that blank space. and i think it's important to remember that that blank space (if indeed it IS a blank space and not explained by the end of the novel) is a literary device and/or a metaphysical metaphor as well as a mechanism of reality in the world of the novel (i.e., a function of a drug that somebody ingested, or a debilitating psychoanalytic condition, etc.) remember how pemulis got pissed when the eschaton players started playing the game as though the reality of the game AS game (players out on a tennis court with physical bodies) was folded in to the game as an abstract world that the game represents where the only meaningful action is supposed to take place? the game gets out of control at that point--it's a dangerous move--but an obvious one too. the kid who pokes a hole in that particular line in the sand about "reality" and its "abstract representations" shows how arbitrary that distinction was in the first place (balls moving on the actual physical court are meaningful while the bodies of the players hitting the balls are not?). so the problem of hal's condition WANTS to be a technical problem, and the novel does everything to persuade us to think about it that way...but yeah. it also a problem of the novel as a novel, not just a problem of the abstract world the novel represents. and on that level, i'm not sure what new insight wallace is trying to get at--the unknowability/opacity of selfhood and subjectivity is a theme in literary theory that goes back like 50 years now...so i'm still working on discerning a more precise interpretation of what he's doing on that level.

ps this comment is the result of a conversation i had recently with a friend who is also reading the novel, and while i'd like to give her credit i also want to preserve her infinite summer anonymity...
and also ps it's been a while since i posted and i have a sneaking suspicion that my posts are getting more convoluted the more i write. trying to work around that tendency is like trying to get a cat suddenly to take joy in jumping into bathtubs. but i'm doing my best :) i am in here, etc.


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 Post subject: Re: The timing of what happened to Hal in Arizona / SATs?
PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2009 1:22 pm 
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Location: Montreal
There seem to be several threads that are grappling with what happened to Hal between the end of the novel and its beginning (being its chronological end), so I'm not sure this is the right place to post my thought, but since possibly it's closest to the subject of "infantophile"-ism, and I just finished posting some thoughts on my blog after finishing reading just yesterday...

"I have become an infantophile" (p 16). The statement can't be taken literally. But. I think it has everything to do with the Inner Infant Hal began to discover at the men's meeting. I found this scene uncomfortable and didn't much see the point of it except for Hal's continuing to circle around but not getting to confront his addiction problem, but I now see it as pivotal. This is the thing that makes him start to regress. This is where he starts to get inside Himself's head.

In the Year of Glad, Hal has become what he'd feared (p 694):
Hal, who's empty but not dumb, theorizes privately that what passes for hip cynical transcendence of sentiment is really some kind of fear of being really human, since to be really human (at least as he conceptualizes it) is probably to be unavoidably sentimental and naive and goo-prone and generally pathetic, is to be in some basic interior way forever infantile, some sort of not-quite-right-looking infant dragging itself anaclitically around the map, with big wet eyes and froggy-soft skin, huge skull, gooey drool. One of the really American things about Hal, probably, is the way he despises what it is he's really lonely for: this hideous internal self, incontinent of sentiment and need, that pules and writhes just under the hip empty mask, anhedonia.

So in the end (the novel's beginning), Hal becomes human.

He thinks of the Grief-Therapist ("Something smells delicious."), the Moms, the soups over the microwave. What if Hal ate Himself's head? (I mean metaphorically, I suppose.) At least, it's something he wanted to do (but couldn't let himself do?).

"Call it something I ate." Metaphorically this is exactly what he did when he came home from the men's meeting and immersed himself in viewing all his dad's cartridges.

This is Hal finally grieving.

I almost don't think it matters under what circumstance Hal met Gately, if they did meet in reality, or if they really dug up Himself's head. I'm willing to accept the digging up as metaphor, and Hal and Gately's meeting as a meeting of minds on another plan of consciousness. I think this other plane is hinted at in the reference to Flatland (p 281).

- Isabella
http://magnificentoctopus.blogspot.com


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