Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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 Post subject: Madame Psychosis Section
PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 9:07 pm 
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This is my second time through /IJ/, and I've been operating under the premise that Hal is the book's narrator. All of it, every section, narrated by Hal. (My supposition is that Hal enters AA and picks Don Gately as his sponsor. With the Ennet House ... House denizens to help fill in the gaps, add to that Steeply, I think Hal could have access to every point of view in the novel.) What undermines this theory is at least one sequence in the Madame Psychosis section from 181 to 193.

The first part of the sequence begins on page 183, about three-quarters of the way down the page, and is part of MP's pre-show, sound-levels check dialogue. One of these aleatory sentences is, "Like most marriages, theirs was the evolved product of concordance and compromise."

The second part of the sequence is at the bottom of page 187: "Like most marriages, Avril and the late James Incandenza's was an evolved product of concordance and compromise, and the ..."

So, two nearly identical sentences, the one is spoken dialogue and the other predicative narration. Who is the narrator?

Following my theory, perhaps Hal has reconstructed this scene by interviewing MP herself (who's connected to the Incandenza's through the past relationships with Orin and Himself, and perhaps further connected [I speculate] by virtue of her relationship with Don Gately, D.G.'s relationship with Hal), and the engineer tech, and using one of the recorded tapes (which MP has in her possession at Ennet House ... House) to make a transcript. There's that.

Following the idea that there are multiple narrators in the novel, perhaps Madame Psychosis is the section's narrator, in which case she would've had to have interviewed Hal and Mario. This is certainly a possibility.

Perhaps a totally third party is narrating the section, in which case everyone mentioned would've been interviewed, and then you have to also explain the highly literate vocabulary. I'm inclined to rule out this possibility on the basis of the vocabulary alone. Is it coincidence that we are told by the narrator early on in the book that Hal has a phenomenal, eidetic, drug-enhanced and OED-supplied vocabulary?

What clued me into all the foregoing conjecture is that very weird narrative shift on the bottom of page 187 where we go from MP's radio show abruptly and weirdly into the Incandencza section; add to that the fact of this sentence's weird resonance with the pages-earlier mic-test sentence uttered by MP.

IDEAS? SUGGESTIONS? HOP-ONS?


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 Post subject: Re: Madame Psychosis Section
PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 7:00 am 
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I tend to lean towards multiple narrators, primarily because of the very different styles in the Wardine, yrs truly and Marathe/Steeply sections.

I had also thought that there was one narrator for the ETA scenes, another for Ennet House, someone else describing the AFRs, etc. Basically maybe 4 or 5 major narrators with several minor ones (ie Clenette, yrs. truly) fleshing things out.

But then I came across this:

Spoiler! "p. 476 a description of Gately: "Has anybody else mentined Gately's head is square?"

Which leads me to wonder if there are multiple narrators each telling only a small part of the overall story. Sort of like everyone is relating what they know to 1 master narrator/interviewer who has compiled all their stories into this huge book. This could also explain why the storyline isn't chronological, the interviewer is relating everything in the order he/she heard it.

That or the narrator is joking when he asks if anyone else has mentioned Gately's head is square since just about every description of Gately mentions his huge square head."


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 Post subject: Re: Madame Psychosis Section
PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 7:08 am 
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I've deduced that most of the book is narrated by J.O.I.'s wraith and that the book itself is his last "Infinite Jest" work (not necessarily a film, but a "film" as much as "found drama" is a cinematic work).

Therefore, in his efforts to make the perfect film that would allow him to communicate with Hal (which intention he explains in the hospital wraith sequence with Gately), he learned (perhaps from Lyle) about the idea of becoming a wraith figure post-death and killed himself to succeed in his craft- a theme presented in the novel especially with that kid who always threatened to kill himself if he lost in tennis and eventually did in the ETA office (I don't recall his name and don't have the book handy...sorry!).

This would explain how all the characters are observed separately, because wraiths operate on a different experience of time and the J.O.I. wraith could easily have observed all people's stories.

What I cannot get to jive with this theory, though, are the sections in first person... Hal must be telling part of the story somehow, but why? Did J.O.I. eventually succeed in trying to communicate with Hal? Does Hal desire to tell stories like his filmmaker Dad and he is participating in the final "Infinite Jest?" Can the J.O.I. wraith literally get inside peoples' heads and hear their first-person narration?


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 Post subject: Re: Madame Psychosis Section
PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 7:13 am 
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Quote:
But then I came across this:

Spoiler! "p. 476 a description of Gately: "Has anybody else mentined Gately's head is square?"

Which leads me to wonder if there are multiple narrators each telling only a small part of the overall story. Sort of like everyone is relating what they know to 1 master narrator/interviewer who has compiled all their stories into this huge book. This could also explain why the storyline isn't chronological, the interviewer is relating everything in the order he/she heard it.

That or the narrator is joking when he asks if anyone else has mentioned Gately's head is square since just about every description of Gately mentions his huge square head."


Very interesting catch!

That would definitely relate to those two pieces about IJ being a new media artifact in that it exists like a database:
http://locus.cwrl.utexas.edu/jbrown/node/282 and http://www.robertsharp.co.uk/2009/07/08 ... -the-mind/

Perhaps a database of wraith-observers?


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 Post subject: Re: Madame Psychosis Section
PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 1:43 pm 
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I like the idea of the book being J.O.I's last "Infinite Jest". Spoiler! "I've just started the section (p 787)where Molly Notkin gets "technically interviewed" by Rodney Tine. Molly refers to the lethal entertainment as Infinite Jest (V) or (VI). The filmography stops at Infinite Jest (V?) and isn't sure if it is a new film or the completion of Infinite Jest (IV). So Molly seems to be aware of an Infinte Jest that is missing from the filmography. At first I thought that whoever compiled the filmography simply wasn't aware of the final version, but maybe it's not listed because it wasn't a film at all."


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 Post subject: Re: Madame Psychosis Section
PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 2:34 pm 
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Quote:
At first I thought that whoever compiled the filmography simply wasn't aware of the final version, but maybe it's not listed because it wasn't a film at all."


Yeah, and if what we are reading is actually the last "Infinite Jest" work, the whole book is kind of a wacky feedback loop that would tie in well with all the references to circles, loops, annular science, etc.


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 Post subject: Re: Madame Psychosis Section
PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2009 1:42 pm 
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I love the idea of a database of wraiths, which I interpret as a kind of collection of points of view. In fact, point of view seems to be central to /IJ/; i.e., learning to see/experience/live life from another's point of view.

If /IJ/as a novel, the book as artifact, is indeed the last /IJ/, who then is its author? I still lean toward Hal. But, I'm not at all certain. Thanks for all the suggestions/ideas, though.


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 Post subject: Re: Madame Psychosis Section
PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2009 11:07 pm 
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If it were to be one odd single narrator (either Hal (s/p DMZ dosing) or J.O.I. (s/p death), that might explain some sections early on that so bother so many people: If Hal or J.O.I. were narrating, they would float their attention to those who most mattered to them or their goals, and most of these people would seem sorta understandable to them, either b/c closely related/familiar or b/c of similar (educated +/- tennis) background. But every now and then, they would kinda pick up the "static" of nearby consciousnesses (either nearby to the characters they mostly act as amanuenses for or nearby in terms of the character's situation or obsessions), and this consciousness might feel really foreign/difficult to connect to for them (Clenette? yrstruly? any other character primarily narrated in a more traditional omniscient narrator perspective, such as Steeply and Marathe? -- of course there would be gradations to this). Hmmm.

Do I ultimately actually buy this? Probably not, but fun to think about.


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 Post subject: Re: Madame Psychosis Section
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 9:29 am 
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iwearshoess wrote:
I've deduced that most of the book is narrated by J.O.I.'s wraith and that the book itself is his last "Infinite Jest" work (not necessarily a film, but a "film" as much as "found drama" is a cinematic work).


A different way of explaining Hal's behavior at the beginning would be that he is posessed by JOI's ghost, who has a hard time expressing itself through verbal communication. Implausible, just a thought. "I am in here."


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 Post subject: Re: Madame Psychosis Section
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 9:46 am 
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Quote:
A different way of explaining Hal's behavior at the beginning would be that he is posessed by JOI's ghost, who has a hard time expressing itself through verbal communication. Implausible, just a thought. "I am in here."


You're basically talking about metempsychosis: the transfer of JOI's ghost to Hal. Whether it's true or not, I'm pretty sure we can attribute to Hal in YG the same verbal communication problem his Dad has. So, yeah, probably implausible, but very interesting (and thematically resonant).

The section I'm reading now (pg 730 or so) gets in JvD's head while she cleans her Ennet House Room. There's much talk of JOI's inability as an artist to convey warmth or empathy to his characters (and by extension, his viewers). JOI was a brilliant technician, but adolescent in his ability to 'connect' or 'share' in relationships (so to speak). At any rate, the sense I'm getting from /IJ/ this read-around is that the book itself, as an artifact, is an attempt to 'connect' to explicitly show empathy. Put maybe another way, this aim/goal/mission is one of the book's primary themes. I.e., I don't take it for granted that the book's narrating consciousness is trying so hard to get the reader *into* sundry characters' heads.


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