Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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 Post subject: Re: Hal and Gately in the hospital together?
PostPosted: Sun Jul 26, 2009 4:36 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2009 4:16 pm
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Location: North Dakota
Right. Among Otis' functions in the book, he represents a Higher Power via his surname. It's explicit in the Eschaton scene that he's a bumblingly overwhelmed sort of god and with Gately it's left to us to tie it together.


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 Post subject: Re: Hal and Gately in the hospital together?
PostPosted: Sun Jul 26, 2009 6:02 pm 
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I think the Lord name-thing is a little too lame for him to be any sort of god stand-in other that during eschaton, when it's funny. I think Wallace would find that lame, don't you, when everything else is so esoteric?

Perhaps the timing is off in my head, but maybe the whole "mind-meld" theory above is really just the ability of people closely-connected to discern things about each other. Suppose Joelle is detained by Steeply before /during Gately's hospital stay. She obviously knows Hal, and after being questioned by Steeply, perhaps she goes to ETA to warn/assist him, and because Gately is her man, he goes too? He is her hero after all, and what would be more heroic than confiscating and ending the fatal entertainment in which her face/image is complicit? She wouldn't go to the coward Orin, and he's with the bugs, so she goes to Hal.
Or Hal is picked up during the blizzard invasion of the AFR "tennis-team" along with wayne, the plant, and they all go together from there? ARGH! Too many possibilities!


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 Post subject: Re: Hal and Gately in the hospital together?
PostPosted: Sun Jul 26, 2009 9:32 pm 
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Location: North Dakota
From Burn's Reader's Guide to IJ:
It is clear that Eschaton's Otis P. Lord is the figure in the bed adjacent to Gately, who seems to 'have a box on its head' (pg. 809), and in one of the novel's darker jokes, this is significant for reasons other than narrative intertwining. One of Gately's biggest problems with Alcoholics Anonymous has been his difficulty understanding the idea of a higher power, or God, and even as he lies in the hospital bed he begins to worry if God is really a cruel and vengeful figure, otherwise why would he have him "go through the sausage-grinder of getting straight just to lie here in total discomfort and have ot say no to medically advised Substances" (pg 895)? His questions remain unanswered, but in the very next bed has been someone who not only shares a name with the Christian God (the "Lord"), but is hospitalized in the first place because they have been "more or less having to play God" (pg 328). Lord's wounds, of course, have resulted from his fallibility as Eschaton's god when he fails to control the consequences of a lapse in his omniscience, and his pathetic condition offers a sly correction to Gately's vision of a powerful deity.

Now I'm not one to buy into interpretations just because they've been published in cliff note sized nifty front-covered red and black books, but it seems pretty reasonable.

Also, in Broom of the System, DFW uses a giant black sand desert called the Great Ohio Desert (also acronymed in the book into G.O.D.) as a wasteland total opposite for people to go to and have basically what amounts to religious experiences. He's not at all subtle there about the purpose of the G.O.D. being a vehicle to discuss higher powers. And really, how sneaky can you get when you're talking about god with or without the big G?

I don't think DFW is out to hide things from us for the sake of hiding them. I think that he saw some value in the hunts he puts readers on. And for some reason he chooses, for the most part, to tackle god issues head on, to not make us hunt for the thing that everyone spends most of their lives either tracking down or trying to give up on as imaginary. His AA sections focus on God, and Mario wonders why we can't just talk about God openly and honestly without averting eyes or snickers or punchlines. DFW isn't hiding his own struggle with what a god is or is not. From existence to omniscience, I think DFW is trying to address the question of higher powers head on without becoming preachy. He's showing and rarely telling, making us gleen out meanings at all speeds of the mental transmission. So yes, I find this all pretty compelling evidence for letting Otis serve as a god mechanism, but kindermommy does raise a legitimate "that's too easy" sort of objection. What's everyone else think?


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 Post subject: Re: Hal and Gately in the hospital together?
PostPosted: Sun Jul 26, 2009 10:30 pm 
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I think Otis P. Lord has at least two slightly more subtle things going on:

1. God or no god, believer or no, DFW is interested in moments of transcendence not only of self or boundaries, to name a couple of common themes of this book, but of these communicative/aesthetic transcendences or ecstasies in his work: the moments, like Eschaton, that tend to get the "OMFG"/"now I get why people love this writer" blown-away responses (and posts on this forum) from readers. The moments tend to be ones that feel like we've locked into an emotional connection with the characters, even as the intellectual/literary concerns also seem to climax. Given that he is so concerned with human connection as opposed to facile irony, he seems to take particular pleasure in seeing if he can start from seemingly abstract or even ironic or silly circumstances and still carry us to the point where we make the emotional connection. And there are times when he seems to stage these as borderline literal apotheoses, such as Joelle's suicidal pursuit of "too much fun" or the wonderful climax of his nonfiction piece on playing tennis in the midwest, or the "G.O.D." trope mentioned from "Broom of the System." Now, playing with themes like these, I think Otis P. Lord lets him sort of bracket the question of whether to attribute a traditional place for "god" in these scenes, because what really interests him is the situation the characters are in, whether in Eschaton or in Gately's hospital scenes. He neither denies nor affirms a place for "god" in these scenes; by displacing the "god" issue onto Lord, he keeps the conversation from spiraling away from the situation at hand.

2. If, as mentioned above, he likes to stack the deck against himself by starting such emotionally powerful scenes with the trappings of what might initially seem kinda like facile metafictional game pieces, Lord is one such: He starts as a sort of arch ironic joke with his name and his beanies, etc, but becomes an oddly affecting figure as he struggles to maintain control and spirals into horrible injury. Similarly, allusion to him in Gately's hospital scene is at first blush a metafictional joke, but is charged with such emotion both because of some emotional resonance of this poor innocent traumatically injured kid and because of the gut wrenching pathos of Gately's struggles in those hospital scenes. Basically, imagine the coy metafiction you might expect if someone listed off to you the characters of this book before you met them: the veiled P.G.O.A.T., the Homodontic Mario, etc, etc. Now, think of how affectively charged characters like these have become by about the time you are getting to Eschaton, etc. -- few people seem to be experiencing them as just shallow ironic textual jokes by the time they get this deep in the text. Lord, although a fairly minor character, is ultimately no different.


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 Post subject: Re: Hal and Gately in the hospital together?
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 8:26 am 
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I immediately thought the kid referenced was Otis Lord as well when I read the hospital sequences.


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 Post subject: Re: Hal and Gately in the hospital together?
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 8:46 am 
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Joined: Wed Jun 03, 2009 10:52 am
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In the beginning of that last chapter, yes, it's Otis P. Lord. But the kid with the square head (also a reference to Gately as a child, no?) actually leaves, I think, at one point - I got the impression at least that he goes home.

Anyhow the metal skull supporter is not for Otis. It's pretty late in the story, I think pretty clearly past at least 17/18 nov, and Otis is back at ETA right about that time.

The question that's bugging me, then, is who the skull supporter is for? Or did DFW just put that in for the electric chair reference bit, which he could have?

Feel free to disprove me with ev, I just don't have the book with me right now.


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