Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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 Post subject: Re: Eschaton
PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 8:40 pm 
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Location: Chicago, IL
levingard wrote:
One thing I did think of is that Steeply seeing the breakdown of the Big Buddy/Little Buddy system (i.e. the little buddies are free to make their mistakes without the big buddies interfering and thus annihilate their game) is a point in Marathe's favor since these little buddies aren't being taught (in this particular scene) how to choose their actions beyond their immediate impulses. Troeltsch is the only one to even suggest intervening, but Pemulis stops him. The others are transfixed as spectators the way the audience at a sporting even always is.

And then after this scene, we get the discussion about how AA is entirely about alcoholics learning to choose to stay in the system.


Ooh, good call. It's really rewarding to be able to make these connections between the ETA and the AA scenes. So much of the book comes back thematically to that lecture from Marathe about being able to choose a higher calling than your immediate pleasure. I don't think I read with that in mind quite as much way back when I first read the book.

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 Post subject: Re: Eschaton
PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 5:35 am 
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During the first read of IJ this actually was a section that wasn't all that enjoyable but now five years later it turns out to be better. Perhaps it's the perspective of having read the book in it's entirety or simply a change in focus as this time through the game itself was less important than the behavior of the participants and perhaps the descent into chaos as the players surrender to their baser urges was a large part of Wallace's point.

The section that follows on Boston AA provides, in my humble opinion, an interesting contrast between the behavior of those privileges to attend the Enfield Tennis Academy and the denizens of the AA meetings and Ennis House. Even in the first read the contrast was my favorite element of the book.


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 Post subject: Re: Eschaton
PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 9:50 am 
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Location: Orlando, FL
I am slightly behind - about half-way through the Eschaton section now and I absolutely love it. I thought I might not get caught up again until this weekend, but reading this thread has convinced me to finish it up this evening. I just love the game, the whole complexity of it and all the ridiculous yet perfect acronyms. It works on so many levels.
Joan


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 Post subject: Re: Eschaton
PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 12:47 pm 
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A couple of things:

1. It's certainly Steeply's car, but I don't think s/he witnessed the Eschaton debacle. Remember, ETA is rabid about protecting students from the press. It would have taken Steeply a long time (but I haven't checked the timelines) to get access to Hal. The only direct evidence in IJ of Steeply at ETA begins on p. 673 where s/he is attended by deLint and Poutrincourt and watches Hal and Stice play.

2. I think the whole Eschaton thing is DFW's social criticism. Most readers here aren't old enough to remember the days of MAD--Mutually Assured Destruction--whose operating principle was that the Soviet Union wouldn't dare launch an massive nuclear missle attack against the US, because the US would respond in kind, and everyone would be destroyed. And vice-versa.

Back in those days, people in the Pentagon actually played war games much like Eschaton--and they probably still do. Today the real-world nuclear bomb situation is even more complicated than in the 60s because not only do Russia and the US have nuclear weapons, but so do China, India, Pakistan, Israel, France, Germany, Great Britain . . . even South Africa (for a while, at least).

Anyway, I think DFW's portrayal of adolescent boys playing this game is his commentary on the mentality of our worlds' leaders.

As a non-IJ aside, here's a real-world thought experiment: If you were running Iran, would you develop a nuclear capability? In an Eschaton-like world (and I think DFW is saying that ours is) that would be sensible, no?


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 Post subject: Re: Eschaton
PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 1:26 pm 
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In an Eschaton-like world there really would be no choice as efforts by both Iran and North Korea have established. The more disconcerting thought is the lack of anyone like Lord to put on the appropriate beanie and the all too real threat of an Ingersoll who decides to fire a five megaton burst off the back of someone's head simply to destroy the delicate balance that does exist. Being a child of the Cold War where students were drilled in hiding under their desks in case of a nuclear attack was far less intimidating in some ways since a certain amount of restraint was presumed to exist if only because of doctrines like MAD.


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 Post subject: Re: Eschaton
PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 1:33 pm 
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Location: Orlando, FL
I agree - I'm a child of the Cold War too, and in many ways it seemed so much more stable than our current reality. We all knew "duck and cover" was worthless, but at least we were only worried about giant intercontinental attacks - not a smuggled in dirty bomb.

And has anyone commented yet on their beanie wearing leader being "Lord"? I just love it.

Joan


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 Post subject: Re: Eschaton
PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 7:37 pm 
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The Eschaton section probably saved me from falling off the moving train. This being my first read of IJ, I started to get a little lethargic about it, especially after reading through the description of Eschatons mathematic dna. But damn - by the end of the section I hadnt read any part of IJ with so much hunger. I kept hearing 'Trust the Author' and now know why.


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 Post subject: Re: Eschaton
PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 6:51 am 
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Eschaton elsewhere:

Chris Forster has a killer post on "Representation and Narration" in IJ, focusing closely on the Eschaton section and its footnotes.
http://www.cforster.com/?p=176

Daryl @ Infinite Zombies digs into boundary and frame-of-reference issues in Eschaton.
http://infinitezombies.wordpress.com/20 ... oundaries/

I bullet-pointed the sequence of events in the game itself to help keep it all straight, and added a rambling analysis of Eschaton's relation to Yeats' "The Second Coming" that wandered into questions of fiction and reality in the Esch. chapter.
http://infinitedetox.wordpress.com/esch ... et-points/
http://infinitedetox.wordpress.com/2009 ... -the-game/

Bonus: I'm pretty sure these are all spoiler-free.


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 Post subject: Re: Eschaton
PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 10:13 am 
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Enjoying the links provided by infinitedetox. Had previously been thinking about whether Otis P. Lord's last name was significant in relation to Hal's T.V. essay, since it was Jack Lord who was the star of the traditional "hero of action" show referenced (Hawaii 5-0). So a google search on the name "Otis P." gave me two interesting hits: One is Otis P. Driftwood, played by Groucho Marx in "A Night at the Opera," described as to busy trying to fleece Mrs. Claypool to spend time running an Opera Company. The other is an ACTUAL significant Otis P. Lord in Massachussetts history, who was a justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachussetts 1875-1882 (died 1884) -- apparantly there is recent speculation he was a (wannabe?) lover of Emily Dickenson (see http://www.slate.com/id/2201944/ ). So we could have either an intentional combination of names from famous past entertainments for wacky effect, or a purposeful link to a historical figure. Anyone know more about the judge or anything else to suggest this is other than random?


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 Post subject: Re: Eschaton
PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 11:42 am 
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My guess is that it is not random and probably refers to the judge. This guess is based in part on the fact that there once was a town of Enfield in MA but it was submerged beneath the Quabbin Reservoir so Lord is probably another obscure bit of Massachusetts past that DFW incorporated.


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