Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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 Post subject: The emblem of Infinite Jest
PostPosted: Sun Aug 02, 2009 11:44 am 
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It's never easy to acknowledge defeat or failure. As a pre-Alheimerian, there is nothing I might have said that has not been whiskedd away, either through forgetfulness or in the resigned recognition that it's all so complicated and so simple in the end that it ends up looking like and feeling like one huge grey cow among millions of others. For instance, I had taken notes on the occurences of state and states -- small caps, and State and States with capital Ss. I wanted to hang on to that, while everything else was rushing past me, moving everything but the immediate two or three pages out to the sidelines, including the "importance" of state/State. I would be that receiver who would drop every punt sent in my direction, and the number of punts of this author is truly awesome to have to confront, especially when your central experience is mine: that of dropping them one after the other!

I have no questions to fask, and no judgments about the quality of the novel, or the exact nature of my enjoyment of it. I'm sure that everything I could say has been said already, and that anything I might come up with has by now been treated at length in the scholarly journals, but for as long as this blissful and sad ignorance lasts, I want to be able to say to myself that I made an attempt to contribute something to Infinite Summer: not something on the order of the wallpapered imitation summer sky on the horrendous cover of IJ, but something more on the order of an intereting, if not crucial insight into the novel's organisation, which at the end of the day (end of the summer), between this huge novel and the growing stack of notes and cross-references, will start feeling as boring as any other PUV. There is not only boredom but humor and naive exaltation in shouting out: "everybody's a critic." (footnote 3à-° That was what the enlightenment was all about, after all! Writing and thinking in the midst of an educated public!

There are no illustrations in this big fat book. No maps of Boston, no family trees, no postcard views of damns and dusks in Arizona, and no glossy centerfolds of tall tapered legs or boutiful bosums. Just print and more print, with hundreds of pages more of material originally edited out which will surely have to be published in the wake of Infinite Summer!

Let's just say that I started wondering if an immensely important illustration was not there in front of my nose, too close to see in all its staggering importance. On page 3, 17, 27, 32, 33 (sic!), 39, 49, 63, 66, 68, 87, 127, 135, 151, 157, 181, 219, 240, 258, 283, 306, 380, 442, then a huge expanse of material with only three occurences of my "illustration" on pages 538, 620 and 809. Tight and bunched together at the beginning of the novel, and few and far between in the final sections. I'm referring, of course, to the "chapter" headings, or rather "section" headings in the form of a shadowed white circle that is an ordinary part of any table of list of special characters like the ones found in wingdings, for example. Nothing to write home about, n'est-ce pas?

Perhaps I'm in that state of mind and heart and soul that sees or suspects connnections and linkages between things where most readers and spectators would not. Perhaps I have a strong case of Pynchonitis, or Pattern Recognition gone wild. I now see hundreds upon thousands of connections between the shape of this immobile emblem or character or escutcheon, and the material handled in the course of the telling and the painting of this "story." Just look at the emblem for awhile. It may have started its journey in life as a circle. But sooner or later, or perhaps without any assignable origin, it started concentrating (please excuse this relapse into mentalism) on its left side, going over its original trace hundreds and thousands of times, till it became left-hand heavy from its POV, right-hand heavy from ours (less important perhaps). No longer a perfect circle. But for the first time in its history, with a new illusory sense of a third dimension. Relapse into realism no doubt. Leave that to the lit critics. The shadow, or the value added now to the circle, turns it into a ring or outer edge with depth, like a bore or tunnel suddenly boring into the emptiness beyond the surface of the page. And my reader may well say at this point: you have already begun a full-bore plunge into a figment of your imagination: this is not out of wingdings, but pure dingbat! Proof: I prefer to give in to the inclinatin of connecting the emblem with the entire life cycle of the Incandenzas, including that extra layer of aluminum foil that Jim place in the hole sawed into the microwave to keep the inside goings-on inside for the requisite period of time. Same problem for any economy of capitalizing on one's weed.

This emblem means nothing at all. Except that it keeps meaning something else again and again, and I have known the excitement and floundering that comes with making a list of the stations of this emblem as it gains speed or comes to the point of total immobility, from one page, one section, one take to the next in IJ. There are already many complaints on this blog concerning the lack of enjoyment in reading, or rereading the novel. It's not so much that people are complaining that it's not linear enough, but that the circle or ring or eternal return just keeps happening over and over again, and that the only thing that happens during these revolutions and transformations of the writer's gtrade increasingly take the shape of painted (described) scenes. The connection to the emblem is tight: the characters are described by sinking them into their respective environments with as little psychology as possible, with as much technology as is humanly bearable. Even the major characters are "figurants" in momentary depictions of a generalized hovering which never lasts, but only returns.

Here is the Webster Collegiate Dictionary's definition of an annular eclipse: one in which the thin outer ring of the sun's disk is not covered by the apparently smaller disk of the moon. There is a lot of eclipsing and moon-lighting going on in the first "chapters" of IJ, when, for example, the cumulative effects of Hal's habits, his own brand of darkness, explose in the full light of day, putting the reader (this one at least) in the uncomfortable position of having seen the light of the moon in its retreat. What Hal "says" is justified, and rational, and accurate, but it's not seen: it may as well be on the moon. One of the greatest compliments in the whole book, most often claimed of admired women, is that they hung the moon! (footnote 193) This is a book that also compliments Gately on working one job while daylighting another, as we wait for the moon toarise once again in the man's life.

I wouldn't want to take this too far. I wouldn't wqant this little marker to become as heavy and as laden as a baroque emblem! God forbid! It's just that when people express dissastisfaction with the characters of this novel, they hook up once again, in annular fashion, with the old reproach leveled against baroque figures and their allegorical abstraction and lifelessness: we don't know all that much about April or Jim, except that they're both cool cucumbers with incandescent potential, having fostered the possibility of an incandescent smile. (p. 886) Only a baroque intriguer would see moonlight, like a rapidly eclipsing aura, in Jim's films. Mr and Mrs Incandenza are total control freaks, but whose mastery is flawed and at times almost ridiculous (the queen of cool in a cheerleader's outfit): masters with frayed edges glowing in the most unconfortable of moments. It's just when I'm ready to let my insight float away into oblivion, this idea of a contolling influence over the shape and flow of the novel, that more holes occur, and I go crazy with the passion of a biblical scholar: black holes and white ones, holes in jeans from high-gauge shotguns, holes in Canadian coffins and holes in the cranium to let all the hot air out!

Decay, death, degeneration, and more of the same all over again. So much sadness and suffocation and pain as to make one gasp for air. Before lighting up a gasper. And sitting back, like the Joycian artist, paring your finger nails and enjoying the emptiness now rampant? Maybe the dark side of that moon-shaped figure is a toe-nail, and nothing more significant than that. Maybe the emblem emblazons the moment when one of Hal's toe-nails is poised on the edge of the waste-basket, either on the verge of going in or careening away "out there." No amount of training, no amount of (boring) boring, the boring rigmarole of drilling new habits into yound and promising candidates, can ever replace the ancient, terribly ancient feeling that you've got it, that you're hot, that you can't miss and that's all there is to it! Hall lobs his toenails into the wastebasket with as much unauthorized and unexplainable authority as Dylan when he links moon and spoon in a rhyme. And he is as frightened of this ungodly untechnical gfrace as is is respectual and complacent in the frenzied modern search for a duplicate or simulacrum. He is one himself. All of this on the subject of toenails. And which gives the author the incredible privilege and enjoyment (jouissance) of crossing Hal's desinty with Don's, who must also suffer through the extreme condensation and compression of time in the wee hours of the morning, when every second is a still life, and who suddenly realizes that the moon-shaped slivers in the ash-tray are toe nails, too old and too yellowed by time to be finger nails.

We'll never know to what exent the likeness between a son's voiced and his father's can eclipse all efforts at distinction and distance. We'll never know how long it took Jim to drill his hole: all we learn are multiple takes on how long ago the thing was gestating. A question of character. Character and destiny, to quote once again the same sad ponderer of enigmas, annular wars, and emblems. (W. Benjamin) Passed on to the sons: more recent, generational grapes of wrath. All we know is what we read, and we read from the get-go that Hall's hole will one day explode, and we have to endure seeing this take place at the beginning when anybody would have been more confortable with it being reserved for a sad ending. That's how I got interested in annular fusion.

The sadness is one of the great accomplishments of the novel. The marriage of sadness and fleeting joy, lucidity and darkness, enlightenment and originary conditions that just won't go away, no more so the growth of toenails or the motion of tides. For the emblem can bed looked at as itself facing to the right, thus becoming a very abstract but simple representation of an eye and its eyelid. Joyce's "riverrun" is here the invasion of blinding red light, on the first and last pages of the novel. Eyelids close and open to the rhythm of substances ingested and clichés taken to heart. People begin to see, but never for long. The most perfect character in the novel, something as immortal as a Platonic idea or our own memories of now ancient platform games, cqarries attached to his square head a perfectly bored barrel for film, but one that wobbles. In order reach back as far as possible to the arch-originary conditions of sight, before the serious boring begins. Mario is perhaps that kind of post-human character who neither aspires to enlightenment nor to radical transformation: his eyes are technical and his heart as big as all outdoors, and his attention span is surprisingly long. (His dangerous moments and painful insomnia originate in his ears: he has his own version and obsession with a siren.)

Aspiring to perfection and boring even deeper into technological potential resgtages the scene of the cave from out of which climb the characters of IJ. As in the original version of this myth, there is blinding and deception and a return below. Our caves have tremendous potential, and have since the beginning -- any coach knows this, more coaches than teachers perhaps. The shock of the novel, however, and it takes us all in, is that "we are the eyelids of defeated caves." (Allen Tate)

It's seems as though I'm in a spot of worry, out on a limb of my own creation. Help!


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 Post subject: Re: Fred Jameson on IJ, Hager's thesis, and a t-shirt proposal!
PostPosted: Mon Aug 24, 2009 4:59 am 
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Joined: Wed Jul 15, 2009 9:16 am
Posts: 19
Here is Fred Jameson (in Archaeologies of the Future, with a beautiful emblem of the jacket that bespeaks woe and wonder) on IJ:
[quote][quote]This new geopolitical material marks a significant historical difference between such commercial adventure stories and the equally cynical gonzo journalism of an older period .... Equally significant is that these protagonists -- busy as they are inlocating rare products, securing secret new inventions, outsmarting rivals and trading with the natives -- do not particularly need the stimulus of drugs (still a prepondeant, one may even say a metaphysical, presence in so recent a world-historical expression as DFW's Infinite Jest of 1966)[[/quote]quote]


Jameson is writing an unusually favorable review of "Pattern recognition" and I suppose he would say that the footage in that novel is far less dependent on addiction than the Entertainment in IJ. Another subject altogother. The one I would like to indicate concerns the "stimulus of drugs" in Jameson's judgment. I'm reading it after having read Avery's recent complaint that there is not enough normality in this novel, not enough normal people: not enough people who do not need the stimulus of addicition.
But the stimulus to what end? What has to be stimulated? The plot line? The energy to write such a big book? Once again, (for the third time I think) I find help in Professor Hager's thesis. He goes back, at the beginning of the thesis, to Wordsworth and Shelley. (reader, are you going to say, or think: yes, this is what you do in a thesis!?) The stimulus for Wordsworth has to bear on the process of "conjuring up in himself passions." These passions "are indeed far from being the same as those produced by real events," and furthermore, "the language which the poet's faculty will suggest to him, must often, in liveliness and truth, fall short of that which is uttered by men in real life, under the actual pressures of those passions." (Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads). We can therefore conclude that Jameson, ever critical of romantics and romanticism, sees addiction in very much the same terms as Wordsworth inspiration. Something on the far or near side of linguistic competence. Hager brings Shelley to bear on this ur-situation of the inadequacy and corruptibility of language, by writing that the only thing the poet or artist can do is to inscribe a circle to stand in for the power and attraction of these passions: "the O that Shelley used three times in the 'Ode to the West Wind's' first section ... the relic (or as I proposed in my very first blog post), the emblem, of the poet's "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings,' betrayal of the poet's failure to translation, of the fact that the poem is artifact." (page 5 of the thesis)

This leads me, in what would require pages, to a proposal for the t-shirt. I imagine a t-shirt with two Os next to one another, the typographical O as used in the surname Orin, and the "symbol" that so often starts off chapters and sections, what I proposed as an emblem of the book as a whole. This would perhaps be too discreet for people who might want to advertise in more direct communiable fashion the efforts they have consented to this summer, but I believe something that would make passers-by go: o o, like in Beyonce's "all the single women" would be an interesting twist to the question: what to wear to bespeak of the ceremony and the community!


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 Post subject: Re: The emblem of Infinite Jest
PostPosted: Mon Aug 24, 2009 1:19 pm 
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Wha?


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