Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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 Post subject: Hal and Don G.
PostPosted: Thu Aug 27, 2009 7:30 pm 
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This is a pretty obvious point, I guess, but I think it's worth discussing.

Hal and Gately are wildly different protagonists, and they don't come into physical contact in IJ (except when digging up Himself's head[!!!]), but there are a lot of weird little concordances between them. What have you guys noticed so far?

Here are a couple of things I've been thinking about:

1. Re Hal's essay on "Hawaii-Five-O"'s Steve McGarrett versus "Hill Street Blues"'s Frank Furillo, in which he predicts that the next American hero will be catatonic: And so here's Don G. lying perfectly still in his hospital bed, heroically refusing Demerol, pretty much unable to speak. Contrast that with how Hal ends up -- well, OK, my own particular take on how Hal ends up: DMZ radically alters the user's relationship to time, right? (You can probably guess that I favor the DMZ theory over the Entertainment theory, but I suppose you could say the same thing about the Entertainment.) What I think happens to Hal is that he enters a state where EVERYTHING in his head comes out whenever he tries to communicate. (And I'd said Hal's head holds more than the average.) It's impossible to communicate as fast as he thinks, so everything gets sped up and smashed together like some sort of a defective cassette tape. It's sort of the opposite of J.O.I.'s vision of his son -- instead of a "mute" Hal, we get an incredibly loquacious one. Trouble is, he's too loquacious for anyone to understand.
So we have a situation where both of our heroes are incommunicado, but in opposite ways and for opposite reasons (and, I hope, with opposite results).

2. Judging from the website and forums, there are a lot of people out there who LOVE Hal and don't really feel that strongly about Don G. To them I say: "Whaaat???" I do feel more sympathetic towards Hal this time around, but I still don't really like him. Given the choice, I'd much rather been in a room with Gately, Prince Valiant haircut and menthol cigarettes and all, than with Hal and his smokeless tobacco. (The same does not go for D.F.W., natch.) What does everyone else think?

3. One of my favorite things about IJ this time around: Both Hal and Gately keep their keys on the floor.

***
Wolf Spiders Ruleth The Land.


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 Post subject: Re: Hal and Don G.
PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 5:40 am 
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Quote:
2. Judging from the website and forums, there are a lot of people out there who LOVE Hal and don't really feel that strongly about Don G. To them I say: "Whaaat???" I do feel more sympathetic towards Hal this time around, but I still don't really like him. Given the choice, I'd much rather been in a room with Gately, Prince Valiant haircut and menthol cigarettes and all, than with Hal and his smokeless tobacco. (The same does not go for D.F.W., natch.) What does everyone else think?


During my first read some five years ago I viewed Hal as the centerpiece of the novel but still really liked Don Gately. This time around Gately is by far my favorite character and Hal has actually become a bit of an irritant. The reasons aren't entirely clear. While growing up in the Incandenza family carries its own set of pressures Hal, unlike Gately, at least has a family surrounding him not to mention the cocoon of ETA. In many ways, Gately is the most realistic character in the novel. In describing the path his life has taken from the his childhood with an alcoholic mother beaten by her boyfriend through his descent into drug addiction and criminal behavior prior to his salvation at Ennet House Wallace shows incredible insight w/r/t Gately's segment of society. Having dealt with individuals similar to Gately it's easier to appreciate just how arduous his struggle has been and how uncommon his success. It's interesting that Wallace, whose own life, on the surface at least, seems to have more in common with Hal's has been able bring Don Gately to life.


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 Post subject: Re: Hal and Don G.
PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 6:07 pm 
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Yeah, I like Gately, but I still find it strange in the sense that he seems dangerous to be around. At least one previous death (that I can recall offhand, not including DuPlessis) was attributed to a rage blackout during his drug use, but the fight with the Canadians happened when he was well sober, and yet he still seemed to go to a place where he was not in control of his rage.

I can't get away from my suspicion that Gately dies in the end, in part because his experience at the end of the novel echoes Lucien's experience of death. But also (repeating from another thread) I don't think he ever meets Hal, but that Hal's memory has (by Year of Glad) been messed with the way the wraith/JOI is messing with Gately's head--unless we buy that Gately is somehow being shown the future. Perhaps what JOI is doing to Gately (perhaps later to Hal) is similar to the effect he created with the entertainment, implanting something as if it were memory. I might be missing some important evidence against this, and I like some of the interpretations having to do with how JOI and Hal (in Year of Glad) experience time; and, as with David Lynch movies, I'm probably trying to take an easy road by seeking some literal interpretation; but it seems kind of a neat twist on how we are led to expect, by the end of the novel, that meeting between Hal and Gately.


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 Post subject: Re: Hal and Don G.
PostPosted: Sat Aug 29, 2009 3:56 am 
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audrey_oneill wrote:

1. ....
So we have a situation where both of our heroes are incommunicado, but in opposite ways and for opposite reasons (and, I hope, with opposite results).

2. .... Given the choice, I'd much rather been in a room with Gately, Prince Valiant haircut and menthol cigarettes and all, than with Hal and his smokeless tobacco. (The same does not go for D.F.W., natch.) What does everyone else think?



Regarding #1, the comparison to McGarrett and Furillo is interesting. I interpreted this section to be an illustration of Modern vs. Post-Modern literature and art. Your idea that the two protagonists may be mirroring these two is interesting. It's something I haven't thought about, but will keep in mind as I read (this is my second read).

You say they are incommunicado for opposite reasons because Gately can't speak and Hal has can't communicate as fast as he thinks. Interesting, but the idea that Hal has a big outpouring of thoughts seems to me like just one of many endings that we could come up with. I do agree a theme of the book is the inability to communicate. People talking but not communicating is littered throughout the book. I can't think of anything in the book that leads me to the conclusion Hal would end up with a mad rush of thoughts he can't get out. We can read Hal's thoughts very clearly and there don't seem to be so many that he'd fumble over them.

Also regarding #1, I understand the desire to figure out what happened to Hal and Don at the end. The thing I find so compelling about the book, however, is what happened to Hal and Don to get them to the end. To me, the life of the characters is in the book. If it's not in the book, it's not important. DFW said the book is about what it means to be a human being. I think we can trust that DFW intentionally gives us a great deal of detail about the Don and Hal's life and little detail about their ending. To me, this is DFW's way of saying "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans". The book is about life not the other plans (or end).

Regarding #2. I agree. Hal is interesting. Gately has more to talk about. Given a choice, I'd rather hang with Gately. I'd like to hang out with Ortho Stice, Mario and Joelle also. Hal would be interesting later in life. Maybe when he's past the tennis thing and working on his first novel.


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 Post subject: Re: Hal and Don G.
PostPosted: Sat Aug 29, 2009 10:22 am 
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Joined: Sun Aug 16, 2009 5:07 pm
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Hal's obsession with secrecy makes it hard for me to bond with him. Even though he is a main character, he is something of a figurant. Don G. is a scary guy, but he is also being honest and actively trying to get better. He provides a moral center for the book and completely makes it work for me. I *love* The Darkness and Mario.


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