Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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 Post subject: Have you finished yet? Because I have and I need to chat!
PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2009 11:56 am 
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Please email me if you have finished and can tell me what you believe happens at the end, with Don. And with everything, really. Because I am a very practiced reader and I am very confused!
Thanks!
Spoiler! ""


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 Post subject: Re: Have you finished yet? Because I have and I need to chat!
PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2009 3:28 pm 
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I'm just going to post my opinion on the matter here, in spoiler tags.

Spoiler! "I don't have the book in front of me and I don't remember the names of a lot of people in this section, so yeah.

So, the way I see it is that the entire last part of the novel - including the infamous final line - is a flashback. Don doesn't die - him waking up on the shore was a result of being drugged by the crazy guys. The book basically ends right before the "climax" of the novel.

Some people think Don dies in the middle of the flashback, and him "waking up on the shore" is him, well, dying, but I disagree - in the Year of Glad section that opens the novel, Hal refers to digging up his father's head with Don Gately - since this section happens after the rest of the book, and Hal and Don haven't met yet, it's pretty obvious to me that Don gets out of the hospital alright."


That's just my interpretation, though - everyone has an opinion on the matter.


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 Post subject: Re: Have you finished yet? Because I have and I need to chat!
PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2009 7:37 pm 
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I've also finished and have started on my second go-round.

Spoiler! "The ending to me was a big question mark, but I agree that Don must have made it because he is there with Hal (and John Wayne) digging up his father's head, mentioned at the beginning. I'm up to the first mention of the Marathe/Steeply meeting on my second reading and I am amazed at the detail I missed the first time. The big question to me is also 'what happened to Hal?' but there is also so much depth to the book it is just as fascinating this time. One thing I have picked up on is the predominance of the Quebec influence in the Incandenza family which makes we wonder about Avril's allegiance. Also John Wayne may be a somewhat sinister character. As for Hal's comment at the start 'call it something I ate'....you know, he does consume a lot of smokeless tobacco throughout the book, could this have been somehow tainted?"


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 Post subject: Re: Have you finished yet? Because I have and I need to chat!
PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2009 7:48 pm 
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Also remember earlier in the book, We grusomely see Bobby C die because of some poisoned drug. I had to go back to that section to remember that. But, yeah I felt confused after finishing it as well. I do want to re-read it again. But it will be at a snail's pace just to get as much as I can. I now understand why people read this book so many times! David Foster Wallace had created something to engage the reader in a dialogue! Thanks!


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 Post subject: Re: Have you finished yet? Because I have and I need to chat!
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 8:09 am 
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I don't think you really need spoiler tags in this forum, especially in a topic such as this.

I do agree with therum on his/her interpretation of what happens to Don Gately.

Quote:
As for Hal's comment at the start 'call it something I ate'....you know, he does consume a lot of smokeless tobacco throughout the book, could this have been somehow tainted?


I took this as a reference to either the mold he ate when he was younger (told via O's flashbacks), him getting dosed with DMZ, or both. The potential dosing could have come via his toothbrush, but I'm not sure if you could refer to this as "eating".


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 Post subject: Re: Have you finished yet? Because I have and I need to chat!
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 12:00 pm 
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So, after reading numerous posts about "what happened to Hal?", I have decided that part of the point is that there are so many possible answers to this question! It could have been the DMZ, it could have been the withdrawal, it could have been the entertainment. I think the point is that this society is full of things that can paralyze, demotivate, infantilize, that who knows! Perhaps "they" succeeded in stopping the dissemination of the entertainment, and yet Hal has found something else that has essentially crippled him. I keep thinking of the DeLint statement to Steeply, about Schtitt's philosophy- to get the players so immersed in Tennis before they realize that it's just as empty as everything else; to essentially inculcate them into something bigger than themselves before they come to the realization that life is really pretty empty and meaningless. It's to prepare them for the show, yes, but also to kind of build up their defenses so they don't become Don Gately. He's like the Hal who went wrong, you know? He was okay at correcting his situational trauma as long as he had Football, and the promise it brought of being in something bigger than himself. Once that was gone, what else did he have but a history of addiction and a childhood of neglect?
Even Himself in his 3 iterations of himself (math/science, Administrator/educator, filmmaker )was trying to find a way to be a success that could "complete" him. And once he reached the pinnacle of each field, he had to move on, to find something else to be a part of. And perhaps once he made the final, fatal, entertainment, he, as I think Mario speculated had finally been the best at, he couldn't remain sober any longer without having another thing to immerse himself in. Whew!
So what Happened to Hal? He didn't care enough about anything to stave off the (get ready for the Hamlet tie-in!) slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and by opposing, end them.


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 Post subject: Re: Have you finished yet? Because I have and I need to chat!
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 8:42 am 
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I finally finished last night (and celebrated by going to WhataBurger). Here are a few thoughts and questions. I've read most of the posts in this forum so I'll try not to repeat too many discussions from other threads.

1. This book is way too damn short.

2. Somewhere in pp. 600-700 I became convinced that Hal watches the Entertainment, but I don't think that anymore. Enough people make comments about his inappropriate facial expressions and demeanor in the last couple hundred pages that I think his disconnection had been happening before any theoretical Entertainment viewing. I don't think it's the mold eating either--can mold really survive for 15 years on stomach acid?

3. What is the significance of Hal's story suddenly switching to the first person for the first time (well, chronologically) on page 851? Surely that has some meaning. Regardless of the reason why, I thought it definitely kicked the momentum of the book into overdrive.

4. This line "I think of John N.R. Wayne, who would have won this year's WhataBurger, standing watch in a mask as Donald Gately and I dig up my father's head" makes total sense now. It seems to indicate that Wayne was a spy, but why was he in a mask? DFW usually modifies the hell out of nouns, but not here. Was it a gas or surgical mask to block out the grave smell? Was he disfigured? Was he hiding his identity from Gately? Plus, it's awesome that his middle initials are presented as N.R. long before we find out they stand for No Relation.

5. What happened when the AFR showed up at ETA in place of the Quebec tennis amateurs? Is this hinted at anywhere in the book?

6. I think it's hilarious that Rush Limbaugh gets elected president and is then assassinated. This probably makes me a bad person.

Thats enough for now, I guess.


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 Post subject: Re: Have you finished yet? Because I have and I need to chat!
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 9:28 pm 
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re: Wayne -- I got the sense he was standing guard, not just watching. Perhaps he didn't win the YOG Whataburger because he's full-time in the Quebec insurgency now? Of course, that interpretation would suggest that the Quebec'ers got possession of whatever (presumably the Entertainment master) Hal & Gately recovered from the grave, and there's no evidence that it was used as had been threatened -- but of course that could be due to Maranthe's defection...

as for what happened to Hal, jeez, there's a lot to digest. a few thoughts:

1. From the Gately-Wayne-Hal gravedigging scene, it would appear that Hal was still coherent (or, perhaps more specific, able to communicate) for some weeks after 11/20 YDAU. Although his first ER visit must have happened around this time (he says it was almost exactly a year ago at the time of the YOG Whataburger), he had to be able to communicate well enough to meet Gately, and it seems unlikely that Mr shot-in-the-shoulder would be in any shape to be digging right after the events on mid-Nov YADU.

2. If (1) is true, the crisis-panic attacks-WD symptoms-whatever described towards the end of the book must not have been the only thing that happened to Hal to make him unable to communicate with others (unless, of course, he was semi-OK for awhile and things went downhill from there). That suggests to me that there was another trigger, with DMZ being the most obvious possibility. He might have decided to try the DMZ once the 30-day window had passed, assuming Pemulis recovered it, and assuming he bought into Pemulis' reasoning about the benefits of shocking the old system.

3. I get the feeling that Hal, for whatever reason, has gone through some sort of wraithing process/change. Like the JOI wraith that Gately encountered, Hal comes to have problems communicating in any fashion with "normal" people - whether by word, writing, or even gesture (see e.g. pp. 8, 12, 14). Perhaps he would be able to connect with the AZ admissions deans if they were in post-surgical dream/coma states, who knows? Maybe the strange noises he makes are normal speech incredibly speeded up? The wraith says he exists on a different time-dimension, and similar time distortion effects are supposedly caused by DMZ (think of the guy who said it was like a Futurist painting -- like the famous painting the Woman Descending the Stairs, which is like a series of overlapping movie stills. Other time-distortion references come up in the book a LOT, e.g. 14 ("like a time lapse, a flutter of some awful... growth"), 43 - describing O's sweat outlines VERY much like the Futurist painting just referenced -- etc). Incidentally, this time-distortion effect of DMZ could, conceivably, explain the entire narrative structure of IJ itself -- as if Hal's time-sense has been so fractured that the reader experiences events in a non-linear fashion. just a thought. Also, what is the significance of the younger wraith that appears to Gately in athletic clothing? Is that Hal's spirit, or maybe Clipperton?


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 Post subject: Re: Have you finished yet? Because I have and I need to chat!
PostPosted: Sat Aug 01, 2009 7:38 am 
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jededalus wrote:

5. What happened when the AFR showed up at ETA in place of the Quebec tennis amateurs? Is this hinted at anywhere in the book?



The thing that I'm scratching my head over is whether or not the ETA invasion by the AFR really happened. Two reasons, one, the AFR wanted to overtake the Quebec tennis team bus (with the mirror in the road trick), but they flew in by plane supposedly. Second, the plan was to invade ETA, but because of the weather, the tennis matches were moved offsite. So the AFR was wrong about the location and means of transport in infiltrate the tennis match. Of course, if that plan failed, I imagine that the AFR wouldn't have given up, but still...

We only assume that Hal and Don's trip up to the Convexity to dig up Himself's head was forced by the AFR because John (NR) Wayne is mentioned as standing guard. But what if John, Avril, and the Quebecois prorector (forgot her name)- those that have been assumed to be collaborating with the AFR, are actually double-double (or even double-double-double-double!!!) agents?


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 Post subject: Re: Have you finished yet? Because I have and I need to chat!
PostPosted: Sun Aug 02, 2009 7:50 pm 
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Perhaps this was obvious to everyone else and it is only me that, now re-reading for the (mumble) time failed to see this pattern, but misterAyed's comment about Hal as "wraithing" like his father, made me realize that the problems with expression actually go back two generations if Jim's dad's troubled relationship with method actors, whose great gift seemed to be their ability to be naturally expressive. Hal's grandad ends up as the Glad spokeman and Hal ends up expression-challenged in the year of Glad. Is there any other possible evidence that Hal's problems have roots not just in his parents but in his grandparents?


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