Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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 Post subject: Parting shots
PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2009 1:55 am 

Joined: Wed Jul 15, 2009 9:16 am
Posts: 19
I'd like to have as much support as possible on this one: we are all called upon to offer parting shots between now and the suspended ending of Infinite Summer! Neither concluding comments, or gooey confessions or manifestations of love (on the order of: IJ changed my life!), it seems to me that it's Lucien Antitoi who should be allowed to take pride of place: parting shots, 10 percent or maybe even 20 percent, as magnificent as his own.

I just go up to go and fetch my copious notes, then said to myself: no, have a fling: fly it alone, be like the Red Barron! So OK. Here goes.
My first parting shot concerns, inside the confines of this infinite summer (not yet exactly infinite), the stupendous and horrific central role of JOI. Most of the participants in this summer's frolics have preferred to remain mute on this one. (Remind you of anyone?) And yet, how can anyone not see, on this map of human experience, before, during and after the eschatological games, a single predication of poor James Joyce, stranded in the majestic failure of Finnegans Wake, setting out, once and for all, that "paternity is a legal fiction."? How can we deny to JOI the status of a legal fiction, a controlling status, one above and beyond anything most of us have preferred to piddle with throughout the summer, leaving him to his sovereign role in absolute indifference? How not to see "chapter 27" as a disappointing, but absolutely sovereign, indication of the narrative dynamics of the whole novel. (I'm thinking here of the amazing thesis --only 25 pages, which will take years before being able to be digested, at least by someone of my metabolistic limits.) Why is it that, when Mitch McConnell reads this thesis, he is led to begin the novel all over again. Answer (I accept entire responsiblity for this answer), because the novel, in that reading, becomes centered, organized, and teleogically burnt, around the amazing activities of the father among sons who are content with imagining that he is dead and gone. A goner. Infinite Jest available to sons with suchd a faulty imagination! I'll be back to this theme before the end of the summer.
For the moment, I'd like to simply state how interestering it has been to read all of this -- at least ever bit as interesting as IJ itself. More often than not, I've simply chosen to block it all out (as no doubt we all do with IJ itself), rather than be flooded with so many different takes on so many different subjects. The miracle for me is that all of this be retained on teritary retentions. This is a big deal. The way our memories are supplemented by technology, and the question of the date when authors began to take this into account.
I still have a few parting shots to offer, either with a deadly tip or a suction cup, or with no aim at all. I'll be back soon, but for the moment, I would like once again to point out how feeble Joyce seems, with his imitation of fatherly omnipotence (paring his fingernails) compared to the quiet modest work of someone hatching between Hal and his father in an epochal evocation of what a fiction of paternity can look like for a generation of sons and daugters weened on paricide.

 Post subject: Re: Parting shots
PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 1:47 am 

Joined: Wed Jul 15, 2009 9:16 am
Posts: 19
Another parting shot:

We're all doing parting shots now, as the end of IS looms ever larger on our busy, Joe Briefcase lives. The talk of our town sounds like anticipation - another book, another big book, have you decided yet, but above all, reassure us, gentils organisateurs, there IS going to be another IS now isn't there! Say it's so, Joe!

The parting shots, for the moment, overshadow all this talk of preparting the future. The best is now, at the near-end. Like the life of domestic cats, or dogs: they never give more satisfaction than in the twilight of their lives. All sorts of people are revealing more about themselves, their feelings, options, point of view, than at any other time this summer. (Jeffrey Paris and Infinite Detox perhaps more than anyone else. The latter is "pissed off" at the way the novel winds up. And Jeffrey Paris is prepared to climb into the grave with Jacques Derrida rather than to confront a guiding paternal perspective on the entire novel.) This is the time of parting shots: shots to the heart, to the spleen, shots like messages in bottles sent out to sea.

IS has been an opportunity for me to see and feel what a lousy writer I am -- how far off the mark I seem to insist on remaining, despite having a fairly firm grasp on what I would like to say; This case can certainly be generalized. It will have been, for many of us, an opportunity for more or less brief encounters with what in schools at every level in Europe and America call composition and techniques of expression (and not only lit classeswhich now have become a secondary auxiliary concern, like chess or sewing). Many of us have fallen off the edge of the support-surface of the novel, prefering to branch out and speculate in the far corners of the Western cultural canon. Others have silenced the disturbing voices hissing and laughing during each exercise of composition and effective expression by playing the sleuth, tracking traces and waiting confidently to be the first to reavel the truth on the far side of the ever-advancing spoiler-line.

There is a lot of garbage and waste to be disposed of on this site. The marvel is that, as Gately says, nothing will be excluded. Everyone's drippings and droppings will remain for an eternity. Many of us, after a period of gestation in the necessity of oblivion, will no longer give the matter a second thought. It was fun. It was one of the cool things to do in the summer of 2009. Now we pass on to bigger, or at least different things.

Many, however, will remember the experience of reading AND writing. After all, the conjunction AND started to wobble when we all left school. A lot of professions require a little reading, but few demand that we know how to write what we have read. It's good, however painful, to renew with this wobbling, and to find oneself once again in an implicit, unspoken pecking order somewhere between the gifted and well-honed wordsmiths and the hopelessly challenged types pursued by silence. I believe this is the mystery in the manner in which IS was designed. It has given one and all the rare privilege of finding ourselves back in school, but without teachers, and without grades. Just you and me and the rest of us, with common references (except when some of the guys and galls go off on cultured tangents.) That was, is, really cool, although I, for one, immediately re-instated a teacher or guide to help me out when the going got tought -- Chris Hager. I've got two more parting shots to write w/r/t his thesis, and his style. Messages in bottles hurled without a broomstick or arrow out over the Atlantic.

 Post subject: Re: Parting shots
PostPosted: Sun Sep 13, 2009 7:28 pm 

Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2009 5:29 pm
Posts: 10
The last thing that’s on my mind about IJ is the psychedelics – DMZ. Why DMZ and not the real DMT?

For a book (partly) about addiction, it is interesting that Wallace avoided any discussion of the anti-addiction work of Humphrey Osmond (for one) based on psychedelic (LSD) therapy.

From Wikipedia:

“Osmond is also known for a study in the late 1950s in which he attempted to cure alcoholics with LSD, claiming a fifty percent success rate.[3] One of his patients was reported to be Bill W., co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.”


“Bill had several experiments with LSD up to 1959 (perhaps into the early 1960’s). The book “Pass It On” (PIO 368-377) reports the full LSD story and notes that there were repercussions within AA over these activities.” ... ession.htm

Last night I happened to finish “No One Here Gets Out Alive” (Jim Morrison bio) and Laura Huxley’s “This Timeless Moment” at the same time, and then looked at the two books, one on top of the other, and realized that Morrison had named the band after Aldous Huxley’s Doors of Perception.

I got to talking with my wife about Morrison, and she mentioned something about his later years and his use of acid. Now, it is clear that psychedelics can be abused, but in Morrison’s case, by the end, he was a drunk, plain and simple. He stopped using acid and smoking weed because, among other things, they made him paranoid.

Terrence McKenna talked about anti-addiction psychedelic therapy and pointed out that psychedelics are not a “cure” in the sense that no “substance” is a cure for addiction, but that what psychedelic therapy could do was to allow an addict (whose life is unmanageable because of their addiction) to look at themselves and see clearly what they are doing to themselves and their loved ones.

Reading the Eschaton section this time (I skipped it on my second time through), what I got from it was the older advisory ETAs’ refusal/inability to help the youngsters learn to be mature.

It’s a thankless job in our society, but the Hopis have a kachina spirit dedicated to this job – translated into English as the “Ogre” kachina. (

The ogre comes out at certain dance ceremonies and scares the living bejesus out of little kids who don’t mind their parents. This is a very respected and important role to the Hopis and I think that the Eschaton section is pointing out the lack of this in our culture.

The beats and the hippies of the post-war period were often concerned with simply overthrowing the existing power structure – what the French call “epater le bourgeoisie,” or shock value, and the life and career of Morrison is clearly in this vein. After this is done, though, a new foundation must be laid – a society can’t function otherwise.

As Ghengis Khan was told – “You can conquer an empire on horseback, but you cannot rule an empire from horseback.”

In the end, the main thing I took away from IJ is the hardcore emotional determination of Don Gately – the big, indestructible moron – to be a good person as best as he knows how…

 Post subject: Re: Parting shots: a penultimate parting shot
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 12:55 am 

Joined: Wed Jul 15, 2009 9:16 am
Posts: 19
The following passage is central to Chris Hager's demonstration of the centered focus of IJ. Centered focus means, for Hager, focus on the father. (something remote from each and every parricide) It's an opportunity for Hager to express his liking for Lucien Antitoi, and to go overboard with the parabola thing until the author points out the necessity of limits. With or without these corrections, the idea is that Lucien's "dying passage from muteness into speech offers the purest reflection of Hal's unspoken transformation." Later on, in what must be the world's shortest thesis, Hager brings Gately into play with respect to this centeredness. Please read Mitch Calderwood's reflections and references here, while waiting for an English translation of Stiegler's "Taking Care." The translation has been delayed, because the translator's son has failed to occur and commited suicide.) In the meantime, his concern is to avoid thematics, to avoid plunging his pen/penis where it does not belong. (Perhaps one could say: avoiding X-ing, or, as French youth say it: serrer une fille (closing in and tightening the moving parts) If he had wanted to thematise this thing of Hal's muteness or aphonia (which Infinite Tasks has just done quite convincingly) then he could have, as Hager writes, quoting a queer little passage on page 718, do what that personnage did: "shoot a suction-cup arrow at the side of a For Lease building and gthen go up and draw a miniature chalk circle on the brick around the arrow, and then another circle around that circle, etc." (page 718 of IJ)

This is a parting shot, because no one will pay much attention to it: a kind of shot in the dark on authorial intentions, their fallacies and their necessities. I missed this passage the first time around, and posted on Talmud-Torah with this in mind: reading IJ is starting a becoming-exegete, a religious relation to the text. Most people move out of there fast. I belong with the slow and stodgy, remembering the strange joys of the things we recited in Latin at the beginning of Masses.
It's a toy arrow, and the shaft is probably not made of wood, like the broomstick on which Antitoi was wafted through the air back home. (a new thread for a post IS exchange: not Lucien and Wittgenstein, not immediately at least, but Lucien and Deleuze, the Deleuze who could be so enthusiastic about Malamud and the witch's stick.)
It's an arrow, not a dart. Accidents happen with darts. And the whole thing is rather vain, like the objays darts at the funny farm, although one of them shows a marked preference for the tree, rather than for her plastic cup.

"Westward" can be said to be all about archery, about the highest ambition and unflagging intention being to aim at the heart of the reader. Here is a question: does IJ constute a decision on the part of the author to retire his archery equipment and to start doing something else, something disarming for being disarmed? Is there a possibility of a thematics (sic) of seeking a demilitarized thinking in IJ? Isn't that what is flawed, for example, in Sartre's great project to say everything about Flaubert and his time, aiming at Flaubert, aiming smooth little stones at Flaubert and his life and watching the concentric circles form around each hit? The idea of coordinating three or four plots into one, leaving holes all over the place in the gasket, is this simply so as to be the greatest author in all the world? Can being more convoluted than in a direct aim have something to do with non-violence and with gentleness? (On these questions, I refer you to Sam Weber's great book, Targets of Opportunity, On the Militarization of Thinking especially the last two chapters.

It's time to Quote hager on this parting shot. It's a little long, but there is a poor but (always) interesting penis, seduced from its usual destination, like an arrow that veers of course, and this should provide enough motivation to make it through the longish excerpt:

"Although the target drawn round the arrow initially appears either dishonest, superfluous, or downright strange, it nonetheless symbolizes the difference between precise representatiion and speculative circumscription, as modes of literary creation. ... Wallace does not plunge his language into anything, nor shoot his authorial arrow into any target; that is, dares not bring language's immanent and imminent corruptions and shortcomings to bear on the fundament of silence on which Hal's transformation is based. It is such a restraint from violation [and rape] that is incumbent upon writers in a post death-of-the-author,post-feminist milieu, to keep the author's pen, ... a penis, out of the space which is [that] of a woman ... the O is not a lack, not empty, as long as no one tries to fill it, that it is not the target for men's, and author's arrows, but is, rather, always already filled ... it is the silent space anterior to language because its relationship to language is maternal: the womb from which language grows and to which it can have no success in returning."

I suspect there are people who will LOL at such language. One wonders, on a first reading, what is to be done with the poor Penis. Retire it? Cut it off? (There has been speculation here at IS on JOI's castration.) Apologize for it? Or begin making it wait for its satisfaction? Submit it to something like what B. Kiddo undergoes during her initiation with the long white bearded Japanese master of arms and of cuisine? Whatever one thinks about this question, it appears to me central to the entire project. I would suggest taking this passage, and its environs, seriously. (Irony is helpful: here, in a passage totally devoid of irony, I have just come off as someone saying: please take the penis seriously! And I mean what I say!)

The question for me is now: what are DFW's investments in cross-over material, in the idea and the phenomenon of crossovers. How far can we go with the hunch that he has always wanted, always intended, and has always failed to cross over to a feminine viewpoint, or perhaps to jump off the edge to a place no longer colored by sexually inflected viewpoints? Perhaps these are all obvious questions. People who have read the Wallacian corpus know all about how serious he was and stayed about crossing over to feminine points of view. (His piece on "Wittgenstein's Mistress" is uncanny to read this summer.)

Spoiler here. Before going to a dictionary, see how much you know about crossing over. Check and see, before checking, to what extent your understanding of these terms is politically and metaphysically weighted. I challenge you 1) to get the spelling of cross-over correct, either as a single word, a hyphenated one, or two separate worlds, and 2) to come up with a workable definition before (here's the spoiler line) recurring to the dictionary. Then two or three of us, in total misunderstanding of each other's POV, will be able to pursue this final thread out to its ultimate signification!

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