Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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 Post subject: Erdedy and the bug
PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2009 12:37 am 
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This may have been mentioned elsewhere so far, but I think it's worth a discussion of its own: What's going on with Erdedy and the bug (p. 17-27). I have a few provisional thoughts below, but I'd like to hear what others are thinking.
______________

In no particular order:

(1) Any insistent references to bugs, generally speaking, in modern literature remind me of Kafka. This seems relevant to what has come before in IJ, b/c the theme of "inside v. outside," the "true self v. the constructed self," the "felt v. perceived self" etc. that frames all of The Metamorphosis is echoed in Hal's previous narrative. This stuff runs rampant in Erdedy's narrative, following fast on Hal's heels. There seems to be an intentional attempt to portray where someone is at as opposed to how they're perceived, and this bug plays a role in making this literal (a la Kafka). Except in IJ, the character in question considers the bug constantly, wonders at it, consciously realizes he may have something in common with it, decides against thinking too hard about what it is they have in common, etc. And as readers we are explicitly told that this is the case: in a bunch of ways, we are both asked to acknowledge how important the bug is to this particular narrative yet encouraged to shrug it off as the torrent of paranoiac prose sweeps us away (pretty effectively). Until the end of the pretty virtuoso passage, where the bug and various, unnamed "dessicated impulses" are revealed to be the focus.

(2) A friend sees the bug and its behavior as a "direct representation of addiction. It goes in, goes out, with no real purpose, but [Erdedy] doesn't want to kill it." It dominates Erdedy's sensory perception; every time he turns back to the sensory world, the bug's what he focuses on. In some sense, then, it's a representation of the "outside world," even as it mirrors back to him his "internal world."

(3) On p. 18, we find: "He sat and thought and waited in a huge uneven X of light through two different windows." This is sort of interesting as an echo of the "fingers mated into a mirrored series of what manifests, to me, as the letter X" (with "to me" so awesomely set off by commas) on the first page. Maybe something, maybe nothing. But given the weird similarity of internal/external, artifice/authenticity, and so forth between Hal and Erdedy's brief (self-told, kinda) narratives, it seems worth mentioning.

(4) The "dessicated impulses" bit is worth mentioning. Wiki has some interesting notes, particularly as they relate to insects. "Dessication," generally speaking, is a state of dryness. And things are clearly "dry" throughout this passage: it's a drug pun (i.e. nothing to be found in the area, it's "dry"), a weed pun ("dry" vs. "dank:" see the "genetically enhanced hydroponic marijuana" Erdedy scored from the previous contact ... who incidentally sprayed wet perfume all over his bed and his back, just saying), and a literal fact (the word "dryly" appears at least three times in the final bit btw pg. 23-24, along with "dessicated," but far more before then: while Erdedy's parting kiss of the previous woman had been "moist," he remembers sex after smoking weed with disgust ... the "dry mouths bumping at each other," his "self-conscious thoughts twisting on themselves like a snake on a stick while he bucked and snorted dryly above her," her mouth on his pillow "working dryly."). There's all kinds of dry stuff going on, and the bug seems to play a part: Representing these "dessicated impulses," then, on some other level? The "dryness" of addiction and otherness and being locked inside? Or of not being understood? Or of the sublimation of sexual (and other?) desire beneath the routines of self-satisfaction?

I dunno. Anyone have other thoughts?


Last edited by ludditerobot on Wed Jun 24, 2009 11:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Erdedy and the bug
PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2009 9:20 am 
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ludditerobot wrote:
(3) On p. 18, we find: "He sat and thought and waited in a huge uneven X of light through two different windows." This is sort of interesting as an echo of the "fingers mated into a mirrored series of what manifests, to me, as the letter X" (with "to me" so awesomely set off by commas) on the first page. Maybe something, maybe nothing. But given the weird similarity of internal/external, artifice/authenticity, and so forth between Hal and Erdedy's brief (self-told, kinda) narratives, it seems worth mentioning.


I am getting a bit obsessed with the X motif myself. Other possible connections... Himself's video company being named InterLace...Others in next section... Too many to mean nothing, but I'm not convinced of where this is going just yet...


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 Post subject: Re: Erdedy and the bug
PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2009 5:04 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2009 4:16 pm
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Location: North Dakota
I'm intrigued by the X stuff as well. Pynchon is one of DFW's major influences and in V. he puts the letter all over the place. DFW enjoys adding intertextual references to his works, there like inside jokes to him. I'm somewhat convinced that this is what is going on with the use of X instead of V. A mirrored V looks like an X, perhaps DFW is mirroring Pynchon. I like the Interlace pickup, go back to the scene with the three deans and read the part about the hands of the dean being laced together. I think that's part of the sierpinski gasket thing that DFW talks about modeling IJ off of. There are a lot of mutations and reappearances of topics and themes and symbols in this book. "As above, so below."

-Storm


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 Post subject: Re: Erdedy and the bug
PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 2:50 am 
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Location: minneapolis
Quote:
"As above, so below."


Well, shit: maybe we need a Pynchon v. Wallace thread. Just a thought.


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 Post subject: Re: Erdedy and the bug
PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 5:39 am 
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Location: Norwalk, CT
Am I not thinking clearly, or is it impossible for the sun to make an X through different windows? Wouldn't the sun shadows be parallel? There would have to be two sourdes of light to make an X, no?


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 Post subject: Re: Erdedy and the bug
PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 7:49 am 
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Location: Los Angeles
Hobbes wrote:
Am I not thinking clearly, or is it impossible for the sun to make an X through different windows? Wouldn't the sun shadows be parallel? There would have to be two sourdes of light to make an X, no?


There are definitely windows on two different walls - pg. 17 "When he started waiting one window was full of yellow light and cast a shadow of light across the floor and he was still sitting waiting as that shadow began to fade and was intersected by a brightening shadow from a different wall's window." Two windows at 90 degrees could make an X, as I'm picturing it in my head... and the sun moving across the sky would cause the amount of light coming in each of them to change over time, shifting from one to the other.


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 Post subject: Re: Erdedy and the bug
PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 7:57 am 
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facetioushorse wrote:
Hobbes wrote:
Am I not thinking clearly, or is it impossible for the sun to make an X through different windows? Wouldn't the sun shadows be parallel? There would have to be two sourdes of light to make an X, no?


There are definitely windows on two different walls - pg. 17 "When he started waiting one window was full of yellow light and cast a shadow of light across the floor and he was still sitting waiting as that shadow began to fade and was intersected by a brightening shadow from a different wall's window." Two windows at 90 degrees could make an X, as I'm picturing it in my head... and the sun moving across the sky would cause the amount of light coming in each of them to change over time, shifting from one to the other.


no, that's not right. Even if the windows were on two different walls, the angle of the light coming thought those windows would be the same. If it's one light source, it couldn't intersect. It has to be two light sources. right?


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 Post subject: Re: Erdedy and the bug
PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 8:08 am 
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Location: UTAH. Yes I'm from Utah. No I'm not a Mormon.
Light coming from one source goes in one direction. Think of it as a shadow's antithesis, so to speak. The only time you can have crossing shadows is when you have two sources of light. The same holds true for beams of light. Having windows on walls at 90 degrees will have the light entering at the same angle, though you are right to say it will be coming in at varying intensity. The sun is just coming up where I am and I have two windows on walls at 90 degrees and the light is coming into the room at the same angle. I think we can just chalk this up to DFW making the occasional error. I found a page discussing his math errors for example.

EDIT: deleted link to page discussing math errors. Could possibly be seen as spoiler. PM me if you want it and can't find it.


Last edited by CodyVanDer on Thu Jun 25, 2009 8:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Erdedy and the bug
PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 8:27 am 
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I think I have to agree, very begrudgingly, that this is an "error"--or as I prefer to think about it, artistic license. I was thinking maybe there were two streetlights, but later in the scene DFW describes the sun setting, so that doesn't seem logical either.

Here is another section I'm thinking about. Orin is talking about the Subject: "Not real bright--she thought the figure he'd trace without thinking on her bare flank after sex was the numeral 8, to give you an idea" (47). Is he tracing an X? If so, this seems to me the clearest suggestion that there's something to this motif... Comments?


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 Post subject: Re: Erdedy and the bug
PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 8:32 am 
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Location: UTAH. Yes I'm from Utah. No I'm not a Mormon.
I think it was referring to an infinity sign. I'm not sure how that relates, but it was the first thing I thought of. It is, after all, a sideways eight.


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