Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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The Inficratic Oath: first, post no spoilers. Limit your I.J. discussion to only those events that take place on or before the page 981 (100%).



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 Post subject: First Orin section
PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 1:11 pm 
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Location: Los Angeles
Now that we are up to page 52, we can talk about our first significant introduction to Orin, Hal's older brother. I believe this section begins on page 42. (I'm at work on lunch hour and don't have the book with me.)

He lives in Tucson, plays in the NFL, and has a lot of problems with bugs - is this starting to be a theme in the book? We've already had one section that included discussion of an insect, in the Erdedy section.

I will post more thoughts later (I'm curious about the bird falling from the sky, for instance), but wanted to get a discussion started on the character of Orin.


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 Post subject: Re: First Orin section
PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 8:33 pm 
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Location: North Dakota
Orin plays for the Cardinals. The bird mascot and bird falling from the sky are images too similar for us to think DFW didn't mean something by them. Orin's name sounds suspiciously like "a wren" which is the type of bird Orin thinks fell. If the bird is indeed an omen as Orin wonders, then we have to speculate (if for no other reason than the fun of it) as to what the bird falling might be related to. We know that Orin is being pressured to do an interview for Moment Magazine that he does not want to do. Could the bird be linked to this? If not, what else could it relate to? No, we don't know much about Orin yet, but it's worth thinking about.


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 Post subject: Re: First Orin section
PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2009 12:31 am 
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pg. 44: the bird. This image is diametrically opposite to that of the phoenix, I think, involving water as opposed to a phoenix's fire, and death as opposed to resurrection. Because of the roiling water of the Jacuzzi, there is an illusion that the bird is still alive, a kind of life-in-death. The dead bird still makes flying motions, propelled by forces around it to keep it going under the water, disappearing and reappearing in a kind of endless circle, a sham of flight. This recalls the notion of the "recursive loop" (p. 34). It is the most bleak image in the book so far for me. Especially with the idea of the vulnerability of a small, delicate bird like a wren, and its small, delicate heart giving out and/or it's drowning. The fact that this is happening in Phoenix is not what first suggested this interpretation actually; I suppose that could support it as well though.

In this environment, a wren, an appealing animal--one could even say beautiful animal--dies, but roaches and rats,"loathsome high-altitude critters of all kinds," (p. 44) and malevolent "spiny or meaty" plants all thrive. The tough ones. The ugly ones. Orin has the toughness of a professional jock but I think that inside he is more like the vulnerable wren.

Orin wakes some days with "--the soul's certainty that the day will have to be not traversed but sort of climbed, vertically" (p. 46), and that he falls down at the end of it all only to have to do the same thing all over again the next day and the next, like the myth of Sisyphus: the ceaseless rolling of a rock to the top of a mountain and having it fall back of it's own weight, repeating the process endlessly. This is a spot-on description of mental depression, the day-in, day-out struggle of it, and another kind of recursive loop, and in its own way is a "desiccated circle" (p. 46) as well. He doesn't go forward-"traverse"-he just goes over and over the same ground.

Curiously, Orin is said to have had an "unhappy youth," despite coming from a privileged background. (The town he comes from, Weston, is in real life one of the wealthiest in Massachusetts, if that means anything.) He went to a private school, and comes from a brilliant, rather accomplished, interesting family from what we know so far. Freud could have a field day with the dreams that he has of wearing his mother's head as an "overtight" helmet, with the idea of the violence of amputation and what that implies. And although he is in the NFL, a life a lot of people dream about, he is anxious--often wakes up soaked in sweat, in a fetal position--and in some emotional pain, and doesn't seem to be that fulfilled by his career. The environment he lives in is described in negative terms that make it seem like a kind of hell, from roaches in the trees to spinning schizophrenics. The sun is, in fact, so hot that it is "like a sneaky keyhole view of hell" (p. 43). And everything is ugly, even his last subject was only "sallowly pretty".

He also can't connect with the women that he sleeps with and refers to each of them with the cold, clinical term, "the Subject. He, like Erdedy, changes his phone number to keep ex-partners from calling him, although Erdedy's reasons are not quite the same.

I'll be interested to see if there an explicit explanation for his personality in further discussion of his childhood, and whether it was any different than Hal's or Mario's.

I see that he doesn't seem to use any drugs or alcohol to escape, at least not yet, although there is quite enough to want to escape from.


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 Post subject: Re: First Orin section
PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2009 2:36 am 
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Location: Fresyes, CA
Great thing about the wren and the water vs the phoenix and the fire. It made me think of the asphyxiating cockroaches, and then the flying cockroaches that gave Orin the screaming heebies. All these ancient weirdo animals who've survived extinction, or are omens of life or death.

Just as an aside, I really loved the description of the Phoenix heat. I live near Fresno, CA, and that passage sums up all the oppressive grit and death that living here makes me feel. Well, maybe "I loved it" isn't the right phrase, but it rang true.


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 Post subject: Re: First Orin section
PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2009 8:08 am 
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Line that grabbed me...

The sun like a sneaky keyhole view of hell.


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 Post subject: Re: First Orin section
PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2009 1:29 pm 
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I really love this section, especially the image of the roaches asphyxiating in the tumblers. I also can't help but think of the myth of Sisyphus and associate that with Orin and his description of each day, which makes me wonder if there will be other things to link the two...


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 Post subject: Re: First Orin section
PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2009 7:24 pm 
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I have some concern, mainly for my own intelligence, about something on p. 47: "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."

Aah... I tried and tried to get the idea he tried to give me there. I mean, it could have been an infinity sign, but mistaking that for an 8 would not qualify her as dim. Am I missing something obvious, or did DFW set this up under the guise of an inside joke, knowing perfectly well that it was inscrutable? Anyone have thoughts on this?


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 Post subject: Re: First Orin section
PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2009 8:16 pm 
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Some very interesting ideas here!

OneBigParty, you touch on a lot of great issues, especially about the contrast of the dying bird and the phonix.

I think along with storm, I agree that the bad omen of the dead wren falling is probably the most telling part of this section. Given the similarity of the names, Orin and wren, and his playing for the Cardinals. I can't give away any spoilers, but on page 65 (so close), we get to the second Orin section, and it's very striking how soon the bird imagery comes up. Perhaps we can add to this discussion over the weekend...

My favorite line of this section, pg. 43: "Home with the team, no matter how high the AC or how thin the sheet, Orin wakes with his own impression sweated darkly into the bed beneath him, slowly drying all day to a white salty outline just slightly off from the week's other faint dried outlines, so his fetal-shaped fossilized image is fanned out across his side of the bed like a deck of cards, just overlapping, like an acid trail or timed exposure." I'm so in love with DFW's descriptions.

General observations:

- It's not only that he can't connect with women (don't know about men yet), it's that he actively likes being alone, it seems, when he's at home. So we seem to see another character isolated (like Hal is during the opening scene), but in a different way and perhaps more by choice?

- I think the fact that he's unhappy, and says he had an unhappy childhood is probably related to his family. Perhaps this is DFW commenting on modern society's hunger for material and social wealth, while away from what is externally visible, families may be quite unhealthy. That despite wealth and privilege and private schooling, your family can still be fucked up. James and Avril seem to be a little weird. We don't know much about Avril yet, aside from her "black phobic dread of hiding or secrecy in all possible forms with respect to her sons", page 51, and that she has apparently had many affair with medical attaches (Conversationalist section). Based on his filmography, James/Himself appears to have had hospitalizations and mental breakdowns before his death, which does occur when his kids are relatively young. The kids are also attending the school that is run by their parents (and uncle), which means they are in close proximity all the time. So problems that James and Avril have probably have a large effect on the three boys as they've grown up.


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 Post subject: Re: First Orin section
PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2009 5:25 pm 
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Anyone want to get a riff going on Orin's fear of heights and descent from heights? I wonder if Orin is also afraid of airplane flight. He is definitely afraid of telling anybody he is afraid of heights.


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 Post subject: Re: First Orin section
PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2009 2:11 pm 
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Libbey, I didn't really get that part either about tracing a figure 8. I think your idea that it's actually an infinity symbol is a good one, though.

It is interesting that Orin doesn't appear to use drugs or alcohol.


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