Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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 Post subject: Schtitt, Mario and U.S. of modern A. - p. 79-85
PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2009 1:27 pm 
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I think Schtitt and Mario have one of the most interesting conversations thus far in the book. For one, both are actually communicating which may be a first up to this point. In addition, Schtitt seems to be laying out a belief that in the USA individualism has gone way overboard. The "primacy of straight-line pursuing this flat and short-sighted idea of personal happiness" is a lonely, empty pursuit. That our dislike of boundries leads us to ignore the "something bigger". That the lack of boundries keeps us from developing infinite possibilities within ourselves.

Schtitt seems to understand this concept of something bigger so much so that he was capable of being smitten with a tree. He then explains the "chance to play" is basically the difference between life and death.

I find this section one of those whacks over the noggin in terms of how we often think about things here in the Good Old US of A. It reminds me of why I thought DFW was worth looking into after I read his commencement speech where he says our default setting is the world revolves around ourselves and we need to switch off from that setting.

Any thoughts on this section?


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 Post subject: Re: Schtitt, Mario and U.S. of modern A. - p. 79-85
PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2009 5:44 pm 
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Maybe tomorrow.

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 Post subject: Re: Schtitt, Mario and U.S. of modern A. - p. 79-85
PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2009 11:27 am 
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Schtitt's theory about the pursuit of happiness and how it alienates seems to be borne out in the characters Kate Gompert and Erdedy. Their addiction to "Bob" while providing a temproray high has only resulted in isolation and anxiety. Also interesting with these characters and too a certain degree Hal is the notion that the secrecy is almost more important than the high itself. It seems what they don't realize is that the maintenance of this secrecy is what isolates them from everyone else.


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 Post subject: Re: Schtitt, Mario and U.S. of modern A. - p. 79-85
PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2009 5:18 pm 
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My favorite description of Schtitt:

"Schtitt likes best of all smoke-shapes to try to blow rings, and is kind of lousy at it, blowing mostly wobbly lavender hot dogs, which Mario finds delightful."

Wobbly lavender hot dogs. Sehr witzig. Herrlich, indeed.


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 Post subject: Re: Schtitt, Mario and U.S. of modern A. - p. 79-85
PostPosted: Mon Jun 29, 2009 10:49 am 
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My poor husband is going to have more of IJ then he anticipated I think. I read him that passage yesterday which, of course, required me reading him a chunk of the paragraphs before and a chunk of the paragraphs after. It reads beautifully out loud by the way.

I'm loving the book but this section really caught me.


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 Post subject: Re: Schtitt, Mario and U.S. of modern A. - p. 79-85
PostPosted: Mon Jun 29, 2009 3:37 pm 
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Although Schtitt makes numerous points that I agree with, I don't think that his beliefs are perfect. DFW describes him as proto-fascist at one point, and his way of treating and disciplining the children in his charge seems to be overly strict. His is basically the opposite extreme: instead of solipsism and the selfish pursuit of happiness of the individual, he seems to believe in total self-sacrifice for the greater good of some larger institution. I think this could be just as dangerous, only in a different way. Pushing yourself too far for others and completely ignoring your own needs and desires is simply self-destructive.

I tend to often see fiction as portraying and criticizing two opposite extremes, and usually conclude that some kind of (implied, rarely actually described) balanced middle path would be most preferable. So take it for what you will, but that's what I'm seeing here. Neither complete self-obsession nor complete self-sacrifice is good for anyone, but something in-between might be.


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 Post subject: Re: Schtitt, Mario and U.S. of modern A. - p. 79-85
PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 6:47 am 
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I have to say that this was one of my least favorite sections so far. Especially coming on the heels of the emotionally devastating section on Kate, it felt like an academic exercise.

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 Post subject: Re: Schtitt, Mario and U.S. of modern A. - p. 79-85
PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 5:17 pm 
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HumanComplex wrote:
I have to say that this was one of my least favorite sections so far. Especially coming on the heels of the emotionally devastating section on Kate, it felt like an academic exercise.


I think this is maybe, sort of, kind of the point... I mean, as devastating and powerful (and yes kinda eerie in light of his suicide) as the K.G. section is, clearly DFW didn't want to write a whole sort of confessional-type depression-fest. The sense I get, both from articles I've read (one posthumous one in particular which I can't remember right now) and the overall nature of DFW's work is that he didn't want to dwell too deeply/exclusively on these shall we say more obvious or explicit forms of despair (I hope I'm not sounding too insensitive here). They are indeed terribly profound & powerful forms of despair and he describes them in profound & powerful ways, but he also wanted to point out that pervading, easy-to-overlook, contemporary-American-burnout despair/malaise. What I mean I guess is try not to be off-put by a haunting scene of clinical depression followed abruptly by a philosophically/academically-tinged narration on quasi-fascist German idealism, instead compare them, think of the ways in which they interact. ...?


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 Post subject: Re: Schtitt, Mario and U.S. of modern A. - p. 79-85
PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 5:49 pm 
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rasnider: The impact of the Kate section (for me) was pure and devastating in and of itself, not just for the 'eerie' aspect of DFW's suicide. I don't think a single word of IJ so far can be called a 'confessional-type depression-fest'. I've read all of his essays and can't imagine him ever falling into that realm. The Schtitt section was visually poetic, and one of the first containing some sort of actual physical movement. I enjoyed that aspect. As much as I enjoy qausi-fascist German idealism, I was just expressing the opinion that I've gleaned more meaning and enjoyment from the previous sections.

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 Post subject: Re: Schtitt, Mario and U.S. of modern A. - p. 79-85
PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 7:26 pm 
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HumanComplex wrote:
rasnider: The impact of the Kate section (for me) was pure and devastating in and of itself, not just for the 'eerie' aspect of DFW's suicide. I don't think a single word of IJ so far can be called a 'confessional-type depression-fest'. I've read all of his essays and can't imagine him ever falling into that realm. The Schtitt section was visually poetic, and one of the first containing some sort of actual physical movement. I enjoyed that aspect. As much as I enjoy qausi-fascist German idealism, I was just expressing the opinion that I've gleaned more meaning and enjoyment from the previous sections.



Oh yeah, sure, I wasn't trying to imply IJ (or anything else by DFW) went into the "c.-type d.-fest" realm, or that you were claiming it went there; call it a bit of hyperbole at what can and does too often happen with any remotely powerful work set in a psychiatric hospital environment et alia (which is one of the reason why I like Wallace's work so much, it eschews those totally conventional, blase possibilities).
I also wasn't trying to imply you were pushing the "eerie" aspect, it's just something that's been mentioned elsewhere and, as I said, yeah is kind of eerie/sad/interesting but I'm in that camp that thinks undue weight shouldn't be put on it.

Anyway, I guess I was speaking from the other POV, I sort of preferred the Schtitt scene. But now I'm just thinking about how the two relate, and how the book's scenes relate in general--DFW (and to be fair I'm sure editor Michael Pietsch as well) certainly had some wild, crazy, and deep things going on with the overall structure and scene juxtaposition. That total fragmented (or, I've heard, fractal) nature of the book just begs to have the shards examined side-by-side.
I should note that this is just sort of me rambling on, having not read any of the critical guides, being rusty on my narratological German Idealist-inspired literary theory, and sort of breezing along more-or-less the surface of the text most of the time (see http://infinitesummer.org/archives/498/ ... omment-763).


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