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: Re: "Wardine be cry."
PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2009 10:01 am 
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Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 9:50 pm
Posts: 71
Actually, we do not know that the manner of Clenette's speech/writing is not her own intentional affectation.


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 Post subject: Re: "Wardine be cry."
PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2009 10:53 am 
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Posts: 9
wheat wrote:
There are going to be things--and, if your reading tastes tend toward the 19th century at all, especially things with respect to race--that will bother you when reading any text. You have to trust the author if you're going to make it through any challenging novel. And you have to be willing, especially in an overtly experimental novel, to put up with some experiments that just don't work. That's the nature of experiment--a lot of them fail.


So topical to a DFW novel, which is often painfully cognizant of the reader's hesitation to trust it. IJ knows that it ultimately has to earn, or justify, our trust, but in the meantime it nearly begs us to take a leap of faith and give it the benefit of the doubt. The opening sections concerning Hal's interview at the U. of Arizona are, among many other things, an introductory statement along these lines. "I am in here" is the phrase we keep coming back to, and seems to me to contain the understood imperative: ("Trust me.")

Knowing what we know about DFW—at least, if we take for granted that the obituaries of him in the New Yorker and Rolling Stone paint a more or less accurate (if ultimately simplified) picture—can you imagine the sort of terror he must have felt while writing the Wardine section? How deeply he must have feared it being received with indignation and outrage? Say what you will about the passage being racist or clueless or whatever, but consider how profoundly he's exposing himself here, how openly he's made himself for accusations of fraudulence. Clearly, Wallace didn't speak this way, nor did he belong to any ethnic category that might conceivably speak this way except in parody or some similar contrivance.

Do you think he didn't know this?

David Foster Wallace was terrified of being exposed as a fraud. It was one of the loudest and most persistent voices in his head, the little demon that says, you aren't good enough. You don't belong to this conversation. You cannot stand up to the Canon. The Wardine section is one of the novel's weakest points, sure—an island of soft, pinkish flesh in a sea of carapace. You can look at it as an oversight on the author's part, an excuse to doubt the author and dissolve whatever tenuous bond of trust he's managed to cultivate so early; you can look at it as an emergency exit, like the kind that present themselves intermittently along the boarding queue for thrill rides and rollercoasters. Or you could look at it as a challenge, a bullseye tattoo, an invitation: "Here is a weak spot. Bring it on." Or you could look at it as a point of entry, a conduit through which you and the "I" imprisoned in the novel's heart become acquainted. Become friends.

I think all of these are valid responses, but for myself, friendship is the most suitable approach I can take to reading a novel like this—no riddle to be solved, no summit to be reached. Just continual and progressively deeper co-involvement without predesignated end. And how are friendships made? In the disclosure of vulnerabilities, in the admittance of flaws, in the dredging of the artifacts of our shame. So the issue of "Is the Wardine section racist? Is David Foster Wallace racist?" strikes me as disingenuous. Yes, it is racist. Yes, he is racist. So am I, so are my liberal, cosmopolitan friends, and I'm willing to wager that, if you dig deep enough, you're racist too. So why treat it as a chasm, a demarcating line that separates you from the author? Why not treat it as a mutual failing, a common ground on which to stand, and love?


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 Post subject: Re: "Wardine be cry."
PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2009 3:12 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2009 5:58 pm
Posts: 14
TripleMcSlice wrote:
wheat wrote:
There are going to be things--and, if your reading tastes tend toward the 19th century at all, especially things with respect to race--that will bother you when reading any text. You have to trust the author if you're going to make it through any challenging novel. And you have to be willing, especially in an overtly experimental novel, to put up with some experiments that just don't work. That's the nature of experiment--a lot of them fail.


So topical to a DFW novel, which is often painfully cognizant of the reader's hesitation to trust it. IJ knows that it ultimately has to earn, or justify, our trust, but in the meantime it nearly begs us to take a leap of faith and give it the benefit of the doubt. The opening sections concerning Hal's interview at the U. of Arizona are, among many other things, an introductory statement along these lines. "I am in here" is the phrase we keep coming back to, and seems to me to contain the understood imperative: ("Trust me.")

Knowing what we know about DFW—at least, if we take for granted that the obituaries of him in the New Yorker and Rolling Stone paint a more or less accurate (if ultimately simplified) picture—can you imagine the sort of terror he must have felt while writing the Wardine section? How deeply he must have feared it being received with indignation and outrage? Say what you will about the passage being racist or clueless or whatever, but consider how profoundly he's exposing himself here, how openly he's made himself for accusations of fraudulence. Clearly, Wallace didn't speak this way, nor did he belong to any ethnic category that might conceivably speak this way except in parody or some similar contrivance.

Do you think he didn't know this?

David Foster Wallace was terrified of being exposed as a fraud. It was one of the loudest and most persistent voices in his head, the little demon that says, you aren't good enough. You don't belong to this conversation. You cannot stand up to the Canon. The Wardine section is one of the novel's weakest points, sure—an island of soft, pinkish flesh in a sea of carapace. You can look at it as an oversight on the author's part, an excuse to doubt the author and dissolve whatever tenuous bond of trust he's managed to cultivate so early; you can look at it as an emergency exit, like the kind that present themselves intermittently along the boarding queue for thrill rides and rollercoasters. Or you could look at it as a challenge, a bullseye tattoo, an invitation: "Here is a weak spot. Bring it on." Or you could look at it as a point of entry, a conduit through which you and the "I" imprisoned in the novel's heart become acquainted. Become friends.

I think all of these are valid responses, but for myself, friendship is the most suitable approach I can take to reading a novel like this—no riddle to be solved, no summit to be reached. Just continual and progressively deeper co-involvement without predesignated end. And how are friendships made? In the disclosure of vulnerabilities, in the admittance of flaws, in the dredging of the artifacts of our shame. So the issue of "Is the Wardine section racist? Is David Foster Wallace racist?" strikes me as disingenuous. Yes, it is racist. Yes, he is racist. So am I, so are my liberal, cosmopolitan friends, and I'm willing to wager that, if you dig deep enough, you're racist too. So why treat it as a chasm, a demarcating line that separates you from the author? Why not treat it as a mutual failing, a common ground on which to stand, and love?


Very well said. It really does seem unlikely, if not borderline impossible, that Wallace failed to anticipate the Wardine section provoking his readers.


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 Post subject: Re: "Wardine be cry."
PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2009 5:16 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jun 06, 2009 10:01 pm
Posts: 82
Location: Mansfield, MA
Thank you for your post, TripleMcSlice.
Maybe DFW knew that many of his readers wouldn't be familiar with the desperate world he describes in this section, and tried to convey the essence of it as best he could.

_________________
"The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you." DFW


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 Post subject: Re: "Wardine be cry."
PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 9:44 am 
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Joined: Tue Jun 09, 2009 10:15 am
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TripleMcSlice wrote:
You can look at it as an oversight on the author's part, an excuse to doubt the author and dissolve whatever tenuous bond of trust he's managed to cultivate so early; you can look at it as an emergency exit, like the kind that present themselves intermittently along the boarding queue for thrill rides and rollercoasters. Or you could look at it as a challenge, a bullseye tattoo, an invitation: "Here is a weak spot. Bring it on." Or you could look at it as a point of entry, a conduit through which you and the "I" imprisoned in the novel's heart become acquainted. Become friends.


On the other hand, I think it's perfectly valid to look at this section and just say, "well, hunh, that didn't work," and ok and move on...?

There are a couple of trends when sharing any treasured-yet-subjective experience with groups that personally I question. One of them is to canonize the artist, usually by way of contending that there are no flaws and everything is on purpose, or by contending that even the flaws are more rewarding than any non-flaw would have been, and etc...

But in my opinion, the Wardine section didn't work. That's it; no further exploration necessary. It did not smell authentic. It doesn't take anything away from what DFW achieved by saying this. It just didn't work.


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 Post subject: Re: "Wardine be cry."
PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 10:52 am 
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Joined: Sat Jun 27, 2009 12:55 am
Posts: 35
I like the Wardine section.

DFW co-wrote a book in 1990 called Signifying Rappers: Rap and Race in the Urban Present based in the Boston area. He definitely studied linguistic use in a relevant community, though not perhaps the exact community.

I read the Wardine section as something different- the degradation of a dialect under stress. I imagine it going spoken by someone being destroyed by their situation, and in that moment, confused and speaking very fast.


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 Post subject: Re: "Wardine be cry."
PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 11:35 am 
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Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 9:50 pm
Posts: 71
I'm still not buying that the Wardine section is intended to be an accurate representation. Its exaggerated. And DFW is too familiar with language to miss the mark on something like this.

The upcoming reading features a hilarious example of bad journalism; it's not as if one would read it and assume that DFW does not know how to write a magazine article.


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 Post subject: Re: "Wardine be cry."
PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 8:15 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jun 27, 2009 12:55 am
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Also I've noticed very points where he explains things with a unlikely level of "like"s in the sentence for anything less than a 80s valley girl, that has the sense of exaggeration as well.

*hopes this is not a spoiler*


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 Post subject: Re: "Wardine be cry."
PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 10:45 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2009 7:21 pm
Posts: 63
Location: Fresyes, CA
I love those "likes" stuck right in the middle of some pretty atrocious run-on sentences. I think they're funny because usually right after them, with no commas or pausing, come some really big words and/or a great simile. It's vernacular academic-speak; it's what I remember hearing in college at writing department parties and on weekends when student journalists get really, really drunk and I'm sure I'm guilty of it myself.


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 Post subject: Re: "Wardine be cry."
PostPosted: Fri Jul 03, 2009 3:45 am 
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Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:29 am
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I'm currently doing a reread of IJ, so this is my second go at this section. And I must admit, this section was almost a throwaway for me the first time. It was very frustrating, and my strategy was to barrel my way through as quickly as possible and move on. However (as I'm noticing for most of the novel), things are much more relevant and interesting the second time.

But anyway, sorry for the big lead-in, but basically, my read this time around is that this section, my be narrated by, as others suggested, someone who is either mentally disabled, but I am leaning more towards someone to whom English is not their native language, and only learned English in an ineffective, natural absorptive context, rather than having any specific instruction. My experience of the common mistakes made by non-native speakers is the trend of using etymologically linked words, yet the wrong part of speech, syntactically. As in, using the infinitive ("cry") instead of the gerundive ("crying"). Also, the biggest mistake that's repeated often is the use of the substantive rather than the copula form of "to be" when constructing these gerundive phrases - "be cry" rather than "is crying." While this is typical of black american ebonics anyway, this differentiation is often the hardest to learn - a parallel that many people will understand if they've ever taken Spanish is between the verbs "ser" and "estar" that establish this same problem when learning to differentiate the two, as both translate to "to be." The English copula and substantive have an absurd amount of conjugations - to be, I am, you are, they are, we were, he was, etc etc - and it's understandable that these would get confused. I do agree that it is probably a black narrator, as evidenced by the culturally "black" names and contexts used, but my limited experience with learners of English echoed most strongly when dealing with immigrants from Affrica, whose languages often lack the subtleties in their verb forms that are what make English one of the hardest, most complicated languages to learn.

So, in short, I thought this section was pretty sweet, for the linguistically-minded.


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