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Infinite Summer • View topic - Infested! Bugs and Kafka

Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
It is currently Thu Jul 09, 2020 2:28 pm

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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: Infested! Bugs and Kafka
PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2009 2:23 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2009 7:21 pm
Posts: 63
Location: Fresyes, CA


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 Post subject: Re: Infested! Bugs and Kafka
PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2009 12:24 am 
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Going along with the encasing theme, there is the bound and gagged Quebec man who later suffocates.

As to dryness, I want to add Hal's dry saliva sounds in the professional conversationalist section as another exhibit.

I think humans have a view of bugs as being something that's other, or depersonalized. When we (or I) see a bug, a wall shunts down between it and us. Humans can relate to certain animals, sometimes reptiles, and even plants. In terms of bugs maybe butterflies and lady bugs are the exceptions, but have you ever looked closely at them and thought better of your previous attraction? Maybe because bugs cannot create visual expressions, or sounds, that seem common or relate-able to human expressions.

Maybe DFW is using our natural feelings about bugs to convey a strong, visceral sense of depersonalization between people, though Kafka was probably the earlier one to do it. He isn't just saying that people in this book have lost something of their ability to communicate, but making us feel it through his analogy. I don't like to boil it all down to being just a conscious literary device of some kind, because there is something sort of deep down about most people's feelings toward bugs (yeah, entomologists being the exception).

Interestingly enough, I think the bug analogy also conveys a sense of powerlessness, especially when you are viewing the world from the perspective of the bug itself. All sorts of examples here I think: Erdedy bound within his addiction, the gagged and suffocating Quebec man, the poor student subject in the schizophrenic cartridge. In these cases we feel terrified sympathy (I do at least) towards those in a bug-like situation.

Even the first scene in which Hal tries to compose his outward appearance to match his inward intent seems to have something to do with being like a bug. He might be soft and squishy on the inside, but no one can tell until they've turned you into a squashed mess.


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 Post subject: Re: Infested! Bugs and Kafka
PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2009 12:38 am 
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Right—there are a lot of torture scenes in the book, and one of the first if not the first is the idea of leaving those cockroaches to slowly suffocate in their gas chambers. What makes those scenes so icky, of course, is the powerlessness of the victim. And as I was writing this, I just squashed a bug. And I'm a vegetarian.


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 Post subject: Re: Infested! Bugs and Kafka
PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 7:24 am 
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If you're here and you're interested in Kafka and the Metamorphosis and torture, you'd probably enjoy Wallace's brief discussion on Kafka, which can be found here among other places: http://www.badgerinternet.com/~bobkat/kafka.html


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