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: Pact to get through Endnote 304
PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2009 8:36 pm 
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I actually quite liked 304 - took me a while to actually dive into it, but it gets really good.


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 Post subject: Re: Pact to get through Endnote 304
PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 10:51 am 
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ontoursecretly wrote:
troybob wrote:
I think it's fascinating how the very fact that they are called 'endnotes' inspires such resistance to them...It just seems a strange and kind of arbitrary psychological phenomenon.

Hacky device! Hacky device! Literary postmodern deconstructionism run amok! It's clever the first time, it's cute the second time, and it's a pain in the ass when it's 96 pages of 388 footnotes in 9-point type. But I will read 304 anyway.


I don't find it hacky. I think in this case, DFW deserves the benefit of the doubt. If you've read any of his non-fiction (particularly "E Unibus Plurum") you'd realize that DFW has much too broad a view and understanding of the implications of "post-modernism" and experimentation in contemporary literature to be just another gimmicky writer. Footnotes and endnotes are something DFW used consistently in his writing, both fiction and non-fiction. You come to accept them as one of his idiosyncratic writing quirks, like his use of certain abbreviations (re, w/r/t, etc.) or his multiple possessives (e.g., "the child's village's new crude alphabet's glyph") Admittedly, it can be a little annoying to have to flip to the back of the book (footnotes are preferable, but I think it's obvious they wouldn't have worked so well in IJ), but there is a reason for everything included in the endnotes. Sometimes it's information pertinent to the storyline, sometimes it's to maintain a consistent theme or atmosphere.

Plus, wouldn't it be more annoying if all of that information was messily incorporated into the main text?


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 Post subject: Re: Pact to get through Endnote 304
PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 11:13 am 
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Page 108 includes endnote 45: "See Note 304 sub." An earlier reference to Note 304 was buried in a footnote to endnote 39--which was on page 89.

Point is, in just 19 pages, DFW has pointed the reader to Endnote 304. And he's done it twice.

It's pretty clear that he wants us to read it.


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 Post subject: Re: Pact to get through Endnote 304
PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 11:16 am 
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I read it when I was directed to it from EN #39, but didn't re-read it when EN 45 referred to it.

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 Post subject: Re: Pact to get through Endnote 304
PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 4:14 pm 
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I'll confess that I JUST buckled down and read 304, and I didn't do so until page 428 or so (where I currently am - no spoilers, I promise) where it was cited AGAIN... and you know what? It wasn't excruciating at all. 24 was more tedious for me to get through, and there's a 20 pager in there that I finished not too long ago that certainly took longer.


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 Post subject: Re: Pact to get through Endnote 304
PostPosted: Fri Jul 03, 2009 1:42 pm 
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With regard to endnote 304 (including spoilers if you have yet to read it): I loved it, especially the author's increasing attempts at obscuring the meaning of his writing (up until his Canadian chicken digression/tangent). I found myself, like Struck, initially put off by the opaque language he used, but, over time, finding it increasingly endearing, until I couldn't help but admire the guy for committing so thoroughly to the attempt at losing his reader. It made me wonder if this was a wink and nod to DFW's potential critics, an attempt to say "You want tough reading? You want language that must be deciphered, rather than read? You got it! Now my stuff doesn't seem so bad, does it?"
I also enjoyed Struck's attempts at deciphering the language, and his eventual "f*ck it" attitude, as he throws caution to the wind and plagiarizes fearlessly.

troybob wrote:
Yeah, it's really neat to see the different approaches to reading the novel that we talk about here. It's like DFW found a way to play with each of us as individuals rather than as a single combined readership.


It's funny that you should say that, since I was about to start a thread along similar lines. It struck me today while reading these threads that we all react to IJ in our own way, which is unsurprising, given the subjectivity of human existence.
Nonetheless, I find it fascinating to watch as some people fight DFW. I'm not religious, but this strikes me as fighting God/life, despite the fact that fighting it does nothing to change the outcome. Instead of surrendering to the writer, allowing him to take them where he will, these readers kick and scream and say, "I don't get it," when all they need to do is persevere. They want the instant gratification of understanding NOW, while others are content to let the answers come in their own time, and enjoy the gradual flowering of understanding and clarity.
I wonder, was this something DFW intended? Was IJ meant to be life in microcosm, difficult yet rewarding? I have no idea, but I find it interesting that I have absolutely no problem with giving myself over to DFW and going with the flow, despite being considerably confused at times.
As a depressive, I with I could treat life the same way I do this book. It'd be nice not to battle and flail so much. If only DFW were writing my life. . . He's a higher power I can trust. lol

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 Post subject: Re: Pact to get through Endnote 304
PostPosted: Fri Jul 03, 2009 3:30 pm 
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On my first read of IJ, I skimmed and skipped many of the end notes, including 304 in the earlier refs. That is, I read 304 from where it was directly noted. I regret that I didn't pick it up on the 'sub' references, since it sheds so much light on the nature of the Quebec separatists and the AFRs in particular.

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 Post subject: Re: Pact to get through Endnote 304
PostPosted: Fri Jul 03, 2009 3:49 pm 
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Oops. I had to delete what I wrote. No spoilers.


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 Post subject: Re: Pact to get through Endnote 304
PostPosted: Sat Jul 04, 2009 8:23 am 
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polymathicj wrote:
With regard to endnote 304 (including spoilers if you have yet to read it): I loved it, especially the author's increasing attempts at obscuring the meaning of his writing (up until his Canadian chicken digression/tangent). I found myself, like Struck, initially put off by the opaque language he used, but, over time, finding it increasingly endearing, until I couldn't help but admire the guy for committing so thoroughly to the attempt at losing his reader. It made me wonder if this was a wink and nod to DFW's potential critics, an attempt to say "You want tough reading? You want language that must be deciphered, rather than read? You got it! Now my stuff doesn't seem so bad, does it?"
I also enjoyed Struck's attempts at deciphering the language, and his eventual "f*ck it" attitude, as he throws caution to the wind and plagiarizes fearlessly.



This is especially funny if you've read his essay "Authority and American Usage," which contains a pretty hilarious section on "academic writing" (complete with painful examples). It's also a great example (of which there are many in IJ) of DFW being able to drastically change the style and tone of his writing to match certain characters or contexts.

Here's a little taste of his thoughts on AE (Academic English):
Quote:
It probably isn't the whole explanation, but as with the voguish hypocrisy of Politically Correct English, the obscurity and pretension of Academic English can be attributed in part to a disruption in the delicate rhetorical balance between language as a vector of meaning and language as a vector of the writer's own resume. In other words, it is when a scholar's vanity/insecurity leads him to write primarily to communicate and reinforce his own status as an Intellectual that his English is deformed by pleonasm and pretentious diction (whose function is to signal the writer's erudition) and by opaque abstraction (whose function is to keep anybody from pinning the writer down to a definite assertion that can be refuted or shown to be silly). The latter characteristic, a level of obscurity that often makes it just about impossible to figure out what an AE sentence is really saying, so closely resembles political and corporate doublespeak ("revenue enhancement," "downsizing," "proactive resource-allocation restructuring") that it's tempting to think AE's real purpose is concealment and its real motivation fear.


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 Post subject: Re: Pact to get through Endnote 304
PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2009 11:35 am 
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Ok everyone, you've talked me into it. I'll read 304 now!
There was never any question in my mind as to whether I would read the endnotes; I just hadn't worked out when to read 304. Like RroseSelavy, I'm eager to carry on with the main text but afraid I might miss something significant if I don't flip to the endnote. Interesting idea of DFW competing with DFW.

OhItsJustDan asks "wouldn't it be more annoying if all of that information was messily incorporated into the main text?" I read something by Oliver Sacks which did have long in-text footnotes and it didn't bother me at all. (More convenient, truth be told.)

Wheat likened the jumping around to links on a webpage, which I thought was clever, yet ironic -- according to blogger Aaron Riccio, DFW is "anti-technology ... for technology is just the ultimate enabler for our addictions." (http://thatsoundscool.blogspot.com/2009/01/infinite-jestation-blogthrough-pages-55.html)

I've read some other things here and there and wonder if they're somehow connected to each other. But I'm not always sure I understand what I read, which is why I'm throwing it out here.
For example, the abovementioned Aaron Riccio seems to be speculating on DFW's attitude to knowledge, information and truth when he writes:
Quote:
"Like most North Americans of his generation, Hal tends to know way less about why he feels certain ways about the objects and pursuits he's devoted to than he does about the objects and pursuits themselves. It's hard to say for sure whether this is even exceptionally bad, this tendency." Our apathetic disconnect is no joke, and I've spoken before about how I use blogging to fight the natural tendency to simply float through life's entertainments without understanding or embracing their effects. Given where Hal ends up, detached from himself, I think it's pretty clear that pure knowledge is exceptionally bad and potentially madness-inducing and life-ending, a sanctioned drug far more dangerous than this section's so-called "Black Star."
(http://thatsoundscool.blogspot.com/2009/01/infinite-jestation-blogthrough-pages-37.html)

Is he saying we should try not to know too much? This goes so against what I have always believed.

In the same blog entry he writes about DFW's use of endnotes. The paragraph talks about Orin's dream and how Orin doesn't analyze it very deeply. Aaron concludes "not knowing is sometimes just as (if not more) telling than actually knowing." I can't tell if he's saying not to bother analyzing.

He also writes that the scientists (in the documentary about poor-old-Fenton-here the paranoid schizophrenic) with their "well-intentioned need to understand" are similar to us, the readers, who "turn the pages for the same reason--perhaps this is why Wallace keeps putting it off." And this reminded me of what Wheat wrote: "Some of the endnotes are almost throw away, and others are more detailed than the main text itself, and are obviously crucial to understanding the main text."

Is he asking us to be selective about what information we want to have?


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