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: The Locker Room/Big Brother Scenes
PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 6:46 pm 
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Location: Mansfield, MA
Anyone want to comment on these scenes, from pp.95-121?
I love the little details we learn about the boys and their feelings and attitudes toward E.T.A. I especially love how DFW starts with Hal's charges, proceeds to John Wayne, Pemulis, Schacht, Troeltsch, Struck, and Stice, and then goes quickly backwards, ending again with Hal, even thought he doesn't tell us so specifically, but we can figure it out from the various topics. Nice.

In Hal's Viewing Room, Stan Smith's continuous looping of tennis forehands and backhands seems to be another mindless, repetitive loop like the Entertainment itself. "Don't Think Just See Don't Know Just Flow"

"Why are they all still here, then, if it's so awful every day?' Good question. Probably only Wayne's going to make the Show, and the other kids can go to college on various scholarships or via rich parents. Why go through the torture for years?

Love Hal's line, "In a nutshell, what we're talking about here is loneliness." Yes.

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 Post subject: Re: The Locker Room/Big Brother Scenes
PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 8:10 pm 
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On the jumping around from one conversation to another: I find that DFW is fantastic at this. By now we've gotten used to every chapter taking place in a different place at a different time with different characters, but here almost every paragraph is taking place somewhere else. Yet there's a kind of unity that DFW still manages to maintain, plus the jumping around without transition makes the whole thing feel almost movie-like in pace.

I think we witness a juggling of many different things at once in a lot of the conversations in the novel. Characters often speak about totally different things at the same time, as if they're talking at each other rather than with each other, and in-between DFW will insert descriptions of seemingly irrelevant actions made by characters. But the same topics and the same actions recur throughout these sometimes pages-long conversations, which makes each separate thread followable. It's really an impressive way of weaving a disjointed story together.


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 Post subject: Re: The Locker Room/Big Brother Scenes
PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 11:00 pm 
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Location: Fresyes, CA
joel wrote:
On the jumping around from one conversation to another: I find that DFW is fantastic at this. By now we've gotten used to every chapter taking place in a different place at a different time with different characters...the jumping around without transition makes the whole thing feel almost movie-like in pace.

...Characters often speak about totally different things at the same time, as if they're talking at each other rather than with each other, and in-between DFW will insert descriptions of seemingly irrelevant actions made by characters. But the same topics and the same actions recur throughout these sometimes pages-long conversations, which makes each separate thread followable...

I also thought the Big Brother scene, the montage, was very filmic. In my head, I saw it as a film as I was reading it. And what you say about characters talking "at" each other, with several threads of conversation going on simultaneously, reminds me of another medium—internet chatrooms or IMing, where, for instance, the answer to a question asked by one person will get lost among the quick-fire change of topics inherent to the medium, but we've learned to follow along. In a way, reading this whole book is like having to keep straight an entire chatroom of different conversations with different people, many of whom are bad spellers and don't answer your questions in a timely manner.


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 Post subject: Re: The Locker Room/Big Brother Scenes
PostPosted: Fri Jul 03, 2009 1:11 am 
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+1 to the "filmic" notion: The entire scene feels to me like some sort of panning around the room from one conversation to the next, with the background images as sort of grounding mechanisms to know where you're at. Not to belabor the point, but it feels like a single shot sort of thing, as well, rather than jagged cuts.

Film obviously plays a key role in IJ and played an important role in DFW's sensibility more generally, but I don't have anything particularly important to say about that right now; just that "filmic" strikes me as the exact right word for this passage.


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 Post subject: Re: The Locker Room/Big Brother Scenes
PostPosted: Sat Jul 04, 2009 10:26 am 
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The Big Buddy scene is one of my favorite passages of the book so far. I just love how disconnected and fragmented the dialogue is. It's like no one is really listening to one another, but just picking up on a few key words and going on in whichever direction they want without any consideration for dialogue or input by anyone else. Plus the whole fart conversation with Struck and his little buddies (119-120) is one of the funniest things I've read in a long time. The seriousness of the question and Struck's advice to just "let it ride" is just so ridiculous.

I also really liked the way DFW interweaves the conversation of Steeply and Marathe into the whole mix so that their conversation gets mixed in with the various buddy groups. For some reason the Marathe-Steeply conversation feels connected in some way, like the transition from talking about being a fanatic temple worshipper and "you are what you love" back to the academy after a very hard day of drills feels so natural.


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 Post subject: Re: The Locker Room/Big Brother Scenes
PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2009 4:21 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jun 21, 2009 5:21 pm
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Location: Philadelphia, PA
i also got the mental picture of the camera panning around the locker room, especially when the narrator mentioned the "corpse-like" feet (somewhere around p. 99)...

the way the text jumps between different conversations realllllly reminded me of the Wandering Rocks chapter of ulysses. did anybody else notice this parallel?


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 Post subject: Re: The Locker Room/Big Brother Scenes
PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2009 5:41 pm 
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elisabeth wrote:
the way the text jumps between different conversations realllllly reminded me of the Wandering Rocks chapter of ulysses. did anybody else notice this parallel?


Yes. Tons of parallels to be drawn with Ulysses. Which makes me very pleased, because it's another favorite of mine. Add me to the list of people who loved DFW's style of conversation-panning in this scene. :mrgreen:

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 Post subject: Re: The Locker Room/Big Brother Scenes
PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2009 9:50 pm 
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urineluck wrote:
Plus the whole fart conversation with Struck and his little buddies (119-120) is one of the funniest things I've read in a long time. The seriousness of the question and Struck's advice to just "let it ride" is just so ridiculous.


What I loved about this (I mean I still find fart jokes funny, I admit it) was how DFW doesnt "dumb down" the writing just because the dialog is coming out of teenagers mouths. They are all having these incredibly deep conversations, the big buddies imparting great wisdom to their younger counterparts. Theres so much stress and pressure at ETA its a wonder that any of them make it to graduation at all. No doubt the youngsters have many questions regarding what to expect, how to act, how the older students have handled themselves in the past. And what does it turn out is really their worst fear? Despite what I would consider a very precocious conversation for junior-/high-school kids, of course it all breaks down in the end.


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 Post subject: Re: The Locker Room/Big Brother Scenes
PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 6:27 pm 
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Location: Mansfield, MA
Contrast the locker room scene, where most of the talking is done by the upperclassman in the "usual" fashion (heckling each other, bitching), to the Big Brother rooms where the littler kids are "interfacing" one on one with their older mentors. You can see which Big Brothers seem more approachable, conversation-wise, i.e. Hal, Struck, as opposed to say, Schacht, who's droning on about flossing, or Wayne, who's so above it all as numero uno, that he doesn't even need to speak. He has subordinates do his lecturing for him, and yet, all the little kids want to be in his group. The entire passage is a nice introductory peek into the personalities and idiosyncrasies of these kids.

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


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