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The meaning of "X"
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Author:  bluestocking [ Sat Jul 04, 2009 5:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The meaning of "X"

It's important, I think. Having read the whole thing (many years ago) I can guarantee that you will have a different notion of "X" before the end. But won't spoil. The later meaning is strong and definite and makes these earlier mentions interesting, so don't lose track of this post!

Author:  storm [ Sun Jul 05, 2009 11:26 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The meaning of "X"

I fall on the "X means something" side of the debate, but agree with the several posters who contend that the X is not critical to unlocking IJ. This is, in my opinion, an intertextual reference (I use that term a lot, I know). Pynchon is considered a major influence on DFW. Broom of the System, for example, is closely linked to Crying of Lot 49 (There's a really blatant use of Wile E. Coyote's image in BoS that's only marginally different from how Pynchon brings him in.). In Pynchon's book V. the letter appears over and over, becoming everything under Pynchon's sun. I won't claim to understand V. or what the letter signifies in that book, but as far as a recurring letter manifesting in all sorts of forms, I think this is the inspiration for DFW's X.

We should take it as a reminder that DFW isn't just writing a book here out of his own imaginings, he's taking the library he's read and putting it into IJ. Hamlet, CoL49, V., Ulysses, Ratner's Star, Gulliver's Travels, Greek Mythology, The Watchmen: there's blatant pieces of each in here and who knows how many more. This book is encyclopedic in more ways than 5 (5 being an entirely arbitrary number I threw out there.).

Author:  elisabeth [ Sun Jul 05, 2009 4:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The meaning of "X"

good point, storm.

permit me, for a second, to put on my "literary theorist" hat:

there are lots of different schools of literary theory. there is no one "right" way to read a text, nor is there a wrong way. that being said, some schools of lit theory believe author's intent is important (i.e. "DFW meant something here") while other theorists believe author's intent is eclipsed by the responses and interpretations of the readers (i.e. "it doesn't matter what DFW meant to do, it just matters that, as a reader, i myself picked up on this") and some theorists think it's somewhere in between.

i like to think of these different schools of thought as different lenses or angles with which to approach a text, all of which are equally interesting and valid. i like examining one detail (such as the recurrence of X) through multiple perspectives: did DFW mean to create a symbol? did he do it subconsciously? is there a sociological (racial, gender, social class-based) meaning here? what interpretations does the reader put on the X, depending on their own life experiences?

i'm sure this is old hat to most people, but thought i'd add a gentle reminder that author's intent is only one small piece of the puzzle, and just one way to look at IJ!

Author:  Roxanne [ Thu Jul 09, 2009 8:18 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The meaning of "X"

pg. 186 ( spoiler line is 200 - correct?)

He uses "chiasmae" in a very very long sentence meaning:

Definition in OED:

anatomy: A crossing or interection of 2 tracts, as of nerves or ligaments.

genetics: The point of contact between paired chromatide dring meiosis, resulting in cross-shaped configuration and representing the cytological manifestation of crossing over.

WOW is all I can say.

In that one word he sort of says it all. Crossing over and the big-bang all rolled up into one. Now I have to go back and see what I can make of this new hint or addition to the X references.

Author:  polymathicj [ Thu Jul 09, 2009 9:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The meaning of "X"

Roxanne wrote:
pg. 186 ( spoiler line is 200 - correct?)

He uses "chiasmae" in a very very long sentence meaning:

Definition in OED:

anatomy: A crossing or interection of 2 tracts, as of nerves or ligaments.

genetics: The point of contact between paired chromatide dring meiosis, resulting in cross-shaped configuration and representing the cytological manifestation of crossing over.

WOW is all I can say.

In that one word he sort of says it all. Crossing over and the big-bang all rolled up into one. Now I have to go back and see what I can make of this new hint or addition to the X references.


He meant it, at least at surface level, in the anatomical sense: it's the optic chiasmae, which is the part of the brain where the optic nerves cross, forming an x (aka, the Greek letter Chi---->chiasmae). Not sure if everyone caught it, but the entire building is laid out like a human brain, which is why he uses so much neurological terminology in the section (like pia mater, sulci, gyri, etc.), which is also why the building includes two "deorbited" eyes as part of the decor.

Author:  nickymendoo [ Fri Jul 24, 2009 8:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The meaning of "X"

chiasma also has a special literary meaning that you may be interested in. chiastic (X) structure is used frequently in ancient hebrew poetry and occurs in many places throughout the bible. it is when a poem of piece of writing is structured around a central point around which the rest of the poem is reflected, as in geometry, to form a kind of an X shape. so for instance a chiasmatic poem may have a structure that looks like this:

A
.....B
.........C
.............X
.........C
.....B
A

since i haven't read this book before i can't say how relevant this will be to the structure of the book, but it may be worth looking out for.

wikipedia also has an very interesting post on this same subject, with more on the history and uses of this structure:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiasmus

Author:  storm [ Sat Jul 25, 2009 8:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The meaning of "X"

nickymendoo wrote:
chiasma also has a special literary meaning that you may be interested in. chiastic (X) structure is used frequently in ancient hebrew poetry and occurs in many places throughout the bible. it is when a poem of piece of writing is structured around a central point around which the rest of the poem is reflected, as in geometry, to form a kind of an X shape. so for instance a chiasmatic poem may have a structure that looks like this:

A
.....B
.........C
.............X
.........C
.....B
A

since i haven't read this book before i can't say how relevant this will be to the structure of the book, but it may be worth looking out for.


Definately important. One of the things about the book's structure that...oh...um just in case Spoiler! "As I was saying, one of the things about the book's structure that DFW- in all his creepy brilliance- chose to do was create a mirrored text. Characters mirror. The best example being Gately and Hal. Hal picks up substances right about the time that Gately puts them down for good. As Gately gets further from Substances, Hal becomes more dependent. The 'speed' of the story also does this chiasma-ish stuff. The book will speed up the closer we get to the midpoint and then seem to slow down again the further we move toward where a conclusion would normally be located."

Author:  leegoesplaces [ Sat Jul 25, 2009 9:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The meaning of "X"

storm wrote:
Definately important. One of the things about the book's structure that...oh...um just in case Spoiler! "As I was saying, one of the things about the book's structure that DFW- in all his creepy brilliance- chose to do was create a mirrored text. Characters mirror. The best example being Gately and Hal. Hal picks up substances right about the time that Gately puts them down for good. As Gately gets further from Substances, Hal becomes more dependent. The 'speed' of the story also does this chiasma-ish stuff. The book will speed up the closer we get to the midpoint and then seem to slow down again the further we move toward where a conclusion would normally be located."


I agree that Spoiler! "the speed of the story is partly due to structure". I'd also add that DFW seems to deliberately and carefully use language to set the pace and suspense. This isn't an unusual device but he does it really well - when he wants you to slow down and pay serious attention, he throws in more complex sentence structures, more four-dollar words, more subtle things to puzzle over, and when he wants you to sit down riveted and flipping the pages, he lets go of the brakes and then next thing I know, it's 10 pages later and my brain hurts.

Author:  Roxanne [ Sun Jul 26, 2009 12:21 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The meaning of "X"

I have also gotten the impression that the speed of reading has been consciously planned. I've never read a book with so many different speed zones so to speak. Also so many differences in scale. Scale is another issue that gets juxtaposed.

Author:  robbi60 [ Sun Jul 26, 2009 1:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The meaning of "X"

Ehm, I was just surfing randomly in the forum when my attention was attracted by this thread.
What? Finally somebody (re-)found MY ( ;) ) theory about X?

I posted it in the wallace-| forum some months ago, without a big impact. Anyway if you are interested you can read the whole thing here (which it is absolutely spoiler!) Spoiler! "https://docs.google.com/View?docID=dhgfcqm2_74fxtjrcv4&revision=_latest".

I have also to add that this remark about chiasm is really eXciting and important in view of the general structure. More to say after p.488 (50%). Thanks to Roxanne and nickymendoo for their posts. r

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