Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
It is currently Thu Dec 14, 2017 8:19 am

All times are UTC - 8 hours [ DST ]


Forum rules


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%).



Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 30 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2, 3  Next
Author Message
 Post subject: Mostly Male Perspectives: Why?
PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2009 7:23 pm 
Offline

Joined: Sat Jul 04, 2009 9:16 am
Posts: 3
It struck me as I was reading yesterday that, thus far (page 137,) the ratio of female characters to male has been very low. Furthermore, only one section has been written from the point of view (by this I mean either first-person or third-person limited) of a female: the Wardine passage (p. 37,) recounted in the dialectal (and thus difficult-to-understand) voice of Clenette, her half-sister. The other female characters, who have been few and far between relative to the vast number of male characters introduced, have all been seen through the eyes of a male: Avril Incandenza through her sons, the unnamed woman through Erdedy, Mildred Bonk through Bruce Green, Orin’s (perhaps tellingly-named) ‘subjects,’ Kate Gompert through her doctor, USS Millicent Kent through Mario. Even Hugh Steeply, who is only pretending to be a woman, is seen from Marathe’s point of view. Is this a coincidence, or is there a deeper significance to the absence of female perspectives so far?


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Mostly Male Perspectives: Why?
PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2009 8:11 pm 
Offline

Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2009 1:57 pm
Posts: 25
Location: Los Angeles
The author was very unabashedly a guy, I would say. No, well more really abashedly, but absolutely, ineluctably, a guy (cf. Mildred Bonk chapter.) I've often thought that. He was no kind of Flaubert. Maybe others will be able to cite departures from this, but I never saw him describe anything as fully or convincingly from the female POV as from the male. He only tried to write what he could know, or had seen (?) Would welcome alternative views on this point.

_________________
------------------------
The dorks are saving the nation, and this book proves it. Dorkismo: the Macho of the Dork


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Mostly Male Perspectives: Why?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 12:25 am 
Offline

Joined: Mon Jun 29, 2009 3:12 pm
Posts: 7
In an interview discussing Broom of the System, DFW stated that the book was a covert personal Bildungsroman, with himself identifying with the female character Lenore. In the end I think this didn't work out as well as it could have (and I also still find it hard to believe that DFW wasn't been more secretively confessional through Rick Vigorous.)

Anyway I think I agree with the above poster that DFW is intrinsically (or maybe just more honestly) masculine.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Mostly Male Perspectives: Why?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 6:07 am 
Offline

Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2009 1:57 pm
Posts: 25
Location: Los Angeles
Well said zandelion--far better than I did.

_________________
------------------------
The dorks are saving the nation, and this book proves it. Dorkismo: the Macho of the Dork


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Mostly Male Perspectives: Why?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 4:42 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Jun 29, 2009 1:13 am
Posts: 6
Zandelion wrote:
Anyway I think I agree with the above poster that DFW is intrinsically (or maybe just more honestly) masculine.


That is perfectly stated. Not only do I agree with you, but I appreciate that DFW is sticking mostly to a male mindset. It usually bugs me when male authors try to write from a female perspective because they generally get it completely wrong. I'm sure it happens when women try to write from a male perspective, too, but (being female) I wouldn't recognize it. While I think it's important to have balance in the characters of a story, there's something to be said for an author who writes in a voice he knows.

_________________
Not all who wander are lost. --JRR Tolkein

I'm vlogging IS at: www.youtube.com/Cossette729


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Mostly Male Perspectives: Why?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 7:03 pm 
Offline

Joined: Sat Jul 04, 2009 9:16 am
Posts: 3
I think that works like “Little Expressionless Animals” and (I disagree with Zandelion on this one) Broom of the System show that DFW is (or rather, was *sniff*) just as uncannily adept at writing from female perspectives as male. I mean, even the glimpses we get of USS Millicent and Kate Gompert’s psyches demonstrate the depth of his understanding. Of course DFW's own gender probably has something to do with it, but it seems a little essentialist to me to assume that the stories have been told almost exclusively through males for the sole reason that the author was one. Maybe it's just me, but I suspect that there's more to it than that.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Mostly Male Perspectives: Why?
PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 2:33 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Jun 29, 2009 3:12 pm
Posts: 7
Unfortunately I have yet to read The Girl With the Curious Hair, so i cannot comment on "Little Expressionless Animals". As a male myself I would definitely be interested in female perspectives on the female characters within DFW's work. Given that solipsistic issues were near the top of what haunted DFW, and are present in I believe every single work (from essays like "Consider the Lobster" to Broom, obviously) I guess I'm biased into believing that he had difficulty really communing with the psyche of others. And for a heterosexual male in need of love, a real woman is the ultimate other. I believe all of his more 'real' characters are dimensions of his own experience and associated flavour of neuroticism.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Mostly Male Perspectives: Why?
PostPosted: Thu Jul 09, 2009 9:56 pm 
Offline

Joined: Sat Jul 04, 2009 9:16 am
Posts: 3
Zandelion wrote:
... for a heterosexual male in need of love, a real woman is the ultimate other...


Hmm. The section on Madame Psychosis (told from yet another male point of view) definitely establishes a female character as a mysterious ‘ultimate Other.’ We’ll have to see where that goes.
Also, it occurred to me that Steeply dressing as a woman works with this interpretation too. Because to Marathe, an anti-O.N.A.N terrorist, Steeply, as an O.N.A.N operative, is the Other. However, Marathe may or may not be cooperating with the Americans, so Steeply being an unconvincing Other kinda makes sense.
There’s a section I want to quote but it doesn’t occur til later, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

Zandelion wrote:
... Given that solipsistic issues were near the top of what haunted DFW, and are present in I believe every single work (from essays like "Consider the Lobster" to Broom, obviously) I guess I'm biased into believing that he had difficulty really communing with the psyche of others.


I actually remember I learned the word ‘solipsistic’ from DFW's “Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way.” Solipsism precluding characters from connecting with others is a recurrent theme in his writings (as Hal says, “ ‘In a nutshell, what we’re talking about here is loneliness’” p.113.) But connecting with people and understanding them are two different matters. The self-reflectiveness-to-the-point-of-obsessiveness that characterizes much of DFW’s work hits on many ‘universal’ American truths, truths that I think transcend gender, and that attest to his deep understanding of other people.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Mostly Male Perspectives: Why?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 12:06 am 
Offline

Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2009 1:57 pm
Posts: 25
Location: Los Angeles
I don't say that Wallace couldn't write a convincing female character, he could. It's more that I don't think anyone else has ever explained the particular condition of men so well as he did (to me, at least.)

_________________
------------------------
The dorks are saving the nation, and this book proves it. Dorkismo: the Macho of the Dork


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Mostly Male Perspectives: Why?
PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 9:23 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Jun 29, 2009 12:20 pm
Posts: 6
Quote:
It usually bugs me when male authors try to write from a female perspective because they generally get it completely wrong.


It depends very much on the writer. I think Chekhov and Tolstoy wrote beautifully from a female perspective. In many great novels, there are multiple perspectives and part of the greatness is that the writer is capable of occupying the different perspectives, female and male.

There aren't many novelists historically who wrote with a wide scope unable to write in such a way that the female characters were rich and complex and their perspective was evidence to the reader: Hugo, Balzac, Stendahl, Joyce, Lawrence.

But it is interesting because I am realizing that a number of American novelists are not good at this: Updike and Roth, e.g.

I think it is very strange to say that because someone is a male or female they would be incapable of writing from the perspective of a character with a different gender. This would be a terrible limitation for a novelist.

I don't think this novel has represented the female characters as full complex humans. Joelle comes somewhat close but not quite. I think this is a problem for the novel. There are many characters in this novel that are somewhat wooden and described entirely from the outside but the female characters are especially opaque and empty.


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 30 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2, 3  Next

All times are UTC - 8 hours [ DST ]


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group
Translated by Maël Soucaze © 2009 phpBB.fr