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: Mostly Male Perspectives: Why?
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2009 6:17 pm 
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Thank you for the excellent Sontag quote repat. It's for me an interesting use of the word "bigots". I had to look it up to find out that it's not what I thought it meant and that my perspective on the word--and some others use of it--is incorrect.


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 Post subject: Re: Mostly Male Perspectives: Why?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 9:48 am 
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Oh! Good thread. I've been thinking about this a lot recently. I was reading a blog a few weeks that mentioned Pixar's inability to tell women's stories (think from all the way back: Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Cars, Wall-e, UP, Etc: the main characters and main voices are male and the females, when they are present, are sort of sidelined). And then the same thought occured to me just last week while reading IJ.

Maybe it is just DFW's maleness. And that is fine. He, being human like the rest of us, needs permission to be genius where he is genius and weak where he is weak.

I guess I don't have any snap judgments or in depth commentary on the matter except for this: I hope that more and more women find their voices and are as bold and outspoken about their experiences and stories and femaleness so that we can be blown away by their genius as well.

I mean, its not that their aren't women writing. There are. There are some pretty phenomenal and incredible women writers. But thanks to the long and great historical reality of patriarchy and misogyny its just true that there aren't as many. And that makes me sad. SO I guess that is what I think.


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 Post subject: Re: Mostly Male Perspectives: Why?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 11:49 am 
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I think the other heartening thing is a kind of acknowledgment within the text of the limitation, the gap.

So we have a recent exchange between Marathe/Steeply, where Steeply (in drag, significantly) says:
Quote:
'The skirt, it makes one sensitive about simply plopping down wherever you wish. Possibility of things...crawling up.' He looked up at Marathe. He appeared sad. 'I'd never realized.'


I found that moving. This acknowledgment of women-as-other. Of women's experience as something men don't readily understand. And also, how sad it is to realize the vulnerability that comes with it. (The PGOAT is another example)

Right before this is a scene where Hal wishes he wasn't the sort of guy who notices the nurses' cleavage. But he does. Notice it. A running theme, which again, I think runs throughout DFW's later work--it figures heavily in BIWHM and then Oblivion (I'm thinking "Good Old Neon" again) for sure.


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 Post subject: Re: Mostly Male Perspectives: Why?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 4:32 pm 
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Problematic for me (a bit more now that I've caught up and see another instance of it) is the use of the word "diddle". Avril is meeting with young pre-teen girls to do "diddle-checks", and in pp. 510-511 the word is used a few times. The first time was harder to take: the stripper's severely disabled-hideous even?--sister scene where Wallace uses "incestuously diddled" for child rape, "[the father] would diddle his way to extremity" for have intercourse and orgasm, and talks about the child's "post-diddle face" (pp. 371-373). It seems to undercut the seriousness of child rape and the earlier scene in particular is almost like (that dreaded word which someone already indicated that when applied to the book as a whole, it pisses them off) a spoof of particularly sick case of severe sexual abuse--in which the grotesque is foregrounded. When you read the description of the scene you end up feeling that the victim is more grotesque, more of a monster, than the perpetrator. I have trouble with this. The stripper, the teller of the story, might have used the term "diddled' to distance herself from the events, and I thought that might be the case at first, however abandoned that idea because the voice sounds so much like the narrator in other parts of the book, not least because he keeps using that term in various ways, and because the Avril keeping-yourself-safe-if-you're-girl-child section also used the term.

If it comes out that the P.G.O.A.T. also had sexual abuse in her history, I think Wallace will take a less spoof-y tone. If that should be the case, I will wonder about why the switch. Nothing must make a child more lonely than having been made aware of, or the victim of sexual abuse.
It's interesting that he doesn't quite make the tie-in to lonliness with the stripper's story through the compassionate take one would have in discussing such a history if it happened this way in someone's real life.

What do other people think?


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 Post subject: Re: Mostly Male Perspectives: Why?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 9:11 pm 
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Location: Brooklyn
OneBigParty wrote:
Problematic for me (a bit more now that I've caught up and see another instance of it) is the use of the word "diddle". Avril is meeting with young pre-teen girls to do "diddle-checks", and in pp. 510-511 the word is used a few times. The first time was harder to take: the stripper's severely disabled-hideous even?--sister scene where Wallace uses "incestuously diddled" for child rape, "[the father] would diddle his way to extremity" for have intercourse and orgasm, and talks about the child's "post-diddle face" (pp. 371-373). It seems to undercut the seriousness of child rape and the earlier scene in particular is almost like (that dreaded word which someone already indicated that when applied to the book as a whole, it pisses them off) a spoof of particularly sick case of severe sexual abuse--in which the grotesque is foregrounded. When you read the description of the scene you end up feeling that the victim is more grotesque, more of a monster, than the perpetrator. I have trouble with this. The stripper, the teller of the story, might have used the term "diddled' to distance herself from the events, and I thought that might be the case at first, however abandoned that idea because the voice sounds so much like the narrator in other parts of the book, not least because he keeps using that term in various ways, and because the Avril keeping-yourself-safe-if-you're-girl-child section also used the term.


I think one important thing to do is to keep the distance between characters' voices and the author's voice. I think part of the societal problem that DFW is exposing is that gravely serious things are treated as entertainment (in some cases, too much entertainment - too much fun). I think by having characters use that term casually, it calls attention to it - and then we're here left wondering, why would a character talking about such a hellish event use such a ridiculous word? The fact that several characters use the term suggests that it's entered common vernacular, meaning that society downplays the gravity and terror of certain things/events.

Also, I didn't think of it at all as a spoof - it still disturbs me more than anything else in the book.


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 Post subject: Re: Mostly Male Perspectives: Why?
PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:42 am 
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My reading antennae did pick up one thing in the latter endnotes. This one imagined view through the wall into the female locker room (which I don’t think we, as readers, ever actually view from within), compares to the many many scenes we have inside the male locker room. Hmmm.

“Sometimes when it’s empty in here [the males’ locker room] you can catch snatches of voices and intriguing feminine-hygienic noises from the females’ locker room on the other side of the locker’s wall.”

a) No feminist jury in the world would ever convict an author of imbalanced perspective simply for failing to describe the inside of the female locker room.
b) I think the choice of the noun “snatches” in this quote purposeful, and lacking taste.

mm


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 Post subject: Re: Mostly Male Perspectives: Why?
PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2009 11:13 pm 
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OneBigParty wrote:
Problematic for me (a bit more now that I've caught up and see another instance of it) is the use of the word "diddle".

For what it's worth, and this may not fly, but when living in Boston I found "diddle" was the term used most often for sexual relations, and particularly illicit or inappropriate sexual relations. It might be a colloquial he's using quite consciously. Doesn't make it sensitive or appropriate, but it might be one of his oft-endnoted street terms.

And though this might be just wishful thinking, I personally vote Wallace's maleness is the primary reason for his lack of female voices. I can't write male characters with any depth or honesty, and I tip my cap at Wallace for his having Joelle in there fleshed out (no pun intended) much more deeply than I could have written a male character. Avril gets less credit because every novelist can write a mom, even if not the Moms.


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 Post subject: Re: Mostly Male Perspectives: Why?
PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 9:58 am 
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michael wrote:
And though this might be just wishful thinking, I personally vote Wallace's maleness is the primary reason for his lack of female voices.

I second this one. I've been dipping into some of the essays while reading IJ so I don't get too far ahead and, while admitedly they're non-fiction, some of his depictions of women in "A Supposedly Fun Thing..." are very much a "guy's" view in my opinion. It doesn't bother me in the least. This is my first experience reading DFW and I am totally in love with his writing, I don't need him to give me more female perspectives here!

Joan


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 Post subject: Re: Mostly Male Perspectives: Why?
PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 10:13 am 
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Quote:
This is my first experience reading DFW and I am totally in love with his writing, I don't need him to give me more female perspectives here!


+1 here, Joan


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 Post subject: Re: Mostly Male Perspectives: Why?
PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 5:39 pm 
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stephaniejane wrote:
I think one important thing to do is to keep the distance between characters' voices and the author's voice.


To add to my earlier post - someone posted this DFW quote in another discussion, but I wanted to repeat it here:

"I think right now it's important for art-fiction to antagonize the reader's sense that what she's experiencing as she reads is meditated through a human consciousness, now with an agenda not necessarily coincident with her own... What it's really trying to do is just the "opposite" of TV--it's trying to prohibit the reader from forgetting that she's receiving heavily mediated data, that this process is a relationship between the writer's consciousness and her own, and that in order for it to be anything like a full human relationship, she's going to have to put in her share of the linguistic work.”

He's not referring to IJ, but I think it applies here too. Also to stylstic choices like footnotes. The point is - you're supposed to be thinking and questioning and not accepting the text as your voice, but challenging it and engaging with it to form a more thorough understanding.


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