Infinite Summer

James I. and his father
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Author:  OneBigParty [ Sun Jul 05, 2009 9:11 pm ]
Post subject:  James I. and his father

I had big trouble getting through this section. James" father is very convincingly (and annoyingly) an extremely tedious alcoholic, which is perfectly reflected in the writing i.e. his monologue. He's does that thing that alcoholic parents do of using their kids as a sounding board for things that they should be spilling to a psychoanalyst, he goes on ad nauseam, he's determined to turn the feelings of inadequacy engendered in him by his own father around by living vicariously through his browbeaten son. Jim will be the tennis star that he fell short of being--and by the way that's a good excuse for why I drink son. He doesn't let the kid have a word in edgewise; he doesn't even let the kid cry, he is sort of sarcastic about the kid crying. "no, go on, cry, don't inhibit yourself, I won't say a word, except it's getting to me less all the time when you do it" (p. 163), as though the emotional pain of a ten year-old is some kind of _ploy_ .

There is no question of "what does the kid want?" "What are my kid's hopes and dreams for life?'
It's all very narcissistic. He feels sorry for himself as he recounts what seems to be the most humiliating thing his father "may he hell (p, 163, p.166) ever did to him--and that's probably, as is the case with alcoholic rambling, not the first time. And of course, he keeps drinking _in front of_ his son while apologizing for it. He even tries to introduce James to alcohol and get him to appreciate that most lovingly caressed of all the paraphernalia of alcoholism, the silver hip-flask. He comes down on James for a trivial thing like how he put a book on the floor.

An illustration of the roots of addiction and the lack of connection between a child and a parent that perhaps DFW is trying to point out leads to people maturing without gaining the ability to truly listen.

Author:  ontoursecretly [ Sun Jul 05, 2009 11:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: James I. and his father

All the shades of "asshole" came across really well here, didn't they? As much as I wanted to line up the old knuckles and punch the drunk father, I kind of wanted to shake up little JOI, too. Just lift him up by the armpits and give him a good rattle. To me, there's something sinister about his lack of fighting back. For the rest of his life he will continue to passively bully people, living in denial, never admitting the source of problems and living in a dangerous alternate reality.

This is a really powerful and essential section, and I wonder what other people's reactions will be over the next couple days as people climb over the spoiler line and come back from the holiday weekend and post.

Author:  tomj [ Mon Jul 06, 2009 2:42 am ]
Post subject:  Re: James I. and his father

Wow, I had a different reaction to this section. While the father's alcoholism is an issue to be dealt with, I found another item of more interest to me. The whole take on Marlon Brando seems pretty important to me. JOI's father seems to be acknowledging that the times (I assume the B.S. 1950's, here?) have had a rather profound effect on Father/Son relations. Or that they are at least a reflection of how the times have changed. He tells JOI that his (meaning JOI's) view of his father as an authority figure will be very different from the one he had of his father. I feel that he is saying that before the appearance of Brando on the scene, sons always looked up to their fathers, never questioned their fathers, and would never have even thought of being rebellious. Now things are different. Now sons (probably rightfully in JOI's case) see their fathers in a different light. They see their inadequacies (drunkenness, lack of respectability, lack of dependability), and they see their fathers for who they really are. As a result, these Brando generation sons will be react differently to their fathers than their fathers reacted to their fathers, and by implication, all of society will be different.

By extension, then, is this question: What is Hal's relationship to JOI? If JOI is of the Brando generation, then is Hal of the Alex DeLarge (Clockwork Orange) generation?

Also, this whole section comes after Hal's essay contrasting the heros of Hawaii Five-0 and Hill Street Blues (p. 140). The essay looks at how the idea of hero (father?) has changed in just 10 years time!

And as to addiction: JOI's father has alcohol and Hal has dope; what did JOI have?

That's my 2 cents.....

Author:  OhItsJustDan [ Mon Jul 06, 2009 6:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: James I. and his father

I thought it was made pretty apparent that up until the last moments of his life, Himself was devoted to his filmmaking in a way that, if not text-book addictive, was certainly alienating to his family (with the exception of maybe Mario).

Also, if IJ is set in the near-future and Hal is never older than 18, I think a Clockwork Orange is a bit distant to be generation-defining in this case. (And really, was there even a "Clockwork Orange generation," anyway? It's certainly a point of interest for a lot of people as they're growing up, but I never really considered it one of those things that contributed to any great change in philosophy.)

Author:  tomj [ Mon Jul 06, 2009 7:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: James I. and his father

Sorry, OhItsJustDan, I was trying to get a discussion going, so thanks for getting me to clarify myself. I meant to say that Brando is probably intended as a symbol of a change in culture and I was wondering if the same happened each generation. And you are right, Clockwork Orange is probably not historically accurate, but the question remains: has the culture (father/son relationships to be just one example) changed again from JOI's generation to Hal's.

This forum is so full of eloquent thinkers and writers. I do find it a bit intimidating contributing as my thoughts are unfortunately not as clearly stated as some!

Author:  joel [ Mon Jul 06, 2009 6:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: James I. and his father

Maybe this is simplifying it all a bit too easily, but what's going on here from generation to generation seems to be reactionary and even cyclical: J.O.I.'s father's father was distant from his son (J.O.I.'s father), who responded by being too controlling of his son (J.O.I.), who responded by being distant from his family.

Granted, DFW has kept J.O.I. pretty shrouded in mystery up to this point, so I should probably be cautious about drawing conclusions about him. It's especially interesting that J.O.I. appears to have actually been successful, in fact in no less than three completely different professions, and two of his sons are also apparently quite successful. But to what extent does any of their success really mean anything? Despite an output of two professional athletes and an optics expert/tennis academy founder/filmmaker, the family members seem to have failed to connect with one another on a personal level, and isn't that really what DFW is getting at? We can find individual "greatness," but at the end of the day, what have we really achieved?

Author:  levingard [ Mon Jul 06, 2009 6:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: James I. and his father

It's interesting that while JOI's dad was apparently very involved on the tennis front, JOI refers to him as turning the daily newspaper into the 5th wall in the room every morning. So it seems he didn't have much to do with JOI in any other regard.

Author:  1.0 [ Mon Jul 06, 2009 9:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: James I. and his father

I feel like there are days worth of topics to discuss based on this section but the pressure to keep up pace forces us to move on. The first thing that intrigued me about JOI's father was that tennis was more of a philosophy and a lifestyle than just an activity. Also the notion of the harmony of all inanmimate objects because ultimately that is all we are. The cult of celebrity was also present in the references to Brando as well as his father's duty to give "his talent" that one last shot. The cult of celebrity promotes self-involvement while the sport of tennis promotes awareness and a realtionship with all things in one's environment and I think that is the choice JOI's father was presenting him with and those are his dual legacies the ETA academy and his filmography which seemed to be very self-involved and promote self-absorption.

Author:  ontoursecretly [ Mon Jul 06, 2009 9:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: James I. and his father

1.0 wrote:
I feel like there are days worth of topics to discuss based on this section but the pressure to keep up pace forces us to move on...

By all means, if you want to elaborate, go ahead. Now I'm curious.

Author:  1.0 [ Tue Jul 07, 2009 8:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: James I. and his father

I think the thing I was most drawn to in the passage was JOI's father inability to help himself not wanting to repeat the mistakes that his own father made yet being unable to prevent them anyway. I was also taken with the idea as previously mentioned of JOI's father offering him a choice on some level between tennis and film, and the philosphies they represent, his monologue seemed to be a "do as I say not as I do lecture."this dichotomy between tennis and film is something that I am very interested in seeing develop throughout the course of the novel.

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