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: Just exactly what is the Entertainment?
PostPosted: Tue Sep 22, 2009 2:28 am 
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Joined: Wed Jul 15, 2009 9:16 am
Posts: 19
The horrible pedagogy I submit myself to after years of imposing it on students is that there is no reading worth anything that does not issue in writing. If can't write it, you haven't read it. A sure-fire way to empty amphitheatres of students!

Chris Hager in his thesis, and now Jeffrey Paris at "Infinite Tasks" have responded to the question, thus inciting anyone involved in IS to come up with a few lines in response. Jeffrey Paris lists the three major descriptions given in IJ, descriptions not of its effects (the whole not so wild conceit of its being lethal) but of its quiddity, its whatness: what is the what of the Entertainment? (I'm sure Eggers had this in mind not so far back) What is it, exactly? According to Paris, we have JOI's response, Molly Notkin's, and the wraith's. This is slightly misleading, since we don't have JOI's response, but only something on the interface between the wraith and Gately. Paris insists that these people cannot always be taken at their word. No further than you can throw a toenail. Paris signs off (but he will return in a third, and perhaps fourth installment --he may end up addressing the French academy of letters if we're not careful!) with a question: "will someone we know actually view the Entertainment before IJ is concluded?"

Chris Hager answers affirmatively. It's Gately who, in a dream, "might well be seeing some non-lethal version of the Entertainment, the unempaired artistic vision from which JOI, his mind's intent, as he meant Hal to see it ..."
This response raises a slew of new questions that any reader at this point is bound to be asking, allowing this so familiar onrush of uncertainty to blur the force of the question, the claim of the question to hold the reader hostage until he's able to break free. No one, for me the Ayotollah of comparative literature, can come away from IJ without responding to Paris's question: what was all the hullaballoo about the entertainment? Avery Edison at least had the courage or quick wit to identify the question and to shoot it down immediately with one of her darts: not only is it improbable, but it's just plain silly. ("Silly" here as inflected by the latest life-form of Barack Obama, meaning the sum total of drives and instincts preventing us from coming together in a common, difficult, boring project aiming at a more perfect union, with Mrs Incandenza pointing out that a perfect union cannot become more perfect.)

Both Paris and Hager left out another description of the Entertainment, one with the Lacedemonian virtue of extreme brevity and sharp lethal wit. Permulis's dart in Kornspan's eard on 6 November, page 200: "Pussy"! This is clearly applicable well beyond the silly but so typically American Kornspan. Isn't it the perfect word to describe what the Canadian revolutionaries think about the USA in its latest ONAN metamorphosis? Haven't we become a nation of wimps and pussies? (This question goes back at least to Philip Wylvie: generation of vipers: it stands in the same time frame as Jack Benny, so here it has a pass to enter the discussion) Isn't the Entertainment a kind of pop-quiz or litmus test to verify the hunch that Americans are now convinced that politics is a joke? The Entertainment is lethat only to the extent tht it does away with garbage, i.e., with people who in a pinch would stay home instead of planting the bomb, and rising up in rebellion in the face of so much obscene oppression. The Entertainment, as once the game of the mystery train, has an eminently Nietzschean moral function: the establishment of a rank order clearly distinguishing between those who have accepted to be weened and shaped to be able to put their lives on the line, and those who can't wait long enough to learn to concentrate on the call. This is the major activity of all the French speaking protagonists in this novel: entertaining the notion that no one will hear the call-to-arms once couched in a maternal voice. At IS, there has not been a single exception to this rule, confirming the quite passive political libido of the USA. (Only one courageous man in the novel is the exception confirming the terrorists's sociological and political hunch: PUSSIES ALL DOWN SOUTH.)

Paris's question is still waiting for a more substantial response. After all, understanding how the Entertainment functions does not tell us what it is for the people watching it, seeking to exploit it. This is understandable of course. It made Ezra Klein, in his final post of disgust and ressentiment, (go to "A supposedly fun blog and read it, if you will) almost vomit. I sympathize with the man, because the description given on page 850 is practically impossible to countenance. It is by far the wildest conceit in the novel. Recall Kindermommy in the general discussion, literally shouting out how silly this was from a feminine viewpoint! Has anyone answered her call? I don't believe so. Ezra said, simply, or lazily enough: these are "horrible things." Indeed.

Is the description on page 850 a take on re-incarnation? I don't think so. But, on the other hand, it's not very hard to write that Avril killed her husband, releasing him into another life as a wraith. She was the person who offered him the Wild Turkey, a gift-poison to a man who was intent on remaining within the limits of the court he had chosen: the court of cold turkey. (who amongst us will be able to celebrate Thanksgiving this year without several mental interruptions concerning fowls and abiding by the bird?)
It's not any harder to write that Joëlle killed JOI to become a kind of foster-mother. In point of fact, I'm lying up a storm, for these on both questionable and problematical takes on the maternal twin to Freud's all-male thesis that society is couched in parricide.

There's no way I'll come out of this post without feeling and looking foolhardy. I'll have to get used to the idea: to party hardy with my own silliness. Neither fact nor data,but a speculative junction requiring myth, poety, and individual imput: death is infinitely attractive, gentle, a soothing call to a far-off land, or to darkness. The ontological priority of life (here I'm reading Gerry Canavan) went the way of all garbage with the death of God, except for those willing to become rumagers in all the garbage. Now -- in our generational time -- death has the veiled visage of an impossibly comely woman with an impossibly seductive voice. There is no longer any way anybody is going to distribute bonuses or marks or medals to those who choose life. That choice will remain forever un-recognized (contra Hegel). Those who so choose will have to stay on a track leading to lackluster boredom -- the one with an inchoative description in Wallace's The Pale King. A whiter shade of pale,or a deeper shade of pale (I'm sorry I've forgotton the title, but I know it will come back when it's too late, when all contributions will be closed at IS). This is perhaps why there's so little healthy copulating going on in this novel. Only X'ing. And squeking matresses, and faithfulness to people most of us wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. (Mrs. Marathe) In a word, addiction in all its forms is maternal, and there's no way we'll go any distance without the Moms sidelining our rendez-vous with maturity.


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 Post subject: Re: Just exactly what is the Entertainment?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 23, 2009 3:15 am 
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Joined: Thu Jun 04, 2009 2:42 am
Posts: 75
I heard an interview with David Foster Wallace where he was asked to comment on the academic criticism of his work. He said he has read some of it and it sounds brilliant but he has no idea what they are talking about.


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