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: IJ and food
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2009 4:09 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 4:08 pm
Posts: 47
Okay, so maybe this is the maternal instinct (and amateur chef) part of me coming out but have you noticed something about food in the book? I noticed the absence of anything but unhealthy food, i.e. in the Erdedy section and then, when I got to the description of Don Gately's weekly fare at Ennet House, there it was again.

For a story that puts so much emphasis on conditioning young bodies into fine athletes this seems like an interesting omission. The daily routine doesn't include sitting down to a "real food meal"* with the drool-inducing masterful descriptions that DFW would be surely be able to give.

Also, with the strong emphasis on healing of minds I've got to admit here that being experienced with depression and addictive tendencies myself, even simple healthy food made with love, skill, or both is the first line of defense tied with, or surpassing the importance of, therapy. Of course, that _is_ sometimes the first thing that goes, unfortunately. If appetite is non-existent, in no other daily stress-induced situation does it seem more important to Fake It To Make It, in order to prevent sinking even lower. Recall the character of Smilla in Smilla's sense of snow who talked about how in the arctic coldness of her winters it was very important to have hot food every day in order to keep her mood, which was very dark, from getting any darker.

How often is this subject touched upon in fiction? Well, maybe not very often, but this is an encyclopedic novel _and_ there's so much in it about bodies. There's so much in it about pleasure--oral gratification. Why not about _healthy_ oral gratification? Why not about what bodies optimally have to take in--(other than the drugs, which sometimes can be optimal too, for self-medicating purposes when other things don't work). Why the minutiae of the perfecting of the physical system in other ways, but not that? Avril doesn't seem to be particularly into inviting her boys over from the dorm for a lavish home-cooked meal. The boys don't associate "Mother" with good food, like some people do. Maybe this will come up later in the book if there's more about the childhoods of the boys. Many people's good memories of childhood involve food, why not Hal's or Orin's or Don's?

I just read Don DeLillo's Underworld, another encyclopedic novel, which talks about how food makes life, especially family life, richer. The proverbial "food is love" theme. In the good sense, not the Overeaters Anonymous sense. (But then, he was Italian--but so are the Incandenzas, but not the Moms). And that is how I started thinking about this issue.

(I would have loved to see DFW's description of a "Babbette's Feast" type of meal.)

Also interesting that he doesn't seem to have any food addicts in the book, although there are a couple of very overweight types.

Consider also how DFW talks about the _by-products_ of eating a fair amount, E.T.A. students puking, people defecating while watching the entertainment and the men in the Shattuck Homeless men's shelter leaving various versions of their waste products in the showers for Don G. to clean. (Poor Tony's waste products seem more like a pouring out, a hollowing of his very guts, though.)

I would like to invite all the Ennet House residents and E.T.A. students to a huge home-cooked banquet!

*Incredible String Band, "Way Back In the 1960's"


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 Post subject: Re: IJ and food
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2009 4:18 pm 
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Sorry--I should have used the italics button in that post. I'm old--I'm a techno-boob. :(


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 Post subject: Re: IJ and food
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2009 8:00 pm 
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Maybe it has something to do with Hal's early mold eating experience!

There's the hilarious scene where Don Gately is driving the "Storrow 500" (you have to be a Bostonian to get that) in hot pursuit of some "delicate" food (quiche) from Bread and Circus (now known as Whole Foods) for 2 new residents at Ennet house. I was kind of surprised that a rehab center would cater to new (manipulative) residents!

Anyway, en route Don sets off a chain reaction in an ethnic neighborhood that does mention food, but I think this is further along in the book so I won't spoil it.

It's one of those great scenes that was absolutely fabulous and then just ... ended.


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 Post subject: Re: IJ and food
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2009 8:36 pm 
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Location: Brooklyn, NY
I just have to mention in response to this post that one of my absolute favorite scenes in this book is when Don Gately cooks dinner for the Ennet House residents. I don't know why I think that page is so touching, but I do.


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 Post subject: Re: IJ and food
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2009 10:04 pm 
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dioramaorama wrote:
I just have to mention in response to this post that one of my absolute favorite scenes in this book is when Don Gately cooks dinner for the Ennet House residents. I don't know why I think that page is so touching, but I do.


Yes, your absolutely right--here is an example of food, though cooked ineptly by Don G., cooked with love. The fact that the residents don't complain only gently and indirectly is kind of their way of loving him back, the being so tolerant of something so unappetizing.


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 Post subject: Re: IJ and food
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2009 10:09 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2009 1:34 pm
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I think the junk food does a couple of things - 1) its realistic as teenagers don't eat very well as a rule 2) it's a sign of the inner rottenness of spirit - despite the super-successful outer appearances at ETA and in the Incandenza family, there is very little human decency, either in the form of food or any other kind. It's just one more way of completing the image.


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 Post subject: Re: IJ and food
PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2009 9:02 am 
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What about the references to the quebecois soupe aux pois? Most recently in the Antitoi sequence.


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 Post subject: Re: IJ and food
PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2009 9:30 am 
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Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:48 am
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Location: Orlando, FL
Thanks for bringing up this topic - I don't think I even noticed the food angle until now even though I'm an avid home cook and love food. I agree that Don cooking for the residents was lovely. He's obviously so invested in it even if he's inept. Another thought is how it seemed to me that the Moms almost forces Hal and Mario away from the dinner table at the house because she eats so very late in the evening. With their schedules they can only make it occasionally - does she do this on purpose?
And yes, DFW obviously can write wonderfully about food - I'm reading some of his essays along with IJ and just finished the one about the Illinois State Fair - some great descriptions of fair food!
Joan


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 Post subject: Re: IJ and food
PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2009 10:20 am 
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Joined: Sat Jun 27, 2009 12:55 am
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I get the feeling that, like someone mentioned- DFW conveys the love that comes through institutional (and bad) food at Ennet House. Like you wouldn't want good coffee at meeting, because it's the awful institutional bad coffee that means you're doing the hard work of healing. It's not about pleasure so much as learning to meet basic needs.


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