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: Randy Lenz and the SteelSaks
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 8:04 am 
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I thought the part with the flaming cat was funny, not because of the flaming cat (horrifying) but because hey, Lenz totally had that coming. It was satisfying to see him have to run for it.

I think Lenz's experiences are another (particularly twisted) illustration of one of the facts that all these characters keep running into - that no matter how you try to sublimate those feelings of rage and powerlessness, etc., no strategy of relief will ever be enough. Drugs, violence, achievement, fame - once we start down these roads our desires will just keep escalating. The only way to stop the cycle is to stop the behavior and experience the feelings we've been trying to chase away.

OneBigParty wrote:

Fiction exists so we can learn to experience life as we never would otherwise, through the eyes of another person. Do I really want to experience what Lenz sees and hears and feels as he tortures and kills, down to every last detail?



I'd argue that this isn't why fiction exists. I couldn't pose an alternative, because fiction (stories) have been around as long as human language has. I think for a while one of the roles of fiction was to let the reader experience things they never would have experienced, and life through the eyes of another person. But fiction's always served other purposes too, and especially now that we have tv and the internet and all that a lot of art exists to allow us to see ourselves.

So, even though most of us probably don't relate to the mind of a psychopathic animal torturer, Lenz is modeling an extreme version of pretty common human mental processes. I think these functions are manifested in so many different ways by so many different characters in this book to stress the inherent connections between our experiences. To make us feel a little less alone and to make us empathize a little more often.


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 Post subject: Re: Randy Lenz and the SteelSaks
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 12:44 pm 
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I found this section to be truly horrific. With a few days' distance now, I'm past thinking it was completely gratuitious, but it's definitely jarring — I haven't yet decided to what purpose though.

I'm not sure if this is the right place to ask, but...

On page 562 a "yrstruly" creeps into the narration, most unambiguously referring to Lenz. This couldn't possiby mean that it was Lenz narrating the episode with C and Poor Tony, could it? The style's are too wildly different — although maybe this reflects the difference in the before and after mindset (even though Lenz isn't exactly clean; OK, 'before and later'). I haven't rescoured the p 128 yrstruly passage for details that would make or break it as a Lenz story, but I'm wondering if anyone has thoughts on this.

Certainly seeing yrstruly again made me sit up — it can't be an accident that it appears here?


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 Post subject: Re: Randy Lenz and the SteelSaks
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 12:51 pm 
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the yrstruly reference on 562 seems like an obvious sign that that lenz is yrstruly, but the p 128 passage sounds so different - it's so much more insightful, for one. and the yrstruly on p 128 is a heroin addict but lenz is a coke addict/dealer. at some point earlier it's hinted that emil minty is yrstruly, which makes a lot more sense, but then why the "yrstruly" on 562? I'm confused.


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 Post subject: Re: Randy Lenz and the SteelSaks
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 1:20 pm 
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isabella wrote:
On page 562 a "yrstruly" creeps into the narration, most unambiguously referring to Lenz. This couldn't possiby mean that it was Lenz narrating the episode with C and Poor Tony, could it? The style's are too wildly different — although maybe this reflects the difference in the before and after mindset (even though Lenz isn't exactly clean; OK, 'before and later'). I haven't rescoured the p 128 yrstruly passage for details that would make or break it as a Lenz story, but I'm wondering if anyone has thoughts on this.

Certainly seeing yrstruly again made me sit up — it can't be an accident that it appears here?


I noticed that too, and it definitely made me start thinking that Lenz was the 3rd party in that scene. I've been assuming all along that we would find out at some point who yrstruly was, and figured it would be someone in Ennet House.

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 Post subject: Re: Randy Lenz and the SteelSaks
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 1:22 pm 
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dioramaorama wrote:
the yrstruly reference on 562 seems like an obvious sign that that lenz is yrstruly, but the p 128 passage sounds so different - it's so much more insightful, for one. and the yrstruly on p 128 is a heroin addict but lenz is a coke addict/dealer. at some point earlier it's hinted that emil minty is yrstruly, which makes a lot more sense, but then why the "yrstruly" on 562? I'm confused.


I remember reading something that made me think that Minty was yrstruly, now I'm not sure.

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 Post subject: Re: Randy Lenz and the SteelSaks
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 1:48 pm 
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I posted this quite a while ago in the general discussion:

viewtopic.php?f=12&t=275

I'm of the camp that believes yrstruly in the first section is Emil Minty, but as I mentioned in that post, it's interesting that Emil and Burt Smith never recognize each other in Ennet House.

Perhaps 'yrstruly' indicates something about the quality of the narration, that the mind of the person in the section is in a primitive or drug-addled state that makes it difficult for the narration to be transcribed, and it's handled with greater distance and like a letter, using 'yrstruly' instead of the more personal 'I'. But it is strange that it only appears in these two places.

For some reason, it reminds me of end note #110 where Orin sends the letter to the Moms on the Saints' letterhead, signed with the name Jethro Bodine, a character from the Beverly Hillbillies.


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 Post subject: Re: Randy Lenz and the SteelSaks
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 2:02 pm 
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I wonder if there is any Boston slang that commonly uses "yours truly" as a way of referring to yourself. If so, I could accept the "yrstruly" as common shorthand. Oddly, every time I think of the phrase as a literary motif, I instantly think of the Austen/Bronte convention of addressing the "Dear Reader"*

*admit I can only think of specific instance of "dear reader" in Jane Eyre, so I might be wrong to think Austen used, since, as we all know, it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single writer in possession of a good arch British phrase, must have stolen it from Austen.


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 Post subject: Re: Randy Lenz and the SteelSaks
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 2:29 pm 
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semarleau wrote:
I remember reading something that made me think that Minty was yrstruly, now I'm not sure.


We've been talking about this in the blog comments: http://infinitesummer.org/archives/1351

Here's what I said:

I actually think the reference to yrstruly on pg. 562 is misleading. Lenz can’t be yrstruly, mainly because their back stories don’t match at all. The reference on pg. 300, where Poor Tony says Emil had marked him for de-mapping as a result of the horrid thing with C and Bobby Wo, and then dematerialized. This is consistent with Emil Minty, the new resident at Ennet House. Plus Emil has the “Fuck Nigers” tattoo, which was the way he spelled the racial slur (sorry to use it, though hopefully I didn’t really use it, just quoted it).

Meanwhile, yrstruly never asked for the time, like Lenz does, or acted out violently, and he wasn’t a coke dealer, either. So I’m not sure what the reference on pg. 562 is about, unless it’s a red herring.


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 Post subject: Re: Randy Lenz and the SteelSaks
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 6:43 pm 
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Quite right -- p 562 notwithstanding, yrstruly doesn't fit with Lenz's character at all.

But it's a weird narration trick all the same. The whole passage is in 3rd person from Lenz's perspective; then there's this sudden marked lapse, like we're being told about someone else entirely, "where (some guy referred to as yrstruly) and Green strolled." Like Lenz is momentarily disconnected; and it does harken back to the kind of drug-addled, frenetic state-of-mind we saw in the yrstruly section.


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 Post subject: Re: Randy Lenz and the SteelSaks
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 6:58 pm 
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stephaniejane wrote:
I'm not sure whose perspective you're writing from - are you saying, in your opinion? Because I disagree with this assessment. I think we ARE supposed to care about what they do in a moral sense - a lot, actually.


I agree that we're supposed to be morally horrified. Why else the constant references to how much the Staffers and other House residents LOATHE Lenz, get the howling fantods from him, even without knowing his beyond dark side. "You have trouble with the part of the Second Step that's about insanity and you've been using Randy Lenz for a sponsor?"

He's supposed to make our skin crawl, and just when it can't get any worse, it does. I find in that Wallace's professed resistance to postmodernism, his post-post-Modern refusal to wave away horror and emotion and genuine humanity with irony. His disgust with irony, really, is what I see in Lenz. An 'Oh, yeah? That's how far we're gonna go in fiction? Okay, fine, we can go there, but it will make you realize that there are some lines we can't cross' kind of thing.


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