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: Wraiths and Figurants
PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2009 6:51 pm 

Joined: Sat Jun 27, 2009 12:08 pm
Posts: 24
Just wanted to open this up to read other peoples thoughts on another mind blowing passage from this book. Kinda of riffing off of what Mr. Baldwin wrote in his comment today on the homepage. I don't think two characters meeting had me as excited as Gately's visitation by the wraith. I was reading with goose bumps once I figured out what was going on. Specifically the paragraph at the bottom of 838 to the top of page 839.

We discover the reason for the Entertainment

Things get very Hamletish

We learn that Gately as a child resembled George Wendt (poor Bimmy)

Really looking forward to seewhat other people thought of this section .

 Post subject: Re: Wraiths and Figurants
PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2009 10:03 pm 

Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2009 7:33 pm
Posts: 42
I love this section. On my first read, I was getting pretty worn down by the length of the book and wasn't able to really focus enough on a few sections towards the end. This time through I'd been waiting to get to this point pretty eagerly since I knew it had JOI actually present and communicating. This second read JOI has hung over the proceedings to a much larger extent. (It's to the point where I've been noting things in the text that I think are JOI-inserted comments. I've come to think of him as the narrator, or at least more the narrator than any other individual voice.) Even though I knew it was coming, it was still a bit jarring to have the book's most prominent figurant (if one can be both) apparate into the room and start interfacing. Particularly since this came just after the book's other main figurant, Wayne, had just gone off the rails to such a degree that the second hand reporting is hysterical (to me), but Wayne himself was once again not allowed to actually speak. I think so far Wayne's only dialogue has been "Plateaux, with an X, Plateaux."


Another thing that jumped out for me this time is how JOI describes Hal:
his own personal youngest offspring, a son, the one most like him, the one most marvelous and frightening to him

The boy, who did everything well and with a natural unslumped grace the wraith himself had always lacked, and whom the wraith had been so terribly eager to see and hear and let him (the son) know he was seen and heard

I think these struck me more this time because on my first read I had taken JOI to be a distant and fairly hands-off dad for Hal. Particularly since Hal offed himself when Hal was still pretty young, and his (JOI's) performance in the Thanksgiving scene is underwhelming. But in that first read I had forgotten that Hal talks a bit about JOI in Tennis and the Feral prodigy:
Hit about a thousand serves to no one while Himself sits and advises with his flask.

Here is how to do extra individual drills before the Academy's AM drills, before breakfast so that after the thousandth ball hit just out of reach by Himself, with his mammoth wingspan and ghastly calves, urging you with nothing but smiles on to great and greater demonstrations of effort...

Have Himself hunch down to put a long pale arm around your shoulders and tell you that his own father had told him that talent is a sort of dark gift, that talent is its own expectation: it is there from the start and either lived up to or lost.

My point here being only that Himself seems like a fairly committed father. At this point in Hal's life he's running an academy and actively exploring film as a side project, and is still willing to get up at around 6am or earlier to go his balls with Hal. (It could be earlier, dawn drills for boys' A-squad is 5am, but I'm supposing here that Hal wasn't on the A-squad pre-erumpent.) And so JOI's take on Hal seems more than just that of a keen observationalist, but also that of someone pretty involved in Hal's life on a daily basis. Also, because of their similarities, Hal's development as a person clearly meant a lot to JOI.

Of course, Hal has a fairly devastating rejoinder as to why their work together on tennis never sparked a lot of conversation between them:
Have a father whose own father lost what was there. Have a father who lived up to his own promise and then found thing after thing to meet and surpass the expectations of his promise in, and didn't seem just a whole hell of a lot happier or tighter wrapped that his own failed father, leaving you yourself in a kind of feral and flux-ridden state with respect to talent.

"Because so that was let's see."

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