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: Waiting for Weed
PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2009 12:41 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jun 21, 2009 7:45 pm
Posts: 19
Location: minneapolis
I agree this section was hilarious and very striking. I can't wait to rejoin Erdedy.

I did feel a bit anxious reading it, the onslaught of the words, little to no paragraph breaks. Adding call waiting in case she was calling him as he was calling her (as a teenager this problem ran through my head many times...)

Visually this is the most powerful scene for me so far.


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 Post subject: Re: Waiting for Weed
PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2009 6:19 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2009 4:16 pm
Posts: 86
Location: North Dakota
The introduction of Erdedy contains powerful psychology. “Once or twice he started to get up to go over closer to look at it, but he was afraid that if he came closer and saw it closer he would kill it, and he was afraid to kill it.” (pg 17) Erdedy immediately sounds like a ridiculously nervous and agitated personality. The sentence’s pace is set by the repetition of ‘closer’ and ‘it.’ I see Erdedy bouncing his knee anxiously, absentmindedly; desperate for the story to move forward toward the arrival of the woman with the dope.
The longer, multi-clause sentences strung up on clotheslines of ‘ands’ (“He did not use the phone…and…and…and…and…somewhere else.” 17-18) drive Erdedy’s anxiousness even closer to mania. So do the very particular descriptions DFW repeatedly returns to (“the steel girder a shelf fit into”). Erdedy is a kid dancing in front of a locked bathroom door at a gas station and bursting at the bladder. Just give the guy some relief, lady. He needs his drugs!

Inside Erdedy’s head, he has piles and piles of justifications and rationalizations for his behaviors. He thinks he’s kind for not asking people he previously instructed to never again buy him pot to ignore that conversation and get him something to fill his bong with. He thinks it is ‘kind’ to dissemble his gratitude for drugs with a jack-ass façade, preventing himself from considering calling any of the people who he’s used in the past. Inside of his head there are these reasons, but his behavior, what everyone else sees, seems totally devoid of reasons. Perhaps DFW is getting at something here. I think he’s trying to communicate what’s obvious to all of us when we think about ourselves; we have reasons for the things we do, but as soon as someone else does something which could be interpreted as dastardly or uncouth, we label that person weird, nuts, asshole, moron, etc. We forget (or don’t care) that there’s probably a reason behind the behavior, a reason which seems totally reasonable to the actor (This sentiment is discussed at length in DFW’s This Is Water). Erdedy doesn’t seem to struggle with his rationalizations- they seem totally sound to him. Yet how could any of us look at Erdedy’s behavior from the perspective of the dope-deliverers and think the guy wasn’t weird, nuts, an asshole, a moron, etc.?

Maybe Erdedy’s character is a vehicle for exploring DFW’s loneliness from a particular angle: could Erdedy’s purpose be to illustrate loneliness as misunderstanding people’s actions? I think that Hal possesses such a large vocabulary because he wants to communicate very precise ideas (i.e. mulling over the tennis coach’s word choices accentuate/accelerate/facilitate). DFW was a logophile; he collected old dictionaries and made a point to use exotic words in his writing because uncommon words are not as watered down or muffled as common words. To DFW, it’s a choice between the scalpel and the meat-and-potatoes knife next to your plate: both can do the jobs knives do, but one is sharper and, therefore, more knife-ish. The irony, of course, is that using those ‘scalpels’ makes DFW harder for most people to understand because they’re so unfamiliar.

If you’re willing to buy Hal-as-DFW’s word obsession cause of loneliness, maybe Erdedy is DFW’s intentions-behind-actions-are-not-always-perceived-correctly cause of loneliness. Understanding Erdedy takes a bit of effort, more than the wispy women his stream of consciousness recalls seem to want to invest in him. And why should they when he displays what looks like ‘phallocentric conduct’ (25) and offers no explanations to the contrary. This is the nature of a lonely mind; it’s filled with explanations it does not share with other people. They seem reasonable, obvious even, to Erdedy. But they’re not. And Erdedy never gives anyone an avenue in. DFW might be saying ‘what’s the point?’ If people are not wired the same way he (Erdedy/DFW) is, why bother trying to explain to them what’s going on inside his head? There’s no guarantee that they’ll understand the rationalization the same way he does. The fundamental experience of reality is different. Whatever we try to explain to another person has to pass through a filter (the other person’s mind) which we cannot see. So even when the other person says ‘oooOOOOOoooh, I get it now’, what guarantee is there that what was ‘got’ is the same as what was given? It’s a game of telephone. It’s a book translated into another language. It’s a woman attempting to explain what sex feels like to a man or vice versa. Something is Lost in Translation. Erdedy knows some things about him are Bill Murrayed (The movie, if you haven’t see it), but doesn’t recognize that other things have also been obscured.

Trying to keep people at a distance from which he won’t hurt them is actually causing Erdedy to hurt them, yet he seems unaware or unconcerned with that pain. Erdedy has made a choice to inflict one type of pain in hopes of protecting people from a different breed of pain…So is it pain that he’s really worried about inflicting? Or is he in denial about something. Is he refusing to develop bonds with people because they seem like burdens? I think so. I think Erdedy wants as little connection to people as possible because relationships cause responsibility. If Erdedy becomes a regular customer of a dealer, or continues to pursue weed through the same third parties, he risks learning things about them and revealing things about himself. Doing that transfers power. He’s of the Spiderman philosophy “With great power comes great responsibility.” He doesn’t want responsibility (he makes up a BS story about being out of town, holes himself away in a darkened apartment, destroys every bong he buys, plays the ‘oh-it’s-been-so-long-that-why-the-hell-not’ card), so he avoids power transfers. If they don’t know much about him, they don’t have to care about him. If he doesn’t know about them, ditto. Erdedy will look at any relationship as a protracted pain he inflicts or absorbs because he lacks confidence in himself.

The problem is he’s not displaying the personae he thinks he is. The “oh, I’m not getting this for me, it’s for my friends” line is so over-used in the drug-buying world that no one believes it. If you’re buying drugs, you’re not doing it for a friend; some of it (or all of it) is for you. That he understands the ‘sense of obligation’ money creates and not the one that two rounds of sex create shows just how out of touch he is with human interaction and how people perceive one another. The woman buying him pot this time around probably isn’t fronting the $1250 just because she can afford it. He’s slept with her twice. She’s got to trust him at some level to get in that bed a second time. The cash is probably part of that trust the way the large piece of art over his bed from the previous sex-for-drugs woman was a symbol of trust.

-Storm


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 Post subject: Re: Waiting for Weed
PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 11:31 am 
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Outstanding scene and for me a great example of how crucial cadence is in creating a mood/mindset.

It resonated with me just like it would resonate with anyone whose been addicted to anything ... the preparation, the gear, the entire mythos you build around smoking or drinking or whatever your vice, becomes as significant a part of the experience as the addiction itself (actually, more so, because the high of preparation/anticipation lasts far longer and is way more intense than the actual high itself).

Even more interesting for me is the utter self-absorption that Erdedy exhibits. I've tried to promise myself that I would not go through this exercise trying to suss out clues/leading spiritual indicators that DFW would eventually come to kill himself. But no matter what your view of suicide is, it's hard not to ready through sections like this and not see the parallels in Erdedy's preparations and those made by people who end their lives ... the systematic disconnections, the idea that this is a last or final solution, the consideration for others in leaving notes, answering machine messages, etc.

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 Post subject: Re: Waiting for Weed
PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:05 pm 
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Wow storm. Excellent commentary. Your comments on Erdedy are as powerful as the section itself. Great job!


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 Post subject: Re: Waiting for Weed
PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 5:04 pm 
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Webslog wrote:
Outstanding scene and for me a great example of how crucial cadence is in creating a mood/mindset.


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 Post subject: Re: Waiting for Weed
PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2009 6:29 am 
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Joined: Wed Jun 03, 2009 7:53 am
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storm wrote:
[...]he risks learning things about them and revealing things about himself.[...]

-Storm


Agreed, nicely done Storm. I will only add that I think, perhaps, the risk is more in learning things about himself.

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