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: Hal / DFW
PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 9:58 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jul 02, 2009 7:43 pm
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How much of Hal, if any, do readers think is DFW?

After asking that question just now I realise that all of the Incandenza brothers probably are different elements of DFW, but Hal to me seems to be closest. I'm not sure if this is just the author/protagonist trap I'm falling into here, but after reading Wallace's non-fiction before coming to Infinite Jest, Hal to me seems like Wallace. I even visualise Hal as looking like Wallace.

The interesting part of this questioning just how much of this author as protagonist is subconsciously derived from Wallace's death (w/r/t Infinite Jest in many ways being his legacy). My question here is that are we (if anyone else out there besides myself feels the same way) imagining Hal as Wallace for reasons outside of the evidence connecting the two? Is it some bizarre kind of involuntary conditioning of coming to Infinite Jest after DFW passed away?

The biggest question to this train of thought would be: should we be separating Wallace and Hal? Should we just be reading/seeing Hal as Hal?

Hoping this makes sense and is worth discussing (and in the right place on the forum).


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 Post subject: Re: Hal / DFW
PostPosted: Fri Jul 03, 2009 11:25 am 
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Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2009 3:07 pm
Posts: 21
Quote:
"After asking that question just now I realise that all of the Incandenza brothers probably are different elements of DFW, but Hal to me seems to be closest."


I really enjoyed your thoughtful commentary and your question about facets of DFW's personality in Hal.

My question - what about Mario? I love this innocent, large, ungainly, oddly shaped, big-headed character. Mario's relationship with Schitt, for example in the conversation he has with Schitt regarding the individual's relationship to a larger entity (here the state) surely reflects DFW's philosophical propensities:

Quote:
"...He (Mario) was trying to think how to articulate some reasonable form of a question like: But how then does this surrender-the-personal-individual-wants-to-the-larger-state-or-beloved-tree-or something stuff work in a deliberately individual sport like competitive junior tennis, where it's just you v. one other guy?" (p 83)


and later on in this same passage-recurring themes related to infinity, suicide, tennis...
Quote:
"Mario thinks of a steel pole raised to double its designed height and clips his shoulder on the green steel edge of a dumpster, pirouetting halfway to the cement before Schtitt darts in to catch him, and it almost looks like they're doing a dance-floor dip as Schtitt says this game the players are all at E.T.A. to learn, this infinite system of decisions and angles and lines Mario's brothers worked so brutishly hard to master: junior athletics is but one facet of the real gem: life's endless war against the self you cannot live without...Mario thinks hard again. He's trying to think of how to articulate something like: But then is battling and vanquishing the self the same as destroying yourself? Is that like saying life is pro-death?...And then but so what's the difference between tennis and suicide, life and death, the game and its own end? (p 84)"


That Mario has to think so hard before he formulates a question, during which process instigates further ruminations on other related topics is one of the most endearing qualities of Wallace's work (well, at least to this reader).


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 Post subject: Re: Hal / DFW
PostPosted: Sat Jul 04, 2009 5:20 am 
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Mario's innocence does stump me — it does illustrate perfectly what many readers believe to be Wallace's delivery of ideas, that is, the long thoughtful approach to thought itself. Before your comments I didn't see Mario as a character that came from DFW as Hal obviously did but as I say, the brothers Incandenza are a big part of Wallace. In my opinion.

In response however, I keep coming back to Orin. What part of (if any at all mind you) DFW does the character of Orin come from? That's a pretty interesting question. I see Orin as an independent, strong yet not without his anxieties type of character. Maybe we're looking too closely at the author and the work here but on some level I think that we have to given the depth of Infinite Jest.

Does anyone else want to chime in here with their thoughts?


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 Post subject: Re: Hal / DFW
PostPosted: Sat Jul 04, 2009 7:14 am 
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Joined: Sat Jun 06, 2009 10:01 pm
Posts: 82
Location: Mansfield, MA
In my mind, Orin is the most dysfunctional Incandenza son. He has no contact with his family, other than cryptic calls to Hal. He's addicted to one night stands with women he can't wait to get rid of afterwards. He has a phobia about roaches and deals with it in an overly obsessive way (tumblers, Ziplocs). He fears the dawn, whereas other characters think of the "sadness" of the day becoming night.

Mario, despite his physical limitations, seems to be the most open and well-adjusted son emotionally. People feel comfortable talking to him and sharing their feelings. Mario doesn't feel self-conscious, he waves his "claw" at folks as he zooms down Comm. Ave. on the motorcycle with Schtitt. Mario isn't afraid to discuss painful issues, as in his conversation with Hal about whether the Moms grieved after Himself's suicide.

Hal, at this moment, could go either way. He's outwardly acting like Orin, with his addictive pot smoking, and moving up in the ranks over the past year (increased focus on achievement), as well as his "acting cool" around his Little Buddies. But he still questions the "rightness" of his own actions, even if he attributes it to "marijuana thinking", so he hasn't become totally cynical yet.

Hopefully no spoilers above. It's tough when you're reading both the beginning and end of the book simultaneously. :D

_________________
"The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you." DFW


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 Post subject: Re: Hal / DFW
PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2009 12:46 pm 
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Location: Seattle, WA, USA
It's a bit of a puzzle. Stuff from/about DFW's life is clearly peppered throughout the story (or maybe even more than peppered, somewhere on a continuum of "peppered" and "giving the entire framework to") but I also can't help but think that Wallace is also teasing us here, saying "oh here's this grammatically genius, tennis prodigy, weed smoking kid. Sound familiar?" I think he wants us to read closely into the parallels at first, only so he can tweak them. I think of this quote (source: http://www.dalkeyarchive.com/catalog/show_comment/240) about Broom of the System: "And, sufficiently hidden under the sex-change and the gags and theoretical allusions, I got to write my sensitive little self-obsessed bildungsroman." I mean, he's saying he's already written his--albeit hidden--autobiographical work which is fine and all but he doesn't want to dwell on the same "self-obsessed" issues. So if there are "bildungsroman"-y things are play in IJ they might be for more playful and deeper purposes. That's the sense I get anyway.


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 Post subject: Re: Hal / DFW
PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2009 3:59 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jun 21, 2009 5:21 pm
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Location: Philadelphia, PA
hal and orin are both high-performance athletes who are under a great deal of pressure, which might make them cynical or mistrustful. in comparing mario to these two, i think perhaps the reason why mario ends up being the most likable is that nobody really expects anything of him.

i am intrigued by other posters' comments about parallels between hal and DFW. i am going to suspend judgment until i get through my re-read of the book and think on it then.


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 Post subject: Re: Hal / DFW
PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2009 4:26 pm 
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Location: North Dakota
I'm going to go a step further down this trail and say that DFW is "in" all the characters. There's the obvious point that DFW wrote the book and concieved of all the characters so they are him in one sense. But that's not where I want to focus. DFW is, like JOI, working his s*** out with this book. We need to remember he wasn't all that old when he began IJ and only a decade or so older once he finished it. While I acknowledge and am frustratingly humbled by the brilliance DFW displays in IJ, I can't buy that he has all the answers and insights. Some things just cannot be concieved or understood until they've been experienced. The whole respect to elders attitude that once dominated human culture (even here on the west side of the Atlantic) was an acknowledgment of how important experience is. Granted I say this as a 25yo who only knows that the 5yo, 12yo, and 21yo versions of himself knew a lot less about being human than the 25yo Storm typing this knows. And that's probably the big point I want to get to; DFW is being DFW when he writes for Schtitt and Avril and Hal and Mario and Steeply and Marathe. He can give us some pretty compelling language that, like Lyle's smile, can sell us X,Y, or Z, BUT it's all from the same psyche trying on different perspectives. All these voices filter through the same genius and that means that there are (for the sake of continuing the metaphor) various particles that either will or will not ever get through DFW's mind's efforts to strain his thoughts and vocabulary into something potable and unique. And I think DFW is somewhat aware of that fact; he sometimes seems to unabashadly do an about-face and talk to us through his characters. Some paragraphs seem like DFW telling me what the book is, why it's written how it is, or reassure me that things will come together once I learn to step back and look at the big book in the big picture perspective.


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 Post subject: Re: Hal / DFW
PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 11:47 am 
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Hal and DFW. Hal and Dave. Heh.

"Open the pod bay doors, Hal."
"I'm afraid I can't do that, Dave."

Thoughts?


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 Post subject: Re: Hal / DFW
PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 11:58 am 
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Joined: Tue Jun 30, 2009 11:36 am
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TripleMcSlice wrote:
Hal and DFW. Hal and Dave. Heh.

"Open the pod bay doors, Hal."
"I'm afraid I can't do that, Dave."

Thoughts?

Well DFW was a big film buff so it's not inconceivable that Hal's name is a little reference to 2001. Incandenza does seem to have a supercomputer-esque ability to recall the etymology of words :)


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 Post subject: Re: Hal / DFW
PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 5:14 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 10:10 am
Posts: 35
Read the Rolling Stone article published after DFW's suicide. You'll see a lot of Hal and maybe some of Orin in Wallace.

Here's a link:


http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/ ... er_wallace


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