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: Hal / DFW
PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 6:13 pm 
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lwalding wrote:
How much of Hal, if any, do readers think is DFW?


Impossible to say, but I'm getting the impression that different aspects of DFW are split between many characters, rather than having a clear stand-in, which is what I originally guessed Hal to be. Based on my limited knowledge of DFW from essays and interviews, I can certainly see bits of him in Hal and Mario. And I think he's working out some of his ideas about things in Schtitt and Marathe. But it's all to early to tell, really, if it were even possible to do so.

I'm assuming there's a biography of DFW on some publisher's desk as I type this.

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 Post subject: Re: Hal / DFW
PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 6:30 pm 
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There seem to be many parallels between Hal and DFW. Especially little details. Wallace was a big tobacco chewer, as is Hal obviously.


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 Post subject: Re: Hal / DFW
PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 6:44 pm 
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Quote:
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 :)


Yeah, I immediately thought about that in the beginning and it influenced how I perceived Hal in the rest of the book. I'm a tech nerd and there are a lot of references to technology and computers spread throughout the book that caught my eye, especially the "I am not a computer" line somewhere in the first 20 pages (don't have the book handy to find the exact page...)


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 Post subject: Re: Hal / DFW
PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 12:06 am 
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Quote:
Mario thinks of a steel pole raised to double its designed height...


I'm not sure if it has been mentioned elsewhere, but this line (on p 84) seems to reference back to Hal's comments to Mario about how Avril handled JOI's death on p 42 ("You can raise the pole to like twice its original height.")

Something I notice as I type this, that might or might not be in any way significant, but which thrills me nonetheless, is the fact that the second reference appears on page 84, which number is double the page number of the original reference, 42.


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 Post subject: Re: Hal / DFW
PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 7:00 pm 
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I think you're on to something, Troybob. That line was significant for me as well, though the numerology didn't jump out at me. Mario seems to be connecting Schtitt's feelings about tennis with Avril either to understand her apparent lack of sadness as some type of victory over herself, or to comment on Himself's death as an attempt at transcendence of "the limited self" perhaps?


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 Post subject: Re: Hal / DFW
PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 7:00 pm 
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I think you're on to something, Troybob. That line was significant for me as well, though the numerology didn't jump out at me. Mario seems to be connecting Schtitt's feelings about tennis with Avril either to understand her apparent lack of sadness as some type of victory over herself, or to comment on Himself's death as an attempt at transcendence of "the limited self" perhaps?


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 Post subject: Re: Hal / DFW
PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 8:10 am 
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lwalding wrote:
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).


I thought it would be important to revisit this thread because of what's on page 805:

"All through his own infancy and toddlerhood, Hal had continually been held and dandled and told at very loud volume that he was loved, and he feels like he could have told K. Bain's Inner Infant that getting held and told you were loved didn't automatically seem like it rendered you emotionally whole or Substance-free. Hal finds he rather envies a man who feels he has something to explain his being fucked up, parents to blame it on. Not even Pemulis blamed his late father Mr. Pemulis, who hadn't exactly sounded like the Fred MacMurray of U.S fathers. But then Pemulis didn't consider himself fucked up or unfree w/r/t substances."

By all accounts (interviews with and articles about him) DFW came from a family that was not in any way screwed up and was in fact a good, loving, highly-intelligent and gift-promoting-in-the-children family (I remember especially the anecdote about how they all wrote considerate, respectful notes to each other) so I can't help thinking of him here and thinking that he wished that he could explain his depression on something; it breaks my heart in this way. (It also makes me wonder whether it was pot use itself that screwed up his brain chemistry, eventually to a really dangerous point where the treatments he tried couldn't work. But I don't know enough about pot's long-term effects to assume that possibility.)

However, what Hal is saying in the context of the plot is problematic for me. First, I don't think it's enough to just be dandled properly as a baby to be able to deem your family a loving one, most of the heavy shit that people go through that causes mental illness comes later from the parents. And in certain segments of parentdom, if you have the kind of parents that do like a Kevin Bain on you, you can usually bet that this is just the beginning. So this is a bit reductive and maybe merely in connection with setting up the scene to encapsulate the kind of ridiculousness of certain pop-psychology type movements that some group therapy subscribes to. Second, it's not realistic that Pemulis wouldn't be screwed up when he witnessed his brother's frequent rapes at the hands of his father is another thing I take away from this. So Hal might think he's not but it's likely that Pemulis' substance abuse is connected to that. Or at least the depression he's trying to cover up with substance abuse seems it would be. But mostly, I am confused because Hal's mother is portrayed as neurotic and kind of creepy, especially as seen by Joelle--and Orin has problems with her. A son who won't speak to her. And on page 791 Molly Notkin says that there could have been incest between Avril and Orin as a child and that "it sounded like the little rotter had enough malcathected issues with his mother to keep all of Vienna humming briskly for quite some time." Is this why Orin won't speak to her?

Another minor but informational point: Kate and the other pot addicts were said to be going through total insomnia that could be expected to last for like a year, but so far Hal is not having this symptom, he's sleeping, though having nightmares. Curious about the inconsistency here w/r/t whether going off pot really does give you that degree of insomnia and I wonder if DFW went through this. It seems to me that it would be one of the most terrible symptoms of all of going off the drug.


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