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: Eschaton
PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 6:23 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2009 9:00 pm
Posts: 18
Location: Salt Lake City and no, I'm not one, either.
I've been chomping at the bit to discuss this section. For me, if it wasn't the most complex, convoluted and thoroughly difficult section to trudge through, it certainly made my top three. The names of new and/or newly-reintroduced participants, coupled with all the acronymns, both multinational and those of tactical/strategic outcomes (INDDIR, SUFDDIR, SACPOP, etc.), made it, for me, a run in three feet of water to be sure.

But was I ever rewarded for the effort!

My household was subjected to waves of adolescent giggling, as I read how a light snowfall helped turn this sophisticated, software-driven exercise in intercontinental give-and-take and possible global thermonuclear warfare, ironically, into an all-out melee among a bunch of privileged tennis students. As a former (and long-ago) teenaged smart aleck, I found no difficulty in wrapping my mind around the slapstick carnage, and found it all very, very funny (e.g. 'LaMont Chu is throwing up into the Indian Ocean.').

A further consequence is that I'm beginning to really like, as well as somehow relate to, Michael ('Jaysus!') Pemulis. He reminds me of myself 35 years ago, minus the drug references, I assure you.


Last edited by beatnik on Fri Jul 24, 2009 8:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Eschaton
PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 7:06 pm 
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Posts: 32
Most ETA sections impress me with the micromanaging of so many characters and their actions, but this one really went above and beyond. It's especially impressive that most of it was followable, although there was of course an overwhelming amount of information in order to mock geopolitics.

I really liked the responses of all of the upperclassmen to the kids, and especially Hal's. He just became totally fixated on the degeneration of the game. He mentions some guilt about his Little Buddies but an inability to act on it. Obvious parallels can be drawn here to the Entertainment and to Cage III — Free Show, among other things.


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 Post subject: Re: Eschaton
PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 9:55 pm 
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Location: Maryland
BEST.SECTION.EVER.


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 Post subject: Re: Eschaton
PostPosted: Sat Jul 25, 2009 8:45 am 
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This section was absolutely awesome. I tremble in anticipation of what the repercussions of this mayhem will be, both punishment and injury wise. I fear we've witnessed at least one career-threatening injury.

I did find it very odd that Wallace (or the ETA students who created Eschaton, if the error was deliberate) inverted the DEFCON scale. 5 is supposed to be the peacetime, absence of threat condition, and 1 is supposed to signal the brink of all-out nuclear war, but the action on page 325 seems to have it upside-down.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DEFCON

Surely Wallace and/or the ETA kids have seen Wargames? How did this slip by him/them?


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 Post subject: Re: Eschaton
PostPosted: Sat Jul 25, 2009 3:41 pm 
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Location: North Dakota
I find that this section doubles as an opportunity for Wallace to comment on fiction and all the meta-X stuff that's been attached to it without being overt about it. It's a "show, don't tell" moment (to me, anyway) in DFW's writing where he's doing more than giving us a story; he's using that story as a device to explain his approach to writing IJ. The question of where the snow is- on the map or the territory- isn't just about the game. It's about the writing of books too. Is the narrator voice a real character? What's the 'right' way to use punctuation like double and single quotes (there's a thread about this somewhere in here)? How much self-referencing/reader interaction can an author cram under the umbrella of the text? If the 'map speaks for itself' (Hal on pg 1017), then what does the 'map' say? That's what a book is afterall, a map of a larger world, the tiny glimpse of a fictional world concieved by the author. Has the author considered the full consequences and physics of his/her world? Does it matter? If an element of that world is not written in the book, does it exist? What do we get to/need to assume for the world's clock cogs to tick in clean, mechanical time?


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 Post subject: Re: Eschaton
PostPosted: Sat Jul 25, 2009 9:54 pm 
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The explicit statement that 'the map is not the territory' teases at some interesting connections with DFW's use of 'map' as an euphemism for life. I feel like the more I read, the more obviously the characters seem two-dimensional in and of themselves, and any 3D fleshiness is accomplished by bringing the perspective or observations of other characters in. For instance, Avril is a pretty flat, two-dimensional character, especially in the scenes she herself is in, but it's not until I read descriptions of her from other people's scenes and monologues that she really fills out. I think this is true of almost any other character - Hal, Mario, Joelle. It's also interesting that J.O.I., one of the most pivotal characters, has no pretty much voice thus far except as a little boy pre-subsidization, so we're getting the opposite end of character development with him.

Actually bringing those two concepts (map vs. territory & individual vs. contextualized) together makes sense in my head, but is incredibly intricate and difficult.

I'm also wondering what the Eschaton scene might foreshadow about a possible deus ex machina in IJ.


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 Post subject: Re: Eschaton
PostPosted: Sun Jul 26, 2009 11:30 am 
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It's my second time reading IJ and I'll admit that the first time around, the Eschaton section was one I largely skimmed due to the abundance of abbreviations and jargon (as well as a personal lack of interest in 'war-games'). I've tried to give it more attention this time around but am still struggling with how closely to pay attention to the details. How important are the intricacies of the maneuverings and negotiations among the teams? Are there parallels to other political (or personal, or psychopathological, for that matter) relationships in the book? (spoiler-tagged where appropriate, natch) Or should I just sit back, relax, put down the eight different Pilot G2 pens I've used for meticulously color-coded marginalia thus far, and enjoy the general feel of the scene?


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 Post subject: Re: Eschaton
PostPosted: Sun Jul 26, 2009 1:46 pm 
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The Eschaton section is freighted so awfully damn heavily with explicit and implicit reference and symbolism, you have to wonder how seriously DFW was taking the enterprise as he wrote it. You've got the map/territory discussion internal to the game reflecting the map/territory questions out there in the world of the novel. You've got the map-as-life or map-as-face thing going on which now has another facet altogether as we need to wonder, if "eliminating one's map" is suicide, then what territory does that map refer to? How much does the formation of O.N.A.N. and the Great Concavity/Convexity involve actual changes to territory vs. changes to maps? Which are people actually fighting over?

Having the role of "God" in the game played by Otis P. Lord is about as subtle as a flying mallet, and calling him "O. Lord" just makes it worse, but it's kind of an interesting exercise to read some of the exchanges as prayers and responses. And finally you get God's head stuck inside a monitor.

But also notice the last sentence about Hal: "For a brief moment that Hal will later regard as completely and uncomfortably bizarre, Hall feels at his own face to see whether he is wincing." There it is, in a flicker, a half-acknowledged moment of recognition that something's wrong, that there's a disconnection between what Hal thinks and feels or what he thinks that he feels and what he displays to the world.

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 Post subject: Re: Eschaton
PostPosted: Sun Jul 26, 2009 2:15 pm 
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Here's a good essay on the very topic of maps and territories in IJ. This helps me come a little closer to wrapping my head around the metaphor.

Quote:
...the opposition between maps and territories laid out in the Eschaton section is central to one of the more memorable turns of phrase that DFW uses throughout IJ: the endless variations on "eliminate his own map for good" as a euphemism for suicide. That we ourselves are maps, not territories suggests, on the one hand, a idealist vision of the universe in which objective reality takes a backseat to our subjective understanding of it and on the other a psychoanalytic framing of consciousness itself as essentially false and illusionary—the latter take driven home at the end of the section by Hal's need to feel his own face to see if he is wincing (342). What do we do if consciousness itself is a simulacrum without a referent, and all self-reflection therefore a kind of hopeless mise en abyme?


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 Post subject: Re: Eschaton
PostPosted: Sun Jul 26, 2009 8:42 pm 
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Location: Brooklyn, NY
eschatalogical

(adj): of or relating to or dealing with or regarding the ultimate destiny of mankind and the world


these things that seem to be all bound up by rules and order eventually just dissolve into chaos... i love it.


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