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Infinite Summer • View topic - Randy Lenz and the SteelSaks

Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
It is currently Wed Apr 08, 2020 1:31 am

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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: Randy Lenz and the SteelSaks
PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2009 9:12 am 
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I am glad the SteelSak scenes were not blue-pencilled down more or eliminated. If DFW had just included a line or two about Lenz' activities as a quick character-defining brushstroke and moved on, that would have been, to my mind, to kinda just use it for quick grotesque humor in a somewhat triviallizing way. The extended descriptions, including the more over the top/flirting with very dark humor bits, are, instead, a way to be strangely mindful and non-dismissive of how horrible the acts are and how horrible a mindset Lenz has fallen into, not to mention all the ways his acts and situation contrast with other characters and insights around the recovery house. This mindfulness through horror is very much on par with the sort of effect reached in sections like the Poor Tony seizure episode or the Antitois' deaths, situations where the mass of detail bordering on absurdity seems to ultimately allow rather than defuse our ability to connect with these characters and situations.


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 Post subject: Re: Randy Lenz and the SteelSaks
PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2009 9:34 am 
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I thought about trying to quote some of the earlier posts in this thread, but I've realized that there are a number of them I want to address so I'm just going to wade right in!

Yes, the scenes of Randy's attacks on animals are horrific but I have to agree with others that there are some equally horrific scenes of violence against humans - the "demapping" of Lucien, among others. This all echoes to me the controversy around Michael Vick and whether it was worse that he had abused/killed animals because they are helpless. As a devoted animal lover with rescued greyhounds who push their snouts into my copy of IJ, I remember feeling great anger at the time toward those who argued that it was not as bad because they were "only dogs." I can't/won't draw distinctions or weigh the violence against people over the violence against animals or vice versa. But I believe very strongly that the episodes fit in the context of the larger work. I do not think DFW was rubbing our noses in it. To me, it makes sense in terms of the characters. I also think that the very jarring effect on the reader of the juxtaposition of these scenes with passages of outright hilarity or just absolutely beautiful prose (I'm thinking here of the final line in the section on the death of Lucien p. 488-489 as he finds his voice in death) was completely intentional.

All of that said, however, I can understand how these very visceral scenes affect each of us differently. Years ago when I read "Paris Trout" there was a scene of violence/abuse toward a female character that still to this day gives me the howling fantods and as a result I've never read anything by Pete Dexter again! Yet on the other hand, I absolutely love everything by Cormac McCarthy so go figure!

Joan


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 Post subject: Re: Randy Lenz and the SteelSaks
PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2009 9:38 am 
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I think the Randy Lenz scenes are absolutely crucial to the book's core messages. We have seen how "Too Much Fun" turns people into hollow shelves of themselves via the annular cycle of addiction (problems lead to Substances / Fun, which leads to more problems, so then you need more Substances / Fun, repeat ad infinitum till you die or get into recovery.)

But these scenes are showing how addiction and "Entertainment," broadly construed - spectating without sympathy or empathy - can lead some people from passive solipsism to active cruelty. For Lenz, these animals are just objects for his entertainment, and his use of violence is turning into its own addiction. Just like the cycle of addiction leads you to take greater and greater risks for the "high", Lenz is looking for bigger and bigger hits of his drug of violence and suffering. So I think it's pretty clear that Lenz is slowly working his way up to being a serial killer of humans, although I don't know if he will get caught before he makes it to human murder in the novel (I'm only at the spoiler line.) This kind of spiral of violence behavior sounds pretty similar to the stories of real serial killers. I think DFW is really trying to show the most extreme example of what indulging the desire for "Entertainment" can lead to. It's gripping and important.

For the record, DFW was someone who is pretty concerned about animal rights - see "Consider the Lobster."


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 Post subject: Re: Randy Lenz and the SteelSaks
PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2009 12:06 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Randy Lenz and the SteelSaks
PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2009 1:51 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Randy Lenz and the SteelSaks
PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2009 4:36 pm 
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Last edited by dave10 on Tue Aug 18, 2009 7:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Randy Lenz and the SteelSaks
PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2009 6:30 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Randy Lenz and the SteelSaks
PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2009 8:58 pm 
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I had meant to mention a line that I found emotional-map-eliminating and which made me love Green:

"Brucie excitedly bobbing in his chair, spilling cocoa and Gummi Bears, a loving toddler, more excited about his gift's receipt than what he's going to get himself." (p. 579)


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 Post subject: Re: Randy Lenz and the SteelSaks
PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2009 9:27 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Randy Lenz and the SteelSaks
PostPosted: Wed Aug 19, 2009 4:35 am 
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