Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
It is currently Mon Dec 11, 2017 7:55 am

All times are UTC - 8 hours [ DST ]




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 14 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next
Author Message
 Post subject: "A whole lotta lyin goin on" at Infinite Summer
PostPosted: Thu Aug 27, 2009 9:44 am 
Offline

Joined: Wed Jul 15, 2009 9:16 am
Posts: 19
This is a general comment and consideration and request for feedback on a central aspect of Infinite Summer. Let's put it this way: what exactly is a spoiler? And how does it work: what does it spoil?

My feeling is that there's not very much by way of spoilers that could spoil one's experience of this novel. I suppose I'm fishing for examples, but in the meantime I'll elaborate a little further on this puzzling, slightly aggravating aspect of my experience with all of you this summer.

True: if you have sped to the end of the novel, in two days, two weeks, or two months, then the genereal discussion section is the place for you. OK. But what went on during the organisation of the event and the site, which led to the spoiler contract in the daily discussion? It seems to me to be something straight out of Plato's Republic, with Socrates' surprising institution of the noble lie. "It is fitting for the rulers of the city, if for anyone at all, tolie about enemies or citizens for the benefit of the city ..." (III. 389b7-9) The spoiler clause would be a noble lie to encourage and support a posture of reading, a pre-understanding of what it takes to sustain such a huge effort, which in fact does not end up corresponding to much of anything, except supporting the summer citizens in need of encouragement and stimulus.

Please don't get me wrong. I would be as much in favor of the noble lie (what it takes to install and enforce a "normal" and peaceful, pacifistic linear reading of the book) as I would be of a vehement protest against treating readers like children in this way. In other words, I feel like I've come up with a genuine subject for an exchange, which perhaps should wait until mid-September, but which I wanted to delineate as quickly as possible.

It may well be that after reading the book twice so far, I'm still not cognizant of the danger zones where vital information, in the form of past retentions and future protentions, is located. Perhaps I am foolhardy to believe that there can be no critical spoiling of the plot lines and interruptions and mutiple facets of this scheme. After all, foolhardy is included in the dictionary definition of "jest." Tom Collins: a man of infinite jest, totally off the wall concerning IJ.

I'll stop here. It seems to me that I've made a fairly preliminary case for a serious examination of this spoiler business. What do you all think, those of you in the middle of your first reading, and those of you now in the ranks of the old crocadiles who will probably just snort at this!


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: "A whole lotta lyin goin on" at Infinite Summer
PostPosted: Thu Aug 27, 2009 9:58 am 
Offline
Site Admin

Joined: Thu May 28, 2009 7:59 pm
Posts: 37
tomcollins wrote:
My feeling is that there's not very much by way of spoilers that could spoil one's experience of this novel ... But what went on during the organisation of the event and the site, which led to the spoiler contract in the daily discussion?


Your entire argument is predicated on the notion that the people who organized Infinite Summer (i.e., me) had previously read the novel knew it to be "unspoilable", and decided to institute the policy nonetheless. Maybe you should rethink that assumption before you go around accusing people of lying.

Matthew


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: "A whole lotta lyin goin on" at Infinite Summer
PostPosted: Thu Aug 27, 2009 10:49 am 
Offline

Joined: Tue Jun 30, 2009 1:52 pm
Posts: 41
Matt- I think you took TC's post to be a little snarkier than it was intended. If I understood him correctly, he wasn't using the word "lie" in a strictly derogatory sense.

Now, as for TC--while it's probably true that, for most people, the balance of all the pleasure and insight they gain from Infinite Jest wouldn't be spoiled by somebody revealing a few plot points, surely you're aware that one thing that gives most readers pleasure is watching the plot transpire. Regardless of any special qualities IJ has (ones that it shares with a lot of really great fiction, incidentally) that render the majority of its value immune to "spoilers," it does have a plot. And that plot is structured in a really deliberate way to leave some things obscure for a while that only later become clear. If a community like this one was shot through with spoilers on every board, first-time-reader participants could never have the experience of reading the book for the first time. And once something's been "spoiled" for you, you can't ever reclaim the experience that you've lost.

You're pretty quick to bust on "linear" reading of IJ, but hold on a second! Do you doubt for a moment that DFW agonized over the placement of each individual episode in the book? He told interviewers that he made extensive cuts along with Pietsch, and everything that's in there is in there for a reason. I submit that everything's where it is for a reason too. It's best to trust the author when it comes to stuff like this. Especially considering who we're dealing with here.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: "A whole lotta lyin goin on" at Infinite Summer
PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:27 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Tue Jul 07, 2009 6:47 am
Posts: 63
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Sutpen wrote:
You're pretty quick to bust on "linear" reading of IJ, but hold on a second! Do you doubt for a moment that DFW agonized over the placement of each individual episode in the book? He told interviewers that he made extensive cuts along with Pietsch, and everything that's in there is in there for a reason. I submit that everything's where it is for a reason too. It's best to trust the author when it comes to stuff like this. Especially considering who we're dealing with here.


I agree. I think the way characters come in and out of play is important, as well as the way meaning accumulates and the way information is revealed. What comes in mind specifically is all the back-and-forth over whether or not Joelle is disfigured.

I guess it depends on what kind of reader you are, but for me knowing even little details can diminish the pleasure I take from reading them. It minimizes that shock-of-recognition feeling.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: "A whole lotta lyin goin on" at Infinite Summer
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2009 5:12 pm 
Offline

Joined: Wed Aug 05, 2009 8:47 am
Posts: 4
1st time reader responding-

Oh come on; go to the General Discussion with no spoiler restrictions....

_________________
Brookline, MA


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: "A whole lotta lyin goin on" at Infinite Summer
PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 10:26 am 
Offline

Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:48 am
Posts: 59
Location: Orlando, FL
I'm a first time reader staying on schedule and am very happy that there is a "spoiler free" zone. You may feel there is not much in the way of spoilers but as you say - that's your feeling. There are a lot of us out here and I for one would have been sorry to have plot details revealed before their time. One of the great pleasures of the book for me is the way DFW intricately moves the reader toward a greater understanding of the whole. I think the way the site is set up is perfect - I've dipped into the general discussion area and decided whether or not to read something with spoilers. It's great to have both!

Joan


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: "A whole lotta lyin goin on" at Infinite Summer
PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 6:02 am 
Offline

Joined: Wed Jul 15, 2009 9:16 am
Posts: 19
I'll repeat, with all due respect: one of the interesting things I think we can do as soon as possible is to discuss the practical implications of our readings of IJ w/r/t the idea of spoilers. 'As soon as possible" -- this is to say that we can and probably should play by the rules, with spoiler lines being the metonyumic equivalent of the lines on a tennis court, within which new readers can occur, but it is also to say, with a wink to Wittgenstein, that to make up the rules as you go along can be a whole lot of fun in additional to being theoretically justified -- so why not rescind the spoiler line as a kind of In(ter)dependence day for Infinite Summer?

Since no one has thought it best to offer examples of fruitful spoiler experiences, I have two to propose. The first is full of embarrassing holes, because of my faulty memory. It involves the discovery by someone of hundreds of correspondances between IJ and another novel. The person goes crazy at the obvious debt owed the latter to the former. Unfortunately, I don't remember the title of the novel, nor the person who got suddenly addicted to these correspondances, nor even the site where I learned of this, but the important thing here is that DFW answered queries from the hooked party, saying that he had never even heard of the novel. Months later, he wrote back, in perfect spoiler and noble lie form, saying that of course he would promise never to tell anyone that the work the hooked person would have published had no grounding in the intentions or experience of the author. Isn't that elegant on the part of DFW!

The second example requires a quote. Greg Carlisle's study of IJ makes a promise on the back cover that it is 99 percent spoiler-free. How frustrating, how addictive this one percent can get to be! I promise in turn to show that after the first two sections of his guide, there are no more questions asked that can be assimilated to the spoiler format of the questions in the beginning stages of his study. We go from things the reader will pick up in the course of reading the novel to things that any number of readings of the novel will never illuminate, because it is not what the novel has set out to do. In this respect, IJ is truly postmodern, if we understand the postmodern as somehow against the enlightenment gesture of illuminating people up from their respective caves.

Maintaining the spoiler line can be a strategy, respectful of the needs and shape of first-time readers. No doubt there: we have many grateful accounts of this. But I will maintain that the "spoiler" is a fascinating subject, not to lambast the organizers of IS, but to reflect on these two huge populations of readers who have different takes on guidelines, rules, and what reading is all about.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: "A whole lotta lyin goin on" at Infinite Summer
PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 8:06 am 
Offline

Joined: Mon Jul 13, 2009 1:11 pm
Posts: 91
"Close to two hundred people all punishing somebody by getting embarrassed for him, killing him by empathetically dying right there with him, for him, up there at the podium. The applause when this guy’s done has the relieved feel of a fist unclenching, and their cries of ‘Keep Coming!’ are so sincere it’s almost painful."


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: "A whole lotta lyin goin on" at Infinite Summer
PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 8:35 am 
Offline

Joined: Tue Jun 30, 2009 1:52 pm
Posts: 41
Is this really going to be that kind of conversation? You've slightly changed the terms of your initial post so as to make it look as if we missed the point. Either you're not expressing yourself well or you're being disingenuous.

tomcollins wrote:
I'll repeat, with all due respect: one of the interesting things I think we can do as soon as possible is to discuss the practical implications of our readings of IJ w/r/t the idea of spoilers. 'As soon as possible" -- this is to say that we can and probably should play by the rules, with spoiler lines being the metonyumic equivalent of the lines on a tennis court, within which new readers can occur, but it is also to say, with a wink to Wittgenstein, that to make up the rules as you go along can be a whole lot of fun in additional to being theoretically justified -- so why not rescind the spoiler line as a kind of In(ter)dependence day for Infinite Summer?

First, did you read anybody else's posts? You're right, we should play by the rules--for the reasons we pointed out. DFW didn't intend for us to know all the details of the plot before getting to them. Why should we try to dismantle the narrative? In fact, take a couple steps back from even that--why should we force others to do so? Oh, that's right, nobody's doing that. There is a forum where spoiler restrictions are in place (namely, Daily Discussion), and one where they're not (General). This is maybe the most puzzling part of your idea: there is already a forum for the kind of discussion you want to have. It's called General Discussion. In what way is that forum inadequate?

Second, we've done our best to point out that "making up the rules," as far as spoiler lines are concerned, actually isn't all that much fun for most people. Nor have you made a case for it being theoretically justified. Your two examples below certainly don't help, not that two examples would be a very convincing illustration of any theory in the first place. You need to elaborate.

Third, and yeah this is kind of quibbling, but the relationship between spoiler lines and lines on a tennis court is more properly metaphorical, not metonymic.

tomcollins wrote:
Since no one has thought it best to offer examples of fruitful spoiler experiences,

Right, because so far everyone has disagreed with your view of spoilers.

tomcollins wrote:
I have two to propose. The first is full of embarrassing holes, because of my faulty memory. It involves the discovery by someone of hundreds of correspondances between IJ and another novel. The person goes crazy at the obvious debt owed the latter to the former. Unfortunately, I don't remember the title of the novel, nor the person who got suddenly addicted to these correspondances, nor even the site where I learned of this, but the important thing here is that DFW answered queries from the hooked party, saying that he had never even heard of the novel. Months later, he wrote back, in perfect spoiler and noble lie form, saying that of course he would promise never to tell anyone that the work the hooked person would have published had no grounding in the intentions or experience of the author. Isn't that elegant on the part of DFW!

You seem to be talking about The Last Western, by Thomas Klise. Maria Bustillos wrote about the whole episode you describe a couple of days ago on the Infinite Summer homepage.

This example is supposed to show us the sort of revelatory conversation we could have if only we would all ignore spoiler lines, right? This is an example of the kind of discussion that would be worth spoiling the plot (yes, rest assured, the plot can be spoiled. Please feel free to respond to my first post if you reject the premise) for probably most IS members? I really, really don't see it. In order to have this conversation, a large proportion of members would have to read all 559 pages of The Last Western, which is out of print, in addition to however much of IJ they'd gotten to. I don't see how this could be a fruitful conversation otherwise. Doesn't that seem quite a lot to expect from a large proportion of IS members? I keep referring to a "large proportion" of members in conjunction with this example because I assume you deem the current population of the General Discussion board insufficient to have a fruitful conversation on this topic, or else you could have gone there and created the thread you're proposing. And just let me point out that people who haven't read as much of IJ (let alone The Last Western) as others wouldn't be much of an asset in conversations about stuff they haven't read.

tomcollins wrote:
The second example requires a quote. Greg Carlisle's study of IJ makes a promise on the back cover that it is 99 percent spoiler-free. How frustrating, how addictive this one percent can get to be! I promise in turn to show that after the first two sections of his guide, there are no more questions asked that can be assimilated to the spoiler format of the questions in the beginning stages of his study. We go from things the reader will pick up in the course of reading the novel to things that any number of readings of the novel will never illuminate, because it is not what the novel has set out to do. In this respect, IJ is truly postmodern, if we understand the postmodern as somehow against the enlightenment gesture of illuminating people up from their respective caves.

Okay, so what you seem to be saying is: a reader's guide to IJ contains stuff that you don't think any reader will pick up no matter how many times she reads the book? How did Carlisle figure this stuff out? I'll assume I'm misunderstanding you on that one. And anyway, nowhere do I see a case being made for abandonment of spoiler lines in this example (that's what you're trying to defend, remember?)

As for your suggestion that the postmodern is "against the enlightenment gesture of illuminating people up from their respective caves," you seem to be abandoning your initial line of argument. I'll respond anyway--postmodernism has never struck me as being particularly "against" anything. It's fundamentally descriptive, not prescriptive. It was modernism that rejected Enlightenment values. In fact, the distended field of critical theory, largely a postmodern innovation, is intensely concerned with illumination. Literally anything from Northrop Frye onward is an effort to expose the scaffolding behind everyday conventions/communication.

tomcollins wrote:
Maintaining the spoiler line can be a strategy, respectful of the needs and shape of first-time readers. No doubt there: we have many grateful accounts of this. But I will maintain that the "spoiler" is a fascinating subject, not to lambast the organizers of IS, but to reflect on these two huge populations of readers who have different takes on guidelines, rules, and what reading is all about.

Fine, let's discuss the spoiler line. I agree, maybe it could be interesting. In fact, that's sort of what we're doing. My suggestion is to really engage with this proposal you're making--that we could all (including those people who haven't finished the book), have a really valuable discussion if only there were no spoiler restrictions--and explain exactly how you think that discussion would work, given the difficulties I've pointed out, or else drop it, because it seems a little absurd at this point.

doubtful geste wrote:
"Close to two hundred people all punishing somebody by getting embarrassed for him, killing him by empathetically dying right there with him, for him, up there at the podium. The applause when this guy’s done has the relieved feel of a fist unclenching, and their cries of ‘Keep Coming!’ are so sincere it’s almost painful."

^^See?


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: "A whole lotta lyin goin on" at Infinite Summer
PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 10:10 am 
Offline

Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:48 am
Posts: 59
Location: Orlando, FL
To Doubtful Geste - perfect!
To Sutpen - excellent - thank you for expressing it all so clearly!
Joan


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 14 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next

All times are UTC - 8 hours [ DST ]


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Jump to:  
cron
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group
Translated by Maël Soucaze © 2009 phpBB.fr