Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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 Post subject: Names
PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2009 8:19 pm 
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Since Hal is so concerned with etymology, why not collect ideas about what the names might mean in one thread?

Here are thoughts I had, or things I looked up...

Orin - "Light", the only Orin I've ever heard of is "Orrin Hatch," which suggests either something infantile (as though Orin just came out of an egg) or avian (backed up by the description of his courtship of Joelle).

Tavis - apparently the Irish version of "Thomas," i.e. "twin", or else it means "hillside". Both of those seem oddly appropriate... CT sort of duplicates and replaces Incandenza, and ETA is on a hillside. (Karl means "free" as in "not a serf", but I don't know if that's relevant... unless C.T. has something to do with the Steeply/Marathe debate.)

Avril - "is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of dead earth, mingling memory and desire"... April either derives from "to open," which is what her legs do all too often, or from Aphrodite, which, well, same deal. In the first draft he apparently meandered between Avril, Constance (irony, I'm sure), and Elaine (face that launched a thousand ships...)

Hal - First, Prince Hal. Raised by his father's enemies, sure; has a lot of growing up to do, check; disenchanted with loyal but crooked friend (Falstaff/Pemulis), possibly; scarred for life, possibly metaphorically? Next, HAL 9000, the robot: both created in Urbana, IL; doesn't portray emotion; needs to cognitively revert.

Mario - Someone has suggested Super Mario Bros., which is funny, not only because Mario is short and funny looking, but because he too is the book's "plumber", although he seems to plumb his relatives' psyches more than anything else. "Mario" comes from "Mars" via "Marius" (perhaps suggesting that Mario looks like a Martian?) but Mars may come from mare (is Mario a fish? Fish play a large role in the book). But "Mario" is also the male counterpart to "Maria", and Mario is certainly beatific. Apparently too many famous Marios to name (even if we limit ourselves to, say, Quebecois Marios or Marios involved in film); the Roman Marii were defenders of the people, defeated by the aristocratic faction.

Michael - "Who is like god?" or "god-like" in Hebrew, Mickey is a mouse, Michael is God's CinC (possible Eschaton relevance?). In Milton, Michael has a possibly relevant advice for Adam when Adam gets kicked out of Eden: "build a paradise within thee, happier far" (sounds sort of like Mikey telling Hal he can never be sober again), attacks building churches (?), and is the greatest of the angels who are obedient to god.

Pemulis - Lots of people have suggested this sounds like "Polonius," which I don't hear or see evidence for. Pemulis calls himself "Peemster," which suggests Wallace may have derived the name from Positron-Emission Electron Microscopy, relevant to JOI's interests and also, I think, what the boy suffering from paranoid delusions (on the emission that Orin watches near the beginning of the book) is afraid of. Is this even a real last name?

James - i.e. Jacob, as in Jacob and Esau, which has an interesting connection to "Tavis," both British variants of Hebrew names meaning "twin." Perhaps some vague connection to the KJ bible. (I suspect that JOI's names are all subservient to the acronym, though...)

Donald - "Ruler of the world". Interesting because if Hal was short for Harold (I don't think it is), Harold means "Ruler of home." Probably just a coincidence... more likely that there is some connection to Donald Duck or Donald Trump or some other famous Donald. Interestingly "bimmy" is apparently the name of a sort of short whip used for beating sailors.

All right, there are so many more, but I've wasted too much time on this already! Any other thoughts?


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 Post subject: Re: Names
PostPosted: Mon Sep 14, 2009 9:15 am 
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Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2009 3:09 pm
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ijaddict wrote:
if Hal was short for Harold (I don't think it is)

Actually, it is...

—pg. 3: " 'You are Harold James Incandenza' "
—pg. 248: " 'Found out by Harold James Incandenza' "
—pg. 898: "My full name is Harold James Incandenza"


Last edited by bernie on Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:57 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Names
PostPosted: Mon Sep 14, 2009 2:58 pm 
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The first thing I thought of when I encountered Orin in IJ, is that DFW must have named him after Orin Mannon, a major character in Eugene O'Neill's tragedy, "Mourning Becomes Electra." Orin Mannon, in turn, is based on Aeschylus' 3-part tragedy, "The Orestia." From wikipedia:

In the Homeric story, Orestes was a member of the doomed house of Atreus which is descended from Tantalus and Niobe. Orestes was absent from Mycenae when his father, Agamemnon, returned from the Trojan War with the Trojan princess Cassandra as his concubine, and thus not present for Agamemnon's murder by his wife, Clytemnestra, in retribution for his sacrifice of their daughter Iphigeneia to obtain favorable winds during the Greek voyage to Troy. Eight years later, Orestes returned from Athens and with his sister Electra avenged his father's death by slaying his mother and her lover Aegisthus.

So there seems to be some similarity between Orestes' relationship with his mother Clytemnestra and Orin's with The Moms.


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 Post subject: Re: Names
PostPosted: Tue Sep 15, 2009 6:58 pm 
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Great catch, edowling. That must be it.


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 Post subject: Re: Names
PostPosted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 7:51 pm 
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My book is at home, but I believe that in some O'Neill play, a man is referred to as "Himself". :?:


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 Post subject: Re: Names
PostPosted: Sun Sep 20, 2009 7:51 am 
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Referring to others (particularly one's spouse or parent) as "Himself"or "Herself" is very Irish. I don't have the play in front of me, but it was probably in O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey into Night" that one of the sons referred to family patriarch James Tyrone as "Himself."


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