Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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 Post subject: Re: Volvo windshield.
PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2009 11:29 am 
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I enjoy your work-thru of the imagery, but I'm not convinced that it points to Orin as the Volvo culprit with Avril. For one thing, night sweats are a different phenomenon from being generally sweaty like Bain -- night sweats as a passing dysregulation relating to a stress such as nightmares or fever as opposed to the general sweatiness of someone either permanently running a little high on sympathetic tone or a little high on a baseline stress (like anxiety). And the cockroaches, the car window, and Orin trapped in a big glass all have to do with the basics of having any respirating (or decaying) being in an enclosed space such that the water vapor from expiration builds up -- a gajillion high school necking-in-the-car stories have used the "fogging up the windows" reference. And "Filbert" is only one of a huge number of family pet names we see the Incandenzas throw around, so not terribly unique as a possibility for the name written in the fog.

Mostly, though, I admit, Orin's general psychic makeup, including his history with Joelle and his father, as well as the nature of his anger/petulance towards his mother, just doesn't ring true for me as pointing to a history of incest with Avril, though I admit the subjectivity of this judgement of mine.

I have wondered during this re-read if it was possible that Bain was a paramour of Avril's -- For Orin's generation, he would be an available young man like John Wayne, and his references to Avril as a mindfucker might be based in real experience. I am a little behind on this re-read, so can't say I've had a chance to fully test out this theory yet. (Arguing against it are two big things: Bain lacks the Candadian link that John Wayne shares with Avril, and the whole Football/Cheerleader fetish of Avril's seems likely to have developed after/in response to losing her son to football and cheerleaders, in which case her thing for younger men might be similarly recent to the last several years. And, yes, I realize this suggests Avril may have had at least an unacknowledged/unacted upon Oedipal urge toward Orin, but I don't have any problem believing this existed for her, and even for Orin. Heck, if it existed (unacted upon) for Orin, that would be one more reason for him to take her betrayal in the Volvo particularly badly: He consciously sees it as a betrayal of his dad, but less consciously sees it as a betrayal of himself as a potential suitor for the Moms.)


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 Post subject: Re: Volvo windshield.
PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2009 7:04 pm 
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The best argument for "Orin" is that the name drove JOI to suicide, and it strikes me as unlikely that just <i>any</i> name would do that. I got the impression that he knew Avril was fooling around a lot (the "He was in the father without knowing him" film, at least, suggests that he had rather wild ideas about Avril's infidelities, so the medical attache wouldn't have fazed him). Even the name "C.T." wouldn't have been much of a surprise, right? Or would it have been?

The problem with this is that everything else in the novel suggests that the driving force in the Orin-Avril relationship is Avril successfully manipulating Orin into feeling extremely guilty and indebted towards Avril, while Orin thinks that she's a great mother and really kind and keeps them together. The only evidence is the obviously incestuous football costumes, and Molly Notkin.

"Hal" written on the windshield also seems like a logical guess... abuse would explain Hal's apparent asexuality and JOI's downward spiral (or alternately, JOI's murder as a witness), but there's absolutely nothing in the book that would hint at this.


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 Post subject: Re: Volvo windshield.
PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2009 9:00 pm 
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I still think of the near Eastern medical attaché receiving the cartridge labeled "Happy Anniversary." It's expressly stated that his anniversary isn't in April. But the Mad Stork's offed himself in April. So I think its posthumous distribution may have been revenge. The Mad Stork says he knows Avril is 'cavorting' with a number of attachés, leading me to believe that it got really personal when he found a name in his own car.

But I also see Orin as a possibility.

But I'll never really agree with myself. Damn genius writing.


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 Post subject: Re: Volvo windshield.
PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 8:02 pm 
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I really like Orin for it.

First, the original quote has that bit about Orin neither confirming nor denying his knowledge of the name, which is very suspect. I don't believe he was mentioned that much earlier - his name was brought up only when the steamy name was, and it is possible that he has privileged information regarding that.

Also, to use "Filbert," Avril's nickname for Orin (as detailed in my last post on this thread) as the steamy name would connote both members of the steamy deed. Without Avril saying "Filbert," and just writing "Near-eastern medical attache" (or some such), who's to say it wasn't someone else entirely? Completely Avril-less? Filbert confirms both Avril and Orin as participants.

And, as has been brought up earlier, Avril's Volvo-mate had to have been seriously out-of-bounds to create the sort of backlash it did. I don't see Bain's sweaty self making that big of a splash, outside of the Orin-Avril-Bain-Hal circle. Himself already knew about Avril's cavorting, we can safely assume (and possibly prove textually?), so not many names can be on the table for Mr. Steam.

Finally, Orin's general attitude towards the Moms during the scope of the book, after the incident, seems like a good picture of a scarred, repressed, Oedipal-minded, over-sexed and personal-reality-fabricating "momma's boy" to me. Not to diminish Orin's depth as a character - he's one of my favorite in the whole thing.


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 Post subject: Re: Volvo windshield.
PostPosted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 9:28 am 
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Orin is also our source for having seen the footprints on the window, which, if he were the (or one of the) paramours Avril was x'ing in the car, does not strike me as a fact he would broadcast. Nor would he find it (evidence of weird happenings in the Volvo) particularly noteworthy/strange in the first place if he had been getting it on with Avril in the Volvo himself.We also get, at the end of the book, Hal's musings on Avril's partners, most of whom he apparantly fully knows about, including Marlon Bain, it seems. We also know that Jim found the attache particularly annoying, and, while we are not told that man's name, there is no reason to think J.O.I. or Avril don't know it. This doesn't mean it was definitely the attache, but does point to there being at least one person we know would particularly irritate Jim, were his name to be seen there. And if "filbert" has any significance to Avril or Orin other than as an innocent family nickname (i.e. as a name she took to using while sleeping with her son), it is the last name she would want use in a letter meant to lure her son back when she would clearly know her/their sexual betrayal was a main reason he was gone.

In short, of the many "what if's" of the book that are tantalizing, I find Orin as a lover of Avril to be utterly logically or psychologically unconvincing as a liklihood.


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 Post subject: Re: Volvo windshield.
PostPosted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 10:35 am 
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Another option that no one ever seems to mention is Charles.

At Kindle location 10250 (between pages 432 and 464) in a massive run on paragraph about what Charles Tavis is up to we get this throwaway line:

Quote:
...the thing it's not entirely impossible he may have fathered asleep up next to the sound system with its claws on its chest and four pillows for bradypnea-afflicted breathing that sounds like soft repetitions of the words sky or ski,...


So, CT and the Moms were definitely X'ing at one point (7 or so months before Mario's surprise birth). And CT had moved in with the Incandenza's, and Himself had pretty much ceded the academy (his obsession during the previous phase of his life) to him, not to mention that Mario was the son that Himself was the closest to, and now might not even be his -- why wouldn't this be enough to drive Himself over the edge?

Or maybe I'm just so put off by the Orin/Moms idea that I want to cling to any other option (you Filbert/Avril shippers are sick I tell you... sick! :mrgreen: )


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 Post subject: Re: Volvo windshield.
PostPosted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 8:30 pm 
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doubtful geste wrote:
And if "filbert" has any significance to Avril or Orin other than as an innocent family nickname (i.e. as a name she took to using while sleeping with her son), it is the last name she would want use in a letter meant to lure her son back when she would clearly know her/their sexual betrayal was a main reason he was gone.


Okay geste, you may have convinced me here.

But everyone at the time knew that Avril was quite X-able, including JOI. The fact that she wrote someone's name in steam post-coitus doesn't seem like that big of a deal. It fits right in with the Incandenza family's expectations, right? Someone more off-limits than Bain or medical-attaches seemed to suggest themselves.

But, for Bain: his general inclusion, when thinking use of him as a character, seems a bit incomplete. This is Wallace we're talking about, so his use of characters is mildly unorthodox (ha), but Bain seems to hold an odd amount of weight, while seeming to be mostly an observer during most of the intense backstory stuff to which he is privy.* Somethign is missing, to complete the portrait of that which is Bain. The various family connections made to the Bains (Kevin, finding his inner-infant, and Lateral Alice Moore's injury being peripherally connected to a Bain-induced accident, i think?) seems more than Wallacian-ornamenting. The Bain theory goes a long way to explaining Bain (as a character in the first place, and his various views in his letter to H(H) Steeply), Orin and some of Avril's later actions, but doesn't go very far in explaining JOI's suicide, which is the major and most direct result of the Volvo steam anyway, right?

*But, now that we're talking about Bain, what he says about Avril (whether his knowledge is particularly intimate or not, who knows), describing her compulsively-motherly tendencies as self-serving and unconcerned, really, with her family's well being - a view I've rather taken to when considering Avril as a character *Edit: sentence fragment* - should play into our evaluation of the Volvo scene. *That's better* The quote which I conceded was a good case against the whole Orin/Avril thing, may in fact be Avril pretending to herself that she is being an excellent mother, doing all she can to radiate love, despite what she may or may not have done to totally fuck up her son.


Last edited by ifeedgremlins on Sat Sep 19, 2009 1:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Volvo windshield.
PostPosted: Sat Sep 19, 2009 10:42 am 
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I admit that I have a hard time putting my finger on exactly why the attaché, Marlon Bain, or C.T. would be so upsetting to J.O.I. at that point in his life, but they certainly remain the leading contenders for me. Here's the best I can do at hypothesizing why one of them might be so upsetting.

the attaché: Well, we do have references to him particularly annoying Jim, as I've mentioned before. And we know that, with his special knowledge of maxilofacial effects of yeasts, his connection to diplomatic services, with time spent in Canada, etc, we might be being clued-in that he is a possible player in bigger conflicts that we know bother Jim (several of his films are described as critical of ONAN/reconfiguration, for example. And maybe it is telling that the attaché's name is never said, and neither is the fog name: the very unspeakableness of the name being a clue to its importance. And, as previously mentioned by others, he is a key recipient of the entertainment, possibly at Jim's request. I admit that all of this, however, fails to clue me in to why Jim would freak out at that particular moment, since he seems to have been previously aware of the guy's relation to Avril

C.T.: kinda the same problem. Obviously potentially upsetting to Jim, but why just then? Unless either Jim, in his alcoholic haze truly never realized until then that Mario might be C.T.'s son (which I find unlikely) or unless he had thought that Avril/C.T. were over as a couple and was shocked that they had resumed (which also seems unlikely to me).

Marlon: A few things have just dawned on me that might explain why Bain would matter. First, he seems to be our earliest potential candidate for an inappropriately young paramour (not to mention a student whom Avril presumably has power over). I don't particularly see Jim freaking out over the inappropriateness of the liason. But, the fact that Bain is an ETA student and a friend of Orin might affect him for another reason: Oddly enough, the evidence we have of both Jim and Avril as parents is, while eccentric, apparantly sincerely meant as loving (no matter their eventual unintended emotional damage). Jim and Mario filming together, Jim hitting balls with Hal, even Jim inviting Orin's girlfriend to help him (and this when he himself was uninterested in her, either because she was a film and cartridge studier, which turns him off, or because she is too mainstream in her beauty as he seems to have believed early on) as a way to connect with Orin. And he spent a huge amount of effort founding ETA, which he seems to have seen as a grand important gesture in educating and training these kids, while protecting them from the sort of pressures he, Schtitt, and others, apparantly see as looming for gifted athletes (the "Show", etc). Given all this, Avril crossing the line with a friend of Orin/student of ETA may have felt like a personal slap/destruction of Jim's best efforts at family and at creating ETA as a safe haven. Second, it dawns on me that "Marlon" is a pretty significant first name for the Incandenza clan (remembering the Marlon Brando/method acting riffs of Jim's father), which puts a whole 'nother weird interpretive father/son/son/father energy on whatever Marlon Bain (Bain of what? of the horros of method acting? of Jim's nightmares about his own father?) does. Oh, and we know that Marlon and Orin, while still communicating, are not really close anymore, which could tie into why Orin is protective of what he knows about the name in the window.

Anyway, that's the best I've got right now. I guess Marlon is looking like a better option for me now as a possibel emotional trigger for Jim, but not so much that it feels definitive.

ETA 1) "Bain" as possible pun on "Bane," in case I was being obtuse and 2) keep forgetting to mention I don't have a problem w/ idea of Avril having an (unconsumated) "thing" for one of her sons, such that going after Bain could be as a substitute for the idea of acting on (unconscious?) desires for Orin, and such that "Orin" was the name in the windshield, not because he was in the car, but because, like the old sitcom gag of saying the ex-girlfriend's name in the heat of passion, she was thinking of him. And this would certainly creep the hell out of both Orin and Marlon, and would, of course, do the same to Jim, so that the real secret of the long passage about whether Avril knew Jim and Joelle weren't x'ing was whether or not Jim new Avril and Orin weren't x'ing. Of course, it would help make this plausible if Orin ended up with a sexual fetish for mothers of young children or something...oh, wait.


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 Post subject: Re: Volvo windshield.
PostPosted: Mon Sep 21, 2009 9:17 pm 
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Quote:
ETA 1) "Bain" as possible pun on "Bane," in case I was being obtuse and 2) keep forgetting to mention I don't have a problem w/ idea of Avril having an (unconsumated) "thing" for one of her sons, such that going after Bain could be as a substitute for the idea of acting on (unconscious?) desires for Orin, and such that "Orin" was the name in the windshield, not because he was in the car, but because, like the old sitcom gag of saying the ex-girlfriend's name in the heat of passion, she was thinking of him. And this would certainly creep the hell out of both Orin and Marlon, and would, of course, do the same to Jim, so that the real secret of the long passage about whether Avril knew Jim and Joelle weren't x'ing was whether or not Jim new Avril and Orin weren't x'ing. Of course, it would help make this plausible if Orin ended up with a sexual fetish for mothers of young children or something...oh, wait.


All of which foregoing would explain why Orin most decidedly wasn't about to tell Hal the name written in the windshield. I can only imagine what kind of fury Himself would have erupted into when he saw his son's name written in the windshield steam, (1), the counter-fury of Avril who would of course angrily deny having x'ed her son, and yet she would also then have had to admit that she'd been x'ing her son's friend, (2), may even have had said friend (MB) 'testify' in her behalf, (3), the betrayal Orin would subsequently feel toward both Avril and Bain, and maybe even Himself, (4) and of course the clusterfuck headache Himself would have had on trying to sort through all of the foregoing, plus new in sobriety, and doubtless coming to the conclusion that, taken at her word, Avril had been x'ing her son's friend *and* thinking about Orin while doing so, (5), and so then the microwave starts looking more an more like a kind of cosmic portal Himself was ready to step in.

And I could go on if I weren't so tired and such, but, bottom line, DG's scenario (again, i.e., the above-quoted paragraph) strikes me as the most plausible, the theory that takes into account most of the evidence, the so-to-speak ring that this reader-wraith is ready to commit to.


Last edited by evamat on Tue Sep 22, 2009 6:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Volvo windshield.
PostPosted: Tue Sep 22, 2009 3:52 am 
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I'm liking the Bain-as-Filbert idea too. Not only for all of the reasons explained above (thanks evamat), but also because of Bain's treatment of JOI and Avril during his letter to Helen Steeply.

Now, I don't have the book in front of me (a phrase that has come to annoy me on this forum, so i am sorry for posting-while-untexted), but doesn't Bain make almost no mention of JOI in his letter? While coming down rather hard on Avril-(consummate mind-fucker and all)?

Bain was featured in Death in Scarsdale, during which time he might've become close to JOI. He's also described earlier, when they lived in wherever they lived before ETA (Back Bay, I wanna say?) as having practically lived at the Incandenza house.

So, he has become kind of like a son to the family, not just to Avril, has become close to JOI through a cartridge, and treats JOI oddly well by not talking about him in the letter.

Bain appearing as Filbert on the steam-Volvo makes a lot of sense to me, not just from the Avril side of things, but from the JOI side as well. Bain seems to feel guilty for possibly having driven his good friend to suicide, so makes no mention of him in the letter, while ripping on Avril for the same reasons.

Also, the fact that Orin referred Helen Steeply to Bain as a good source on JOI is telling about Bain and JOI's relationship. Maybe a good look at the redacted Q's of Helen and Bain's avoidance of some of the questions can tell us how close JOI and Bain were at the time - possibly even closer than Orin and James had been, making the whole deal that much more likely.


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