The Infinite Jest Deathmarch: Stage 3

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Begin: Page 95 (“Tuesday, 3 November, Enfield Tennis Academy: A.M. drills, shower, eat, class, lab, class….”)
End: Page 142 (…divorced from all stimulus, carried here and there across sets by burly extras whose blood sings with retrograde amines.”)

Start Date: 10/15/10
Finish Date: 10/21/10

It’s been a rough week in more ways than one. Like many of us, I found this stretch of the book much more difficult; in fact I have to admit I haven’t quite finished it yet. I got lost in the maze that is “James O. Incandenza: A Filmography” and almost didn’t find my way out. Like the man says – at every moment, an infinite regress lies in wait for the unwary.

The comments dropped off rather precipitously, from 25 to 7 as of this writing. I hope that’s not all the marchers we have left; if you’re still out there, by all means send up a flare and let us know. I sense that better days are ahead. If they can pull 33 guys out of a coal mine in what appears to be a pneumatic tube from Brazil, we can weather David Foster Wallace’s ADD until it all starts to make some kind of sense.

23 Responses to “The Infinite Jest Deathmarch: Stage 3”

  1. Jeff Says:

    I’m still in and happy! Just posted my comments to the Week 2 thread.

  2. Lem Says:

    yes! i knew about infinite summer but was extremely sad that it had ended. i’m actually half-way in and am looking forward to your meeting the mid-way point here so i have reading company

  3. Matt Says:

    Still in as well. Just posted my (long-winded) comments concerning Week 2. Ready for lengthy footnotes this week and intend to be punctual with the comments!

  4. JES Says:

    I’m plunging into the depths of despair trying to decide whether to fart or hold it while at the library. I do have to ask . . .how do you hold a fart while playing a tennis match? Seems some sort of an oxymoron to me. I have yet another question for all you Jesters. How many of you actually read the footnotes? I have to admit that I have never been a footnote reader as it disturbs the flow of things for me. However, I think I am missing something in this case which means it will take me twice as long to read my weekly 50 pages and that really overwhelms me.

  5. bill Says:

    I’m afraid that, for better or worse, the notes are a pretty integral part of the book. But I don’t think they slow down the reading that much; only a few are of the multi-page variety, and up to this point most have been one paragraph. I like to use two bookmarks, one for the main text and one for the notes; that way you don’t have to slow yourself down even further by figuring out where you are in the notes every time.

  6. Jeff Says:

    Well, the one filmography endnote was kind of pretty freakin’ lengthy. But yeah, I think flipping back and forth was part of Wallace’s intent for us, so I’m making myself do it…

  7. TheChaz Says:

    Still here, as well. Still feeling compelled by the writing itself, and confused by these barest hints of a greater story we’re being spoon-fed.

  8. Bill Says:

    The junkie section was pretty harrowing. Reminded me of “Requiem for a Dream,” a viewing experience that–not unlike The Entertainment–I almost didn’t make it out of.

    Which reminds me, I’m thinking of asking my friends to start calling me “The Entertainment.”

  9. Joy Says:

    Mea culpa for disappearing. I stopped reading IJ for a while and read something easier [Freedom]. But I’m back.

  10. Molly Says:

    I’m still in… but I find myself longing for action, or even traces of plot now and then. I feel like this book would be more satisfying if billed as a series of short stories.

    Bill, can we get a weekly reminder with a link for posting comments? I know it’s sad that I need a reminder, but it would help a lot.

    I do like the school dynamics and the big buddy talks. Not loving the spies. Enjoyed the USS Millicent. WTF to the oiled guru eating sweat? A little hard to comprehend whether that’s supposed to be actual or what – why is that section written in first person? The gangsta interludes also hard to take. I am still hopeful that it becomes worth it down the line.

  11. Asphodelia Says:

    I’m still here but my copy of the book is at home and now I’m at work (and the iPhone App doesn’t have my notes!) so quick post now and then a proper one later (you guys across the pond are probably still asleep now anyway!)

    The first thing I’d like to say is, I can totally see why this is roughly the point when people give up on IJ. I’m on my second reading of the ‘Yourstruly’ chapter and it’s still pretty much gibberish to me, despite the fact that I’ve read about it, and read Greg Carlisle’s explanations about it. When I first read it I had a sinking feeling of ‘oh no, will there be many more chapters like this?’

    However we are also treated to a conversation between Hal and Orin (some of my favourite parts of the book are such conversations) and Ennet House is introduced. Like Molly, I really enjoy reading about the ETA stuff, and was equally confused at first as to whether Lyle’s penchant for eating sweat was some sort of figure of speech – it’s not. It’s just one of those ‘fantastic’ elements of IJ that the reader is faced with; we wouldn’t have a problem believing this if the book was clearly identified with fantasy, or Sci-Fi, but it’s not, and this is what made it really hard for me at the beginning – the TPs, cartridges, subsidized time, the concavity, all stuff that implied that suspension of disbelief is needed, but not in the obvious way, no Roswelt-style green aliens runnig around, no space ships etc.

    Anyway, I’ve got to do some work now but I hope to post ‘properly’ later.

  12. CindyK Says:

    I’ve been slow to get started, but am determined to catch up so that I don’t feel compelled to add this to a bucket list when I’m 70. Thanks for all the helpful and encouraging comments, all.

  13. bobdee Says:

    I am still in, but have not finished this week’s read. I will catch up on the weekend. Thanks for the encouragement, the deathmarch is needed here.

  14. Computilo Says:

    Whoops. I thought I had left a comment this week. I was having a slow start, but once I got through the marijuana orange bong section, I got totally into it and am picking up the pace nicely. I’m not quite to the end of the mid-100s, but close. So, please keep me on the list. I’ve finished the other Deathmarches and would consider myself an abject failure if I didn’t stay with it this time. Usually I’m reading ahead of the pack, but this time I feel like I’ve got cement shoes on and somebody is trying to throw me into the river (any river). At least these are the dreams I’m having when I read this before bedtime.

    Also, Bill, are you are asking your friends to call you “The Entertainment” because they stopped calling you “The Situation?” “The Entertainment” has so many more nuances to it.

  15. Debra Says:

    Hey, I’m still in but not much time to comment.. I still can’t get the image out of my head of U.S.S. Millicent’s hair: “osseously hard-looking composed of dense woven nests of reticulate fibers like dry loofa sponge….” but at least she was finally able to put a bow in it.

  16. Cecil Vortex Says:

    I’m so far behind really that I only exist as an example of how someone can post even if they are so far behind. But in that capacity, I’m outstanding.

  17. other dan Says:

    i’m on par, just barely squeaking in these under the wire. i thought note 304 was going to be the death of me and then that note picks up and i’m starting to see how the end notes are really part of the experience. for a while i wasn’t even sure i was supposed to be reading 304.

    i particularly liked the original school motto and i think that will be my next facebook post.

    i also am waiting for some actual plot but i was disheartened a bit originally by the forward saying that this book can’t really be classified so i’m still not so sure what to expect.

    i’m waiting for more on my suicidal friend. she’s just my type. when there are multiple sections that jump around, the storyline i like best seems to be the one that gets the least air time. especially when i think i might want to date one of the characters.

  18. ShingleSt Says:

    I’m still in, but had a bad week and wasn’t able to make much progress. Determined to catch up by next week, though. Like at least one other person, I feel as if this would be easier to read as a series of short stories or in installments. I like some chapters; in others, I feel as if I can’t let my mind wander for even a second (although perhaps the point is to let it wash over you).

  19. Matt Says:

    Keeping it short and sweet after last week’s mega comment.

    I find it intriguing that the plot is slowly intertwining and coming together but at the same time continuing to spiral outwards. What I mean is that more perspectives and characters continue to be introduced but details in each story are mingling to begin to create a cohesion overall.

    I continue to find the mechanic of the end notes fascinating, especially note 304 being referenced for a second time already. I almost skipped it the second time but it really is illuminating when you’re armed with more knowledge about Marathe the second go-round.

    @Bill totally agree about the Requiem comparison. I pictured yrstruly as Marlon Wayans the entire time I was reading.

  20. Del Says:

    this is just to say that i’m currently exactly one week behind schedule. so am posting my 2nd week notes to last week’s call comments. see you there. and hopefully here in a couple of days.


  21. Jeff Says:

    Well, I’ve fallen 20 pages short, but am still in. The syntax in the first Marathe section was bugging me because it seemed so odd, until I started reading it to myself in a French accent, and then it all made sense. After devouring the filmography endnote last week, I admit I just skimmed over Endnote 304 this time, mostly because I was frantically trying to make the deadline. DOH. So now that I’m behind anyway, I’ll go back and read it. The contrasting student pep talks were great (especially the WTF dental talk), as was the general description of life on the student tennis circuit.

    And as for the special agent in the woman’s garb with the lopsided breasts—all I could think of was David Duchovny in his early role on Twin Peaks.

    Overall, this was the toughest section so far for me. I plowed through the first couple weeks with enthusiasm, but this time–because of life business–I got bogged down. But I find each individual sentence, even if I’m losing the big picture, such a joy to read, that I’m still all in.

  22. BradH Says:

    Alas, I was away from my copy of the book this week, so I can’t comment on the section. On the positive side, I now have a second bookmark for the end notes…

  23. Del Says:

    here’s a mish-mesh of unedited notes for pp. 95-142. ah, the plate mirrors catch part of Schacht’s loogie in its ‘quivering flight’ into a sink in a men’s locker room. a guy named Disney teaches ‘Entertainment I an II’. the relevance of the history of analog to digital (oddly seems dated but in a ‘keeping with the anachronistic yet almost scifi’ tone of the book thus far). the overwhelming cast of characters in the locker room – lovely exacerbation of same by use of nicknames for Hal (Inc, The Incster, The Halster, Halorama, Halation…..[halcyon]). the irony of all the esoteric studies talk in the men’s room locker. parsing the concept that a person named Idris Arslanian is depicted as ‘ethnically vague’ can have a ‘non-Caucasoid snout’ (and what that description says about the ‘the author’, ‘David Foster Wallace’, and ‘the author vs. David Foster Wallace’) – sure enough, in the IJ wiki: “Idris is an Arabic name, corresponding in the Qur’an to Enoch in the Bible. The last name Arslanian sounds Armenian, though ‘Arslan’ is a turkish word for ‘lion’.” the vivid sentences, depictions, descriptions never end: “Poassalthwaite…has a weird young-old face and little wet lips that lapse into a sucking reflex under stress.” the relevance of ethnicities.

    the poignancy of it all – the description of the Big Buddies / Little Buddies program at E.T.A. is metaphorical on so many levels – parenting, how business is run. and resounds so perfectly for me: “Sometimes he finds out he believes something that he doesn’t even know he believed until it exits his mouth” when Hal is minilecturing his Little Buddies.

    the Maranthe & Steeply tableau (love story) is so growing on me. ‘Marathe continued to hum the U.S.A. song, all over the map in terms of key.’ Stan Smith in ‘anachronistic white’ – the use of the word ‘anachronistic’ (one permeable description of the novel, thus far), and when would a tennis player in white have been anachronistic (i.e., this makes me think deeper about the ‘when’ of the novel – I love the slightly off-kilter but present-day-, 50’s-ish-, 80s/90ish-, and sci-fi-ness of the story, but I never feel far removed from the when/where because it all seems so poignant to today) – and again the same word same paragraph ‘Wilson wood stick’. the continued use of the word ‘queer’ but never in the modern/gay sense (a book with plenty of queer – in the modern sense – moments). now Hal makes me think of Tom Cruise in ‘Magnolia’. moving from one pep talk to another. ‘plateaus’ vs. ‘plateaux’ (with a rhyming ‘Geronimo’) – language hegemonics. ‘locating the chinks of the plateau’ (mixed metaphor). and then: ‘Geronzai’ – a made-up expletive (from ‘Geronimo!’ and ‘Banzai!’). Lateral Alice Moore is a great name (and there are many fantastic names in this book). as if another character needs to show up, the clunkiest name of all: Audern Tallat-Kepsa (the clunkiness accentuates the intentionally odd/polar/often-at-least-semi-racist/random ethnic mix in character names, characters, and situations thus far. then ‘…he’s not American but I tell you straight out right here he makes me proud to be an American. Mein kinder.’ and this paragraph: ‘There’s a long pause. The front door is newer than the wood around it.’ the rhymes, repeated words, wordplay continues to amaze – the paragraph on 122 with lots of lips, pills, chills, thickets, for example.

    ‘A shoulder to climb up on a footstool to cry on.’ ‘Everybody agrees it speaks volumes.’ ‘Himself had looked ethnic, but he isn’t extant.’ ‘Crepuscular animals rustled and perhaps scuttled.’ ‘Though when the viewer’s on it looks like the room has a window.’ ‘with “Mr.-Bouncety-Bounche-Program”-brand bow-biters’ ‘Arslanian bares canines.’ ‘The inactive viewer’s screen is the color of way out of the Atlantic looking straight down on a cold day.’ ‘It’s hearing the same motivational stuff over and over till sheer repetitive weight makes it sink down into the gut.’ ‘Just do it.’ ‘The last of the sun’s snout was setting just over the tip of the U.S.S. Millicent’s hair…’ ‘deeper into the thicket of the lip’ ‘…Mario kept saying Golly Ned, all he could think of to say.’ ‘rooting for a penis’ ‘Of this anti-film that antidotes the seduction of the Entertainment we have no evidence…’ ‘His tongue is little and rough but feels good, like a kitty’s.’ ‘His name is supposedly Lyle.’ ‘elemonade the Patty’s map’ the chapter with ‘C’ & ‘yrstruly’ & ‘Susan T. Cheese’ went straight into an episode or 5 of ‘The Wire’ – and the end of that section was very disturbing.

    ‘ephebe’ ‘word-inflation’ ‘hyperbolic and hyperbolicker’ ‘cognomen’ ‘semion’ ‘acutance’ ‘a woppsed-up towel’ ‘lume’ ‘kertwanging’ ‘guilloche’ ‘eidetic’ ‘murated nation’

    ‘throw up our faggy hands’ – ok, it’s an actual jab, but with ‘faggy’ – not ‘queer’. tennis/dentistry. interesting what Wallace’s repeated use of the word ‘queer’ up to a point in the book – without it having anything to do with sexuality – does to prepare for the repeated appearance of the word ‘faggy’ and ‘fag’ in the perjorative sense.

    the relative dearth of female characters thus far, compounded by the juxtaposition of the lengthy locker room & then men’s big buddy / little buddy scenes next to the arrival of Millicent Kent. the way the Incandenza brothers are portrayed as having something horrifyingly (but yet vaguely) wrong with each of them, and then they’re geniuses or such. schizophrenic savant/idiot savant types. U.S.S.M.K. & Mario’s hilarious passionate scene in the sumac boscages. I. laugh. out. loud. also at how Marathe speaks – and thinks – “U.S.A persons’ shrugs are always as if trying to lift a heavy thing.’

    seems Wallace is keenest to point out our absurdities – utilizing a wide range of metaphors he has us guffawing about the polarities, the randomness, the meaninglessness of our nation/world/individual politics/economics/rivalries/customs/languages.

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