The Infinite Jest Deathmarch: Stage 4

Deathmarcher discovers Toblerone

Begin: Page 142 (ENORMOUS, ELECTROLYSIS-RASHED ‘JOURNALIST’ ‘HELEN’ STEEPLY’S ONLY PUTATIVE PUBLISHED ARTICLE…”)
End: Page 200 (Pemulis whispers: ‘Pussy.’)

Start Date: 10/22/10
Finish Date: 10/28/10

Ramping up a bit this week because I think we’ve weeded out the less hardy and it’s time to start cranking. This may be unkind to some of you who are playing catchup, but remember it’s not called a “Tiptoe-Through-the-Tulipsmarch.”

16 Responses to “The Infinite Jest Deathmarch: Stage 4”

  1. Computilo Says:

    I promise to leave a real comment later but does Toblerone rhyme with abalone? Anyone? Also, the Tulip comment is kinda harsh.

  2. bill Says:

    As far as I’m aware, Toblerone rhymes with, um… megaphone? Herringbone? Chaperone?

    Re the tulips, I thought it might be time for a little tough love. Did I miscalculate?

  3. Other Dan Says:

    By my calculations 200-142 is 58 pages. This seems to violate the contract. I’m telling.

  4. Delano Says:

    I got a chance to read ahead a bit while on the beaches in Barbados. Wallace’s writing back-dropped by Sun-drenched sands make an interesting concoction.

    I loved pages 158 thru 160 – talking about living in your body, predictive sense, instincts and such – Comparing the body to a fine car that will respond if given its due. Objective – to be a machine on the tennis court. When I played tennis in HS I was taught just the opposite – disconnect from the body and feel the match from inside.

  5. Macroe Says:

    DFW´s IJ accompanied me in a week long trip to China, so I was able to catch up with the reading. The Kindle edition is really a life saver on such a long trip.

    I was gripped by the monologue from 10 yr old James Incandenza’s old man and his “respect for the body” theme. The destruction of the psyche and (in)voluntary verbal abuse poured on was astonishing, a mirror on a soul broken in pieces by another Dad in turn. “Yes, but he´ll never be great.” It ties quite interestingly with Hal’s own Narration of Tennis and the Feral Prodigy, with have a father whose own father lost what was there. Yes, talent is its own expectation… and I can only wonder if DFW had his own soul broken or empty even though he met by far the expectation around his book.

    I also enjoyed the Madame Psychosis passage and found very interesting the various anatomy references in the choice of vocabulary. Again the Kindle instant dictionary was extremely helpful in this, which some might object in regards to breaking apart the flow of the book, but I was tripping anyhow on the sulcus grooves thrown around.

    The sadness that is emerging from the narrative itself is also like the terror and pain that DFW mentions from Kate Gompert (an actual tennis player from the mid 80s). The humor is a stark and unexpected contrast to the overall tone that I am left with after these 200 pages.

    Thoroughly hooked!

  6. bill Says:

    Is this bit from note 61 a warning from DFW?

    “An apres-garde digital movement, a.k.a. ‘Digital Parallelism’ and ‘Cinema of Chaotic Stasis,’ characterized by a stubborn and possibly intentionally irritating refusal of different narrative lines to merge into any kind of meaningful confluence…”

    I had hoped this book would combine Pynchonian hyperintelligence with a slightly more coherent/less self-indulgent approach to narrative. So far, a lot of the former, not so much of the latter.

    On the other hand, I realized this week I had completely forgotten about Damaged Hal from the beginning, and there has to be some kind of return to that at some point, right?

  7. JES Says:

    Surprisingly, I finished this stage early and found it to be much less disjointed than previous stages. The section on young James and his father was quite profound in many ways. I’m still feeling the short story scenario that Molly spoke of in Stage 3 comments, however, and also looking for an explanation of the “damaged Hal”. Wallace was definitely genius material, but an obsessive genius.

  8. Jeff Says:

    Ugh. I’m not even done with last week’s reading. I’m like a little rowboat, falling further behind the barge.

    So I’m posting ahead of time, knowing I’ll never catch up this week, just to declare myself alive and still part of the deathmarch. Hopefully I’ll catch cholera or scurvy or something so I can just stay in bed awhile and read.

  9. Debra Says:

    I hope there won’t be a time in my life where I learn “what it means to be a body, just meat wrapped in a sort of flimsy nylon stocking” ….so desperate to teach Jim a thing or two

  10. Computilo Says:

    Found this character map online–it’s helped me “a little” to place everyone. After the Kate Gompert section, I started looking up the “real life” Kate Gompert, and this site popped up. May or not be helpful to people who were as confused as I was by the genealogy.

    http://jonny.snsy.de/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/unendlicherspasubersicht.jpg

  11. Asphodelia Says:

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who keeps finding the similarities between the Videophones as seen in IJ and the ‘new’ amazing feature of the iphone, Face Time or whatever it’s called? Will it take off? Does anyone actually use it? I’ve had AV chat facilities for years (iChat etc) but hardly ever switch on the webcam, pretty much precisely for the reasons that DFW illustrates in IJ: because you have to devote your whole attention to the ‘call’, and you look like crap, and all of that was easily disguised with the normal audio phone.
    I’d be very curious to see in say 3-4 years time where Face Time is at in terms of active usage, and see if DFW got it right, again.

  12. other dan Says:

    i’m up to date but not yet on board. i do like that wallace can go 10 pages and repeat things over and over, adding little bits that make the repetition interesting however i don’t like that wallace can go 10 pages without really moving the story along at any great pace.

    i did however manage to come across “This Is Water”, wallace’s Transcription of the 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address — May 21, 2005 which ii found nteresting for a number of reasons. if you find yourself in a bookstore, it’s worth a read for some insight on wallace.

    you can find a review here:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/26/books/review/Bissell-t.html

  13. Matt Says:

    @bill & JES: I too have been wondering about the Hal that was presented in the opening of the book. I’m assuming an explanation is forthcoming (please?). The suspense is killing me.

    I found the story in the very beginning of this section concerning the stolen artificial heart to be darkly hilarious. There have been other good moments of humor throughout the book but that has been my favorite to date.

    Last week I mentioned that I can see the story subtly beginning to intertwine and the aforementioned stolen heart bit is an example of this with the thief being Poor Tony. Another example is Gately and Bruce Green (mentioned way back in our first section) residing in the Ennet house that is located down the hill from ETA.

    I’m concurrently reading ‘No Plot? No Problem!’ in preparation for NaNoWriMo next week and Chris Baty says this on second-person perspective: “It feels unnatural and awkward, and it reminds you of those Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novels you read in fourth grade.” This gave me pause since IJ is in second person and is considered by many to be a work of genius. I’m wondering, what do the rest of you think of DFW’s choice of perspective? How do you think it enhances (or detracts if that’s your stance) from the novel?

  14. bobdee Says:

    I am a bit behind, but I really enjoyed some of the parts I have been reading lately. The story of the guy lowering the bricks was hilarious. The telephony section was also very funny, and there may be some truth in it. We have the capability, and if there was a desire for video telephony it seems it would have already taken off. Of course, Wallace takes this all a bit further than believability. I am reminded of the Monty Python skit when the “Police” come on to the set and arrest everyone because it got too silly. I will have more time next week so I should be able to catch up.

  15. Jeff Says:

    Finally caught up at least on this section. The bricklayer story, it turns out, is very old–dating back at least to the beginning of the 20th century. I thought it was so funny when reading it that I googled it, and sure enough, there are many variations on it, including, apparently, an Irish folk song.

    I too loved the monologue by James’ father. Maybe the highlight of the book so far for me.

    I found the Madame Psychosis section a bit of a slog, especially since I was reading the physical book, and not the e-book, meaning I did *not* have an instant dictionary on hand as he threw around more than the “usual” amount of arcane jargon.

    In general, I find I can’t read more than maybe 10 pages at most in a given sitting, without needing a break. Even if it’s just, say, a 15 minute break. Just takes a lot of concentration to get through, for me. I can’t imagine the concentration it took DFW to conceive and write the damn thing.

  16. Del Says:

    ‘Urine trouble?’ ‘Urine luck!’ ‘a tendon-strainer’ ‘Ah. Oh.’ ‘J.O.I. [James Incandenza]’ ‘I was, in a word, deft, considered, prescient.’ ‘nonslim’ ‘Formicate, with an m, yes.’ ‘I know bashing, Pat, and this was unabashed bashing at its most fascist.’ ‘Is hope of power the bad way for Alfonso as drug addict?’ ‘All I can say is if it was produced by anything human then I have to say I’m really worried.’ ‘My septum’s been like fucking dissolved by coke. See?’ ‘He’d been like sexually abusing fowls. He kept talking to her about it, with all t-h’s, like You hath to like thcrew them on, but when you come they jutht thort of fly off of you.’ ‘sulcus-fissures and gyrus-bulges’ ‘63 (the student engineer’s analogy)’ ‘It’s the accent of someone who’s spent time either losing a southern lilt or cultivating one.’ ‘All ye peronic or tetratoidal.’ ‘It [the background music for Madame Psychosis’s radio show] leads up to the exact kind of inevitability it denies.’

    the transcripts from the recovery house are hilarious. a little trouble getting thru Madame Psychosis’s stuff because I want to know what every word means.

    ‘The consensus is Asian cartoon characters have the silliest voices.’ an example of how the book is often (seemingly?) racist for the sake of being racist, (‘she has a rather spectacular thumb, plant-wise, for a Canadian’) or just generally mean (‘Those who like like they have Down Syndrome even though they don’t have Down Syndrome.’). the endless references to masturbation. I keep laughing out loud at the repetition in the name ‘Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House’. ‘Apeshit has rarely enjoyed so literal a denotation.’ the repition of the phrase ‘the howling fantods’. ‘Kornspan’s red face is leaping around on his skull.’

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