The Infinite Jest Deathmarch: Stage 5

It's Marlon Brando's fault, Jim.

Begin: Page 200 (“If, by virtue of charity or the circumstances of desperation…”)
End: Page 258 (“…holding the phone down right next to the foot, his expression terrifically intense.”)

Start Date: 10/29/10
Finish Date: 11/4/10

We’ll pass a couple of important milestones this week: the one-quarter mark of the book and the first month of the Deathmarch. And if these two facts taken together give you pause, perhaps it’s better not to think about it but to plow on heedlessly, mindlessly, like a rock rolling downhill.

20 Responses to “The Infinite Jest Deathmarch: Stage 5”

  1. Other Dan Says:

    1. I just read 10 pages beyond 200 today and I’m now on-board. I’m not sure if because it was an easy and fun read or if I just really like the parts about Addiction and Tattoos. I get an idea about what side of the fence he is on regarding addiction however I’m not putting anything past him. Also, early in that short read for this portion of the march, He goes on with observations, any of which could be a thought for a chapter in itself. Well done to Wallace.

    2. Another thought, when reading Pynchon I find when I get up from 20 pages, I feel exhausted, entertained and A LOT of time has gone by. When reading IJ, I feel like I’ve been reading for hours [sometimes exhausted, this 10 pages excluded] but when I look at the clock, not that much time has gone by, it just feels like it.

    3. Still missing my girlfriend from earlier in the Book but don’t expect her to make much progress sitting in bed and having the Dr. visit from time to time. At least most of the characters seem to be in the central theme so far.

  2. JES Says:

    I’m still in and, more and more, completely in awe of DFW’s abilities, knowledge, imagination, or whatever you want to call it.

  3. bill Says:

    Starting to get the feeling I know what happened to Hal.

  4. Matt Says:

    I posted this last week but didn’t get a response from anyone so I’m copying it again here because I am genuinely interested in what people think about this:

    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?

  5. Jeff Says:

    Matt, I think either I’m not understanding you, or you are not understanding second-person perspective?

    Second-person perspective is when the author uses “You” as the protagonist/point-of-view. As in, “You are standing in front of a white house, next to a mailbox”, etc.

    I have yet to come across a passage in IJ yet that takes place in this perspective, so not sure what you’re referring to here.

  6. Matt Says:

    I had second-person perspective terribly misunderstood. Sorry for the confusion!

    However, I’m still interested in what people think about the perspective(s) of the novel since it seems to be a detached version of third person (correct me if I’m wrong again!).

    Also, since we’re playing the educate Matt game, can anyone explain the use of single quotation marks as opposed to double quotation marks when dialogue is being delivered?

    @Bill: It’s like a train wreck you can see coming but can’t get out of the way.

  7. Delano Says:

    Although excruciatingly long and laborious, I found myself unable to
    stop reading the section on “The things you learn while spending time in
    a Substance-recovery halfway facility.” I did not find any of the
    “facts” objectionable. In fact, I connected quite strongly with a few.

    “That if you do something nice for somebody in secret,
    anonymously, without letting the person know…you get an intoxicating
    buzz.” I’ve tried this before and got mixed results. Sometimes I got a nice tingle, but mostly, suffered greatly – itching to have my good deed acknowledged.

  8. Computilo Says:

    I’m still slightly behind in my reading, mostly because of the exhaustion I feel after reading even a small chunk. (I’m right there with ya, Other Dan.) It’s kind of like overeating (or am I referring to addiction in general?). You really enjoy it while you’re doing it, but then you get that bloated and sometimes guilty feeling afterwards and swear you are not going to overeat ever again. Sometimes, you even try to avoid the “meal” especially because you know you want it so bad but remember how bloated you felt, but then you also remember that you still don’t know what really happened on “The Entertainment” cartridge, DVD, whatever, nor do you feel you really understand the motives of the wheelchair terrorists and how they fit in with the tennis academy theme, so you get sucked in again, read some more, get bloated some more, and then, and then, and then, you even start making comments in the deathmarch blog in second person perspective. Admittedly, this is the conundrum of all Deathmarches, but especially this one. Don’t you (second person perspective people) agree?

  9. Debra Says:

    Beyond the drug use, tattooing… I passed on this between the lines wisdom to my children: “That you become less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do. That there is such a thing as raw, unalloyed, agendaless kindness. That it is possible to fall asleep during an anxiety attack.”

    And um, are trailerisms like red neckisms or hickisms?

  10. Bobdee Says:

    I am caught up. This is becomming more interesting and a plot is emerging. DFW gave us a long list of interesting observations on life in the early part of this weeks read. I always thought tatoos were removable – though a painful process – but now realize that you are still left with unsightly scarring. Did anyone cook an uncut potato in microwave? I may have nightmare tonight. BTW the moon DOES rotate – interesting story – Google it.

    I had not noticed the author’s perspective. I will watch for that. Probably it is necessary for it to be in third person since it jumps around so much? Also the time ordering is unusual. ‘The Sound and the Fury’ comes to mind.

  11. Matt Says:

    This was my favorite section so far and I’m now excited to continue reading from this point on. I’m grateful that the chronology was finally revealed as it had been driving me bonkers since the beginning of the book. Still attempting to discern the meaning of that circular symbol though.

    The section-ending conversation between Hal and Orin was incredible. It revealed a ton, including details of the demise of JOI, while at the same time having this awesome dynamic where by Hal seems to substitute Orin for the part of the grief therapist. I also identified heavily with Hal’s description of being in the zone and thought it was eerily similar to JOI’s father’s monologue from earlier in the book comparing the body to a car.

  12. BradH Says:

    I’ve been a bit less successful than Bobdee at catching up – I blame the Giants. I am, though, getting more comfortable at abrupt transitions between wildly different settings, characters, voices, … And I’m heartened by your comments that this section turns a readability corner of sorts.

  13. bill Says:

    One last quick comment before the cycle ends. The equation in the Joelle section of entertainment with freebasing: no accident.

  14. Matt Says:

    Bill, do you mind clarifying that last comment? I’m running a bit sleep-deprived today (and may just be thick in general) but I can’t identify/locate the equation you’re referring to even after scanning over that freebasing section again.

  15. Asphodelia Says:

    I can’t believe that I didn’t have time to post about MY FAVOURITE CHAPTER IN THE BOOK. I’ve had a very busy few days. So I’ll have to post tomorrow….*sigh*

  16. Del Says:

    (thru only page 219, but just to say I’m still here – have been posting a bit late at the bottom of each week’s comments…)

    ‘That certain persons simply will not like you no matter what you do. Then that most nonaddicted adult civilians have already absorbed and accepted this fact, often rather early on.’ ‘…the screen’s static charge tickles your nose like a linty mitten.’ “You Can’t Unring a Bell” Wade McDade ‘Pemulis’s snort sounds like the letter K.’ ‘And but everyone who’s anyone’ll be down at the Lung, watching the Vaughts vivisect some adult-ranked Nucks…’ ‘…so he’s almost got to get to go.’

    so many things he writes I wanna just say ‘that’s so not true!’ but I still read & enjoy. the segment that starts out as what you might learn in a rehab-type house and ends in descriptions of people’s tattoos is flat-out brilliant like every word should be framed.

    the insistent repition throughout the book thus far of ‘tableaux’ as the plural of ‘tableau’ (or the recurrence of the word) after that fact pointed out. and I keep wondering if he’ll ever queer up his use of the word ‘queer’. Aha – this time the word “Halation” and the word “halcyon” appear within lines of each other (p. 218).

  17. Molly Says:

    I’m behind, but after a long break I’m feeling refreshed and ready to dive back in. I’m glad to see that Wallace’s word choices are striking other people too. Some of them are so physically repulsive sounding – “meatus”? “sulcus”?

    More when I get caught up…

  18. Jeff Says:

    I am also still here, paddling behind on my little rowboat. Food supplies are low, but I am still in good spirits. Really enjoyed, as others did, the descriptions of the Units (hurr hurr) and the Things You Learn In Rehab. I’m still enthralled by his writing even though I too find him exhausting. I really can’t go more than 10 pages at a time, and it feels like 50. And yet, I’m not annoyed or discouraged. He makes me feel that the effort’s worth it.

    Hoping to catch up this week!

  19. Asphodelia Says:

    I know I’m 3 days late but here I am. Page 200, for me, is the turning point in the book. This is where DFW strips all the extra layers and the obscure language and the weirdness and suddenly all you are left is a pure, undiluted, earnest voice. The voice of an addict? Do we really need to have experienced addiction to really ‘feel’ this chapter? I don’t think so. I don’t know guys, I don’t know how to even express this but I can’t imagine any other writer of DFW’s generation to write things like:

    ‘That there might not be angels, but there are people who might as well be angels’.

    This is where we realise that this is not a book ‘about’ tennis, but it is a book about pain, AND tennis, AND loneliness, and it happens to be hilarious and sad at the same time.

    Of course, after breaking my heart into millions of pieces, DFW doesn’t even change the chapter before changing the shift of the narration to Tiny Ewell. This I found quite disconcerting and I’ve noticed (NO SPOILERS) that this kind of narrative shifts happens again in the book. I don’t think a lesser writer would have have got away with it.

    When the Ennet House chapter does end, we are taken back to ETA, but the focus is still addiction as the boys are discussing the mysterious powers of DMZ. Humour returns in this chapter (anything involving Michael Pemulis makes me laugh) and I love imagining the three boys looking at this tiny little pill and trying to figure out how much they need to take to get high.

    That’s all from me for now, folks!

  20. Del Says:

    (part 2 of my scribbles, from pp. 219-258)

    ‘sub-rosa’ ‘halated’(?) ‘retroironic’ what is ‘wopsed-up’ – I think he’s used this term twice now – as in (derogatory) ‘made up to seem Italian’? no idea.

    ‘This absence of shame at the self-obsession. Is she Canadian? Mirror-cult? Not possibly a U.H.I.D.: the bearing’s all wrong.’ ‘…the smile of a man who wears white loafers and a squirting carnation.’ ‘with all soft rock’s grim dental associations’ ‘and the snarp decayed-lemon odor of stress-diarrhea’ = ‘dicky academic digestion’ ‘Joelle’s misshapen purse’ ‘maybe the Prettiest Girl Of All Time (Prettiest G.O.A.T.)’ ‘Enough with the trailerisms.’ ‘Brief liaison with this one Subject who used to model at kitchen-appliance trade shows.’ ‘He always had the remains of a sneeze in the mustache.’ ‘working up a gourmet sweat’

    the revelation that Joelle van Dyne (first) knows or knew (intimately?) Jim Incandenza (and family) and then that she is Madame Psychosis in her suicide (? still reading it) section. the revelation that she is from Kentucky. more on the Union of Hideously and Improbably Deformed (U.H.I.D.) and Winston Churchill’s involvement in same. wondering how intentional the various misspellings of words (esoteric, foreign, etc.) – intentional all or most? if so, why? I like the possibilities of the ‘why’. all the parallelisms among all the (beautifully merging) story-lines: suicides, addiction, grotesquerie, etc. Jim Incandenza died on April First, April Fool’s Day, infinite jest. I love the process of Hal one-upping the grief-therapist – totally my take on therapy. And the intensity of the end of that section, the revealing ‘[Hal’s] expression terrifically intense.’

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