The Infinite Jest Deathmarch, Stage 8

His father knelt beside him on the ceiling in a well-rended sleeveless tee-, extolling the Red Sox of Rice and Lynn.

Begin: Page 312 (“The first birth of the Incandenzas’ second son was a surprise.”)
End: Page 352 (“A certain Message had been Carried.”)

Start Date: 11/19/10
Finish Date: 11/25/10

Note Profile: 18 notes, all short except for a two-pager that looks to be involved but not especially crucial.

Keeping the page count slightly on the shorter side this week; hope that suits everyone’s sense of momentum. I’ve read ahead just a little and it looks like Wallace is starting to Get to the Point.

Question: Do they have Thanksgiving in O.N.A.N.?

14 Responses to “The Infinite Jest Deathmarch, Stage 8”

  1. Matt Says:

    I haven’t read this week’s assignment, yet, but I find your mention of ‘getting to the point’ interesting as this is something I have mulled over while reading IJ so far.

    I’ve been wondering whether, when he finally does get to the point, said point will hit home that much harder due to the ridiculous delay in its delivery.

    I wish I had other books to compare this to but I can’t think of any off the top of my head that have revealed their plots in such a round about way as to be hundreds of pages in and still have no clue where they are going.

  2. Computilo Says:

    I have finally caught up, and I’m glad to hear that someone thinks DFW is getting to the point. I, for one, can’t see it yet, so perhaps our moderator is farther along than he lets on. I truly hope there is a point, and that someone will tell me what it is when it happens. I’m struggling with whether to continue this particular march/exercise/quest/crusade. I’ve been wistfully thinking of all the other books piling up on my to-read shelf while plowing through what seems a fairly futile undertaking.

    But I’m still marching, perhaps because DFW does have some clever insights, which makes me think something will come up soon that will help me understand what he’s driving at. (I particularly liked the standardardized letter that the fine football guardians sent to Moms on Orin’s behalf. Made me think of all the newsy, handwritten, letters I sent to my kids when they were in college (pre-texting); all I ever got back, however, were quick phone calls distinctly *not* filled with news.)

    I have been wondering, though, whether Poor Tony’s stroke on the T foreshadows (or backshadows) “the Point” which I am thinking might be related to our first introduction to Hal at the beginning of the book. It seems to me that Hal is actually having a stroke in that first chapter. (Or at least, what I’ve heard stroke survivors say it’s like.) On the other hand, it seems like most of the book is having a stroke, except for the footnotes, which are remarkably lucid in comparison. Onward.

  3. Matt Says:

    @Computilo I don’t think Hal was having a stroke in the beginning. Pretty sure there was something else going on in that scene although it has yet to be revealed. Hints have been dropped in previous sections (I think two weeks ago?) about what could possibly be behind all of that.

  4. JES Says:

    DFW certainly was a kindred spirit to the internal anguish of addiction.

    Loved the Eschaton game and the ensuing chaos. Would like to see that in person.

    “The first birth of the Incandenzas’ second son was a surprise.” What?

  5. bill Says:

    “The first birth of the Incandenzas’ second son was a surprise.”

    Yeah, I wondered about that one too. He just kind of dangled that out there. Will there be a second birth? Is Mario going to find Jesus?

  6. Jeff Says:

    I’m struggling along. Even with the short segment last week, I couldn’t catch up. It’s an exhausting read. But give up I do not!

    Meanwhile, I just saw this on Newsweek. What Didn’t Make it into Infinite Jest:

  7. asphodelia Says:

    Two of my favourite elements in IJ: Mario Incandenza and Eschaton. I can’t even pretend to say that I understood what was going on reading the chapter on Eschaton the first time round. It’s total chaos, but I think the key is to keep reading and just go along with it, as if you’re watching a match of a sport you know nothing about (like for me any sport) and just get sucked in by the chaos and excitement.

    DFW describes the game as if this war of the worlds is reality, and comes out with gems such as Everybody’s scooping up spent warheads and totally unrealistically refiring them (page 340)

    Also note page 338, where (I think it’s Pemulis) ‘howling’ at Lord that It’s snowing on the players but not on the territory. They’re part of the map, not the cluster-fucking territory cfr–territory_relation

    And I love the conclusion, which paradoxically ends in the quiet snow-bound silence of the tennis court, is just beautiful, with Lord ending up with his head stuck inside a computer. Genius!

  8. BradH Says:

    I like that DFW “overshoots” the mark for two of his endnotes during the Mario section. It’s a fun little detail that makes it seem like he’s just casually telling you a story over a beer…or, given the other characters, quite a few beers.

  9. Debra Says:

    Trying to scare up a few more dead and bald tennis balls to make 400 for a game of Eschaton, then the 8 – 12 people willing to give it a go. Are you with me?

  10. Bill Says:

    “Eschaton” is a term I remember from the favorite Big Book of my teenage years, Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s “Illuminatus” trilogy. Something about “Immanentizing the Eschaton,” i.e. hastening the apocalypse. Might have to reread that one of these days.

    When I said DFW was getting to the point, I was referring to the section with Marathe and Steeply, which very lucidly lays out what I think is Wallace’s own critique of entertainment and passivity: “A U.S.A. that would die – and let its children die, each one – for the so-called perfect Entertainment, this film. Who would die for this chance to be fed this death of pleasure with spoons, in their warm homes, alone, unmoving.”

    The Eschaton section was getting on my nerves for awhile but it really took flight in the last few pages, and I was actually sad when it ended. The AA section is starting to drift over the line into open advocacy…does anybody know if he was a member? I guess that whole anonymity thing might make it hard to say.

  11. bobdee Says:

    The Eschaton part seemed far fetched to me, so complicated and involved, but I may not be remembering how much energy kids have for such pursuits. I am really enjoying the AA parts, which is surprising to me – I am not sure what fascination it is having. One thing is that it seems to express the true feelings and experiences for someone in this situation. So much detail is being given, it almost seems like a very detailed diary. The consequences of this “disease” seem so dire that I wonder wether any drinking is worth the risk.

  12. Jeff Says:

    I’m just getting going on Stage 7’s reading. 🙁
    So since I’m so far behind, all I can do is wave. Hi guys!

    And I have now officially switched to reading this exclusively on the iPad, even though I own the physical hard copy as well. Since I keep picking up the iPad to look up words anyway, I figure I’d just eliminate the middleman of the printed page. Not surprisingly, it’s now going quicker for me.

    Looking forward to meeting up with you guys hopefully sooner rather than later, as reading your comments and contributing 2 weeks after the fact isn’t really doing much good. 🙂

  13. Matt Says:

    I was engrossed by Eschaton. Live action Risk with nuclear weapons? Yes please! Especially loved the observation and commentary by Hal/Pemulis/&co. and how the game devolved into real violence. Also, Pemulis has rapidly become one of my favorite characters from any book and I wouldn’t be sad if IJ just started following him to the exclusion of all other parties.

    @Debra: I’m with you on playing! I sent my best friend, who has read IJ previously, a text to ask when we could get a game going. It would be a real riot although I have no tennis lob skills whatsoever.

    @Bill: I can’t confirm or deny DFW being an AA but the incredible authenticity that his portrayal of the arc of substance abuse and AA experience leads me to believe that either he or someone he was extremely close to was a member. I would not be shocked if it was perhaps his father as he has characterized both J.O.I. and his father as being alcoholics.

  14. Matt Says:

    One other thing I forgot to mention: got a huge kick out of the end note where Pemulis is dictating the details of the MVT to Hal. Especially funny was calling out math textbooks for their boring language and also giving the figures hilarious names. This was something that I used to do when explaining something in an engineering class back in school so it gave me a good chuckle.

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