This is the latest entry in Words, Words, Words the ongoing liveblog of David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest.”
September 14, 2011, pgs 219-240. Here comes Joelle van Dyne, a veiled Boston-ite who, with her knowledge of film making and Incandenzas and hard drugs, is the primary link between the two major plot lines in this book. She arrives on the stage just as she is planning to exit by way of Too Much Fun with some freebase. In addition to a filthily cluttered grad-student bathroom that is so well written it’s annoying at an adult-etiquette level, this section is full of important information. Here is what to look for:
— “The rain’s wet veil blurs things like Jim had designed his neonatal lens to blur things in imitation of a neonatal retina, everything recognizable and yet without outline.”
— “The ultimate annular fusion: that of exhibit and its cage.”
— The chronology of Subsidized Time on page 223 (of my edition) is critical. You’ll want to turn back to this page, so you may as well mark it somehow.
— The man in the wheelchair holding the removable cartridge.
— “She’s had her last fling with film cartridges. Jim had used her several times. Jim at the end had filmed her at prodigious and multi-lensed length, and refused to share what he’d made of it, and died w/o a note.”
— “…after Orin first left, and then Jim came and made her sit through that filmed apology-scene…”
— “Joelle van Dyne” is ” a.k.a. Madame P[sychosis]” from the MIT radio show.
— “Joelle even now lives hand-to-lung on a grossly generous trust willed her by a man she unveiled for but never slept with, the prodigious punter’s father, infinite jester, director of a final opus so magnum he’d claimed to have it locked away.”
— Joelle “doubts that any sum of scenes as pathologic as he’d stuck that long quartzy auto-wobbling lens on the camera and filmed her for could have been as entertaining as he’d said the thing he’d always wanted to make had broken his heart by ending up.”
— “…on either side of the mirror he’d cut for the scenes of that last ghastly thing he’d made her stand before, reciting in the openly empty tones she’d gone on to use on air…”
— “Was the allegedly fatally entertaining and scopophiliac thing Jim alleges he made out of her unveiled face here at the start of Y.T.S.D.B. a cage or really a door?”
— “…brain heaving in its bone-box, memorizing every detail like collecting empty shell…” (this just sounds like a description of what it’s like to be Wallace in a room on a tough day)
— “…a kind of wraith- or phantom-like—”
— “—way it can be film qua film. Comstock says if it even exists it has to be something more like an aesthetic pharmaceutical.”
— “‘This ultimate cartridge-as-ecstatic-death rumor’s been going around like a lazy toilet since Dishmaster… Have a look. See that it’s doubtless just high-concept erotica or an hour of rotating whorls. Or something like Makavajev, something that’s only entertaining after it’s over, on reflection.'”
— “She always sees, after inhaling, right at the apex, at the graph’s spike’s tip, Bernini’s ‘Ecstasy of St. Teresa,’ behind glass, at the Vittoria, for some reason…”
— “‘The Face of the Deep’ had been the title she’s suggested for Jim’s unseen last cartridge, which he’d said would be too pretentious and then used that skull-fragment out of the Hamlet graveyard scene instead, which talk about pretentious she’d laughed. His frightened look when she’d laughed…”
— There is an oblique indication that Joelle was molested by her father right at the end of 239. This is a potential, credible but unconfirmed threat.
— Hamlet Sighting: Joelle attempts suicide in a blue bathtub. She is Ophelia.
These chapters do an excellent job of capturing the excruciating experience of hanging out with graduate students who are up their own asses with academic syntax and latin phrases. But the whole nexus of addiction and entertainment and annular cycles of cages and doors and death here is, to be honest, kind of thinly veiled.