This is the latest entry in Words, Words, Words the ongoing liveblog of David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest.”
February 16, 2012, pgs 785-808/1066-1076. Rather than taking Pemulis’ advice to try something new, Hal visits Ennet House to try and get information on meetings to help him kick the habit he won’t call an addiction. It’s a quick section, but Wallace does a nice job of being Johnette Folz and seeing a well established character through the eyes of someone who doesn’t know him and doesn’t particularly care about him.
Molly Notkin is spilling the beans in the decidedly less-strenuous variety of technical interview performed by the U.S.O.U.S. We get more important details about The Entertainment and Joelle’s history. These revelations include: JOI’s death/female cosmology; two kitchen appliance related suicides; sordid implications that Avril Incandenza was involved in both a sordid relationship with Orin and the sordid details of JOI’s suicide; the story of Joelle’s weird father and the alleged disfiguration that keeps her veiled. All of this seems very enlightening and settling of certain questions until Notkin* tells her interviewers that “Madame Psychosis’s name was in reality Lucille Duquette,” at which point we realize that any of the other details might be lies or exaggerations as well.
Then Hal heads out to an unspecified anti-substance meeting, but not before he “rushed through P.M.’s dispatching Shaw 1 and 3 by the time the regular P.M.’s were even warming up” — which indicates that Hal may be getting his tennis chops back at least. The meeting turns out to be one of the more absurd and horrible things in the book (and this is right after a section in which a woman has been described killing herself with a kitchen sink garbage disposal), where we get a look at at least one variety of feral infant. I’ll sum it up the way Wallace sums up the section:
So Hal’s most vivid full-color memory of the non-anti-Substance Meeting he drove fifty oversalivated clicks to by mistake will become that of his older brother’s doubles partner’s older brother down on all fours on a Dacronyl rug, crawling, hampered because one arm was holding his bear to his chest, so he sort of dipped and rose as he crawled on three limbs toward Hal and the needs-meeter behind him, Bain’s knees leaving twin pale tracks in the carpet and his head up on a wobbly neck and looking up and past Hal, his face unspeakable.
*A possible nod to “A little more than kin, and less than kind,” as a friend and fellow reader pointed out to me. There may be a deliberate connection here, but the line from Hamlet seems less directed at Molly than a perfect description of Avril Incandenza.
** Throughout all of this, the story of Mike Pemulis has been relegated to the endnotes. In two long ones we hear the story of the Seldane-Tenuate mix up that leaves MP in a situation where his “sinuses felt like four-laners and his sense of smell was a lot keener than a man in a locker room might wish” and John Wayne (who Pemulis refers to as The Duke in an oblique Hamlet Sighting) spouting off wildly on Troeltsch’s broadcast. The whole things seems almost too well orchestrated to not have been set in motion by someone with an agenda against Pemulis. Any list of Persons of Interest would have to include certain school administrators who were not likely amused by Mike’s flyer about how 17 could go into 56 way more than 3.294 times.