Tag Archives: Les Assassins des Fauteuils Roulants

The Infinite Jest Liveblog: What Happened, Pt. 1

This is the latest entry in Words, Words, Words the ongoing liveblog of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest

It’s been a little over three months since the last post of the Infinite Jest liveblog, and I recently noticed the first tiny urges to jump back in and read the book again. I’m not quite ready for all that, but it seems like the right time to tackle some of the most difficult questions lingering at the end of the novel: What the hell just happened? And why did it happen that way? (I’ll tackle the latter in a second post).

If your experience finishing Infinite Jest mirrors mine, then after you threw the book across the room, picked it up and re-read the first chapter, then threw the book again, you went to Google and entered: “WHAT HAPPENED IN INFINITE JEST?” 

This approach leads to some good resources for piecing together the actual events. Aaron Swartz at Raw Thought has the best explanation I’ve seen so far, a concise, linear and well-built case for what happened, even if some of his conclusions are debatable. Ezra Klein has some interesting thoughts about the impact, if not the actual details, of IJ’s ending in a post called “Infinite Jest as Infinite Jest.” And Dan Schmidt’s “Notes on Infinite Jest” answers some questions while raising others.

I’ll be using these sources — without which I would not  have grasped what happened — to walk through things in detail here. But first, let’s establish that there actually is something happening at the end of Infinite Jest. The abrupt closing is easily written off as arbitrary or too clever, an easy way out of a monstrous narrative that offered no satisfying path to the finish line. But Wallace appears to have had an arc — or a circle — in mind, and filling in the blanks does not disappoint. Continue reading


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The Infinite Jest Liveblog: Cult Classics

This is the latest entry in Words, Words, Words the ongoing liveblog of David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest.” 


January 28, 2012, pgs 716-735/1054-1062. A second snatch-and-grab c/o the now fully recidivist Randy Lenz is taking shape in the Central/Inman Squares area of Cambridge, while nearby at Antitoi Entertainent [sic] the AFR is scouring the inventory to find a copy or Master Copy of The Entertainment. They have traced the cartridge’s possible whereabouts through “the strenuous technical interview of the sartorially eccentric cranio-facial-pain-specialist, whom they had traced through the regrettably fatal technical interview of the young burglar.” The young burglar being Gately’s accomplice in the unfortunate case of the Fatally Congested French Canadian.  We learn that the FLQ was responsible for the blank cartridge dispensing wheelchair statue that Joelle passed on Boylston St., and we get some insight into the true motives of the AFR: “the sort of testicular frappe to the underbelly of U.S.A. self-interests that would render Canada itself unwilling to face the U.S.A. retaliation for this…” and so on. Fortier’s plan does not have Marathe surviving to see such a conclusion. AFR believes that Orin is likely to have copies of The Entertainment and “may have borne responsibilities for the razzles and dazzles of Berkley and Boston.”

Joelle begins to fret about the cosmetic condition of her teeth, which is an odd concern for someone who wears a veil over her face at all times. Speaking of veils, Marathe arrives at Ennet House under cover of the UHID profile searching for Joelle. There is yet another instance of someone who “appeared to have several cigarettes burning at one time.” One particularly troubled resident’s assertion that the people around him are metallic impostors will sound familiar to any IJ readers who also know their Battlestar Galactica. I suspect there is some overlap in the IJ and BG crowds, or at least think that there should be. This part in particular might ring bells:

“You ain’t here. These fuckers are metal. Us — us that are real — there’s not many — they’re fooling us. We’re all in one room. The real ones. One room all the time. Everything’s projected. They can do it with machines. They pro — ject. To fool us. The pictures on the walls change so’s we think we’re going places.”

I make no claims about the origins of this connection. I just found it interesting. No one is saying that in this section heavy with talk of cults, Wallace made reference to one of the ultimate cult classics (the metal people, not projection), and then that cult classic re-referenced IJ later in its re-imagined form. What I will say, however, is that if there’s anything going in entertainment today that you might be willing to saw your own fingers off to keep watching — as the AFR requires of the MIT engineer in their first test of The Entertainment’s power — it’s Battlestar Galactica. It’s that good.

Click to enlarge. Credit: Chris Ayers http://pooryorickentertainment.tumblr.com/

From Marathe at Ennet house we jump to one of the most notorious endnotes in the book: a seven page section of tight, 9-pt font, with its own footnotes, that’s not made any easier to read since much of it is in high academic style (c/o current Ennet House resident Geoffrey Day), and because it doesn’t appear to have specific relevance to the finally-seeming-to-come-together narrative a few hundred pages back in the book.  Speaking of those pages, there is one seeming inconsistency here. Geoffrey Day, author of this academic article on La Culte du Prochain Train, is sitting within earshot of Marathe, who is clearly sitting within earshot of another conversation about cults, and yet Day appears to take no notice of the legless, wheelchaired man near him.

The articles here, and Struck’s attempts to plagiarise them, give some insight into the whole territorial dispute and provide some parallels to our own geopolitical disagreements. We learn of the “Faire un Bernard Wayne,” and when Wallace writes that “Disastrously, Struck blithely transposes this stuff too, with not even a miniature appliance-size bulb flickering anywhere over his head,” I don’t think he’s merely referring to the disaster of plagiarism. As we learned earlier, “An employee at the Academy of tennis of Enfield had been recruited and joined the Canadian instructor and student already inside for closer work of surveillance.” And this essay is for Poutrincourt, who may not appreciate what Struck appears to know, even if he doesn’t really know it.

Read the full Infinite Jest Liveblog

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