Tag Archives: Ophelia

The Infinite Jest Liveblog: Alas, Poor Tony

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

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March 8, 2012, pgs 845-864/1076-1077. Finally, the end comes for Poor Tony Krause and Randy Lenz, two of the most unpleasant characters I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

But age with his stealing steps/ Hath clawed me in his clutch,/ And hath shipped me into the land/ As if I had never been such.

Lenz remains Lenz right up to the very end, apparently cutting Krause’s digits off and offering them up during the AFR civilian testing of The Entertainment. If there was any ambiguity, it seems that Marathe has definitely made his choice since he failed to report Jolene’s Joelle’s presence to Fortier and “had made his decision and his call,” said call being to Steeply. In the meantime, he helps plan an AFR incursion to ETA to get at Hal, Mario and Avril.

Gately dreams. He’s with Joelle getting ready for romance when her revealed face is that of Winston Churchill. This is reminiscent of the description of Ortho Stice from two hundred and ten pages prior: “A beautiful sports body, lithe and tapered and sleekly muscled, smooth…on whose graceful neck sits the face of a ravaged Winston Churchill, broad and slab-featured…”  It’s too far a stretch for me to call this a Hamlet Sighting, but I do think it’s funny that there is some possibly family resemblance between our possible Laertes and our almost certainly Ophelia characters. The root cause, however, is most likely David Foster Wallace’s feeling that Winston Churchill was funny looking. Gately’s touching memory-dream of Mrs. Waite morphs into what appears to be the content of The Entertainment, in which JOI’s death/female/mother cosmology is explained to Gately, who submits to it.

Hal wakes from a dream and — for what I think is the first time — speaks in a first person voice that is loudly and clearly identified as Hal (and not just a random, nameless first-person somewhere in the jumble of characters in the previous 850 pages). Hal now has a voice, and it’s one of the coolest tricks in a tricky novel, mostly because it doesn’t feel like a trick.  Pemulis is off the stage, but he’s clearly on the mind of Hal, who describes the snow outside as “Yachting-cap white.”  He is then struck by that fact that he’s having feelings of not wanting to play tennis: “I couldn’t remember feeling strongly one way or the other about playing for quite a long time, in fact.” Hal is shifting out of neutral, which seems like a good thing, but is also accompanied by the feeling that “without some one-hitters to be able to look forward to smoking alone in the tunnel I was waking up every day feeling as though there was nothing in the day to anticipate or lend anything any meaning.”

Gately wakes up to the real Joelle van Dyne.  Like her Ennet House-mates, Joelle unloads her recovery narrative on Gately, only this time he doesn’t seem to mind.  He takes inspiration from her progress and has his own kind of breakthrough: “He could do the dextral pain the same way: Abiding.”  We hear a by now familiar Wallace refrain “What’s unendurable is what his own head could make of it all.” All this business about living in the moment and ignoring the mind carries more-than-subtle notes of Buddhism.

In addition to refusing narcotic painkillers, Gately also tries to convince himself to swear off Joelle.

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The Infinite Jest Liveblog: Too Much Fun

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

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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.

Read the full Infinite Jest Liveblog.

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