Tag Archives: Poor Tony Krause

Crowd Cover

Infinite Jest turns 20 in 2016, and to mark the anniversary, the book’s publisher Little, Brown is asking readers to give the book a facelift by submitting a new cover design.

IJ Cover

Submissions will be accepted starting tomorrow and running through September 15, with the winner to be chosen by the Wallace Literary Trust (meaning they probably won’t choose your design featuring  Jason Segel as Wallace). The winner will get a $1,000 American Express gift card and “the opportunity for your original cover to be used as the front cover of the 20th Anniversary edition” of the book.

Wallace himself was ambivalent about the book’s cover, according to his interviews with David Lipsky in Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself:

[Closes it, looks at cover. Clouds and sky.]

This was my major complaint about the cover of the book. …Is that it looks — on American Airlines flights? The cloud system, it’s almost identical.

[On safety booklet for 757]

Oh, that’s funny. What did you want instead?

Oh, I had a number of — there’s a great photo of Fritz Lang directing Metropolis. Do you know this one? Where he’s standing there, and there are about a thousand shaven-headed men in kind of rows and phalanxes, and he’s standing there with a megaphone? It wouldn’t have been…Michael [Pietsch, Wallace’s editor at Little Brown] said it was too busy and too like conceptual, it required too much brain work on the part of the audience….

Because you were making a metaphor on the cover?

No, I just thought it was cool —

There has been some truly great artwork created to honor Infinite Jest over the years, and it should be really cool to see what people come up with for this contest.

And if you’re interested in what’s inside the cover, check out our Infinite Jest Liveblog.

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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.” 


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.

Read the full Infinite Jest Liveblog

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The Infinite Jest Liveblog: Shallow Hal

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


January 20, 2012, pgs 682-716/1052-1054. I maintain that when Poor Tony Krause shows up, things are bound to get unpleasant. They do, except this time for Matt Pemulis, and we gain a better understanding of why Mike Pemulis will do anything to not get booted from ETA and return back home to Allston.

Hal, after an unsettling near-loss in which he “just never quite occurred out there,” is compelled to have a James O. Incandenza movie marathon. (For the sake of anyone hosting an “Infinite Jest” trivia night, one of the films he is said to watch is Union of Publicly Hidden in Lynn, which was not listed in the filmography of note 24. Apparently it was part of the original draft and this reference escaped the notice of whoever’s decision it was to cut it from the filmography. If you’re wondering, here is what an Infinite Summer discussion board provides as the missing entry: “Union of Publicly Hidden in Lynn. B.S. Meniscus Films, Ltd. Documentary cast w/ narrator P.A. Heaven; 78 mm.; 60 minutes; color; sound. Filmed proceedings in a Boston, MA suburb of “anonymous” meeting of the Union of the Hideously and Improbably Deformed, a support group for aesthetically challenged persons struggling with issues around light and sight. MAGNETIC VIDEO, PRIVATELY RELEASED BY MENISCUS FILMS, LTD.”)

Wave Bye-Bye to the Bureaucrat is at least slightly referential to what appears to be happening to Hal, in which the systems and routines that have helped him excel are now starting to collapse. There is some relevance in the movie’s acceptance of failure to meet the strict requirements of the institution, and bucking the opportunity to do so because you have bigger but less-obvious responsibilities. And Hal secretly “likes to project himself imaginatively into the ex-bureaucrat’s character on the leisurely drive home toward ontological erasure.” Hal’s inability to remember Smothergill is another indication that his faculties are less than intact, and “the one thing he feels to the limit, lately” is that “he is lonely.”

We can cross anhedonia off the list of possible reasons for the suicide of JOI, which still remains pretty mysterious.

The American Century as Seen Through a Brick is about “the queerly persistent U.S. myth that cynicism and naiveté are mutually exclusive.” This is roughly the same thing that Wallace’s story “Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way,” a possible pre-cursor to American Century, seems to be about. In fact, one of the story’s characters, D.L., a self-proclaimed postmodernist working on a poem that is entirely punctuation, has a “special delusion…that cynicism and naiveté are mutually exclusive.” Other “special delusions” that IJ and “Westward” have in common: “That a body is a prison and not a shelter;” and the main character’s belief “that he’s the only person in the world who feels like the only person in the world.”

Hal thinks that “to be really human…is to be in come basic way forever infantile.” This raises a question about the opening chapter when Hal says “I have become an infantophile,” which is something quite a bit different and brings us to about 4,967 in our tally of Curious/Confusing Parallels in the book so far.

A quick look around shows Pemulis looking for his stash and Avril “seeming somehow to have three or four cigarettes all going at once” a la Salinger.

A crowd starts to build as Blood Sister: One Tough Nun begins in Viewing Room 6. If you’re having trouble visualizing it, this might help:



Or this, from Poor Yorick Entertainment:

Credit: Chris Ayers, Poor Yorick Entertainment. http://pooryorickentertainment.tumblr.com

As he watches, we hear about The Night Wears a Sombrero with “an ambivalent-but-finally-avenging-son story,” which gives us another Hamlet Sighting. It’s also worth noting that this “avenging-son story” was in Tucson, AZ. Blood Sister features a young girl with burn scars on her face, which may be what Joelle van Dyne is keeping under the veil. Low Temperature Civics sounds kind of like “Mad Men.”

While thinking about Gately, “Something has taken the tight ratchet in Joelle’s belly and turned it three turns to the good.” This is potentially troublesome since, as we hear in a footnote on endnote 292, “The sudden removal of Substances leaves an enormous ragged hole in the psyche.” Regarding which, see Hal supra.

I particularly enjoy that in the climactic fight scene at the close of Blood Sister, the double-crossing Mother Superior, poised to kill, doesn’t have a face filled with murderous rage or malice, but “the absence of humility and the passion for truth-silencing that add up to pure and radical evil.”

Finally, the word “apparition” seems to be showing up a lot in these pages.

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The Infinite Jest Liveblog: The Story of O

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


September 28, 2011, pgs 283-306. Orin Incandenza is in the running for saddest guy in this book, which is saying a lot when your dramatis persona is almost entirely comprised of drug addicts, alcoholics, suicides and the suicidal, cripples, violent criminals, the physically and sexually abused, militaristically drilled adolescents, the developmentally challenged and others. Orin actually has some measure of tangible success, including excellence in his field, financial security, casual abstinence from substances, ability to seduce nearly any woman, health and more — which only amplifies the fact that he wakes up each morning on soaked sheets, paralyzed with fear, rarely alone but lonely as hell.

Here, then, is some of the back story of how all that came to be: how Orin left home, left tennis and got involved with Joelle van Dyne aka Madame Psychosis aka the Prettiest Girl of All Time, or PGOAT. Orin bears strong similarities to Mike Pemulis, as both have phenomenal lobs but limited tennis games otherwise, and “Orin was Eschaton’s first game-master at E.T.A.” It’s not hard to see how the young man found his way into serious adult unhappiness, with the glimpses of a home life with his mother, whom he described to Hal as “a kind of contortionist with other people’s bodies,” and Charles “CT” Tavis, who is without question the most tiresome and blandly sinister person in “Infinite Jest,” if not all of American literature. The fact that he lays out the whole Hamlet-esque family drama in E.T.A.’s convocation ceremony speech each year is spreading more than enough crazy seed to grow flowers.

I haven’t figured out, other than the all too obvious reason, why Orin traces the symbol for infinity on his “subjects,” but I’m pretty sure it’s not good. He is some kind of preternatural genius at punting a football, which is interesting because, given his father’s and his father’s father’s pursuits of success, Orin’s greatest and most celebrated achievement comes only in the event of failure. What he seems to really enjoy about his job is the ability to shut off his head in the thrum of thousands of cheering fans, which he describes as “the sound of the womb” and “amniotic,” with just about the right level of Oedipal creepiness.

Then it’s off to Poor Tony Krause, which, again, usually means something unpleasant and gross is about to happen. Probably involving bodily fluids. This time it’s a seizure that comes after a headache-inducingly vivid description of pure addictive desperation and heroin withdrawal. But even with all the soiled clothing and incontinence and pain and fingers bit off during Tony’s lowest moments, he still seems somehow better adjusted than Orin. Tony has a bathroom stall and a steady supply of NyQuil and he calls it getting by for a few days, whereas Orin’s misery manages to permeate every surface of his well-ordered life.

Read the full Infinite Jest Liveblog.

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