Monday, January 12, 2009

Infinite Jestation: A Blogthrough (Pages 109-127)

Well, after a rather lucky thirteen parts of blogging to date, I've decided to change my method of taking notes, needing this to remain a blogthrough and not a slogthrough. In any case, of real note in Downtime (cont.) (p. 109-121), we spend some time with the older tennis players and trickling down through them, with some of the younger ones. Not only does this structure form a sort of microcosm of the novel's widening leaps, but it also gives a good idea for Wallace's ease of characterization, his use of "authenticating details" (i.e., details that do more than describe; details that have a kick or some life to them).

We know very little of Kent Blott, Peter Beak, Evan Ingersoll, or Idris Arslanian, save that they are under Hal's supervision, and that Ingersoll isn't really, at least not originally, but was just so annoying to Pemulis that Hal traded 'little buddies' with him to prevent violence (a violence that he now feels himself, mainly for the way that Ingersoll reminds him of himself). However, as Hal speaks about E.T.A.'s frat-like system of unity through suffering, we see, in the way that they each respond and interact to this information, exactly what they are like.

Wallace is not only dispensing a valuable philosophical concept, but he's advancing his characters, too, who are, more or less, the "plot" of this novel. That this often happens to be done in a comedic fashion, too, is really just the feather in the cap: "Arslanian always has a queer faint hot-doggish smell about him," which fits the image his backward yet serious English bestows upon him; "Ingersoll's face is completely devoid of eyebrows and is round and dustily freckled, not unlike a Mrs. Clarke pancake," which also fits with the way he goes about seeking recognition; Blott has "colored shoelaces on his sneakers with 'Mr.-Bouncety-Bounce-Program'-brand bow-biters," which is appropriate for his whining; and Beak, despite being asleep (and comic relief) has a tragic flair in the way he suddenly cries out "God no not with pliers!"

Hal is speaking, throughout all of this, on the subject of structure, and how organization tells us where we stand at any given moment. Even the seemingly unstructured bits are designed with a sense of community in mind:

They give themselves up to our dislike, calculate our breaking points and aim for just over them, then send us into the locker room with an unstructured forty-five before Big Buddy sessions. Accident? Random happenstance? You guys ever see evidence of the tiniest lack of cooly calculated structure around here?
I said in my initial thesis that we had to take Wallace's genius as a given, and therefore--as goes the first syllogism--that we had to accept that each section was intentional. In that case, if the scenes are cut up, and if we are thrown into things in media res, then it's simply Wallace wanting to break down our idea of community, first and foremost, into the individual, before he can pull back and point out the threads that actually connect us all. Even if we never actually see how it all ties together, there are enough parallels and concepts to let us do the rest; we are, in relation to the book, part of that togetherness of loneliness. (And is there anything more simultaneously addicting and solipsistic than reading?)

In any case, the rest of this section is great, highlighting Wayne's solemnity, Pemulis's con artistry, Schacht's obsession with hygene, Troeltsch's machine-like sickness, Struck's insightfulness (even about farts), and Stice's patriotic spiels, all while overlapping the sections so that it's clear once more exactly how much goes on at once.

The other section here, Mario Incandenza's First and Only Even Remotely Romantic Experience, Thus Far (p. 121-126) is another section masquerading as about one character when it's really about another (like the doctor's narrative during the earlier Kate Gompert bit). This time, we see--through physically and socially awkward Mario's eyes--the way in which Millicent Kent (a woman so large she's referred to as the "heaving" U.S.S. Millicent Kent) goes about her unhappiness, despite being ranked #1 Singles. As that Cuban orderly on page 16 foreshadowed ("So yo then man what's your story?"), there's more than meets the eye, and it turns out that the U.S.S.M.K. has fled to E.T.A. simply to get away from her cross-dressing "Old Man, which you can just tell she capitalizes." She confides these things in Mario--perhaps because she knows he won't understand, and therefore won't be able to hurt her.

There's something very lonely about this whole scene, and that's that just because people are physically connected, that doesn't mean they are mentally so, especially when they do not understand one another. Extending that a step further, perhaps there's hope yet for our Internet age in which people, despite not being physically connected, can still find ways to stimulate themselves and enjoy one another's company.

Words looked up: apercu, boscages, eidetic, murated

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