The Architecture of Enfield Marine Public Health Hospital (p. 193-198) is thankfully far less complex than that of M.I.T. No, this layout is basically a series of numbered units (which D.F.W. notes is also Boston slang for the phallus) that start out nearest the old hospital itself and end closest to a deep ravine (and of course, Enfield Tennis Academy). The use of a familiar character--Don Gately--adds to this section, as does the weird observation that as the numbers increase, the characters seem to get further from life--from stress relief, to methadone clinics, to senility, to catatonics, before eventually ending with death, that is, the remains of #7, buried in rubble from E.T.A.'s expanding courts. What does that say about Gately's residence in the Halfway House (which is actually #6)?
We go Back to the Weight Room (p. 198-200), and this is really just a deft execution of the different sort of training methods available to tennis players.
Let's focus on the Many Exotic New Facts About Addiction (p. 200-211), in which Wallace basically spits out a lot of undigested anecdotes about how phobias can become self-fulfilling (ala that earlier story Orin watched on CBC, "Schizophrenia: Mind Or Body?," on p. 47-48, but also now re: the woman who fights her fear of blindness and paralysis by never opening her eyes or moving) and how, in fact, everything can really be seen as an escape,
ad darn near infinitum, including 12-Step fellowships themselves, such that quiet tales sometimes go around the Boston AA community of certain incredibly advanced and hard-line recovering persons who have pared away potential escape after potential escape until finally, as the stories go, they end up sitting in a bare chair, nude, in an unfinished room, not moving but also not sleeping or meditating or abstracting, too advanced to stomach the thought of the potential emotional escape of doing anything whatsoever... (Footnote #70).Wallace abstracted about this, to some degree, in his commencement speech, saying that for all they'd learned, students would inevitably lose touch with the world unless they maintained their apathy, so yes--I think it's true that crossword puzzles and reading, and pretty much anything done in ISOLATION can lead to an escape--including Anonymous groups, if turned to that purpose--that even learning itself is just an escape, unless we find a way to be satisfied, at last, with our choices, hobbies, and fears.
But if this is escapism, sign me up, because I'm totally swept up in the way Don Gately is revealed to be (now) an employee of the Ennet House, and that good old Tiny Ewell (from p. 85-87) is back again (he was that unidentified lawyerly voice from earlier, too). Everything revolves around, comes back into more focus, then recedes again. Hm. Isn't this exactly how James O. Incandenza's wobbly, self-invented filmographic technique works?
I said at the outset of this readthrough that I'd give Wallace the benefit of the doubt about all the content (excluding typos), and here's another reason to trust him: prison tatts. By which I mean, this is a novel that took tons of time to write, an infinite number of ink-stained punctures on the page, each contributing as much to building the cage as it does to making the bars themselves visible. If the book mirrors life--although doesn't necessarily reflect it as much as it distorts it, at times--then what you have is a novel that treats the consequences of addiction with the same "profound irrevocability" that plagues Gately.
- Did David Foster Wallace also predict an inflation in our near-future? I refer, of course, to the mention of the Mass. Gigabucks lottery on p. 206.