Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Infinite Jestation: A Blogthrough (Pages 211-242)

In which Michael Pemulis introduces us to the vaunted, elusive, incredibly potent DMZ (p. 211-218) and Joelle van Dyne (p. 219-240) fills in the blanks w/r/t to Madame Psychosis and the Incandenza clan (i.e., she was most likely Orin's first, given that she was more than the simple early-morning Subjects from p. 42-49, before becoming James's fatal Medusa, a scopophilia-enabling PGOAT--"prettiest girl of all time"--who led to Infinite Jest(V?) being completed). Fellow Jester "E. Hunter Spreen" posts about the Internet-like cross-referencing of the novel, and if you look at just this one stretch, it certainly seems that this may be the first post-modem novel (not just a post-modern one). Wallace inserts material as if his search-engine were a pop-up ad, and so we get the official standardized time-line (p. 223, which Infinite Summer has also translated into normal calendar years), not to mention Helen P. Steeply's as-of-yet irrelevant curriculum vitae (p. 227), which in of itself represents a sort of stumble-through life. Even the dialogue in this section--from p. 231 to p.234--is like dropping feelers into an unfiltered stream of collective consciousness.

Don't believe that Wallace is doing this intentionally yet (re: my thesis)? Note that, as per usual, D.F.W. drops a nugget of rationale into this section, as Joelle, overdosing on what she sardonically calls Too Much Fun, wonders what in fact all of these collective facts in the novel really mean:

This room in this apartment is the sum of very many specific facts and ideas. There is nothing more to it than that. Deliberately setting about to make her heart explode has assumed the status of just one of these facts. It was an idea but now is about to become a fact. The closer it comes to becoming concrete the more abstract it seems. Things get very abstract. The concrete room was the sum of abstract facts. Are facts abstract, or are they just abstract representations of concrete things?
Even as he has his narrator posit this, at the same time he shows us just how much more there is to a simple fact, especially since what we assume to be "facts" are so often unreliable (see Faulkner's Sound and the Fury), to the point at which the limit of logic is such that as fact approaches concrete, it cannot help but abstract itself. This is the danger of a "straight" novel, one that preaches a direct message with linear characters and no surprises: fact alone is rarely interesting.

No, I can't enjoy anything that comes without being earned, which is what makes the small moments in Infinite Jest such an absolute blast. For instance, I decided to read Footnote 304 (which is referenced by Footnote 45, which is referenced by page 108: hyperlinking). This is Matryoshka writing, for we're interrupting a moment in the present to skip to a moment in the future's digression, a digression which focuses on how Struck, in an attempt to write a paper, is plagiarizing from another paper, which in turn is written about the Les Assassins des Fauteuils Rollent (AFR, or wheelchair assassins, re: Marathe), which in turn speaks about a variation of chicken called Le Jeu du Prochain Train (The Cult of the Next Train), and which in turn leads to a brilliantly nested footnote in which the paper being plagiarized cites a different paper on
The Cults of the Unwavering I: A Field Guide to Cults of Currency Speculation, Melanin, Fitness, Bioflavinoids, Spectation, Assassination, Stasis, Property, Agoraphobia, Repute, Celebrity, Acraphobia, Performance, Amway, Fame, Infamy, Deformity, Scopophobia, Syntax, Consumer Technology, Scopophilia, Presleyism, Hunterism, Inner Children, Eros, Xenophobia, Surgical Enhancement, Motivational Rhetoric, Chronic Pain, Solipsism, Survivalism, Preterition, Anti-Abortionism, Kevorkianism, Allergy, Albinism, Sport, Chiliasm, and Telentertainment in pre-O.N.A.N. North America, (C) Y.P.W.
Now, you could say that all of this is just abstraction, much like a casual dismissing-at-first-glance of Madame Psychosis's reading of the U.H.I.D. pamphlet (pre-membership). Except that aren't these all actually facts, of a sort, which lead us, kaliedoscopically, into a real meaning? In this case, for those who are willing to consider--that is, to read actively--you'll find that this is a pretty clever put down of American obsessions: look, it says--we can be just as fetishistic in our rabid support of anti-abortionism as we can of its polar opposite, Kevorkianism. Aren't we all just wholly, totally, irrevocably crazy to invest so deeply in anything that would have us think so monomanically about the world? And, pulling back further, isn't it silly to obsess, then, over facts, the act of which is sort of like appreciating a tree in the middle of an infinitely dense forest? Isn't feeling--our impression from facts--a potentially more honest, more important, thing to stay in touch with?

Poor Joelle, poor Wallace, poor Gompert, then, who felt they felt too much.

1 comment:

E. Hunter Spreen said...

Hot damn! You're on fire.