Infinite Jest – Week Two (pages 27-55)

Hello all. I hope everyone found our discussion on Tuesday as interesting and enjoyable as I did. Next week’s pages are a lot of fun. We’ll read pp.27-55, which include the introduction of Hal’s weird dad, his weird mum, and his weird brothers, the infamous Wardine chapter, and our first glimpse of The Entertainment.

“When he settles in with the tray and the cartridge, the TP’s viewer’s digital display reads 1927h” (37)..

We all agree that the novel is eerily prescient.

Our first-timers have been keeping close track of the novel’s dates and years (“1st April” is the first specific date so far in a chapter heading), while we’ve all been enjoying Wallace’s playfulness (“Tap tap tap tap”). The novel is detail-heavy at the moment, and everything—from Hal’s dad’s “anaplastic cerebrum” to the Byzantine erotica—seems to signify both everything and nothing.

We’re starting to get more of a sense of the Incandenza family now—they seem healthy and happy. What is the significance of the disembodied voice on the phone here? How does Wallace construct his characters’ conversations, and how does the nature of the dialogue speak to the characters/this world more generally?

How does Wallace portray non-Americans? Are his non-Americans problematic, or is this balanced out by the strangeness of America itself (the home, lest we forget, of “Ms. Tawni Kondo” and “Mr. Bouncety-Bounce”)? One of the strange facts about this America is that its citizens still watch cartridges: is this a poorly judged piece of speculative fiction? Or is the cartridge a kind of timeless symbol?

Building on this and last week’s discussion: how confident do you need to be to put the Wardine section early on and not worry that you’re going to turn readers away?

The cast of characters is growing ever larger, and they seem to have no connections so far. We are spotting similarities between chapters, however—unhappy families, Orin’s and Erdedy’s bugs, the erotica that has been mentioned twice, the secrecy, and the spiders, among other nightmares. The only tangible connection we’ve noticed between the different groups so far seems to be the man with the snakes…

Word of the Week: “embranchingly” (49)

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