Infinite Jest – Week Six (pages 128-156)

Hello everyone. We have some really fun pages this week, from 128-156. This week we have: a jolly Christmas story told by a really interesting new narrator; Hal and Orin on the phone; our first introduction to Ennet House; an email correspondence, a class essay, a magazine article, and the famous videophony section; and finally a chapter about the enterprising Pemulis.

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“it’s a never ending strugle its’ a full time job to stay straight and there is no vacation for XMas at anytime” (129)..

As Christmas music is already being pumped into public spaces, it was rather appropriate to read this amiable (and somewhat antidotical) ‘XMas’ story from ‘yrstruly’. While some read this as a pastiche of Burroughs’s Naked Lunch, the conclusion was nevertheless  effectively nauseating, ‘like with a Pop you make with fingers in your mouth’. We’re reading the NyQuil here as some sort if placeholder for the many addiction substitutes in the novel. The cast of characters here seems to be mostly new to us, although we do recall being introduced to Roy Tony (for some, evocative of Tony Soprano) in the Wardine chapter. While the voice of ‘yrstruly’ seems a breathlessly authentic expression of the mind of a junkie, the conjunction stacking (‘And but so but’) suggests that, once again, the narrative may be being mediated by some unreliable authority. The unexplained neologisms (‘map’ = ‘face’) evoke Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange with the same effect that Nadsat has of increasing the effect of violence by first shrouding it in jargon.

We are then eavesdropping on a phone call between Hal and Orin. Although this is an unusually sustained section of dialogue (especially for Hal), we note that there seems to be little communication, more like two independent and parallel monologues.  In torrid Arizona, Orin describes the ‘bacon-caliber sizzling’ noise of an unfortunate man’s facial encounter with the pavement, elaborating associations of (cooking) heat and death. It seems important that Hal makes the realisation that Orin, too, could be lying ‘about meaning less details’ over the phone. Just as Hal and Orin seem to finally connect, ”Kidding aside for a second. What all do you know about [Canadian] Separatism?”, we leave the conversation. Connections being made between this conversation and that of Steeply and Marathe.

Onwards to a tour-guide-brochure introduction to ‘Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House’ (with numerous theories as to how we should interpret the ‘Redundancy (sic) endnote to this title). We wonder whether the founder, a ‘Guy Who Didn’t Even Use His First Name’, is in fact ‘yrstruly’. An endnote-connection is made between the House and Avril Incandenza – founder of ‘the Militant Grammarians of Massachusetts’ and perpetual ‘bramble in the flank of advertisers, corporations, and all fast-and-loose-players with the integrity of public discourse’.

Stylistic shift to an excerpt ‘FROM INTERNAL INTERLACE-SYSTEM E-MAIL MEMO’ from the Claims Adjustment HQ of State Farm Insurance Companies (the very same company mentioned by Wallace in ‘The View From Mrs. Thompson’s’). We note this is an adaptation of Gerard Hoffnung’s ‘Barrel of Bricks’ (1958) , which subsequently gained fame as a song by The Dubliners. Unlike the original, we are encouraged to laugh at the claimant’s failure (as ’emerg. room rept. lists a blood-alcohol of .3+’), rather than any outsmarted authority.

The essay by a precocious 7th-grade Hal is introduced by a long, negating title, as will introduce ‘Helen’ Steeply’s putative article for Moment, thus linking the two vignettes, especially in that both give us details of the death of J.O.I. We note in the earlier, however, links to Wallace’s famous essay ‘E Unibus Pluram’. Are we still awaiting the ‘catatonic hero’ of ‘non-action’ in our ”post-post’-modern culture’?  We pick up on the clues of the heart thief in Steeply’s story, recognising Poor Tony from the XMas tale. Does this misunderstanding say something about our smartphone culture today? All the above issues seem to coalesce in the ‘trivalent nutshell’ analysis of Videophony: technology seems to deny any return to authenticity.

‘in these chemically troubled times’ if ”Urine trouble? Urine luck!” with Pemulis and Co. We’re seeing both the urge to treat the symptom rather than the disease of these over-achieving student athletes and the profit that is to be made from it. Pemulis is given quite a bit more of a backstory here and we’re seeing him as some kind of resistance fighter within the system of Enfield. But can we trust this Paranoid King?

Word of the Week: “Mmyellow.” (135)

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