Infinite Jest – Week Seven (pages 157-181)

Hello all. Next week we’ll be reading pp.157-181, featuring: a flash-back (1960) reminiscence of a ‘near- and almost-great’ tennis player to his son Jim (who seems familiar); Pemulis running a shady errand concerning something called DMZ; a film by Mario, narrated by Hal, about being a tennis prodigy; and some rather entertaining transcripts from the residents of Ennet House.

“This is your body. They want you to know. You will have it with you always” (176)..

We began this week with James Sr’s creepy, overpowering monologue to his son. We discussed how James is starting to take shape without us still not really having seen him, including in this scene, from which he is absent despite being the one spoken to. We talked about hollow objects and the lines that James Sr paints on the court, and the significance of machines and prayer.

What is the DMZ, and what effect is it going to have on Hal and Pemulis?

We discussed talent, of both Wallace’s tennis players and of Wallace himself, and how you struggle with your own talent. The Feral Prodigy essay is really interesting in this regard, but how much input did Hal have into his own story here and the views of talent presented?

The structure of the film section is similar to the Ennet transcripts, though these are funnier and seem more like a community talking than one individual. Addiction crosses class and cultural lines, but it is what each of the voices share. How does each segment here work to stand for something larger? Do the final, individual lines narrow to a specific point or open the chapter up completely?

At nearly the 200-page marker, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of characters and connections. Though we aren’t worrying too much about tracking the years, we have a sense of major events: James’s childhood is rooted in 60s American culture; Hal’s life rooted in millennial culture; and James’s death is somewhere in between, looking like the event that breaks the back of a timeline we can’t yet see.

Word of the Week: “signifying zip” (174).


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