Infinite Jest – Week Nine (pages 211-270)

Hello all. Our next meeting will be after the holidays on January 10th, and we’ll be discussing pp.211-270 (from “Michael Pemulis has this habit” to “Schacht and his man play”).

“an afflated orgasm of the heart that makes her feel, truly, attractive, sheltered by limits, deveiled and loved, observed and alone and sufficient and female, full, as if watched for an instant by God” (235)..

A particularly shifty-eyed Pemulis opens this week’s section. The Paranoid King preaches the gospel of DMZ to the Incster and Axhandle, struggling to find a hyperbole sufficient enough to convey the drug resembling “acid that has itself dropped acid.” The source of the substance connects the reader to Antitoi Entertainment, whose owners are described in rather juvenile xenophobic slurs. The date the E.T.A. trio plan to drop the DMZ – 20th-21st November – seems to be particularly important information for the reader to retain.

Another ‘invisible pivot’ – the unspoken moment a party ends – turns us to an extended section on Joelle van Dyne. Revealed to be ‘a.k.a. Madame P.’, Joelle’s relationships with Orin and James flesh out her character as she walks to Molly Notkin’s. Lots of existential-philosophical imagery here as ‘What looks like the cage’s exit is actually the bars of the cage’. Joelle’s veil prompts a long discussion on epistemology as the correspondence to Kant’s veil of perception is noted. This veil is the uniform of the Union of the Hideously and Improbably Deformed, whose origin story makes use of a famous Winston Churchill tidbit, reinvented in much the same was as ‘The Sick Note’ song was in Week Six.

At last, the chronology of Subsidised Time dates is revealed and we can say, for sure, that the novel’s opening (set in the Year of Glad) occurs after all we have read so far. Time (and our readerly experience of it) is again foregrounded in ‘putative’ CV of Helen Steeply, who has apparently worked her way from down the temporal scale from Time to Moment.

Us young academics admire (though aren’t necessarily flattered by) how well Mr. Wallace nails the junior-intellectual voice at Molly’s party. The narrative shifts to detail – in elegiac prose – Joelle’s childhood trauma leading up to her arrival at a moment of ‘Too Much Fun’ in Molly’s bathroom.

This lavishly ornate section juxtaposes with the following overview of Enfield MA – curious as a rare moment where the narrative reveals itself to be in the first person (J.O.I. ?) – including a more detailed description of garbage relocation processes to the Great Concavity/Convexity.

‘Mmmyellow’ – another installment of Orin and Hal’s telephonic conversation, featuring Hal’s remarkable scoring average shooting toenail-clippings into the bin. Crucially, here Hal reveals he was the one who found the remains of J.O.I. by the ‘rotisserie microwave over next to the fridge, on the freezer side, on the counter, under the cabinet with the plates and bowls to the left of the fridge as you face the fridge.’ This revelation leads into Hal’s experience of Grief Therapy – and how he tried to succeed at it like an academic assessment.

On the 6th of November, Y.D.A.U., the Port Washington Tennis Academy hosts a tournament with the student athletes of E.T.A. While prepping the reader for what The Show might look like, this section also gives us a unique insight and overview of the characters and we are reminded of the bond that is forming between reader and several of these characters, particularly an anxiety-induced-vomiting Pemulis and a tender Ted Schacht. The section closes considering the difference in philosophy between the Schtitt’s ‘spiritual‘ (or mental) approach and deLint’s ‘reductive statistics’.

Word of the Week: “scopophobic” (226)


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