Infinite Jest – Week Ten (pages 270-299)

Hello all. Next Tuesday we’ll be discussing pp.270-299. Two longer chapters this week: Gately in the AA and (in one of my very favourite chapters) Orin falling in love.

“a denial of silence: here were upwards of 30,000 voices, souls, voicing approval as One Soul” (295)..

Some great pages this week. We began by discussing the juxtaposition in the Gately scene between AA cliches and Day’s more academic (and reliable?) language. If you deny that you have a problem, even if you really don’t have a problem, are you still in denial? Are any of Wallace’s Americans not in denial? We all liked the way in which the central tenets of this chapter—the problem of the spider, the problem of stasis and loops, the problem of denial—are informed by the narrative being stuck, as it were, behind Gately’s eyes.

Our first-timers are starting to get more of a handle on how AA is presented in the novel. While Gately appears to be an AA success story, he is still within the AA system. Is this a failure? Or is his passing on of the ‘gift’ what AA is all about? Is it a Gift if it has to be earned through hard work?

We discussed the significance of spiders and the other webs and monsters we’ve seen in the novel. The bureaucratic layers upon layers that lead to any action in the book. We also like the little world-building things that Wallace does and how he creates a sense of isolation in this America from its very foreign-seeming neighbours.

We talked about the difference between hunger and greed.

It was hard to escape reading so many lines out loud this week: these pages are particularly funny, and the physical descriptions of characters are grotesque and hyperbolic and wonderful. We’re spotting a lot of connections between Avril and Joelle, and we’re starting to build a picture of Joelle’s relationship with the Incandenza family. Threads like these help us keep hold of what’s going on in all the noise of the rest. One paragraph is really funny, the next is dry and tries your patience, the next is epiphanic and profound.

However you select your pages to read each week they always have connections and similarities. In these, silence seems really significant: the denial of silence in Gately’s chapter, and Orin’s religious experience on the field. What does silence mean for Wallace?

Word of the Week: “strabismic” (290).


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