Infinite Jest – Week Eleven (pages 299-312)

Hello all. For next Tuesday we’ll be reading pp.299-312. We’re introduced to Poor Tony properly this week. We also have a class on double-binds and another long and politically charged phone conversation between Hal and Orin, except be aware that this phone-call comprises a looong endnote (so the reading this week is more like 30 pages than 13).

“They’d flash their high beams, but to all appearances the impending idiot would just flash his high beams right back” (311).

The story of Poor Tony Krause’s agonizing withdrawal is an impressive display of Wallace’s narrative-formal skill. In a single sentence – like the one describing Poor Tony’s seizure as ‘A quote ‘episode of excessive neuronal discharge manifested by motor, sensory and/or [psychic] dysfunction, with or without unconsciousness and/or convulsive [movements],’ plus eye-rolling and tongue-swallowing (1004n103) – the narrative shifts its registers from the colloquial, the authoritative and well-educated narrator, the medical, and the spiritual. This can distract us from PT’s plight as we wonder where ‘Zuckung’ came from – who is penetrating Pt’s narrative? It can also be deeply affecting, such as when clichés like ‘chilled to the bone’ are made newly, horribly resonant. From the point of seizure, PT’s past and present get confused, as does the reader unable to quite separate the blurred timelines (although something is clearly sinister about PT’s father). It comes as a sort of relief to leave Poor Tony to the mercy and expertise of what we presume to be medical professionals and return to more the familiar grounds of ETA.

Saturday’s academic classes, taught by the prorectors (‘in general being not exactly the most candent stars in the intellectual Orion’), are considered ‘Academy jokes’. Case in point, Ms Thode’s ‘perenially batsoid ‘The Personal Is the Political Is the Psychopathological: the Politics of Contemporary Psychopathological Double-Binds’. We find the assessment of this class –  a would-be philosophical koan (the case of an agoraphobic thief) – undermined by Ted Schacht’s flippant answer as he ‘was just looping the d in mail fraud’. As background noise, over the PA, crackles Troeltsch’s ‘pseudo-radio program’ of recent competition results, where he struggles to find increasingly-hyperbolic synonyms for ‘beat’: ‘Jolene Criess at 6 was doing to P.W.’s Mona Ghent what a quality boot can do to a toadstool’).

Hal’s class on Québecois Separatism conceals a very long endnote – a further episode in the Incandenza family saga. A recently discovered letter from Avril to Orin has its own endnotes! (a way of signaling to the reader how long this particular endnoted section will be?). The letter and the filial tensions it evinces functions as an abstract to another phone call from Orin to Hal (with the reader once more eavesdropping). This conversation gives the reader a bit more information to identify the nature of the Great Concavity/Convexity, and the ONAN-ite politics it envelopes. Towards the end of the call, Pemulis enters Hal’s room begins rather stressful (to the reader as much as to Hal) distractions indicating his impatience. The call is terminated just as is ‘raised this samizdat-word in connec– ’, leaving our theories of this artifact (is it something eternally-jokey by the late James?) in suspense. Back in the classroom we are told of how some such separatists use giant mirrors as lethal illusions against U.S. motorists. This allegory of how vanity and hostility will continue to kill until an ‘unwitting civilian’, an everyman deliverer, ‘SMASHED THE ILLUSION,’ ‘MADE THE BREAKTHROUGH’, is definitely cartoonish. But, it seems, the Wile E. ‘ill will’ of some Québecois is perilously underestimated by the Road Running arrogance of ONAN.

Word of the Week: “mayhi” (1020)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s