Infinite Jest – Week Twelve (pages 312-342)

Hello all. For next Tuesday we’ll be reading pp.312-342. This week we have more Mario, a return (finally) to the Marathe and Steeply dialogue, and, lastly, the infamous Eschaton scene. Really looking forward to discussing these!

“And so have a look at the revealing diagram labeled HALSADICK” (1024n. 123)..

The Mario scene with which we began this week works as a kind of model of our reading experience as a whole: though we’ve met Mario before, and we sort of have a sense of what he looks like, we now how five more pages that add to that picture like a sculptor slapping on more clay. So much so, indeed, that the narrator almost can’t keep up with all the information he needs to get across: “. . . overshot the place to mention that Mario’s head is” (1022n. 117). This mini chapter is both grotesque and whimsical, like a fairytale about a golden-hearted monster. We felt it shed new light on Mario as a person, and like our sense of both the novel’s political situation and of the relationships between different characters, Mario is starting to coalesce the more we read, though we can never point to the moment when it comes together: it just sort of forms.

We all liked the return to the Marathe and Steeply dialogue, and it seems even clearer by the third-hundredth page that Marathe might just have a point. Much like the plagiarism-footnote before and the maths-footnote to come, the way that Wallace filters complex abstract problems through human hearts and heads makes them so much more enjoyable to read than they might otherwise be.

We discussed, for a while, the problem of the Entertainment. Is it a choice to watch it? It seems like the attaché didn’t have much choice. Was the choice already made before the tape ever started?

We spotted President Gentle, though he seems like a minor figure so far. All things political seem to be in the hands of shady groups like the Unspecified Services, rather than in those of an obviously public figure.

Though the Eschaton scene is, famously, where a lot of readers stop, our first-timers really liked it. We watched The Decemberists’s “Calamity Song” video, directed by IJ-fan Michael Schur (who lovingly portrays the jumpers-for-goalposts spirit of the game). We talked about the problem of maps and Borges’s “The Exactitude of Science.” I personally pulled my hair out over the problem of the apparatus of the game, and the players being part of the apparatus, and how on earth this informs our understanding of addiction et al.

The Eschaton chapter is one of the more plotty chapters we’ve had so far (insofar as it doesn’t describe a routine, but an event), though Hal is just an observer as always. Does the apocalyptic climax of the game foreshadow an apocalyptic end for the novel? Will President Gentle ever don the dreaded red beanie?

Word of the Week: “Imam’d” (331).


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