Infinite Jest – Week Sixteen (pages 442-475)

Hello all. Next Tuesday we’ll discuss pp.442-475. We have a really great chapter on Gately and God this week. We’ve also got some good old tennis, some more Steeply-Marathe discussion of the Entertainment, and we’re spending more time in Ennet House. Looking forward to it as always.

“There’s nothing wrong with that food. The salt level was 10% less than the lethal dose.” ~ Futurama, ‘My Three Suns’ (1999).

We’re back to contemplating God’s terrible silence this week: the water we swim in that no one can look at to see. Something that comes out of this scene for us is the problem of truth, and wrestling with the truth, and journeying to find a truth. We talked about the Big Zero that is the root of Gately’s beliefs, and whether or not his journey has a destination.

We had discussed, previously, the absence of animals in the novel. Here they appear numerous times. We have rats in the maze, the gerbil-wheel of pain, scabrous dogs and creepy insects. All of which, we note, seem to be used as ways for Wallace to talk about the humans in the scene. Gately is the rat in his own maze; the dogs are a test of human desperation. Human pain, and human selves, are front and centre.

Some of us find the tennis-drills section relaxing to read, others stressful. It comes as a relief to all that the ETA students feel the need to translate Schtitt, too.

We wonder if Steeply is right that falling to the Entertainment is hardly just an American problem. We talked about the wonderful rhythm of some of these sentences, the shift in tone from horror to comedy throughout, and Gately as both bride and chef and titan.

Word of the Week: “spronged” (465).


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