Infinite Jest – Week Twenty Seven (pages 851-896)

Hello all. Next Tuesday we’ll be discussing pp.851-896. These pages include more Hal dreams, more Gately dreams, a public safety announcement, and an elastic forehead. Looking forward to it.

Brazil 2
“For just an instant we both stayed there, straining backward, listening to the little Rice-Krispie sound of his skin’s collagen-bundles stretching and popping. […] ‘Put it back put it back put it back!’ Stice yelled” (871)

This week’s the week of the postmodern hero: static, horizontal, introspective, trapped inside their own heads. Wallace’s narrative style is so perfectly suited to this kind of character. The reader sinks in and out of sleep and fever dreams just as Gately does; the transcript ends just as the lights go out because the typist can no longer see the page to transcribe; and we see what Hal sees as he wanders the halls, sad and lost.

Hal and Gately’s narratives seem closely linked at last here, as we near the end of the novel. Hal seems to be waking up inside himself but it seems like he doesn’t know what to do with himself. Jokes in these scenes seem emptier, the clowns and fools that caper throughout the rest of the novel seem, in this scene, like so many masks that Wallace is starting to peel away.

Gately’s scenes are sad too, but funnier, more joyful, maybe because they’re more hopeful? Some of the writing here is just wonderful. Gately learning all over again to abide “between heartbeats,” to treat what his head tells him like so much noise (860). Hal, on the other hand, is struggling to live in the present. He’s sinking into his past and future, and while we’re getting a better picture of him and his own thoughts on these things, his own emotional response to them seems stunted, unfeeling, less articulate than Gately’s (more honest seeming) reflections on past guilts and wrongs.

The novel is full of different endings: the DMZ, the Entertainment, the Demerol. What use will a children’s TV bit do to stop them? We’re on the lookout for Orin, on the lookout for the AFR. But there’s only so many pages left.

Word of the Week: “Job-type” (895).

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