Wallace’s scene shifts often represent ripping the reader out of one state of mind and cramming her into another, and as such require masterful transitions.
Two such transitions rock my world:
“Poor Tony Krause had a seizure on the T” (299) is possibly the best transition in the whole novel, because it sets the stage for the whole scene, effectively rips us out of the HmH at E.T.A., and yet doesn’t really give anything away.
The second best, I feel, is:
“the Man o’ War Grille on Prospect: Matty sat in the hot clatter of the Portuguese restaurant with his hands in his lap, looking at nothing. A waiter brought his soup. The waiter had bits of either bloodstain or soup on his apron, and for no discernible reason wore a fez. Matty ate his soup without once slurping. He’d been the neat eater in the family. Matty Pemulis was a prostitute and today he was twenty-three” (682).
Yes, it helps that these two transitions, PT Krause and Matty Pemulis set up what are, for me, two of the most visciously and viscerally disturbing scenes of the book. Randy Lenz stayed with me over 12 years, but in this reading both Poor Tony and Matty lept from their pages, slapped me in the face, ripped out my entrails and threw them on the floor before retreating to anonymity in Boston’s dark streets.
Another of the most moving sections has the single worst transition of the novel, thus far. We go from Krause’s release from Cambridge City Hospital to the genesis of his garb to walking by Matty in pursuit of Gompert to Lenz “brandishing the Hog” to “And re Ennet House resident Kate Gompert and this depression issue:”
Appropos of nothing. Out of the blue. And not artful. In the way I suppose the whole anhedonia versus psychotic depression topic is often awkward and forced and uncomfortable.
But Gompert’s depression section is a whole ‘nother quote of the day. Talk, if you’d like, about how Wallace transitions from channel to channel in IJ, how the characters and scenes and triparite narrative objectives work in the jump cuts he offers.