Oooh, I’m in big trouble. I’m way behind on my quotes. In my own defense, the last 100 pages of this novel read like trying to hike down a sheer cliff that’s been greased with WD-40. Talk about payoff.
The speedy descent of the novel, Wallace’s deathiversary, a precocious preschooler (when, when will the waiting list dwindle so he can actually *be* a preschooler?!), and two new clients who have deadlines this month mean I’m reading IJ but not posting.
No spoilers, though. Finished the book twice, read all available scholarly work published on it, working on a conference paper, and reskimming for quotes but I won’t spoil your last 5%.
So, though not much can touch Mario’s concern that nobody can be sincere about emotions, and Gompert’s narration of a whole ‘nother Dantesque level of Hellacious Depression, and Gately’s defense of the indefensible, here goes:
“Any one second: he remembered: the thought of feeling like he’d be feeling this second for 60 more of these second—he couldn’t deal. He could not fucking deal. He had to build a wall around each second just to take it….A breath and a second, the pause and gather between each cramp. An endless Now stretching its gull-wings out on either side of his heartbeat’ (859-60). Freaking gorgeous prose enveloping intense ideas. Every page. Damn.
“He hadn’t quite gotten this before now, how it wasn’t just the matter of riding out the cravings for a Substance: everything unendurable was in the head, was the head not Abiding in the Present but hopping the wall and doing a recon and then returning with unendurable news you then somehow believed” (861).
Seriously? That’s genius. Welcome to my head. it’s too busy hopping the wall to check out the potential and make shit up to scare me for me to be actually living right now. That has blown my mind for the past week.
Hal similarly living in his own head:
“It now lately sometimes seemed like a kind of black miracle to me that people could actually care deeply about a subject or pursuit, and could go on caring this way for years on end. Could dedicate their entire lives to it. It seemed admirable and at the same time pathetic. We are all dying to give our lives away to something, maybe. God or Satan, politics or grammar, topology or philately—the subject seemed incidental to this will to give oneself away, utterly. To games or needles, or to some other person. Something pathetic about it. A flight-from in the form of a plunging-into” (900). And he goes into his metaphor about rooms full of meat and feces, the sheer volume of a life’s work laid before you in disgusting subtotals.
That one I’m letting lie for a while. I can’t deal this week with the thought of escapism and avocations and rooms full of meat and shit. I’m noticing more and more that huge momentous lessons of honesty and philosophy and reality from IJ are getting pushed to the corners of my mind, compartmentalized, labeled, and stored for much, much later. I’m clearly not doing my job. But with all due respect, I think letting all this sink in at once would cause the black billowing. You know? So bite-sized Wallace creeps in and the rest comes later.
“The parts of this Gately can follow he doesn’t care for one bit. He doesn’t want to know his body even fucking has something with six syllables in it” (921).
I love this book, and I love Don Gately. And his sternoclastomastoid is the least of his problems, right now. In fact, given the size of his melon, his SCM is probably a really meaty part of him, holding up his head and turning it and whatnot.
I’m pretty crushed we’re finishing soon, but I do have a life to get on with. I have three careers and a human to gestate while raising a small person. But this chance to reread IJ with a group of open minded people has been such a gift. Thanks.
“I have three careers and a human to gestate while raising a small person.” You’re amazing. Go, you!
Don’t get too impressed, Ink. I’m just gestating the careers. And the human. Didn’t mean to make it sound like I have three careers. I have, like, eight 1/4 careers and big dreams.
… and a big heart, and the mind to project it all the way out there…
thanks for the hospitality this summer. you rock.
Hey, itzadrag, thanks for coming. I can’t believe it’s over/almost over. Loved your ideas over at Infinite Tasks.
I’ll post on IJ again this week. Was this your first read of the novel? Your first Wallace?
welcome; same; thanks; you go!; yes; no.
I’m one of your “voted least likely” readers of IJ: hip is my aching joint; don’t dig cursing (and say so. audibly. with puritanical maiden-aunt expression of twisted tight lips and anxious brows.); my retro is older than your retro (like, looking up pop culture references with frequency eerily similar to that of OED look-ups); abhor & avoid violence in all known forms of media; and, this is my first online social experience to date, ie, first blog log-in. Oh, and I’m also a gin-swilling Texan on pain pills who was Worried about DFW from the get-go, so overbrimming with obsession did his work seem.
But I was smitten with BIWHM (what IS that creeping feeling it filled me with, a swelling sense of giddy apprehensive hilarious horror? a pre-confirmed angst reborn through great awakening?), got over my cheap self with reasonable alacrity, and checked out IJ from my local library. Ha. Ha-ha. Several re-check limits later, I had to purchase a soft-bound copy, which had several benefits: I started over from the beginning, stood a chance of reading every single word at least once, and saved considerable tendon strain. My sister-out-law (so entitled, b/c while my partner of almost 30 yrs and i are not *technically* illegal anymore within the confines of the great lone star state, we curiously remain legal infants, unentitled to civic recognition as “married”) saw me with said tome, and took legitimate measures: she bought a reader’s guide, found IS online, and told me all about her superior approach to reading DFW’s opus. I admire her sense of order, but continued rather blindly to read on my own. I did find Infinite Summer. Then Infinite T(a)sks. Then your blog, naptimewriting. Joy.
This has been a tremendous experience for me. Having placed out of all English requirements for college yea these many years ago, I never got the thrill of reading official literature. In a community of commentators, no less. I had suffered over this, yet not enough to form my own self-help group. So here I am, listening and IDing, and keep coming back.
Don’t expect to pry my fingers off the jigger, though.
very out of bounds? ps-
do you know who might be interested in reading a prose poem marginally related to IS, deathiversary, etc? I don’t wish to burden your readership, or IS, as it may not be “etiquette – ical”. but the piece is somewhat timely. if interested, please direct me how to send to you without broad publication. or if you have ideas about who may be interested, I’m grateful for those as well. And, no, I’m not a writer any more than anyone else out there. And yes, if you do not respond to this i still love you.
Hey, itzadrag! Good gravy, that was an awesome comment. I adore the line “don’t dig cursing (and say so. audibly. with puritanical maiden-aunt expression of twisted tight lips and anxious brows.)” So gorgeously written. Poor dear. Must be a tough time to be alive, disdaining coarse language. Sheesh. Talk about pervasive.
I’ve only read half of Brief Interviews, but still think often about the boy on the diving board ladder. What a gorgeous, knee-tightening, honest, terrifying, hope-filled story.
Nobody’s asking you to give up your cold foamers, itzadrag. We don’t judge here. Actually, we do, actively, loudly, and for the fun of it. But not drinkers. Because all my readers are drunk by the time they get to my blog. ;-)
Hmmm….deathiversaries and Infinite Summer, eh?. I wrote a paper on death art but don’t know where to send it. If it’s DFW specific, you can try howlingfantods.com or the wallace-l listserv. If it’s deathiversary in general, there are many publications that seek unpublished poetry and short stories…go check a really well stocked bookstore and check out their literary magazines and find something that feels right and send it off to them.
There are no rules here on my blog, though, so you’re welcome to post in the comments of any of my posts…maybe one of the in memorium posts for DFW. Or I could make it a guest post. Whatever you’re comfortable with.
I enjoyed Infinite Summer. Often too intense for me, machinations we didn’t need about the text which is so pure it stands on its own; but some great thinkers really opened up new stuff for me (like Tasks and the Ecstasy paintings…who knew?). Anyway. Glad you read the book. Sorry if you’re as traumatized by the violence as I was/am. Hope the cursing didn’t throw you too far off your game. And glad it felt nice to be reading lit. That’s why some of this stuff survives through the ages. It carves riverbanks in your mind that leave the topology of your entire outlook changed forever. Delicious.