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.