Regarding the Moms’s profering of her apple to a starving Hal:
“Orin and Hal had this bit, during Family Trivia sometimes: ‘Please, I’m not using this oxygen anyway.’ ‘What, this old limb? Take it. In the way all the time. Take it.’ ‘But it’s a gorgeous bowel movement, Mario—the living room rug needed something, I didn’t know what til right this very moment.’ The special fantodish chill of feeling both complicit and obliged. Hal despised the way he always reacted, taking the apple, pretending to pretend his reluctance to eat her supper was a pretense. Orin believed she did it all on purpose, which was way too easy. He said she went around with her feelings out in front of her with an arm around the feelings’ windpipe and a Glock 9 mm. to the feelings’ temple like a terrorist with a hostage, daring you to shoot” (523).
I read this 12 years ago on Hal’s side. Now I totally vote with Avril. She wants him to eat and doesn’t want him to starve of politeness. *sigh* What a difference a little life experience makes.
Happy halfway through Infinite Jest, peeps who are still hanging in by a “dento-dermal layer.”
One of my favorite scenes of the book.
“Now the ominous finger-pointing of street-aggression, this Roy fellow pointing first at Erdedy’s chest and then at his own: ‘So man what you say you saying I’m a hugger? You saying you think I go around like to hug?’
Both Erdedy’s hands were now up palms-out and waggling in a like bon-hommic gesture of heading off all possible misunderstanding: ‘No but see the whole point is that I wouldn’t presume to call you either a hugger or a nonhugger because I don’t know you. I only meant to say it’s nothing personal having to do with you as an individual, and I’d be more than happy to shake hands, even one of those intricate multiple-handed ethnic handshakes if you’ll bear with my inexperience with that sort of handshake, but I’m simply uncomfortable with the whole idea of hugging.’
By the time Johnette Foltz could break away and get over to them, the fellow had Erdedy by his anorak’s insulated lapels and was leaning him way back over the edge of the Literature table so that Erdedy’s waterproof lodge boots were off the ground, and the fellow’s face was right up in Erdedy’s face in a show of naked aggression:
‘You think I fucking like to go around and hug on folks? You think any of us like this shit? We fucking do what they tell us. They tell us Hugs Not Drugs in here. We done motherfucking surrendered our wills in here,’ Roy said….I done had to give four hugs my first night here and then I gone ran in the fucking can and fucking puked. Puked, he said. ‘Not comfortable? Who the fuck are you? Don’t even try and tell me I’m coming over feeling comfortable about trying to hug on your James-River-Traders-weartng-Calvin-Klein-aftershave-smelling-goofy-ass motherfucking ass'” (506).
One of the reasons I’ve loved Wallace’s prose since I found it in 1997 is his mastery of words that often send the less confident amongst us scrambling to a usage guide. To wit:
“I looked as if dust had not drifted under the bed and settled on the carpet inside the frame but rather that somehow taken root and grown on it, upon it, the way a mold will take root and gradually cover an expanse of spoiled food. The layer of dust itself looked a little like spoiled food, bad cottage cheese. It was nauseous” (498).
I love (capital L love even if that bastardizes the word meant to encapsulate feelings you deem more worthy, it’s still what I feel, and it even borders on slurping, my affection) love proper use of the word nauseous. I’ve blogged about it not just once but twice, and waxed both philosophical and self-righteous about it. The short version, for you Wallace fans just stumbling upon Himself’s story about how the terrifying mattress scene inspired to “become interested in the possibilities of annulation” (503), is that nauseous is something that inspires people to vomit. Similarly, something nauseating beckons us to relieve the contents of our stomachs. That’s because nauseated is when you feel as though you might feel better through hurling. Something nauseous makes you nauseated.
Anything makes me nauseated right now, except parsing the grammar of the master.
If you haven’t, go read Tense Present, Wallace’s impeccable tract on the usage debate between prescriptive and descriptive linguists, and the successes and failures of various usage guides. (Thank you, Harper’s for posting his work in one place for us. Damned decent of you.) If you don’t want to read online check out one of the best non-fiction collections I’ve ever read: Consider the Lobster. For those who love his math geekitude, there are also wondrous gleams of genius in Wallace the grammarian.
I really can’t pull deeply from Lucien and Bertraund hearing the squeak, because I still shudder at the description. I wanted to use some quote about angles and soupe aux pois but just can’t.
The most I can tolerate is: “The vigor with which Lucien shakes his head at the leader’s meaningless sounds can’t help but be misinterpreted, probably.
Does this shop have the 585-rpm-drive TP somewhere about here, for running Masters?
Sam vigorous negative-looking denial of comprehension.
Can a mask’s drawn smile widen?” (487)
Some day when I’m thinking clearly again, let’s talk language confusion and wordlessness and communication and comprehension and deadly result in Infinite Jest, shall we?
And some day when I have the energy, let’s pull all of the malalexical* fumblings of Orin and Lentz and others, mmmmkay?
Until then, make the broom and police lock images go away.
*I know there’s a real word for using the wrong word, but other than aphasia 9the word, not my own condition, though, haha, now that’s funny) I can’t think of the real word and I’m not trying to be clever, I swear, I’m just trying to get a quote of the day on the books then go to bed. Malapropism? Something? Shows how far I’ve fallen that I’m not leaping into the OED to find out. And kind of don’t care. For now.
“None but the most street-hardened Ennet residents would ever hazard an open crack about the food, which appears nightly at the long dinner table still in the broad steaming pans it was cooked in, with Gately’s big face hovering lunarly above it, flushed and beaded under the floppy chef’s hat Annie Parrot had given him as a dark joke he hadn’t got, his eyes full of anxiety and hopes for everyone’s full enjoyment, basically looking like a nervous bride serving her first conjugal dish, except this bride’s hands are the same size as the House’s dinner plates and have jailhouse tatts on them, and this bride seems to need no over-mitts as he sets down massive pans on the towels that have to be laid down to keep the plastic tabletop from searing” (469).
Everybody loves a bad-cook joke. Especially a bad-cook-with-jailhouse-tatts joke.
Can anyone tell I’m just posting Wallace quotes because I can’t think any clear thoughts of my own lately? No? Good. Just checking.
“Hal Incandenza has an almost obsessive dislike for deLint, whom he tells Mario he sometimes cannot quite believe is even real, and tries to get to the side of, to see whether deLint has a true z coordinate or is just a cutout or projection” (460).
If it’s not prescriptive linguistics with this guy it’s math. He’s so dreamy.
“The state employees who supervise the shelter at night are dead-eyed and watch soft-core tapes behind the desk and are all around Gately’s size and build, and he’s been approached to maybe work there himself, nights, supervising, more than once, and has said Thanks Anyway, and always screws right out of there at 0801h. and rides the Greenie back up the hill with his Gratitude-battery totally recharged” (435).
Um, yeah he does. I longed for my own Green line ride out of the head space the shelter put me in. Infinite Jest often jolts me out of complacency with the Hitting Bottom stories and the in-need-of-medical-intervention episodes and the dysfunctional-family-goes-off-the-deep-end sadness. But the Shattuck Shelter for Homeless Males is a bit more affecting that I can handle right now.
Join the conversation at Infinite Summer.
“Steeply’s movement of smoothing the wig and twisting fingers thrrough the snarls of hair became perhaps more abrupt and frustrasted. Steeply said, ‘Well whose soup is it legally? Who actually bought the soup?’
Marathe shrugged. ‘Not relevant for my question. Suppose a third party, now unfortunately deceased. He appears at our flat with a can of soupe aux pois to eat while watching recorded U.S.A. sporting and suddenly is clutching his heard and falls to the carpeting deceased, holding the soup we are no both so wishing'” (426).
I really want pea soup right now.
I am so enamored of Marathe’s twisted Quebecois English. And Steeply’s discomfort in his female operative second-but-not-fitting skin. And i laugh every time the subhead reads, “Outcropping of Northwest Tucson, AZ, U.S.A. predawn, still.” Because seriously, are they going to be on that outcropping when we hit page 1000?
Ah, Infinite Summer, what have you done to me?
“Lyle, who sometimes would start to get tipsy himself as Himself’s pores began to excrete the bourbon, often brought some Blake out, as in William Blake, during these all-night sessions, and read Incandenza Blake, but in the voices of various cartoon characters, which Himself eventually started regarding as deep” (379).
Clearly Book of Job. Very theatrical text, with drawn curtains and dramatic optical angles Incandenza would groove on.
“The most hated Incandenza film, a variable-length one called The Joke, had only a very brief theatrical release, and then only at the widely scattered last remains of the pre-InterLace public art-film theaters in art places like Cambridge MA and Berkeley CA” (397).
Having lived in both, I can tell you that audiences in each city would still “shell out for little paper theater tickets” even after they’d heard from friends what the film was.
Sweater vest or no, go read Infinite Jest with us at Infinite Summer.
A third political party finally achieved viability “the two established mainstream parties split open along tired philosophical lines in a dark time when all landfills got full and all grapes were raisins and sometimes in some places the falling rain clunked instead of splatted, and also, recall, a post-Soviet and -Jihad era when—somehow even worse—there was no real Foreign Menace of any real unified potency to hate and fear, and the U.S. sort of turned on itself and its own philosophical fatigue and hideous redolent wastes with a spasm of panicked rage that in retrospect seems possible only in a time of geopolitical supremacy and consequent silence, the loss of any external Menace to hate and fear” (382).
Oh, well, we need not fear that future for a while, eh fear-based politics?
*sigh*. Go read Infinite Jest. With us at infinite summer.
“How do trite things get to be trite? Why is the truth usually not just un- but anti-interesting? Because ever one of the seminal little mini-epiphanies you have in early AA is always polyesterishly banal, Gately admits to residents” (358).
I’m so behind on quotes, y’all. But here are the selections for the three days I’ve missed.
re: Eschaton’s rulebook
it “is about as long and interesting a J. Bunyan’s stupefying Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come, and a pretty tough nut to compress into anything lively (although every year a dozen more E.T.A. kids memorize the thing at such a fanatical depth that they sometimes report reciting mumbled passages under light dental or cosmetic anesthesia, years later). But if Hal had a Luger pointed at him and were under compulsion to try, he’d probably start by explaining that each of the 400 dead tennis balls in the game’s global arsenal represents a 5-megaton thermonuclear warhead” (322).
[Bonus points for knocking Pilgrim’s Progress, for the dental anesthesia, and for the narrative framing trope of ‘if the character had a gun to his head’. Silliness. Part of the beauty of this text is that it bounces from gut-wrenchingly depressed to silly in a couple of pages.
To wit: in the middle of the roll-playing thermonuclear war that is geek-athlete Interdependence Day frivolity, “a couple ostensible world leaders run here and there in a rather unstatesmanlike fashion with their open mouths directed at the sky, trying to catch bits of the fall’s first snow” (332).
Quote nothing. The whole Poor Tony detox and DTs and seizure scene left me shaking. Physically shaking. I had to read on into relatively light ETA stuff just so I wouldn’t go to sleep with his terror in my mind.
As I read beyond Poor Tony, the page number started crawling across the page like a spider. And the hand holding the book all of a sudden looked like a wax cast of a hand, like something inhuman and dead.
That might be the best writing I’ve ever read. I’m exhausted from feeling that deeply.
“…even though Schtatt deep down believes that the substance-compulsion’s strange apparent contribution to Hal’s erumpent explosion up the rankings has got to be a temporary thing, that there’s like a psychic credit-card bill for Hall in the mail, somewhere, coming and is sad for him in advance about whatever’s surely got to give, eventually” (270).
Boy, oh boy, even within the spoiler limits we can say foreshadowing…like foresmacking us up against the head, given the opening scene.