Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Summer of Jest--Pages 301-600

I just finished the second trimester of my Jest-ation.
Here's what I'm thinking as I finish pages 300-601:

1. My pace has slowed.
2. Fatigue is starting to set in.
3. Nevertheless, this is still one heck of an entertaining book.

1. My Pace Has Slowed

I was originally reading on a "31-squared" scheduled--31 pages a day for 31 days.  This neat little plan was going to have me finishing the novel on July 21.  Well, this is not going to happen.  My wife went into labor on the morning of July 7th, and we were in the hospital until the 8th attending to the birth of our daughter, Calliope.  We're home now, but it has been hard to read with all the crying and feeding going on here, and, hey, who wants to read a boring old book when you this staring at you?

I am now trying to have the book done by the first day of August, which is also the day that the Brame family moves into our new house.  Did I mention we are having a busy summer?

2. Fatigue Has Start to Set In

The number one culprit causing me some mild-to-moderate Jest fatigue is the never-ending series of chapters concerning Marathe and Steeply on the plateau in Arizona.  These chapters fill in the background information you need to understand the world of Infinite Jest--and that's a lot of information, let me tell you.  There's nothing fun in these chapters--no interesting endnotes, no wisecracking Michael Pemulis, no Donald Gately.  Just pages and pages of these two people helping to explain the elaborate exposition of the book.

Also, I find myself writing "this could go on forever" in the margins from time to time.  There are paragraphs that go on for pages, sentences that twist and turn and avoid any kind of full stop.  Time slows down, then stops, and then goes backwards.

Take pp. 368-372, which details the depths that the "White Flaggers" have sunk to during their alcoholic lives.  That almost went on forever.  Or pp. 577-about 585, which concerns in great detail the childhood of Bruce Green, a minor character who we don't care too much about, and directly precedes what you can pretty much tell is going to be the most exciting part of the book up to then. That almost went on forever.  How about pp 508-527, which spends 19 pages detailing four characters sitting in a waiting room, waiting to go into a meeting that we never even get to see.  That chapter just about killed me.

3. Nevertheless, this is still one heck of an entertaining book.

Here's what I like the most about Infinite Jest.

A. Don Gately.  Don Gately is awesome.  Of all the eccentrics, screw-ups, and weirdos in the book, Gately is the truest character.  He has a mind and a heart and guts, and I love reading his chapters.  

Gately is figuratively a gate: he stands between the world of recovery and the world of Out There, and he's the only one strong enough to straddle these two worlds without succumbing to temptation.  

(Oh, and he also attends an A.A. meeting called "Tough Shit, But You Still Can't Drink.")

B. Eschaton.  The Eschaton chapter begins on page 317 and goes on to page 342.  If you don't know what Eschaton is, then no way am I going to try to explain it to you.  It's worth picking up Jest and reading it that far just to learn about it.

C. Eric Clipperton.  The story of Eric Clipperton, the young tennis player who threatens to blow his brains out right there on the court with his Glock if he ever were to lose a match, is absolutely a riot.  As long as I am including page numbers, I might as well note that it starts on page 407 and then picks back up on 430.

D. The theme of the Medusa vs. the Odalisque.  The Medusa, you will recall from highschool mythology, is a monster so hideous that she turns anyone who sees her into stone.  The Odalisque of Infinite Jest is so beautiful that she turns anyone who sees her into a gem.  

One of the main themes of this book is how people overdose on happiness, kill themselves with "entertainment," willingly step into oblivion for a brief whiff of pleasure.  I know that the Odalisque is somehow tied into to Joelle and "The Entertainment" and The Ecstasy of St. Teresa (below), but I haven't quite gotten it all yet.

Oh, and DFW basically predicted DVR/TiVo technology and how it changed American tv-viewing habits.  How about that?

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