“tragically, unvoluntarily, lost” (Infinite Jest, pp.95-109)

Let’s roll back to the list form of tracking my thoughts on this beast, shall we?

  • I keep noting (to myself in the margins of the book) that details in this world remind me of 1984. The prescriptive grammar, the morning exercises…other stuff. It’s not that much of an imaginative leap to conceive of present day America, or the America/Concavity/Convexity/whatever-the-fuck DFW has constructed here as Orwellian, so yeah…
  • My pretentious side was delighted by the Anna Karenina allusion on p.95 (indirectly referencing the opening lines, i.e. “each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”). Jim Troeltsch proposes the possibility that (a) people might not know when they’re feeling unhappiness, and (b) perhaps worse, they may not feel it (or anything) in the first place. For people who can’t even get to the human point of feeling unhappiness, what’s really left for/of them? At least then they’d know they’re feeling something, right? At least then they’d have a confirmation that they’re still alive and, presumably, still human.
  • An old annotation on p.97: “Hal is DFW, suffocated by his own genius, just wanting to breathe normally.”
  • Big Buddies at E.T.A. are like doctors in that they can’t fully connect to the people in their care. So what purpose are they then serving if they can’t relate? (99) Also, E.T.A. is comfortably Darwinist. But for those who are most “fit,” what’s the gain? What’s the value of making it at E.T.A.? To what end(s)?
  • “Group empathy” (well, commiseration really) ties the oppressed young tennis players together. Anticipates A.A. later. (100) Think about how alienated they are from their labor, and from the fruits of their labor. All they want is “R and R,” “one night to relax and indulge” (102). They get worked to death by their instructors, and for what? To be left totally exhausted, wanting to empty themselves further through mindless entertainment? To cut themselves off even further from their peers and themselves?
  • See: this.
  • “And time in the P.M. locker room seems of limitless depth; they’ve all been just here before, just like this, and will be again tomorrow” (104). The past and present projected to an infinite future. Is this life, a beat-down of routines and repetitions?
  • “The horse: the gift which was not a gift. The anonymous gift brought to the door. The sack of Troy from inside” (105). I connected this to Kate on p.77 when she’s talking about how “it’s there all the time, the feeling, and I’m totally inside it, I’m in it and everything has to pass through it to get in.” A bit of a tenuous connection, I’ll admit, but it’s the thread of being destroyed from the inside that I’m tying through both passages and the entire book. Is the Entertainment a Trojan horse? Heck, is life the ultimate Trojan horse? (Or the Father/Mother figures that we internalize as life-givers, which then become the “gifts” that rip us apart?)
  • Marathe asks Steeply, “Are we not all of us fanatics?” (107) This reminds me of DFW’s Kenyon commencement speech when he explains how we all worship something. Assuming that’s true, he urges the graduates and their loved ones to reconsider what temple they’re worshipping at. Marathe argues for the worship of “something bigger than the self” (108). This has political value to people in power, and it also has spiritual power (with the spiritual too often serving as a betraying stand-in for the political interests of a few). A peculiar brand of faithful optimists might interpret spiritual/political commitment as love. Love is the cheapest weapon in Hegemony’s arsenal. When we believe that love is the driving force of all human action, we can conveniently ignore the more real political aims inherent to all conflict and civilization. Love is the mask a murderer wears as he stabs you and tells you it’s good for you.
  • Where do we learn what to worship? From whom do we learn how to choose our temple? What is your temple? Did you have a choice? “…your temple is self and sentiment. Then in such an instance you are a fanatic of desire, a slave to your individual subjective narrow self’s sentiments; a citizen of nothing. You become a citizen of nothing. You are by yourself and alone, kneeling to yourself…in a case such as this you become the slave who believes he is free. The most pathetic of bondage. Not tragic. No songs” (108). Christ. Sounds like DFW. Which is a great way for me to push away the possibility that this passage is a mirror and not a window. There’s catharsis and hope in thinking I’m just seeing the author; there’s paralysis and despair in thinking I’m seeing myself.

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  1. Pingback: “Grammar Nazis who are also regular Nazis” – Strange Projections

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