Friday, July 15, 2016

Poor Yoricks' Summer - Infinite Jest, Pages 242-283

Past the page 250 mark, the narrative begins coming together. A chronology of Subsidized Time has been presented and most of the sections have been centered on either the young tennis players at Enfield Tennis Academy or the recovering addicts down the hill at Ennet House.

November 5, YDAU - Orin calls Hal to get information about Himself's suicide in preparation for his interview with Moment magazine (about which he has extreme unexamined dread). Hal is having great success at getting his left toe's toenail clippings to fly into a wastebasket several meters away. He's in the Zone and Orin talks about the extent of athletes' superstitions. Hal mentions the Ahts, a "primitive" tribe from what is now known as Vancouver:
"The new Discursive O.E.D. says the Ahts of Vancouver used to cut virgins' throats and pour the blood very carefully into the orifices of the embalmed bodies of their ancestors. ... [T]o preserve the privacy of their own mental states. The apposite Aht dictum here being quote 'The sated ghost cannot see secret things.' ... After a burial, rural Papineau-region Québecers purportedly drill a small hole down from ground level all the way down through the lid of the coffin, to let out the soul, if it wants out.
Later, Hal goofs and says "telemachry" instead of "telemetry" - and Orin corrects him, much to Hal's dismay. It's a nod to Joyce and Ulysses. In the Odyssey, Telemachus was the son of Odysseus and Penelope. He searches for his father and ends up slaughtering his mother's suitors. (And according to this, his father "pretended to be insane in order to avoid going to the Trojan War".)

Orin has recently noticed a lot of young, burly guys in wheelchairs possibly following (or watching) him. He finally gets around to asking Hal about Himself's suicide, which he fears the woman writing a soft profile for Moment magazine will ask about. The journalist's name is "Helen" and Orin says she is "large but not un-erotic". It's obviously Hugh Steeply in disguise yet Orin can't see it (which is amusing since Marathe noted how ridiculous Steeply looked dressed as a woman). In fact, Orin appears quite smitten by Steeply, as are many of his Phoenix Cardinals teammates. Orin: "She's more imposing than like most of our starting backfield. But weirdly sexy. The linemen are gaga. The tackles keep making all these cracks about does she maybe want to see their hard profile."

Hal reveals that, at nearly 13 years old, he found Himself's body by the microwave (Himself's head having "popped like an uncut spud") in the kitchen (Hal's first thought was "something smelled delicious"). Hal also discusses his experience with the grief-therapist. In his therapy sessions - four times a week for six weeks - Hal tries to say what he thinks the grief therapist wants to hear. But it's not working, and Hal fears he is "failing". Finally, a discussion with Lyle helps Hal see the issue from the therapist's point of view and, after a trip to the library, Hal can now exhibit the "textbook" emotions the therapist is looking for. (We also pick up a lot of stray plot details about the Incandenza family, both in this conversation and another, longer conversation between Hal and Orin.)

November 6, YDAU - The following day, ETA plays its annual tournament at the Port Washington Tennis Academy in Long Island. John Wayne is from Montcerf, Quebec, an asbestos-mining town (is he related to Bernard Wayne from Note 304, the boy who refused to participate in La Culte du Prochain Train?), and was recruited to ETA in the spring of last year. Pemulis is vomiting before his match. He says it's nerves, but Schacht thinks it's "odd that Pemulis makes such a big deal of stopping all substances the day before competitive play but never connects the neurasthenic stomach to any kind of withdrawal or dependence". Schacht, post-Crohn's Disease and ruined knee, doesn't care all that much if he wins; it's a preference, but nothing more. Schacht is worried about Hal ("who's probably as asymetrically hobbled on the care-too-much side as Schacht is on the not-enough"), though he
doesn't say a word about Hal's devolution from occasional tourist to subterranean compulsive, substance-wise, with his Pump Room visits and Visine, even though Schacht 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 Hal in the mail, somewhere, coming, and is sad for him in advance about whatever's surely got to give, eventually. (270)
An Ennet House section is undated, but there are clues that I think point to November 12, YDAU. However, Greg Carlisle, in Elegant Complexity, dates this scene November 6. However, Note 90, a conversation between Don Gately and Geoffrey Day on the night of November 11, concerns AA's aphorisms/clichés and during this section, Gately recalls what Day said about cliches and admits that he (Day) is right, in a way. It would appear that this is the following morning, November 12.

Gately is on a couch in the front room at Ennet House, half-dozing and taking everything in and thinking about his own recovery. ("Ennet House reeks of passing time. It is the humidity of early sobriety, hanging and palpable.") Charlotte Treat is doing needlepoint (which Gately thinks she's enjoying a bit too much, the work with the needle), Day (the author of the paper on the AFR that Struck was plagiarizing) continues to mock AA's slogans ("I used sometimes to think. ... Now I live by the dictates of macramé samplers ordered from the back-page ad of an old Reader's Digest or Saturday Evening Post."), and Burt F. Smith attempts to cut a waffle with a knife and fork attached to his wrists' stumps. (Note: Smith is the "older type individual" crewed on and left for dead in the snow by yrstruly, C, and Poor Tony.) Randy Lenz, obsessed with the exact time at all times and sitting in the extreme northern position of whatever room he is in, is hiding out at Ennet from both drug dealers he ripped of and Boston's Finest. When he goes out, which is rare (usually only to meetings), he wears a white wig disguise.

In Note 90, Day is having problems with the structure of AA:
I fear I simply have to deny the insinuation that it's disloyal or ungrateful to find oneself troubled by certain quite glaring inconsistencies in this master quote unquote Program you all seem to expect us simply to open up and blindly swallow whole and then walk around glazed with our arms right out straight in front of us parroting, reciting. ...

I found myself sitting tonight in yet another Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting the central Message of which was the importance of going to still more Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings. This infuriating carrot-and-donkey aspect of trudging to Meetings only to be told to trudge to still more Meetings. ... I mean, what's supposedly going to be communicated at these future meetings I'm exhorted to trudge to that cannot simply be communicated now, at this meeting, instead of the glazed recitation of exhortations to attend these vague future revelatory meetings? ...

Don, let me ask you, Don. In all earnest. Why shouldn't every human being in the world be in AA? ... By AA's own professed logic, everyone ought to be in AA. If you have some sort of Substance-problem, then you belong in AA. But if you say you do not have a Substance-problem, in other words if you deny that you have a Substance-problem, why then you're by definition in Denial, and thus you apparently need the Denial-busting Fellowship of AA even more than someone who can admit his problem."
For me, the slogan means there's no set way to argue intellectual-type stuff about the Program. Surrender To Win, Give It Away To Keep It. God As You Understand Him. You can't think about it like an intellectual thing. Trust me because I been there, man. You can analyze it til you're breaking tables with your forehead and find a cause to walk away, back Out There, where the Disease is. Or you can stay and hang in and do the best you can.
Gately has to remind himself that dealing with Day can teach him "patience, tolerance, self-discipline, restraint". Day's complaints remind me of the "exotic" fact of letting yourself learn things from people dumber than you. (I feel like Wallace himself, as a self-described "obscenely well-educated" person, was much like Day and had trouble accepting AA's sappy, trite clichés, too.)

November 6, YDAU - ETA returns home from Port Washington. Wayne and Hal destroyed their opponents, and Pemulis was awarded a victory when his opponent became "weirdly lethargic and then disoriented in the second set ... claiming the tennis balls were too pretty to hit". Recall Pemulis had mentioned, as a joke, putting some DMZ in a Gatorade barrel at Port Washington. Though he eventually nixed that idea, I believe. But Pemulis absolutely needed a victory at PW to qualify for the WhataBurger and thus have off-time to partake of the incredibly potent DMZ, so it seems likely that he did something to his opponent, possibly when he was futzing with various containers of water courtside before the match.

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