Monday, July 25, 2016

Poor Yoricks' Summer - Infinite Jest, Pages 367-394

[Don] Gately's most marked progress in turning his life around in sobriety, besides the fact that he no longer drives off into the night with other people's merchandise, is that he tries to be just about as verbally honest as possible at almost all times, now, without too much calculation about how a listener's going to feel about what he says. This is harder than it sounds.
Speaking the unvarnished truth is essential among Boston AAs. Newcomers who get up and speak from the podium cannot think they have to please the crowd by saying the right things or intimate a cause (which can easily slid into an excuse) for their Coming In as a last resort.
[I]t has to be the truth unslanted, unfortified. And maximally unironic. An ironist in a Boston AA meeting is a witch in church. Irony-free zone. Same with sly disingenuous manipulative pseudo-sincerity. Sincerity with an ulterior motive is something these tough ravaged people know and fear, all of them trained to remember the coyly sincere, ironic, self-presenting fortifications they'd had to construct in order to carry on Out There, under the ceaseless neon bottle.
Wallace presents two female speakers, one who still blames her foster home experiences for her running away, working in a strip club, and drinking. The second newcomer, a freebase cocaine addict, who smoked throughout her pregnancy and gave birth, alone, to a stillborn infant, and ended up carrying the tiny corpse around with her as though it were a viable living infant, tucked in a blanket and still attached to her via the umbilical cord. Her story is just the facts, and is so gripping that the AAs need to remember to blink as they listen. Gately is reminded "what a tragic adventure this is, that none of them signed up for". In addition to showing (in the first story) how utterly depraved and predatory some humans can be, Wallace illustrates (in the second) the walls of guilt and black denial people construct in order to make it through each day. (The first speaker also notes that her mother would pray beneath "this one untitled photo of some Catholic statue". It is "The Estacsy of St. Theresa", which has been mentioned by Joelle several times in other circumstances.)

November 8 is Interdependence Day - celebrating the merging of Canada, Mexico, and the United States into the Organization of North American Nations - and the staff at Enfield is preparing for its annual celebration. One annual event is the showing of Mario Incandenza's puppet-show film (which is a kids adaptation of JOI's "The ONANtiad") outlining the rise of U.S. President Johnny Gentle (of the Clean U.S. Party), the birth of ONAN, and the move toward Reconfiguration and Subsidized Time. It is noted that Gentle (a former crooner) wasn't going to burden U.S. citizens by making them make tough choices, he was going to do it for them, so they could "simply sit back and enjoy the show".

At various points during the dinner and film, some of the boys slip away and head down to the weight room for some personal time with Lyle. LaMont Chu burns for fame, to have his picture in shiny magazines like the tennis players he admires. He assumes those star players had similar desires and having those desires fulfilled is a dream come true. "Else why would I burn like this to feel as they feel?" (This is similar to various addicts asking: "Why can't I quit if I so want to quit?") But there is rarely any satisfaction when it comes to forms of entertainment, in this book. Lyle points out that while perhaps seeing the first picture in the magazines felt good to these older players, the feeling quickly turned to worry and anxiety about not having their picture in the magazines. "They are trapped, just as you are."

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