Monday, August 15, 2016

Poor Yoricks' Summer - Infinite Jest, Pages 575-601

575-589: November 11, Late PM. Randy Lenz and Bruce Green (cont.). Background on Lenz's obese mother getting her ass stuck in a bus's bathroom's little open window and then winning a sizeable lawsuit against Greyhound (after which she then "lost all will to ... cook or clean, or nurture, or finally even move") and her death a few years later.

Also some back story on Bruce Green's parents: the Xmas death of his mother from a heart attack opening a can of macadamia nuts given to her by young Bruce that actually had "a coiled cloth snake with an ejaculatory spring" inside. And his father's subsequent spiral into drinking/depression (he was once a popular aerobics instructor and now worked for a novelty item company) that culminated with him inserting high explosives into a case of Blammo cigars, which killed more than two dozen people, leading to his trial and execution. Green has repressed most of these memories.
Green's guilt, pain, fear and self-loathing have over years of unprescribed medication been compressed to the igneous point where he now knows only that he compulsively avoids any product or service with 'N in its name, always checks a palm before a handshake, will go blocks out of his way to avoid any parade involving fezzes in little cars, and has this silent, substratified fascination/horror gestalt about all things even remotely Polynesian.
Green and Lenz become separated and Green is drawn to the loud Hawaiian music coming out of one particular house with a blue-and-white "Quenucker" flag in a window. Green happens to see Lenz walking along and stopping in front of this same house. Lenz begins feeding some leftover meatloaf (from the Ennet House fridge) to a large dog. While the dog is concentrating on the food, Lenz pulls out his knife and cuts the dog's throat. Several people inside the house see Lenz standing over the dead dog in the small fenced yard and start yelling. Lenz takes off and several Nucks follow both on foot and in a car. Green, who had been watching Lenz from behind a tree, stays hidden for fear of being seen and labelled an accomplice.

589-593: November 11, Late PM. Mario Incandenza will soon be 19 years old. He has a "neurological deficit whereby he can't feel physical pain very well". He has been battling insomnia since Madame Psychosis's midnight radio show abruptly stopped. Mario is worried because it has become difficult to read his brother Hal's states of mind and he "can't tell if Hal is sad". Mario's nighttime prayers last about an hour and "are not a chore". Mario has been invited into Ennet House a couple of times by House Director Pat Montesian.
And across the little street that's crammed with cars everybody has to move at 0000h. is Ennet's House, where the Headmistress has a disability and had had a wheelchair ramp installed and has twice invited Mario in during the day for a Caffeine-Free Millennial Fizzy, and Mario likes the place: it's crowded and noisy and none of the furniture has protective plastic wrap, but nobody notices anybody else or comments on a disability and the Headmistress is kind to the people and the people cry in front of each other. The inside of it smells like an ashtray, but Mario's felt good both times in Ennet's House because it's very real; people are crying and making noise and getting less unhappy, and once he heard somebody say God with a straight face and nobody looked at them or looked down or smiled in any sort of way where you could tell they were worried inside.
(In an earlier draft of Infinite Jest, Wallace had written that the inside of Ennet House "smells like God".) Walking around Enfield Marine late at night, Mario hears the sound of a Madame Psychosis show, from several years ago, coming out of an open window.
Mario thinks it might not be out of the question that [the person playing the tape] might lend tapes to a fellow listener if he could ask. He usually checks etiquette questions with Hal, who is incredibly knowledgeable and smart. When he thinks of Hal his heart beats and his forehead's thick skin becomes wrinkled. Hal will also know the term for private tapes made of broadcast things on the air. Perhaps this lady owns multiple tapes. This one is from 'Sixty Minutes +/-' 's first year, when Madame still had a slight accent and often spoke on the show as if she were talking exclusively to one person or character who was very important to her. ... Mario'd fallen in love with the first Madame Psychosis programs because he felt like he was listening to someone sad read out loud from yellow letters she'd taken out of a shoebox on a rainy P.M., stuff about heartbreak and people you loved dying and U.S. woe, stuff that was real. It is increasingly hard to find valid art that is about stuff that is real in this way. The older Mario gets, the more confused he gets about the fact that everyone at E.T.A. over the age of about Kent Blott finds stuff that's really real uncomfortable and they get embarrassed. It's like there's some rule that real stuff can only get mentioned if everybody rolls their eyes or laughs in a way that isn't happy.
Cf. Boston AA being an "irony-free zone" and DFW's essay on Joseph Frank's multi-volume Dostoevsky biography, in which he said current fiction writers must be brave enough (they must be "literary rebels") to write about "stuff that is real" without worrying about hipsters rolling their eyes. From that essay:
The big thing that makes Dostoevsky invaluable for American readers and writers is that he appears to possess degrees of passion, conviction, and engagement with deep moral issues that we - here, today - cannot or do not permit ourselves. ... For there are certain tendencies we believe are bad, qualities we hate and fear. Among these are sentimentality, naïveté, archaism, fanaticism. ... Our intelligentsia distrust strong belief, open conviction. ... [I]deological passion disgusts us on some deep level. ... Frank's bio prompts us to ask ourselves why we seem to require of our art an irony distance from deep convictions or desperate questions ...
593-596: November 11, Late PM. The various picayune and unpleasant nighttime responsibilities of Don Gately as one of the Live-in Staffers at Ennet House.
Gately has to unlock Pat's cabinets and get the key to the meds locker and open the meds locker. Residents on meds respond to the sound of the meds locker the way a cat will respond to the sound of a can-opener. They just like materialize. Gately has to dispense oral insulin and Virus-meds and pimple medicine and antidepressants and lithium to the residents who materialize for meds, and then he has to enter everything in the Medical Log, which the M. Log is an incredible fucking mess. ...

Gately has to answer the phone and tell people who call the office for a resident that residents can receive calls only on the pay phone in the basement, which he has to say yes is frequently busy all the time. The House prohibits cellular/mobiles and has a Boundary about the office phone for residents. Gately has to kick residents off down there when other residents in line come and complain they've exceeded their five minutes. This also tends to be unpleasant: the pay phone down there is undigital and un-shutoffable and a constant source of aggravation and beefs; every conversation is life-and-death; crisis down there 24/7. There's a special way to kick somebody off a pay phone that's respectful and nonshaming but also firm. Gately has gotten good at assuming a blank but not passive expression when residents are abusive. There's this look of weary expertise the House Staffers cultivate, then have to flex their face to get rid of when they're off-duty. ...

Gately has to monitor the like emotional barometer in the House and put a wet finger to the wind for potential conflicts and issues and rumors. A subtle art here is maintaining access to the residents' gossip-grapevine and keeping on top of rumors without seeming like you're inducing a resident to cross the line and actually eat cheese on another resident. The only thing a resident is actually encouraged to rat out another resident on here is picking up a Substance. All other-type issues it's supposed to be Staff's job to glean and ferret out etc., to decoct legitimate infractions out of the tides of innuendo and bullshit complaint 20+ bored crammed-together street-canny people in detox from wrecked lives can generate.
596-601: At his hotel room's door, during his liaison with the Swiss hand-model, Orin talks to a man in a wheelchair who says he is conducting a survey: "Please list lifestyle elements of your U.S.A. lifetime you recall, and/or at present lack, and miss."
'I miss TV,' Orin said, looking back down. ...

'Some of this may sound stupid. I miss commercials that were louder than the programs. I miss the phrases "Order before midnight tonight" and "Save up to fifty percent and more." I miss being told things were filmed before a live studio audience. I miss late-night anthems and shots of flags and fighter jets and leathery-faced Indian chiefs crying at litter. ... I miss sneering at something I love. How we used to love to gather in the checker-tiled kitchen in front of the old boxy cathode-ray Sony whose reception was sensitive to airplanes and sneer at the commercial vapidity of broadcast stuff.'

'Vapid ditty,' pretending to notate.

'I miss stuff so low-denominator I could watch and know in advance what people were going to say.'

'Emotions of mastery and control and superiority. And pleasure.'

'You can say that again, boy. I miss summer reruns. I miss reruns hastily inserted to fill the intervals of writers' strikes, Actors' Guild strikes. I miss Jeannie, Samantha, Sam and Diane, Gilligan, Hawkeye, Hazel, Jed, all the syndicated airwave-haunters. You know? I miss seeing the same things over and over again.' ...

The man tended to look up at him like people with legs look up at buildings and planes. 'You can of course view entertainments again and again without surcease on TelEntertainment disks of storage and retrieval.'

Orin's way of looking up as he remembered was nothing like the seated guy's way of looking up. 'But not the same. The choice, see. It ruins it somehow. With television you were subjected to repetition. The familiarity was inflicted. Different now.'


'I don't think I exactly know,' Orin said, suddenly dimly stunned and sad inside.

No comments: