Monday, August 22, 2016

Poor Yoricks' Summer - Infinite Jest, Pages 651-682

651-662: Journalist Helen Steeply watches the hastily arranged exhibition match between Ortho Stice and Hal Incandenza from the bleachers with Aubrey deLint, who explains that ETA has never allowed a student to be interviewed and no one there wants Steeply to talk to Hal about anything. deLint explains how ETA wants to shelter the students, making the academy a place "about seeing instead of being seen".
These kids, the best of them are here to learn to see. Schtitt's thing is self-transcendence through pain. These kids —' gesturing at Stice running madly up for a drop-volley that stopped rolling well inside the service line; mild applause — 'they're here to get lost in something bigger than them. To have it stay the way it was when they started, the game as something bigger, at first. Then they show talent, start winning, become big fish in their ponds out there in their hometowns, stop being able to get lost inside the game and see. Fucks with a junior's head, talent. They pay top dollar to come here and go back to being little fish and to get savaged and feel small and see and develop. To forget themselves as objects of attention for a few years and see what they can do when the eyes are off them. They didn't come here to get read about as some soft-news item or background. ...

The point here for the best kids is to inculcate their sense that it's never about being seen. It's never. If they can get that inculcated, the Show won't fuck them up, Schtitt thinks. If they can forget everything but the game when all of you out there outside the fence see only them and want only them and the game's incidental to you, for you it's about entertainment and personality, it's about the statue, but if they can get inculcated right they'll never be slaves to the statue, they'll never blow their brains out after winning an event when they win, or dive out a third-story window when they start to stop getting poked at or profiled, when their blossom starts to fade. Whether or not you mean to, babe, you chew them up, it's what you do. ... You, Moment, World Tennis, Self, Inter-Lace, the audiences. The crowds in Italy fucking literally. It's the nature of the game. It's the machine they're all dying to throw themselves into. They don't know the machine. But we do. Gerhardt's teaching them to see the ball out of a place inside that can't be chewed. It takes time and total focus. The man's a fucking genius.
663-665: Steeply sends interview questions by mail to Marlon Bain (Orin's former roommate/doubles partner at ETA), who responds at length. His responses comprise Note 269 (5+ pages). Bain talks at length about Orin (who, according to Bain, has come to regard the truth as constructed instead of reported) and Avril (who was more than willing to believe Orin's outrageous lies about everything, even including the time his actions resulted in the death of the family dog).
Why do many parents who seem relentlessly bent on producing children who feel they are good persons deserving of love produce children who grow to feel they are hideous persons not deserving of love who just happen to have lucked into having parents so marvelous that the parents love them even though they are hideous?

Is it a sign of abuse if a mother produces a child who believes not that he is innately beautiful and lovable and deserving of magnificent maternal treatment but somehow that he is a hideous unlovable child who has somehow lucked in to having a really magnificent mother? Probably not.

But could such a mother then really be all that magnificent, if that's the child's view of himself? ...

I am speaking of Mrs. Avril M.-T. Incandenza, although the woman is so multileveled and indictment-proof that it is difficult to feel comfortable with any sort of univocal accusation of anything.
Also, Bain on USA football:
A grunting, crunching ballet of repressed homoeroticism ... The exaggerated breadth of the shoulders, the masked eradication of facial personality, the emphasis on contact-vs.-avoidance-of-contact. The gains in terms of penetration and resistance. The tight pants that accentuate the gluteals and hamstrings and what look for all the world like codpieces. The gradual slow shift of venue to "artificial surface," "artificial turf." Don't the pants' fronts look fitted with codpieces? And have a look at these men whacking each other's asses after a play. It is like Swinburne sat down on his soul's darkest night and designed an organized sport. And pay no attention to Orin's defense of football as a ritualized substitute for armed conflict. Armed conflict is plenty ritualized on its own, and since we have real armed conflict (take a spin through Boston's Roxbury and Mattapan districts some evening) there is no need or purpose for a substitute. Football is pure homophobically repressed nancy-ism, and do not let O. tell you different.
666-673: While Stice and Hal play their afternoon match, the members of the Tunnel Club (mostly the under-14 boys) are in the tunnels below ETA, assigned the task of clearing out various kinds of trash so that workers can carry out parts of the Lung when it is time to erect and inflate the Lung over the outdoor courts. There is again mention of various objects at ETA having been moved into inappropriate places; this weirdness has been happening for about three months. The boys bag up a lot of garbage, including many unlabelled entertainment cartridges. (We will later see two black girls who work part-time at ETA taking "dumpster-pilferage" down to Ennet House (possibly some of the unlabelled cartridges hauled out of the tunnels).)

673-682: Third set of the match, and Steeply is now talking to Thierry Poutrincourt, a Quebecer on staff at ETA, who during their conversation in French realizes that Steeply is not actually a woman. They also discuss the pressures on the students at ETA and the lure of success:
Winning two and three upset matches, feeling suddenly so loved, so many talking to you as if there is love. But always the same, then. For then you awaken to the fact that you are loved for winning only. The two and three wins created you, for people. It is not that the wins made them recognize something that existed unrecognized before these upset wins. The from-noplace winning created you. You must keep winning to keep the existence of love and endorsements and the shiny magazines wanting your profile. ... Pressure such as one could not imagine, now that to maintain you must win. Now that winning is the expected. And all alone, in the hotels and the airplanes, with any other player you could speak to of the pressure to exist wanting to beat you, wanting to be exist above and not below. Or the others, wanting from you, and only so long as you play with abandon, winning. ... What is the instruction if we shape the ephebe into the athlete who can win fearlessly to be loved, yet we do not prepare her for the time after fear comes, no?
Imagine you. You become just what you have given your life to be. Not merely very good but the best. The good philosophy of here and Schtitt — I believe this philosophy of Enfield is more Canadian than American, so you may see I have prejudice — is that you must have also — so, leave to one side for a moment the talent and work to become best — that you are doomed if you do not have also within you some ability to transcend the goal, transcend the success of the best, if you get to there. ... Then and for the ones who do become the étoiles, the lucky who become profiled and photographed for readers and in the U.S.A. religion make it, they must have something built into them along the path that will let them transcend it, or they are doomed. We see this in experience. One sees this in all obsessive goal-based cultures of pursuit. Look at the Japonois, the suicide rates of their later years. This task of us at the Enfield is more delicate still, with the étoiles. For, you, if you attain your goal and cannot find some way to transcend the experience of having that goal be your entire existence, your raison de faire, so, then, one of two things we see will happen.

One, one is that you attain the goal and realize the shocking realization that attaining the goal does not complete or redeem you, does not make everything for your life "OK" as you are, in the culture, educated to assume it will do this, the goal. And then you face this fact that what you had thought would have the meaning does not have the meaning when you get it, and you are impaled by shock. We see suicides in history by people at these pinnacles; the children here are versed in what is called the saga of Eric Clipperton. ... Or the other possibility of doom, for the étoiles who attain. They attain the goal, thus, and put as much equal passion into celebrating their attainment as they had put into pursuing the attainment. This is called here the Syndrome of the Endless Party. The celebrity, money, sexual behaviors, drugs and substances. The glitter. They become celebrities instead of players, and because they are celebrities only as long as they feed the culture-of-goal's hunger for the make-it, the winning, they are doomed, because you cannot both celebrate and suffer, and play is always suffering, just so.

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