“And when he came back to, he was flat on his back on the beach in the freezing sand,
and it was raining out of a low sky, and the tide was way out.”
There is a definite plus to reading a book that was published almost twenty years ago – the internet is an abundance of writings, thoughts, arguments and analysis done by countless other readers before us. And, like in so many other subjects, we are only strengthened by the knowledge of those who have come before, whose knowledge was also strengthened by those who came before, etc etc.
But there is also the desire to figure it out for yourself. I am of the mind that we as a group should speak first of our own reflections, thoughts, feelings, and then maybe move into a larger discussion that can harness the power of the internet to refute, support or enhance our ideas. What say you?
So let’s recap (for one last time!) the last 100 pages of Infinite Jest.
November 20 – Rodney Tines Jr and Sr meet with Glad Bag rep and Tom Veals
Better tested than the No Thankee Hankee, Fully Functional Phil the Prancing Ass, has been developed to warn kids of the impending Entertainment crisis. This section serves to warn us that the Entertainment is on the loose, and being taken very seriously by O.N.A.N.
Gately continues his hospital stay right til the very end
A large portion of the end of the book takes place in Gately’s hospital room, and in flashbacks to his time spent crewing with Fackleman and Kite. I loved the extended dream of the Pakistani doctor and Francis that ends with Don grabbing the doc by the balls to stop him from offering any more drugs.
We also see the gruesome retribution laid on Fackleman for his fatal decision to take the mistaken football bet and build a mountain of Dilaudid, are introduced to Pamela Hoffman-Jeep (who could be played easily by Natasha Leggero), and are reunited with Bobby C & Poor Tony of the “red leather fags” (p. 129).
At one point, Gately has a mirror dream (vision?) to Hal’s comment from early in the book:
“I think of John N.R. Wayne, who would have won this year’s WhataBurger, standing watch in a mask as Don Gately and I dig up my father’s head” (p. 16)
“He dreams he’s with a very sad kid and they’re in the graveyard digging some dead guy’s head up and it’s really important, like Continental Emergency important, and Gately’s the best digger but he’s wicked hungry, like irresistibly hungry, and he’s eating with both hands out of a huge economy-size bags of corporate snacks so he can’t really dig, while it gets later and later and the sad kid is trying to scream at Gately that the important thing was buried in the guy’s head and to divert the Continental Emergency to start digging the guy’s head up before it’s too late, but the kid moves his mouth but nothing comes up, and Joelle van D. appears with wings and no underwear and asks if they knew him, the dead guy with the head, and Gately starts talking about knowing him even though deep down he feels panic because he’s got no idea who they’re talking about, while the sad kid holds something terrible up by the hair and makes the face of somebody shouting in panic: Too Late.” (p. 934).
OK SO THIS:
I really think this is the ‘true’ end of the novel, it’s just not at the end of the book. It is the moment that connects us to the action that happened outside of the end of the book, and projects us into the future, where the book begins. But it still leaves many unanswered questions, namely:
- If JOI killed himself in a microwave oven, and considering when Hal describes the felo de se as akin to the “equivalent in kg.s.cm to over two sticks of TNT” and asks Orin “Do you know you have to cut the potato open before you turn the oven on?” (p. 251), how could he even have a head?
- In Hal’s thought, John Wayne is there (in a mask) and in Don’s Joelle is there (in wings). Why the disparity?
- I know it sounds trite, but does Joelle in wings signify she is dead/a wraith?
- If it is too late, someone has gotten there before. Who would that be? The AFR?
At the end of Gately’s flashback, and the end of the book, he is pumped full of Sunshine while Fackleman is slowly killed, and then he is dumped on the beach, where he comes to.
As an aside,the yrstruly section where we first meet C (& experience the moment of his death) connects us to Stokely Darkstar (“don’t share Stokely Darkstar’s works don’t use works off of Stokely Darkstar no matter how sick you are” – p. 129), who JOI used in the brutal film Accomplice! as the AIDS-ridden prostitute, that Mario and Coyle are watching on pages 942-947. I am not going to read too much into the fact that Cosgrove Watt, the other actor in the film, frequently plays the loose role of JOI in his films. Ok I am – do you think JOI was gay, and maybe that was why Avril had so many affairs?
Also, Gately is watching Orin’s game (described as “The B.U. punter”)on New Year’s Even before standardized time (P. 916) – likely the same game Gentle was watching when he came up with the idea for standardized time.
And we get details maybe on how the Entertainment was unknowingly lifted from the robbery of M. DuPlessis by Kite and then brought to the Antitois by Sixties Bob, who traded for “60s related shit nobody else’d even usually want” (p.927). This matches the Antitois description of the man he bartered for “an antique blue lava-lamp and a lavender-tinged apothecary’s mirror for eighteen unexceptional-looking and old lozenges the long-haired person had claimed in a jumble of West-Swiss-accented French were 650 mg. of a trop-formidable harmful pharmaceutical…as well as a kitchen-can waste bag filled with crusty old mossy boot-and-leg Read Only cartridges, sans any labels” (p. 482). There are still many odd pieces to this, including the “West-Swiss accented French” of the old hippie – would Sixties Bob be Quebecois? His last name is Monroe. This would also mean 60s Bob had been in possession of the DMZ, called tu-sais-quoi (the “you-know-what”).
As Gately and Fackleman sink into a Dilaudid stupor, the film that plays over and over again sounds like JOI’s Various Small Flames. (p. 935).
At ETA, Hal spends more time laying on his back, everyone gets ready for the Gala during the blizzard
Hal seems to be loosing his competitive spirit – “It now lately sometimes seemed like a kind of black miracle to me that people could actually care deeply about a subject or pursuit” (p. 900),.
Pemulis has “some really important interfacing to do” with Hal (p. 907), but we are never party to it. He wants to speak with Hal about the DMZ, again referred to as “tu-savez-quoi” and Hal dismisses him. We never find out if they have that conversation, which I imagine is about Pemulis losing the DMZ from the ceiling tiles (p. 916).
We learn that Hal has known all along of Avril’s dalliances (p. 957).
The section that describes the scene as the ETA students get ready is not in Hal’s voice, as he is mentioned in the third person, so who is talking? With the laundry list of names mentioned, we could probably do a process of elimination, but I digress. Because are some of the kids DEAD? When the rumor comes that the Quebecois players are in fact adult and wheelchair bound, a couple kids go to check it out and never return (p. 965).
One of the first things I thought when I realized that the end was only a few pages away and that nothing that I considered ‘traditional’ plot was going to get resolved was: Why did DFW spend three of the very dozen pages left telling us about Barry Loach and his lapsed priest of a brother? Of course, it’s not like those pages were going to be spent clarifying what happened to Hal, Orin, Avril, Pemulis, or any of the other characters that were still alive by the end, but it maddened me none the less. We do learn about the terrible sauna accident (p. 971), which @Darcy, I recall you pointing out may have been the demise of Lyle.
Joelle is brought in for questioning by Steeply
The last we see of Joelle in the novel, she is warned by Steeply that she is in “mind-boggling danger” (p. 934) and then next scene she is under technical interview by Steeply (whose methods are much more benign than the AFRs), that confirms more details about the Entertainment, gives us fair assurance that she is indeed scarred by acid – “I used to go around saying the veil was to disguise lethal perfection” (p. 940) – and that the Master was buried with James.
After she leaves the interview, she returns to Ennet House, to warn Pat about the wheelchairs, and “doesn’t’ see it til she cleared the Shed, the Middlesex County Sheriff’s car…” (p. 958). Something terrible has happened at Ennet House, though the “uniform at the wheel absently feeling his face” makes it seem like the event has happened a while ago, as the police are not necessarily bustling around. I assume Marathe has done something to get his hands on the cartridges in Pat’s office….
.. and yet, we are right back at Ennet House for the interface between Pat and the ADA (p. 960-964). So who knows.
Orin is inside a giant glass tumbler
The AFR are really creative with their technical interviews. As the roaches pour in, Orin screams “Do it to her! Do it to her!” Is he referring to Joelle and inferring that she knows the whereabouts of the Master? Or Avril? There are a few very tangential reasons the AFR believe Orin may be responsible for disseminating the Entertainment (mostly due to the locales the packages are sent from and the target’s connections to Avril). I don’t know what to think.
Now, these are all ‘just’ plot points, and while they are fun and frustrating to get straight, there are obviously larger conversations to be had about the themes of the novel as well.
How did IJ make you feel and think about the nature of families, of addiction, how we communicate, our pursuit of happiness?