Week Eight – Pages 503 – 580 (endnotes 209-240)

Week Eight – Pages 503 – 580 (endnotes 209-240)

Before we get into the horror that is Randy Lenz, we meet up with Roy Tony once more, wait out the repercussions of Eschaton in the HrH’s vey blue waiting room, the morning sun is about to rise on Marathe and Steeply, Pemulis has some very important info about Avril, Joelle and Don have a hard time talking with each other, and Orin is seduced by a hand model.

November 9 – NA Beginner’s meeting with Ken Erdedy, Kate Gompert and Roy Tony
Our first introductions to the pains of addiction came from Ken and Kate and their struggles with pot. 500 pages later, we are briefly brought back through the NA meeting, where Ken notes that the feeling of anhedonia, while not mentioned outright, “seemed to hang fog-like just over the room’s heads” (p. 504).  Ken makes a critical error trying to avoid a hug from Roy Tony (a serious badass if you will recall from Clenette’s tale of Wardine and Wardine’s momma and Roy Tony p.  37).

November 10 – Hal, Pemulis, Kittenplan, Axford wait outside CT’s office, while Avril “diddle-checks” the girls
What to make of the parallels between the Hal sitting in the waiting room outside Tavis’ office, with it’s deep blue pile rug, and Pemulis’ “rodential squeaking” of his chair (p. 509), and the blue rug of JOI’s father’s bedroom and the “rodential squeaking” of the bedframe from last week’s section? Also, Clenette has been in CTs office the entire time?

CT, an “odd and delicate specimen” (p. 517) has a “pathological openness of manner” (p. 519) and Avril seems to be a master manipulator, in a way only a mother truly can be. (We get a very chilly analysis of Avril from Orin in endnote 234.)

So many instances of the ridiculous presented as the mundane here: Otis Lord still with monitor affixed, eye holes cut out of the monitor’s base, the story of the multi-eyed, yet blind kid with “cranium-issues” who had to wheel an IV cart with a metal brace for his head around on the court, Lateral Alice Moore (I enjoyed how long DFW dropped  references to LAM before finally letting us in on the reason behind the nickname).

Marathe and Steeply
I’ve mentioned this before, but damn these scenes really start to drag me down. If you compiled the entirety of their conversation together, it would read as so repetitive, cyclical, and heavy handed. Yes, the “Oriental myth” and Medusa/Odalisque again brings home the idea that humans will freely choose deadly temptation. We do learn that Marathe is by all accounts a quadruple agent, or perhaps a rogue agent, as he has chosen his wife over the cause.  I’d be curious to hear others’ opinions on these conversations on the desert ledge.

November 11 – Don and Joelle have a stilted conversation
Don relates a story from his days Out There, and tries to get Joelle to talk about the veil. I was really bothered by how difficult it was for them to speak to each other. I really wanted them to be able to connect. Joelle’s movement from plain, relatable language to her academic tone when talking about UHID becomes a sore point for Don, which then devolves into an argument. When JvD finally caves to Don’s repeated question about what exactly is wrong with her, she says she is ‘deformed with beauty.’

 November 9 – Pemulis catches Avril and John Wayne together
Beyond the great visual of Avril in splits and John Wayne in a jock strap and football pads, we now know that Pemulis has this information locked and loaded when he enters CT’s office the next day.

Goddamn Randy Lenz
How do we talk about someone like Randy Lenz? DFW provides so much insight into his psyche, yet I was still left entirely emotionally unconnected to him. He is such a detestable person, mostly to me because of his sense of entitlement, his ‘specialness’ and as his conversation with Green shows, he is completely disconnected from reality. And of course, his abuse of animals is really really disturbing. We are given so much time with Lenz that I wanted to shower afterwards. Also in this section, the comedic/tragic death of Green’s mother and the bizarre situation of his father’s irregular leg lengths and his descent into murderous despair.

Orin doesn’t seem safe at all
‘Helen’ is gone, after the interview turns a bit sour, and Orin’s wheelchair ‘fans’ are back, as well as a stunning hand model, who seems to know exactly how to woo him, and whose accent is suspiciously similar to the “legless surveyor”(p. 575)

Adrienne – here’s all the info you wanted about Annual Fusion
Idris Arslanian (why does a Pakistani have an Armenian name?) gets schooled by Pemulis on the details of Annual Fusion, as Lyle works with poor Doucette, who can’t wrap his head around it, especially “the temporal-flux stuff.”


  1. Nick Parish

    I think Marathe-Steeply as a discrete, self-contained unit in the story can be tedious, and overfull of scenic detail, but it serves an important point: it sets up a dialogue to argue both sides of the philosophical divide around The Entertainment.

    We have the wheelchair assassins carrying out their various recon elements, and we have the government doing its due diligence, but we never really have a kind of ethical-moral clash of this grasshopper and ant parable together.

    We find out later it’s not as cut-and-dry, loyalty or devotion-wise, as those guys on the ledge make it seem, but the discussion in AZ plays an important part, drawing us out of the MA drama and closer to a meta-understanding of what constitutes The Entertainment and what the stakes are.

  2. I’m caught up as of right now.
    Side note: On Facebook today i saw a video on the weaponization of a microwave. It was turned into a ray gun that made a boombox explode, which seemed to jibe with what we’ve read here.
    Speaking of which, I keep going back to the mountaintop soup discussion. To me, the answer to Marathe’s question is simple. You give the other the soup. You are your brother’s keeper. Some people don’t feel that way. It’s not their concept of civilization. The French Separatists were not unlike the IRA and had the same basic enemy. Canada has Boxing Day, no?
    So now it’s become clear it is the French Canadians, that they have resorted to the “Entertainment” to even the odds against an enemy that won’t pass the soup.

    • Johanna Schwartz

      I thought Boxing Day was because you had so many empty boxes left over from Christmas 🙂

  3. Bonnaventure

    Lenz is a real monster, but his characterization keeps me reading. He refers to himself as Yrstrly at some point, I switched to hard copy of the book from e reader, so I couldn’t check back to that section easily. Does anyone remember which pages that occupies?

    Re: annular fusion. I don’t much understand the science, but I think that’s the point. We should be baffled and we shouldn’t really be trusting what’s unfolding in front of us. Who knows what kind of shenanigans President Gentle is up to? My guess is that it’s a sham covered up by the mysterious OSS, however that doesn’t account for JOI’s patents.

    Im a half week behind schedule, between an erratic schedule and the density of this section I’ve fallen behind. The Lenz and Green bits are wonderful but very dense. These walls of text are really testing me as a reader. A friend told me he quit around page 400 after feeling he was treading water. I’m occasionally worried I’m doing the same, and get pulled back in by these recaps. Thanks again Johanna and all the commenters.

  4. Jimsomnia

    I’m new here but not to IJ. This is my third reading. I first read it a few years ago when I had a job as a movie theatre projectionist, which allowed me to read uninterrupted for hours at a time; not the case now – and it’s much harder to catch up with the schedule. Read it all the way through once, then a second time, but skipped some of the parts I found tedious. Third time around, I find there are many things I’m just beginning to understand for the first time.

    DFW’s fiction is in a league of its own. When I watch a film by a director like Kubrick, Coppola, or Annaud, and then watch some other mainstream hollywood production, it looks like a cheap cardboard movie in comparison. Same with DFW, most other fiction seems cheap and shallow. After reading long sections, it feels like I have DFW’s voice in my head, and he seems to be narrating what I’m seeing and doing for the rest of the day.

    I understand everyone’s revulsion about Randy Lenz, but I find the sections about Lenz and
    Gately to be beautifully written. And here’s and example of why IJ is so much fun: p560, after rambling nonstop about attacking people with aikido and giant feral babies and such, Lenz suddenly mentions a Nuck cult that worships a form a Russian roulette involving jumping in front of trains, and I’m saying to myself, “Hey, that’s true, I know about that!” I love this book.

    • Johanna Schwartz

      Your re-reading experience was very similar to mine. I found it took three reads to really begin to crack the nut.

  5. Darcy Frisch

    I too found the Marathe/Steeply sections a bit tedious. In fact, both of these characters are a little hard to connect too (except for a later section when Marathe gets a bit tipsy in a bar).

    As for annular fusion, I wouldn’t be overly concerned with understanding how it works. It is fictitious after all. But the concept of annularity, which is prominent throughout the book, is always intriguing. The novel itself has an infinite loop / mobius strip construction to it, so annularity as a source of energy fits suits me just fine, even though I could never explain it. FYI, DFW also wrote a non-fiction book about the mathematics of infinity.

  6. Adrienne

    You guys, this just happened to me. I was driving with my husband and we stopped at a light next to this old, crazy car with two eccentrically marginal looking guys in it. My husband said, that looks like something out of a movie, and I said, it looks like something out of that DFW book I’m reading. So I have IJ on my mind when not 5 seconds later we turn onto campus (we work at a university), and there are giant banners everywhere for some pro tennis tournament that’s taking place here. I literally screamed a little.

    • Adrienne

      AND NOW: I was looking someone up that I need to talk to in another department and their last name is DuPlessis. Sorry but I just had to report, it’s too weird.

      • Johanna Schwartz

        Jeez! If you hear a squeak watch out!!!

  7. Johanna, (sorry about misspelling your name last week) I don’t mind the Marathe and Steeply scenes at all. For me they provide a bit of a pause/relief from the manic narrative of the rest of the novel. The whole desert night vibe coupled with the comedy of Steeply’s clothes and mannerisms has become somewhat comforting.

    The Lenz sections are simply gripping. I am a few sections ahead of schedule and can say that it keeps getting better.


    • Johanna Schwartz

      I do love the visual of their shadows sweeping out over the desert. So who do you think is ‘reliable’? Orin for thinking Helen is beautiful, or Marathe for seeing how hideous he is as a woman?

      • You do ask a lot of questions Johanna… ‘You burn with hunger for food that does not exist’ 🙂

        I’ll declare that as a casual reader untaught in literary criticism and a first time reader of IJ, I struggle with some of the analysis discussed in this group. I’m enjoying the novel at a certain level but often miss the nuances being raised here. So, who is reliable? Actually, I didn’t think Marathe found Steeply hideous. While he did point out how Steeply’s ‘costume’ had issues I thought he did so in an endearing way. As well, I’m not sure I saw Orin’s view that he was beautiful. Again, very likely I may have missed the clues.

  8. Adrienne

    Is anyone else getting an Arrested Development vibe from this book? Did I ask that already? The quirkiness, the familial dysfunction, the self-referentiality, etc. (You guys know about Arrested Development in Canada right? You have netflix? I’m sorry I’m so ignorant). The more I read about the Incandenzas and ETA the more intimate yet creepy it all becomes. For instance, the sweet but deceptive candid pics of students in the headmaster’s waiting room, like there’s some sort of affection there, as there is I think between some members of the Incandenza family, but you know it’s all matched at the very least with alienation and mind games. Poor Hal just keeps showing wear and tear at the seams.

    Endnote 216 made me laugh out loud. It’s after the “Coatlicue Complex” that Dr. Rusk thinks Hal has, you’re expecting it be some sort of explanation of said complex, however the footnote is simply, “No clue”. After I laughed I was like, WHO has no clue? WHO’S writing these footnotes anyhow. Clearly not an omniscient third person narrator, because that entity can’t have “no clue” basically by definition.

    Forget the howling fantods, the Lenz part gives me the f-ing fantods something awful.

    I think I, like Doucette, have “this insurmountable conceptual block that keeps [me] from grasping annulation”. I sort of understand the waste cycle thing. Maybe. But by the end of the section when they start talking about the “relativity of time in extreme organic environments” I’m just a little lost, and I’m generally on board with relativity of time stuff. I wonder if this is going to have an affect of future plot lines.

    Well that’s it for me tonight. I just looked in the baby monitor and saw that my child, who should have been asleep a long time ago, had somehow taken off his diaper and was wandering around his crib stark naked maybe saying his current equivalent of “help”. Needless to say it’s too hot here, hopefully some of that can come up your way Johanna.

    • Johanna Schwartz

      I think there’s a great thesis just waiting to be written comparing the Bluths to the Incandenzas, as well as the pretty much continuous use of callbacks and hidden references. Anyone else catch the references about Dwayne aka “Doony” Glynn, who not only took a drug called “The Madame” but is also the one who had the bucket of bricks dropped on his head? (p. 543). I halfway expect to read about a stair-car driving by.

      I absolutely love how the shifting voice (which can be expected in a postmodern novel) carries itself all the way to the endnotes, where we wouldn’t expect it – with even Pemulis having a go at writing them. At that point, it becomes less of who is writing them, and more of who are they talking to? What audience would Pemulis be aware of? And, also, that infers that it is Hal (or Mario, our scribe?) writing the book if he’s gotten Pemulis to weigh in? When the narrative slips into “like, and so,” etc, it really sounds like Hal. Have we had any first person sections yet? (I don’t think so…). I love surrendering to this book, and washing away all of my need for linear plot, established voice, reliable narration.

      I am with Darcy, I don’t give too much thought to the details of annular fusion, but the pick up on circularity/polarity is key. The ouroboros that mark certain passages (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouroboros), the themes of beauty/deformity, entertainment/death, and the face we show the world vs our inner self.

  9. Denise Mamaril

    We are finally catching up to where I put the book down back in March. The long section on Randy Lenz was where I started to withdraw from the story. I’m glad not to have to reread it to get going again. Looking forward to reading in real time with everyone in the coming week.