Week Eleven – Pages 728 – 795 (endnotes 303 – 332)

Week Eleven – Pages 728 – 795 (endnotes 303 – 332)

As the reading winds up (only two weeks left!) I am appreciative of how DFW has left a few major details to the last quarter of the book: this week we finally get the story of Joelle’s disfigurement, the details of Marathe’s wife. As well, Marathe infiltrates Ennet House and gets drunk with Kate Gompert, we see the Incandenzas through Joelle’s and Molly Notkins’ perspectives, Mario asks about sadness, Hal comes clean, and Pemulis gets the boot.

 November 14 – Yours Let You Keep Your Teeth?
As Marathe infiltrates Ennet House as an “addicted and deformed” Swiss, we hear snippets of conversation between two former cult members, and get his perspective on the house and the other residents, one that paints a lurid picture of the residents, as “a man without hands and feet tried to navigate a stairway…a tormented-appearing man scuttled like a crab…another young girl seemed to remove her eye from her head and placed it in her mouth..” (pp. 730-731).

We also meet Selwyn, who believes the residents are the 26 ‘metal people’  that exist as we live  our  Matrix-like existence inside a room with “pro-jections” that change where we think we are.

Once Marathe realizes he has found Madame Psychosis, and also discovers there are several smiley-faced cartridges in Pat Montesian’s office (donated from ETA) (p. 750), he is torn between sharing that info with the AFR and USOUS. We also learn that Marathe’s stomach is not really in the game anymore, and he hasn’t really firmed up his plan on how to extricate himself from his quadruple-agent work. He ends up in a bar, drinking heavily. By coincidence, Kate Gompert has also come in to the bar after her run in with Poor Tony. Here we finally get the story of Marathe’s wife. At the end, Marathe offers Kate a glimpse of the Entertainment (p. 782). Is this just a theoretical conversation,  or would he really take her to it if she said yes?

Joelle remembers her introduction to the Incandenzas
As she cleans her room at Ennet house (presumably while Marathe is downstairs? This section is not date-stamped), Joelle – prompted by her feelings for Gately – recalls her first meetings with James, Avril et al, as well as more background on her own Personal Daddy.  At first Orin “felt his mother was the family’s pulse and center, a ray of light incarnate” (p. 737), so something has markedly changed to shift his opinion of Avril to the absolute nadir of the other side.

Orin feels his father is unreachable, an “expressionless stare from a great height” (p. 737).   Joelle gradually appreciates JOI’s filmmaking, and gets the Howling Fantods from Avril  for reasons that are maddeningly difficult to articulate (this seems to be Avril’s super-power).

November 11 – Hey Moms? Mario and Avril talk about sadness
There are remnants of Avril and John Wayne’s dalliance in Avril’s office as Mario asks her “How can you tell is somebody’s sad?” Specifically, if someone is acting ‘even less low than normal. But still these suspicions are in your mind.” (p. 764). There is a discussion about existentialism, about having “a fragile sense of yourself as a person. As existing at all.” (p. 765).

November 12 – Hal comes clean to Mario
From Mario’s “All last night people were coming up going where is Hal” (p. 770) I assume this conversation is happening the evening of Nov 12.  Here Hal admits his addiction to pot, and asks Mario for advice. He also talks about masks (vis a vis Pemulis and his lies to the ONANTA guy) and asserts that monsters are not “faces in the floor” but “the type of liar where there’s no way to tell” (p. 774).

November 17 – Hal visits Ennet House
Johnette opens the door to a young boy who’s “talking had a burbly, oversalivated quality Johnette knew all too wicked well” (p. 787). There is a teaser here with the sentence “Much later, in subsequent events’ light, Johnette F. would clearly recall the sight of the boy’s frozen hair slowly settling.” (p. 787)



November 17 – Two Jump-Cut Endnotes (324  / 332)
Not attached to any text, we have two endnotes that float untethered, both on November 17. Pemulis tries to give Possalthwaite a pep talk on math at the one sure thing. We also learn that Wayne was in Pemulis’ room grabbing some of Troelstch’s Seldane, making Pemulis nervous, as he had circulated a leaflet about Avril and Wayne’s tryst. (p. 1069). At the end of this note, Stice drops in to say that “Troelstch’s got Wayne on the air and Wayne has lost his mind.” (p. 1072).

The second endote jumps a head a few moments, as Pemulis is being raked over the coals by DeLint. Wayne’s “Seldane” was actually some of Pemulis’ Tenuate, and now the prorectors have Pemulis over a barrel. And Avril is not taking his blackmail anymore.

Molly Notkin tells all…or does she?
We learn a lot of necessary information that has been a long time coming from Molly Notkin. She outlines the accident that deformed Joelle (another Thanksgiving!), provides more detail about the contents of IJ and claims that Avril and Orin were potentially lovers. She also says that JOI had a “belief in a finite world-total of available erections” (p. 789), which we know was a trait she attributed to her own boyfriend (P. 220). So what kind of reliable narrator is Molly?



  1. So the truth is I finished the book last week, don’t ask me how. It’s’ been haunting me ever since, I think it about it a lot and absolutely cannot fathom reading another book right now which is weird and totally discombobulating. Being in such an immersive universe for so long wasn’t trivial I guess. At any rate, here are my thoughts about this section. I cannot wait to discuss the ending and the book as a whole once everyone is done. Talk about needing to debrief.

    Avril freakin’ Incandenza, what a piece of work. I think I pretty much loathe her. Her interactions with Mario make me so uncomfortable and feel like crying. Poor Mario, although he certainly doesn’t seem to need the compassion if the book is to be believed.

    The proliferation of non-confluence (ha HA) of basic dialogue between characters in this book drives me bats.

    Page 777 “I feel I am chained in a cage of the self,” says Marathe. What’s with all these cage references? Is it like a solipsistic and/or nihilistic thing? Does it have to do with the seeming impossibility of characters to have even the most basic of bi-comprehensional interface with one another?

    I’ve come to the conclusion that there are def no reliable narrators in IJ, if you can even figure out who they are.

    On p. 791 there’s a reference to MP/Joelle feeling bad for making JOI stop drinking because it “had been all that the keeping the man’s tether raveled”. Sounds like Hal maybe?

  2. Trying to catch up up after falling behind. Must say things are now moving along quickly, so much so I find myself for the first time studying the always above synopsis. Still not sure of of every detail, or even the majority, but that is half the fun.
    First though I want to harken back to a tiny detail, an error i believe, that gave . And forgive me if it’s been covered. In the initial Hawaiian-themed party involving the Canadians, a reference is made to the the accompanying music as featuring “slack key steel.” There is no such thing. The slack key guitar is a regular acoustic one tuned down and can provide a mellow dreamy aura. A Hawaiian steel guitar is the flat iron board instrument fretted with a metal bar. It’s strings are far awat from the neck. In turn, this is not the pedal steel used in country, which is much more complex and is also used in Hawaii. Also a Don Ho record is said to have slack key guitars on it. I asked a friend from Hawaii about that (and the above issue) and he said while he is not sure he thinks Ho’s music was too commercial to feature the folkier instrument.
    Beyond that, Im just glad things are moving along and coming together. Happy to see Madame Psychosis back in action (especially since i dont have see the current state of her face). I am huge FM late night radio nonprofit radio fan and her character really connected. We had the Night Bird here in New York but im sure every center had an equivalent.
    As we approach the end i will try to buckle down and read up, going over outside sources. This book is deep and i find myself in the shallow end.

    • Oh, one thing I skipped and again it might not have been in most recent assigned reading, is the game of tennis, the big match between Hal and Stice. Wallace was a ranked player as a teen and wrote about about the game in periodicals even after finding literary success. The marriage of a brilliant writer and the thinking man’s game produces a level involvement and beauty seldom seen in sports writing. The epic Wimbledon of Federer and Nadal produced “Strokes of Genius” by Jon Wertheim. I found it enthralling but everyone who saw me with it said, if you’re going to read that you have to read “The Levels of the Game” about Arthur Ashe. Well, Ashe is one of the most compelling figures of the modern era and John McPhee’s study of his life, times and character woven through one match that changed this game and many ways the we world live in make for an achievement that easily transcends the limitations of tennis, sports and even nonfiction. It is emotional and important and like Wallace’s work, follows a plot line that goes back and forth and in and around one intraclub juniors showdown. It is Ulysses in shorts. Tennis allows for this with its breaks and lets and deuces. It just builds and you can go away and come back and it is still there.
      On a personal level, I was at the Sampras match in which he got sick on the court. Without checking, i’d say it went on for five hours. In fact, we ran down to a doubles semifinal, saw our favorite Martina Hingis lose in an upset , and scooted upstairs for the completion. Our detour did not detract, it enhanced the experience. Tennis allows that. It wants that. it’s about the characters, the acts and most importantly in this one-one-one game, the drama. That’s tennis, and that’s Wallace.

      • Jimsomnia

        Bill, thanks for the reference to the book about Arthur Ashe, will definitely check that out. The first time I read IJ, I found the extended descriptions of tennis matches and strategy to be tedious and irritating. I thought, “Well, this is just something the author has a passion for, but it’s not that interesting to those who don’t play a lot of tennis.” I’m finally starting to get it.

        Once again, the endnotes are amazing, and it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t understand why they aren’t included in the main text. DFW said a lot of different things about them in interviews, and at times seemed to imply that most of them were passages his editor had asked him to cut and he cut them but then stubbornly left them intact as endnotes. I believe that they also contain buried treasure – he seems to be revealing very private thoughts directly to the reader, but you have to work hard to find them. He even jokes at times about readers being overwhelmed by a giant block of miniature-font script, implying that he doesn’t think everyone will read every bit of it. My best example: endnote 321, in which Pemulis discusses the consequences of removing a substance and the entire concept of addiction. This was pretty far-out thinking at the time it was written and really flew in the face of the prevailing trend toward substance-abuse treatment in the 80’s and 90’s.

        My favorite endnote: 304a: Pimple cream.

        Make sure and pet the dogs!

  3. Johanna Schwartz

    We will definitely wrap with a recap/chat, maybe even a google hangout / skype so others can join, and a second in-person one, where I will hand out the achievement stickers. Didn’t you know you’ll all get stickers for finishing? Or maybe bookmarks…

  4. Bonnaventure

    I’m not sure where in the book my utter confusion became captivation. Only two weeks left? I’m enthralled, saddened and preemptivly sighing in relief.

    The jump cut end notes were disturbing as I saw them looming in the distance, but I was pleased to read them. They aren’t the drawn out or taxing notes I expected and I’m only slightly annoyed they aren’t just in the main text.

    I’m really happy we’re getting some confluence now, after I made a shocking revelation that the book’s talk of anticonfluential film making would be foreshadowing a book with no conclusion.

    Since I spaced on the meetup, can we arrange an après summer recap and chat? I need to talk about this book with others.

  5. Nick Parish

    This was the section where Hal and Don finally crisscrossed each other in my character likability matrix.

    Joelle’s perspective, that Hal’s kind of an irritating know-it-all, at least when she encountered him, puts a lot of his other relationships in perspective and really dings his charm.