Week Five – Pages 283-358* (endnotes 93-140)
Wherein we traverse 47 endnotes (!), get some perspective on Orin and JvD’s relationship, shudder in a bathroom stall with Poor Tony Krause, brush up on our Quebecois separatist history, understand the extent of Mario’s disfigurements, check in with Marathe and Steeply, and learn about Eschaton.
*The reading schedule for this week ends abruptly in the middle of our first real dive into Boston’s AA community. If it is alright with everyone, I would like to hold off on that section until next week so we can talk about it as a whole, and constrain ourselves this week by ending at the disastrous Eschaton game, (so up to page 342 instead).
We learn more about Orin’s transition from tennis to football, and his relationship with P.G.O.A.T. Joelle van Dyne (aka Madam Psychosis).
The way that Avril plays Orin to go to Boston U. is a very clear view into their distorted relationship. Orin describes Avril as “a contortionist with other peoples bodies.”
Ugh – I just think CT is a mealy-mouthed usurper.
We move very quickly in this section from Orin’ full ride to Boston U, his transfer from tennis to trying out for football because of a certain baton twirler, the moment of fate that reveals his true talent at punting, the courtship of JvD (who approached him), their moving in together, her budding drug addiction, finally to her later film work with JOI. It’s a very dense, and narratively traditional, excepting the 11 endnotes that are peppered throughout.
Some notes on the endnotes in this section:
- I love the description of Avril and CT colliding in the hallway as they avoided Orin and Mario, respectively (e. 98)
- I know who Andrea Dworkin is, but is Pizzatola anyone I should have head of? No google results found (e.105)
It’s November 14, YDAU, the last day of Poor Tony Krause’s life.
There is only one endnote in this section, so there is very little to break the grotesque description of Tony’s withdrawl and resulting death on the subway, though the one endnote on “Then he had a seizure” (p. 305) jumps us out of the frame, just to learn the scientific definition of a seizure, before we jump back into the subway car. This section is so moving, so heart-breaking. We also learn it was Tony indeed who stole the heart in the purse, and know that he also has a connection to the Antitoi Bros. The German word Zuckung, which means convulsion, is somehow put in his head. Poor Tony Krause.
While ETA has rigorous academics, the prorector’s classes are a bit…off.
We get another peek into ETA which starts from the perspective of Ted Schacht, and then seamlessly moves into Hal’s POV.
E. 110 includes the phone message from Orin, the letter from Avril and Orin’s form letter response. and Hal and Orin’s phone call about why Quebec would make an abrupt right face and fight O.N.A.N. ‘for” Canada, and mention of Steeply’s questions about the samizdat, as well as twelve subnotes to the endnote.
Poor Mario Incandenza…
The description of all of Mario’s birth defects just goes on and on. [Rob – you’ll look up all the medical terms for us, right?] The section opens with the odd sentence “The first birth of the Incandenza’s second son was a surprise” (emphasis mine).
We also learn that optics have played a role in the history of the Incandenzas going way back (his great-grandfather invented xray specs), and an odd endnote (e. 114) shifts time by announcing that the Year of Glad was indeed the last year of subsidized time, assuming a historic perspective from the author.
There are also the two “overshot the chance to add….” endnote addendums. I can’t articulate why that is funny to me.
Back to the ledge with Marathe and Steeply
This conversation seems to basically re-summarize the 18 page endnote phone conversation of Orin and Hal. Do we really learn anything new from this section?
Twenty-one pages are dedicated to the description of a game of Eschaton gone horribly, horribly wrong. It’s a huge section that just whipped by for me (much like the next one on AA meetings did, which we can talk about as a whole next week). It’s also Interdependence Day (apt to be posting this on July 4), and there is a stranger in a green car watching the game.
It’s another great piece that really fills out the ETA universe, with detailed descriptions of the students and the game.
But Hal sure is acting strange, and we are kept at a distance from his thoughts that we aren’t accustomed to. He seems to be struggling to articulate his ideas, the narrative voice just scratches the surface, and never dives deeper, and near the end, Hal feels at his face to see if he is wincing (p. 342), a gesture we saw in the opening section of the book in the Year of Glad. It’s November 8, YDAU. Have we started to lose Hal already?
This section was pure joy for me to read as it was a prime example of DFW’s playful fuckery w/r/t the endnote structures. We are tossed all around in terms of voice, time, perspective. It’s a complete, beautiful mess. I was tickled by Pemulis’ narrative on the Mean-value formula, as told to and later transcribe by Hal, who interrupts editorially. It assumes Pemulis/Hal are indeed writing this to someone – are they speaking directly to us? Endnote 127 seems to be written entirely by Pemulis, who can’t help himself by adding a “P.S. Wolf-spiders Ruleth the Land.” Also, what on earth did Pemulis do to the mirror to torment M.H. Penn?
Whew, ok so that’s all I have so far. I wish I could eloquently describe just how tickled i am by the endnote structure.
And I want to leave you with this: