Week Nine – Pages 580-651 (endnotes 241- 265)

Week Nine – Pages 580-651 (endnotes 241- 265)

In which Lenz’s nightly assaults catch up to him, Mario is missing Madame Psychosis, Orin has been entrapped by the “Swiss hand model,”  the WYYY engineer gets scooped up by the AFR, objects are moving around E.T.A, Steeply’s father obsessed over M*A*S*H and Day articulates the dark, billowing shape.  Compared to other weeks that have been filled with back stories, mathematics, and tennis lessons, this week we get some serious action.

Illusrtation by Benjamin Birdie’

Illusrtation by Benjamin Birdie’

November 11 – Lenz picks the wrong Polynesian ‘Nuck party 
As Lenz’s nightly escapades have been hampered by his walks with Bruce Green, it’s no surprise that Lenz eventually breaks away to continue his self-treatment for his “raging Powerlessness.” Green unintentionally becomes  a witness to the death of the large dog (Bebe, or Pepe), and may have accidentally appeared to the AFR across the street as a potential ONAN-ite agent, with his finger in his ear seeming like “he’s maybe receiving communiques from some kind of earpiece” (p. 589)

The tension is beautifully built here,  long before the Nucks show up outside of Ennet House, brandishing Lenz’ moustache as well as their serious weaponry. The descriptions of Gately’s efforts to get everyone in under curfew, the frustration of trying to then get everyone back out to move their cars, filled me with anxiety even before the Nucks arrived. The situation unfolds over twelve breathlessly paced pages. Very cinematic.

The Lenz story is a really giant part of the middle of this book – running almost 44 pages (pp. 538-548 /  553-562 /  575-589 / 608-619). And compared to other sections that discuss conceptual/emotional/spiritual ideas, I would say the Lenz section’s role is mostly to move one significant plot point ahead (Gately getting shot).

Orin is in trouble
We are left at the precipice of Orin getting into some serious trouble as it is slowly revealed that not only is the wheelchair’d ‘fan’ someone a little more nefarious (duh) but that the swiss hand model is complicit, hiding under the covers with an oxygen mask and firearm. The AFR agent’s ‘survey’ about what Orin misses the most (television, mostly re-runs, how “the familiarity was inflicted”), and what he misses the least,  which we don’t get to hear. At least we know Orin is not dead, because of the reference to “what struck Orin later as odd.” (p. 600).

The WYYY engineer gets nabbed
In another highly cinematic scene, an AFR assassin moguls down the hill by the lake, scooping up the engineer in a sort of snowplow attachment to the wheelchair, to be deposited in the van waiting below. Do Tine and Steeply watch this unfold through their 8th story window?

Nov 11 – There are a lot of strange things happening at E.T.A.
Hal, Pemulis et al have come out of the meeting with Tavis apparently unscathed. We learn that Hal is going clean (p. 635) and the excessive saliva may be the first sign of pot-withdrawl. Ortho’s near-win against Hal has him thinking he may be able to will objects to move, which may explain his bed moving, as the ball on the court  curved “like a drenched spitter” in play. Also, objects are appearing in odd places, even suspended from walls with no apparent means of attachment .

Steeply’s father’s obsession with M*A*S*H
This story reminded me of how many episodes of M*A*S*H I probably watched as a kid. I couldn’t get enough, and lord knows it was literally on four times a day. Fortunately, I did not dive into madness like Mr. Steeply.

One more bizarre/funny/weird endnote issue  – the ‘author’ is compelled to insert [sic] endnotes re: Betamax (e. 263) AND recycling (e. 264) but lets Steeply’s mis-naming the actor who played Burns (Larry Linville) as Maury Linville go un-noted.

Day articulates Kate Gompert’s ‘feeling’
The “large, dark, billowing shape” that Day accidentally ‘frees’ during a session of violin playing seems to really resonate with Kate, and is much like what she was trying to explain to the doctor when she was in the psych ward.


  1. Johanna Schwartz

    I’ve thought a lot about IJ The Movie, and while I agree that it is to some degree ‘un-filmable’ and more to the matter would likely either disappoint fans or flummox non-fans, it is still fun to think about – and stunt cast!

    A quick google search shows that Michael Schur, who directed the Decemberists video I shared, actually owns the film rights. Which is great, because then at least it is in safe hands (not to say that Van Sant couldn’t do a good job). The same article I read also talks about an episode of Parks and Rec he did which is FILLED with IJ references: http://popwatch.ew.com/2013/04/05/parks-and-recreation-infinite-jest/ How did I not know about this???

    I could see an adaptation that would omit Erdedy/Gompert/Poor Tony, etc, and would just focus on the Incandenzas, Pemulis, Gately, van Dyne, Lenz, Steeply and Marathe.

    I like to imagine IJ as a Wes Anderson movie (loosely playing with my time machine with some of the actors)

    My pics:

    Hal – Jason Schwartzman
    Avril – Angelica Houston or Tilda Swinton
    James – Jeff Goldblum or maybe John Malkovich
    Orin – Owen Wilson
    Pemulis – Luke Wilson
    Mario – Andy Serkis in a performance capture suit + CGI
    Marathe – Adrien Brody
    Steeply – Bill Murray
    Joelle – A stumper – Scarlet Johansson? Definitely not Goopy Gwyneth.

    Maybe at the end of this summer we should have a google hangout or some other way to chat coast to coast to coast that could include more folks. I know I love reading everyone’s ideas, and I would love to talk IRL!

    • Johanna Schwartz

      Oh and I forgot Randy Lenz – Edward Norton

      • Johanna Schwartz

        Damn and Gately! Who would be Gately? We need a gentle giant.

    • Admittedly, the casting of such a film would be fun. Johanna, I also did have the strong sense there was a Wes Anderson feel to the Incandenzas esp. from the movie ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’. However, my casting would have more of a Tarantino/Scorsese slant. A young Harvey Keitel and Ray Liotta etc. As this is for an ‘imaginary film’ I’m assuming we can choose actors from their younger years and even those that are no longer with us? Marilyn Monroe has a role for sure. Indeed, this is fun.

    • Jimsomnia

      Yes, Tilda Swinton as Avril! Bill Murray as Steeply – that’s really funny, thanks, now I can’t read Steeply without picturing that. I see Gately as Phillip Seymour Hoffman (kind of an ironic choice, eh?) as he looked in The Master, only half again as big.

      It could be directed by Charlie Kaufman, but would have been done better by Kubrick.

      • Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Gately, direction by Kubrick… brilliant!

  2. Adrienne

    I’m quite a bit ahead in the book, nearly done actually, but sort of dragging my feet because I don’t think things are going to end well and this is just, to me, an intense book. Sure, it’s funny and so smart and has so much going for it but it’s certainly not a light read. All the addiction, mental illness, family abuse and dysfunction, oy. It’s starting to get to me a bit I think. Of course then there are those transcendent moments of levity that ring so true. So that’s an aside but there was a line in this week’s section I noted that relates: “It is increasingly hard to find valid art that is about that is real in this way”. This way being “heartbreak and people you loved dying and U.S. woe”. IJ is certainly valid art and if you’re fortunate enough to not have to deal with much of this “real” stuff in your daily life then I suppose it’s important to get that stuff somewhere at least sometimes for empathy building reasons.

    I love and am intrigued and also totally creeped out by whatever the heck is going on at ETA wrt Never Underestimate Inanimate Objects. Looking forward to that reveal. Maybe?

    I kind of like viscerally hold the book away from me when I read about Lenz I think.

    IJ as mini (maxi?)-series! Yes! Could be epic.

    Also sad I won’t be at the meet-up this weekend. I am far, far on the other side of the concavity in California. Pour one out for DFW for me. Sorry AA Crocodiles.

  3. Jimsomnia

    The whole section starting with Green and Lenz’s walk and ending with Gately being shot is one of my favorite parts of the book. As Johanna said, very cinematic. So, does anyone have any thoughts about having this book made into a movie? Obviously, it would be very difficult to get a lot of the philosophy and nuance across in a film, as with, for example, Catch-22 or Gravity’s Rainbow. Do you think it could be effectively made into a movie? I think I read once that the film rights were purchased by Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Milk, etc.)

    • Oh gosh… IJ a movie? I just don’t see it. There is simply too much ground to cover. I doubt a director would take such a big risk on the novel beloved by a loyal many. There is no upside. Offend those that have read and admire it or confuse/frustrate non-readers.

      That said, may be a TV series à la “Twin Peaks”, “Breaking Bad”, “Downton Abbey” or maybe a movie based on a narrow section of the book that stands on its own (lots to choose from)?

  4. This was one of my favorite sections so far, maybe because as Johanna said there’s so much action, but I think also because for me it shows DFW’s knowledge of pop culture before his time and that fascinates me. (a stenographer taking Gregg dictation p. 622 for example). I think he must have been an old soul. And I also can’t get enough of MASH, Johanna, that was a bit of a trip down memory lane.

    There were many reminders of a simpler time, but the one that stood out to me the most was the section on p. 620 “Hence the new millenium’s passion for standing live witness to things”. What would DFW make of the overload on social media today I wonder? People are so busy documenting their lives that perhaps they are not fully living them.

    Anyhow, I digress. I loved the reference to “narcotizing orchestral arrangements of old Carpenters songs” p. 589. Also the “what I miss on TV” p. 599. The Canadiens of the N.L. of H. on p. 640 (how come so many people are Habs fans???) p. 623 – or Robert McCloskey’s equally beloved and timeless “Blueberries for Sal”.

    So disappointed that I’ll miss the Calgary discussion on the 10th, would love to hear how it goes.

    • Johanna Schwartz

      I thought a lot about his comment on the ‘passion for standing live witness to things’ which comes a need to be present and in crowds due to the over-reaching isolation caused by interlace / telecommuniting, etc. As it stands now, we have yet to be ‘released’ from the burden of going out of our house, yet we choose to self-isolate even (or especially) while in public, staring at our phones at cafes, watching live music through our phones while at concerts. I think DFW would have hated Instagram.

  5. Benjamin Sherlock

    Just wanted to say that even though I’ve fallen way behind I’m still reading these avidly, I hope you guys keep reading and posting after the summer so I can actually take part!

    • Johanna Schwartz

      I think there will be a LOT to talk about after the summer is over. It’s one thing to parse this in sections and whole other to step back and look at the book as a whole. I’m very excited about it!