Week Seven – Pages 430-503 (endnotes 175 – 208)

Week Seven – Pages 430-503 (endnotes 175 – 208)

Each week while I prep for this recap, I grab the pages I’ve just read between my fingers and am always amazed at what a small sliver of the book the week’s reading represented, and within that 1/4 – 1/2 inch of paper how many stories were covered.

This week, we wrap up a few threads that began last week (Clipperton, the rest of Mario’s film), we spend a lot of time with Don, and learn the intricacies of am drills at E.T.A, get the back story on Pat Montesian, hang out on the ledge with Marathe and Steeply, are privvy to the last moments of the Antitoi Bros. lives, and hear JOI’s voice for the first time, as he reflects on a childhood experience that later became the film “Valuable Coupon Has Been Removed”

Initial thoughts:

The Death of Eric Clipperton
I got a Columbine-shiver at the description of Eric as  a “spectral trench-coated figure.” I am intrigued by the relationship between Mario and Eric, and how Mario has never shared even with Hal the details of their conversations, and Mario’s need to clean the room on his own. He and Eric obviously bonded on a very real level. Thoughts on what Clipperton represents? The ultimate desire for the win, the show, taken to its morbid end? Is this the path LaMont Chu is on? Darcy, I remember you mentioning how fantastical the Clipperton scenes seemed, in context of the realism vs. fantasy of IJ, and I enjoy how DFW goes to lengths to set this up fairly straight forwardly – the initial games had no adult supervision, so no one stepped in to stop him – yet then lets the tale meander into absurdity, as his reign continues unfettered, met with ‘witheringly slight and scattered applause’ but then brings his suicide very much plausibly back into reality.

The second cautionary tale, of the un-named kid from Fresno, devolves into dark comedy with the continued Drano poisonings (and the pathos of the little pajama-clad feet -Damn DFW is good with pathos), and very much mimics the death of the Medical Attache et al.

Back to E.T.A, November 8, Interdependence Day film screening
By now, “Hal’s eyes are fevered and rolling around in his head” (p. 438) That seems bad. Mario (?) includes Orin in the  history of subsidized time, though a note on chronology states that this would have been historically inaccurate.

My Respect Grows for Don Gately
His steadfast commitment to sobriety, including his daily cleaning of the (shudder) Shattuck shelter, his honesty about struggling to name a higher power, and the story of lil Bim and his vodka-soaked mother…I just want to hug that big galoot. And I don’t want to know what happened to Nimitz the kitty. I loved the description of him driving Pat’s car, and just want happiness for him. But every time I think I am falling in love with Gately, DFW goes an mentions that terrible Prince Valiant haircut.

Time jump to late October 
Hal is dreaming about losing his teeth, and Madame Psychosis is off the air. Mario is agitated after seeing her screen in the booth. This confused me for a moment because I assumed that Joelle’s OD at Molly’s party on Nov 7 was when she would have stopped doing the show, but apparently she had quit the show earlier.

November 9 at E.T.A – Drills and skills
Hal appears to be better than he was yesterday, at least physically. Otis P Lord is back after the Eschaton debacle, but with the monitor screen still on his head with shards dangerously pointing at his throat. Schtitt lectures the boys, speaks of the new type of citizen they are turning the boys into, ones who are “Citizens of this sheltering second world” of the tennis court, inspiring, or demanding, that they put aside the complaints of the outside world (too hot, too cold) and grab the opportunity for a “chance to occur” (pg. 459) within this second world, which is both the court and the mind. Anyone else get a Werner Hertzog vibe from Schtitt?

Marathe and Steeply talk p-terminals, MK-Ultra, and Canadian experiments
I doubt there is a Canadian of a certain age who read this passage without thinking of this Heritage Minute ad (Doctor, I smell burnt toast!). Steeply’s discussion of Canadian scientists developing p-terminal stimulation techniques, and the non-deviant young Canadians who lined up for the leathal treatment is a bit heavy handed in its regard to the Entertainment. The discussion of MK-Ultra was a favourite topic of Pynchon (right Bill?). We also know that both sides have copies of the Entertainment at the ready!

Bonjour/AuRevoir, Antitios Brothers
I love how DFW is weaving all of the stories together. As Gately drives Pat’s car through the streets of Boston, the tires send a plastic cup into the air, hitting the window pane of Antitois Entertainment, sending Lucien (who cannot speak French!) to investigate. As he closes the door, it oddly continues to squeak, until he discovers that it is indeed the AFR, come for the master Entertainment tape they believe is being kept by the brothers. Oh that demise. So terrible. It reminded me of The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.

My guess: The old hippie that traded the DMZ and bag of “blank” cartridges is Steeply in disguise? Or another USS agent?

My question: Why does AFR think the master was stolen in the DuPlessis burglary and that the Antitois would have it? Did Steeply plant it then tip them off?  Why? If Gately actually did take it while “stripping the Brookline home as bare as a post-feral-hamster meadow” (p. 58) where is the master?

A Different Kind of Squeak
We end this week with an excerpt from “The Awakening of my Interest in Annular Systems,” where JOI, as a recognized pioneer of annual fusion, reflects on the day he realized, um, something important, about how the “cycloid’s standard parametric equations were no longer apposite” and I’m just gonna have to take your word on that James. BUT first, we are treated to the tale of JOI’s drunken father’s attempt to find the cause of a squeak in his bed.  Another amazing example of DFW’s stellar characterizations and dialogue. The filmed version of this story, a ‘possible Scandinavian-psychodrama parody’ actualizes the father’s claim that it sounds like rodents.

9 comments

  1. Ev Maverick

    I think the Eric Clipperton story, which in a way feels like an urban legend in parts is definitely a parable related to Lamont Chu’s ‘fame cage.’

  2. Bonnaventure

    I’ve been lacking in commenting, mostly because I find myself catching up over the weekend, and leaving the reading of the post until later. At that point I feel bad for being tardy.

    Winter, B.S. 1963 is a very cathartic read. The raw tension blows my mind. I’ve definitely been there in Himself’s shoes before. I however, never came up with any patentable revelations.

    I was abit thrown off by the transition from Gately’s cruise around Boston, to the Cartiridge Store Massacre of the Antitoi bros. Page 480 is a behemoth, really challenging my reading level. Are 480 and 481 just one long paragraph?

    Otherwise I found the Antitoi story very gruesome, but in an entertaining, Taratino sort of way.

    Speaking of Taratino, I’d have to concur with Adrienne re: the n-bomb. It’s descriptive of the character, which I think is honest but it gives me minor fantods to read it. Unlike Taratino, I don’t think DFW is being gratuitous with his usage.

    Re: monitor on the head; I think it’s funny that the aftermath of the Eschaton fiasco, which is obsessively complex and serious, is so whimsically absurd. Like a character out of fat Albert or a new Peanuts character.

    I’ll try to keep up and post more. I’ll be at the meetup too.

  3. Are there so few comments this week because people are getting lost? I echo DJB’s praise of Johanna’s summary, because I found that I didn’t scribble much in the margins this reading. I’m also plowing ahead since I’ll be out of the country the last week of the schedule, so urge people to hang in there as the threads weave together in the upcoming sections.

    Regarding the Heritage Minute, I definitely remember those ads. As a teenager I worked summers part-time at a venerable mental institution in my small Canadian town where lobotomies had been performed on the patients; and have always been fascinated by what procedures were performed and drugs administered in the name of science (LSD, I kid you not…)

    • Johanna Schwartz

      Not sure what the lack of comments represents…now that we are half way there, i hope we aren’t losing too many folks to the schedule. For those of the group who are reading the book for the second, third, etc time, it would be great to hear your impressions, even from remembered readings if you aren’t caught up.

      But for those of us hanging in here 🙂 I’m glad you are finding the overviews helpful… for me it provides some sort of linear constraint on an otherwise fragmented experience.

      • Caitlin Crockard

        I’m one of those who’s become lost, unfortunately — just finished this section today, August 17th. Yikes, but my summer has been providing me with way less reading time than I thought.

        I’m still hanging in, though! I agree with Joanna that the Steeply/Marathe sections are feeling pretty laborious by this point, though with useful tidbits contained sometimes (i.e. that both sides own an Entertainment tape). I also love the comparison of Schtitt to Hertzog — that is so good. My favourite line from that section is, “Not ‘adjust to conditions.’ Make this second world inside the world: here there *are* no conditions.”

        And holy cow, the Antitois section is so freewheeling that I gulped it all down, then had to stop and take a breather after the graphic description of Lucien’s impalement. I am amazed at how awful and yet how poetic DFW made that section — in one moment he’s describing Lucien “shuddering like a clubbed muskie,” but then finishes with “soaring north, sounding a bell-clear and nearly maternal alarmed call-to-arms in all the world’s well-known tongues.”

        Finally, I am also amazed at DFW’s ability to make the most banal of occurrences seem strange and tension-filled, as in JOI’s recounting of the mattress incident. There was something so odd and detached about the description of that event that I didn’t mind reading several pages on fixing a squeak.

        • Johanna Schwartz

          Glad you are still hanging in Caitlin! The description of Lucien’s death than ascension to heaven (?) was oddly one of the only sections that actually brought tears to my eyes. Even though there is so much grief and darkness in IJ, i think it was the hope, and release Lucien got that turned the taps on for me.

  4. A great summary by Joanna this week! There are so many nooks and crannies to explore in this novel. I’m not sure satisfying everyone’s interests/curiosities in a particular area is feasible. .. even at the modest pace of about 70 pages/week. There is just so much to chew on (at least for the first time reader). That said, I am pleased that a couple of sections that stood out for me in this week’s tranche were cited in Joanna’s summary.

    I was captured by the saying “Don’t worry about getting in touch with your feelings, they’ll get in touch with you” (Footnote 178) that opened up Gately’s ‘reexperience’ of life with his mother. Gosh, harrowing. Again, the helplessness (caged?) of our characters… “The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you”. Geeze.

    The prose of ‘A Different Kind of Squeak’ was a stark contrast to all we have been reading thus far. Perhaps a perspective on the mid-century when it occurred (1963)? Clear, simple, straightforward and yet somehow perverse. Reminded me of some of the writers at the time, Cheever, Updike, etc. If so, what does the style of most of the novel say about the near future… chaotic, confusing?

    Like I said… lots to chew on.

  5. Adrienne

    I was also confused by the whole Antitoi Brothers story. Amazingly I’m quite a bit ahead in the reading, though I have yet to figure out exactly what is going on with just about anything. Both the Clipperton and Drano stories seem almost emblematic of IJ in some ways to me, in that is seems very much DFWs style to throw in these asides (or are they? probably not and I’m just missing the complete picture at this time and/or they’re thematically related to overall tropes) that are great little vignettes in and of themselves but are also just devastating. The Mario video certainly helped explain the political context though it’s so complex I still don’t know exactly who’s working for whom.

    – p.444 and other places: use of the N-word. I don’t know how I feel about this at all. On the hand I think art etc, descriptive of characters etc. but on the other hand I’m very sensitive to this sort of thing. Jury’s out for me on it. I don’t know if it was as talked about an issue when the book was written as it is now?

    -p.459: more talk of self in relation to something bigger, in this case tennis. Interesting vis a vis happiness, as in, it seems like there’s this paradoxical way in IJ as if happiness and commitment to something bigger than the self are portrayed as both opposites and the same thing. I mean, in some way if you’re doing something fairly of your own volition it’s because some aspect of it makes you happier right? Yet Steeply and Marathe have these conversations about happiness as individual choice vs. denying pleasure (the Entertainment) for a bigger purpose.

    – Theme of borders and boundaries, of the self, countries, the tennis court, whether you’re in or out of AA etc.

    – What’s the significance of the master copy of IJ vs. the read-only copies?

    – I obviously forgot some fact bc how exactly did we know that it was JOI on p. 491 with the mattress story? I also still don’t really what annulation is. This is a world of advances physics as lingua franca as far as I can tell. Even the little kids at ETA are physic-ed up from the get go. I assume annulation has something to do with optics and IJ?

    • Johanna Schwartz

      Devastating vignettes is a great way to summarize so much of IJ!

      I hadn’t given much though to his/Gately’s use of the N-word, I think because it doesn’t play too major of a role, and is approached almost apologetically (see “Likewise his private term for blacks is n-, which is unfortunately still all he knows” endnote 141).

      My biggest issue with the book so far are the dialogues between Marathe and Steeply, as the talk around and around each other, and both arguments seem heavy-handed, and not all that persuasive to me.

      The master copy would mean the ability to make infinite numbers of duplicates, thus the ability to unleash the samizdat into a much wider arena.

      The mattress story is an excerpt from the “ferociously expensive hardcover” about pioneers of annular fusion, of which JOI was a huge part of, and references his father’s acting career, which is referenced on p. 162, when they are about to move back to California to “that celluloid sirens’ call.”

      Annular fusion is somehow ring-shaped in it’s reaction – that’s the extent of my knowledge!