Week Ten – Pages 651 – 728 (endnotes 266-302)

Week Ten – Pages 651 – 728 (endnotes 266-302)

Now that we are very significantly past the half way mark, are you feeling speculation about where the novel is taking us? What our final destination will be? We know Hal ends up non-verbal, trapped inside his own, unreliable body, but where will the AFR’s search for the samzidat lead? What journey is Don on, or Joelle, or even Lenz?

November 11 – Incandenza vs Stice
We get to witness the match that was referenced last week, a game seemingly arranged for the benefit of Moment magazine’s Helen Steeply, and as the match plays out, we get a first-hand account of the odd behaviours of Stice’s ball, seemingly moved by “mysterious curves and downdrafts that seemed to favour The Darkness alone” (p. 637) when Hal’s ball makes “an abrupt tight curve out of bounds” (p. 680) while Hal’s face “registered nothing”

There is also a quick re-set of some characters, recalling their place in time this afternoon of November 11. Don is waking up, and will be shot later that night. Poor Tony is about to leave the confines of his bathroom stall and have a seizure on the subway. Pemulis and Struck are reading up on the potency of DMZ, CT is dealing with the aftermath of Eschaton, Avril is MIA, and Orin is being lured into a trap by (we will soon learn) Luria P____.

I would also connect the later info that an “employee at the Academy of Tennis of Enfield had been recruited and joined the Canadian instructor and student already inside” (p. 726) to mean that Poutrincourt was indeed the agent/ instructor, and likely John Wayne the agent/student. Who would the employee be? Clenette?

I noted that Steeply seemed to take on the verbal patterns of Marathe when talking with Poutrincourt. It was an interesting switcheroo.

Letters from Marlon Bain
Saprogenic Greetings – Saprogenic meaning “causing or produced by putrefaction or decay” – is a part of the same company Bruce Green’s father worked for, which I am guessing also supplies the novelties for the Antitoi Bros. store. In another grotesque ‘coincidence’ it also seems that the very accident that caused Alice Moore to become Lateral also caused the deaths of Marlon’s parents.  Marlon, he of the persistent sweating, holds nothing back in his evisceration of Avril’s character, and sheds some key intel on Orin as well. The story of the nubbin-like remains of ol S. Johnson is a sorry tale indeed and reveals depths of issues from both mother and son.

What word (or really, who’s name) do you think Avril post-coitally wrote on the fogged up window of the Volvo? 

Nov 11 – The Tunnel Club Explores
As Hal and Orin play, the younger kid are exploring the tunnels, clearing them for the erection of the Lung, and keeping their eye out for feral hamsters. Not much happens,until later Blott comes by to tell Hal about “something disturbing they encountered” (p. 714). We will have to wait to find out what it was.

Nov 14 – The sad and horrible story of Pemulis’ brother Matty + Poor Tony purse snatches 
Matty Pemulis sees Poor Tony walk by a window of the Man ‘O War Grille. Then we get his back story. Ugh. nuff said.

Poor Tony, who has been released after three days in the hospital, causes Kate Gompert to have a serious concussion while purse-snatching from her and Ruth in the hopes that he can come to the Antitois Bros with cash instead of asking for charity. We learn that PT has helped the anti-ONAN Quebecers before.

A broader discussion of depression, from both Kate and Hal’s p.o.v. Kate. There is a gap at the bottom of page 692 that is either an accident or intentional. I am guessing intentional, but I don’t know what it means. We learn that Hal “hasn’t had a bona-fide intensity-of-interiour-life-type emotion since he was tiny” – a possible connection to the eating of the mold?  Kate’s psychotic depression seems bone-chillingly horrible. There is mention of the man who became depressed from the head injury, and later Kate has a head injury of her own. Maybe it will reverse her condition, like an old-timey movie trope?

In this same section, there is a smilar touch point on what characters areup to that I assume is time-stamped Nov 14 also, incl. Pemulis grabbing something (likely illicit) from the ceiling panel, Avril calling Moment magazine, Schitt and Mario going to get ice cream, and Lyle levitating.

Nov 11 – Hal watches some JOI films / Joelle goes to an NA meetingBlood Nun: One Tough Sister could be a Grindhouse flick by Tarantino. Joelle seems decidedly racist considering Madame Psychosis seems to be incredibly intellectual (and by my leap of logic, therefore less apt to call someone “colored”).

Nov 14 – Lenz is prowling the streets
And he’s about to rob two chinese ladies of their shopping bags. Again, incredibly racist.

Nov 14 – The AFR are still at the Antitois Bros, looking for the samzidat
They find a read-only copy, we learn the cardboard cut out was in fact the FLQs handiwork, the engineer hasn’t fared well, and if Poor Tony is on his way there, it will get ugly. Also, the AFR’s motivations are pure chaos, wanting  to “render Canada itself unwilling to face the U.S.A retaliation…[so that] Quebec would not be so much allowed, as required by Ottawa to secede, to face on its own the wrath of a neighbour struck down by its own inability to say ‘Non’ to fatal pleasures” (p. 722).

They are also looking for Joelle, combing the recovery houses of Boston, having learned from the engineer that she is in treatment.


  1. Bonnaventure

    I’m so ashamed I completely spaced out on the meetup!

    I read a lot of the depression stuff the day I heard about Robin Williams. Definitely had issues keeping it together, and it really made me think about my own struggles.

    It’s hard to separate addiction and depression in my mind. I know they are not 1:1 but for my perspective they’ve always been close siblings. They feed one another liberally and DFW clearly knows a thing or two about it.

    The geo political stuff isn’t so bad for me, but since my reading time can be fractured I find myself losing the thread slightly when I can tell we’re getting another character’s perspective of something we’ve read before.

    DFW seems to be intentionally vague wrt these parts, except when he’s not.

  2. Anyone else get depressed reading about anhedonia and depression?

    p. 692 “… anhedonia’s often associated with the crises that afflict extremely goal-oriented people who reach a certain age having achieved all or more than all than they’d hoped for. The what-does-it-all-mean type crisis of middle-aged Americans”.

    This passage at first bothered me because I thought he was being dismissive of middle-aged (North) Americans, since I’m in that category ha. But when I read:

    p. 695 “One of the really American things about Hal, probably, is the way he despises what it is he’s really lonely for; this hideous internal self, incontinent of sentiment and need, that pules and writhes just under the hip empty mask, anhedonia”.

    I felt that this must have been a glimpse into DFW’s psyche, re: his suicide. This was just reinforced as I continued reading:

    p. 696, the entire second paragraph from Kate Gompert’s pov, but especially the last sentence –
    “Everything is part of the problem, and there is no solution. It is a hell for one.”

    The rest of the passage ending on p. 698 was very bleak and dark, and I felt such empathy that this brilliant funny writer must have struggled with this for a long time and saw “no solution” but to take his own life. In light of another tortured genius committing suicide (R.W.), it’s really causing me to reflect.

    • Interestingly, what came at in discussion at the meet up was the experience of reading IJ prior to DFW’s suicide. Conversely how, knowing the author’s outcome, the experience changes… which is what you well draw to our attention MFleury. All I can say is – sad.

    • Jimsomnia

      Yes, even the first time I read this I was struck by certain passages that seem very much to be the author speaking directly to the reader, almost outside the context of the narrative. The entire passage about depression p696 – 698 is one of those. The analogy about people jumping from burning windows is particularly insightful. He knew what he was talking about.

      I was also struck by a few things in the Marlon Bain endnote (269), especially q7 in which DFW observes that many people with kind, attentive parents end up depressed, addicted, or psychotic. I’m fascinated by the discussion of relative and varied levels of truth and sincerity in people expressing love and devotion, there being so many layers of truth, deception, and self-deception. It’s apparent to me that these were issues that weighed heavily on DFW’s mind. I can “identify.”

      Has anyone else noticed that the endnotes are increasingly revealing and crucial to the story?

  3. Interested to hear how the meet up went! Any suspicious movement by inanimate objects or spontaneous tennis games? My IJ sightings continued today as I walked through campus and saw a truck unloading dozens of boxes each labeled Interlace.

    At this point I’m a bit lost re all the geopolitics and who is working for whom. Double agents, Canadians v. ONAN v. Quebecers etc etc. There’s a quote in footnote 269 (from Marlon Bain) about how Orin “has come to regard the truth as constructed instead of reported”. I’m sensing from self-referentiality there in terms of plot maybe? Also have totally lost track of how cranio-facial pain and doctors are all tied together but I know they are somehow.

    Poor, poor Hal. Seemed very prescient when deLint says, “you just never quite occurred out there kid…His choice of worlds chills Hal to the root”. I feel like there’s a sort of ontological theme going on in IJ in terms of existence in the world even if, paradoxically, you’re sort of not actually existing in the way you feel or suspect. A lot of miscommunication between the Incandenzas and just people in general esp. at ETA. See also page 687 “It’s no accident that in a bureaucracy getting fired is called ‘termination’, as in ontological erasure”. Doesn’t bode well for good ol’ Inc I fear.

    Narrative shenanigans on page 694, second full paragraph. Lots of first person plural “we”s. Who’s we? I am so curious whether narrator will be revealed by the end.

    • From my perspective the meet up was great. The weather perfect for the patio we were on and very wide range of conversation topics; IJ (of course), other books, music, movie directors, Calgary housing, rabbits, etc. As a first time reader of IJ I did come to understand that I don’t known what I don’t know in a big way. Hard to keep up with the 3-6 time readers and boy does Johanna have a lot of questions!. An very enjoyable afternoon, again thanks Johanna.

    • Johanna Schwartz

      We had a blast! As DJB noted, I ask a lot of questions 🙂 I don’t have the book in front of me, but isn’t there is a reference to a cranio-facial doctor in Marlon Bain’s letter?

  4. Ev Maverick

    Ahhh.. Finally caught up and ready to comment on time.

    On my first read through, the book really peaked for me with Gately’s battle with the Canadians outside Ennet House. Not necessarily in terms of enjoyment, but in that it’s the last major dramatic moment I remember clearly. The book starts to get a touch more dense from that point on. Dense and possibly ambiguous.

    All of the little details that have been floating around the edges of the narrative, everything I’ve read and put aside because it seemed out of place starts to come back around this point. Anyone else feel that?

    • Johanna Schwartz

      Every time a little detail comes back into focus and finds relevance again, I imagine DFW whispering “Bing!” into my ear. And then I smile.