Week Three – Pages 137-211 (endnotes 49-72)

Week Three – Pages 137-211 (endnotes 49-72)

A few of my favourite forgotten sections popped up this week. The combination of  the nonlinear nature of the book, its sheer volume, and my fragmented memory means there are many little bits whose place in the book I can’t recall, even after five readings.

So, as usual, I will present what we’ve read in a quick(ish) recap with some of my thoughts, to get the ball rolling.

1. We spend a good amount of time at Ennet house, including:

  • a brief history of the founder – Guy Who Didn’t Even Use His First Name, who encourages feldspar-munching as a sign of total surrender.
  • Brief Interviews with Recovering Addicts – the selected transcripts of (mostly) unnamed residents as they talk to Pat Montesian. I love these small character studies. We now know that Bruce Green is in Ennet, former roomie of harelipped Tommy Doocey, and that Mildred Bonk and Harriet Bonk-Green have hit the road. (p. 176-181).
  • a detailed description of the layout of the Enfield Marine Public Health Hospital grounds where EH is Unit #6,  and the the neighboring units, including #4 for Alzheimer’s patients, #5, The Shed, home to the ‘objay darts’
  • Don Gately again, he of the unfortunate break-in that caused the medical attache’s death, who has moved from resident to staffer at Ennet.
  • A moving description of ‘exotic new facts’ about various issues that arise with substance abusers (endnote 70 speaks to being able to become so ‘escapeless’ that one becomes no more than a ‘fine dusting of off-white ashy stuff’  – a contrast to the ‘escaping’ results of the Entertainment), and Tiny Ewell’s tattoo investigations, which are a great way to introduce the Ennet residents (some of whom can now be connected to the Montesian transcripts)

2.  There are a number of vignettes that take place outside of the general actions of the month of November YDAU, such as:

  • the hilarious story of Dwayne R. Glynn and the barrel of bricks – told through an odd email exchange. Poor guy.
  • Hal’s essay about Hill St Blues and Hawaii 5-0, written at age 12, predicting a ‘catatonic hero’
  • “Helen” Steeply’s article for Moment Magazine (p. 137) – as DFW does often, more information is divulged in the cheeky ALLCAPS title of this section (we now know that Steeply is undercover as a lady to interview Orin, and that James Incandenza committed  SUICIDE BY MICROWAVE OVEN). Now we are reminded of Orin’s comments to Hal in the last section in Week Two when mentions he has met ‘a possibly very special somebody” and wants to learn more about Separatism. (p. 142). In the article, the description of the purse snatcher sounds a lot like ol’ Poor Tony.
  • a helpful description of the Canadian Anti-O.N.A.N. groups – I can tell you that the Calgarian Pro-Canadian Phalanx is made up, but the Bloc Quebecios, Le Front de la Liberation de la Quebec (FLQ), and Parti Quebecois are indeed real. The FLQ were a very violent group. Not sure about the Montcalm and Papineau ones.
  • And one of my favourite pieces – the rise and fall of videophony. As someone who HATES facetime, this describes exactly why.

3. Over at E.T.A:

  • Urine tests are being held, and Pemulis has it all figured out. We now know that he is the one Kate Gompert mentioned who insists you ask him to “please commit a crime” when buying drugs.(p. 156)
  • We are introduced to the extremely powerful DMZ.
  • Tennis and the Feral Prodigy  – obviously NOT written by Mario – agreed?

4. We flash back to Arizona, 1960:

  • We now have almost all of the info to figure out exactly what year it is. In the story of James Incandenza and his father, it is 1960, and James is 10, so he was born in 1950. He dies at 54, which would be 2004 in our calendar year, and is the Year of the Trial Sized Dove Bar. We just need to know when YTSDB is situated in subsidized time, and it will be revealed! There have been clues about when each year takes place, but we will see the full list next week…
  • Also, I found it interesting how much emphasis James’ father put on insisting that head is body, and that thoughts are just the sound of your body.
  • The description of James’ knees against the tennis court….ugh.

5. A new location and character – WYYY station and Madame Psychosis (it’s October 22, YDAU).

  • Madame Psychosis has many many mentions in JOI’s filmography, and I believe has her first role in Infinite Jest (IV).
  • The station is in M.I.T’s new Student Union building, which is shaped like a giant head.
  • Mario loves listening to her program, and it seems he really wants to get Hal’s attention while she is reading the pamphlet for the Union of the Hideously and Improbably Deformed.





  1. Darcy Frisch

    I’m just going to leave this here, if anyone is interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metempsychosis

  2. Bonnaventure

    Not a ton to add this week, but wanted to say that I would’ve given up if it weren’t for these posts. I’d be so lost without them. I’m finding my recall to be lacking at times, and a busy week fragmented my reading time. This is keeping things in perspective and really helping me stay sane. Also, I’m trying to work w/r/t in to my regular writings henceforth.

    • I’m with Bonnaventure on this… not much to add but appreciative of the posts.

  3. Rob Hinchcliffe

    Hello everyone

    I didn’t check in last week because I was catching up – went camping on my bike over last weekend and couldn’t take IJ because it was just too heavy. Seriously. So just got up to p211 this weekend.

    A few words I had to look uo

    Perfidious: Of, relating to, or marked by perfidy; treacherous

    Circumorals: Surrounding the mouth

    Thigmotactic: the motion or orientation of an organism in response to a touch stimulus

    Calliopsis: is the generic name of two groups of organisms. It can refer to:

    Calliopsis: either…
    (plant), a former plant genus in the Asteraceae family
    Calliopsis (bee), a genus of bees in the Andrenidae family

    Quincunx: a geometric pattern consisting of five points arranged in a cross, with four of them forming a square or rectangle and a fifth at its center.

    Aleatory: depending on the throw of a dice or on chance; random.

    I had to stop making notes of words I didn’t know in the Madame Psychosis section – it was pretty much every other word. That whole section was one of the hardest to get through in the book so far for me – the language and the flitting back and forth and the acronyms… maybe I was just in the wrong mood for it, but it was like swimming through porridge.

    Some great sections to make up for it though: the videophony section is just brilliant and so prescient! The 1960s ‘dads suck’ flashback, the whole rehab section.. so much good stuff, I feel like my brain is slowly tuning into DFW’s ‘frequency’ and not having to try too heard to just read the words but able to enjoy and understand them as well. Does that make sense?


  4. Adrienne

    A few things I found thought-provoking this week:

    – I sometimes read the posts over at the original Infinite Summer and this week there was a long discussion about the barrel of bricks story bc it turns out this is an old urban legend passed around since at least the early 1900s. A lot of people were wondering what DFW was doing here, especially since it’s not necessarily presented as an urban legend/not his original idea. The sort of end conclusion generally seemed to be that it had to do with the nature of communication and truth. I don’t know exactly what I think yet. Certainly lots of communication in this section.

    – Random thought: what if Hal watched the entertainment and that’s why he’s all messed up in the opening pages?

    – p. 154 re Pemulis and his lit class: “the referential murkiness and inelegance of verbal systems”. Well if this book is anything, IMHO, it’s a study in referential murkiness with its footnotes and gazillion interconnected characters etc. It struck me that we as humans sort of think with a kind of referential murkiness as well, though if you buy into the whole linguistic-cognitive type arguments (Guilty! I think.) then I guess that sort of has to be true. Anyways I feel like DFW is certainly playing with verbal systems here.

    – So much about the “religion of the physical” (p.169) but then also the ways in which the mind, whether it’s viewed as purely physical or not, has such a control over not only the physical. Addiction, sports, depression, etc.

    – A lot about talent and potential and whether you’re wasting it or not. (DFW must have been writing some of this stuff from his own life right?!)

    Uh oh, sounds like nap time is over, better finish up quick.

    – “Sometimes words that seem to express really invoke” (p.175) Language again. Referential stuff too.

    – Madame Psychosis. I die. One of my fave lines, “Severity is in the eye of the sufferer, it says. Pain is pain. Crow’s feet. Birthmark. Rhinoplasty that didn’t take. Mole. Overbite. Bad hair year.” Year in italics lol. Funny on it’s own but also hilarious compared to all the other much more severe sounding afflictions mentioned.

    – Lots of paradoxes in this book.

    • Johanna Schwartz

      Thanks for the intel on the bucket of bricks story. I had no idea it was an urban legend.

      Great thoughts on Pemulis’ preference for mathematic elegance over verbal inelegance. When you mention linguistic-cognitive arguments are you generally talking about the Worf-Sapir Hypothesis? I have only taken a few Lit theory classes – I’d love you to expand more on what you are thinking about there, because I think you are scratching an itch I can’t quite put my finger on.

  5. Bill Sweeney

    Oh, and here’s to the days when Nyquil was 50 proof.

  6. Bill Sweeney

    Ok. Loved Madame Psychosis. As someone long addicted to noncommercial radio this character is very real, let me tell ya. I’m sure some actual DJs have had substances thus dubbed in their honor (or should anyway). Madame could be a spinoff (or could have been but they are still writing James Bond books aren’t they).
    The “that” portion that opens the rehab section is mesmerizing. Not sure whether that times it’s supposed to what “they” say, meaning false or misleading but really it there was so much truth there the doubts gave way. As someone who has, uh, heard a lot about addiction and recovery this whole catalog, the it is framed and detailed, is emotional and draining. One thing missing I thought was that it missed how it crosses class/race lines.
    Enjoying how tennis is becoming more central. There’s a lot of drama in how our hero prepares for this role in our only major one-on-one sport that doesn’t (for most part) carry threat of mortal injury.
    Gotta go for now.
    One other thing. I bought this at a used book store. i am at this point finding many margins have been torn off but the type is spared. it seems liked something a character in the book would do. Maybe I’ll start doing it as well. I’ll let you know.

    • Johanna Schwartz

      I always imagined that Madame Psychosis would be at home on WFMU.

    • Bonnaventure

      I hope they were using the margins for spliff filters or some similar druggie cause. As someone who has dabbled in organized addiction recovery, I find these passages humorous to no end, while ringing true at the same time. I especially like the bits about being addicted to/escaping with non addictive substances or to activities/behaviours/etc. it’s so true. But DFW is sure to point put the crocodiles who refuse to move from their chairs in fear of escaping, just as those trapped by the entertainment are trapped by escapism. I’ve seen those who suckle at the teat of recovery as hard as they ever sucked the bottle or the pipe.

      I’m in no position to cast any stones w/r/t addiction, but it feels like those folks have traded one demon for another, albeit one that’s much more socially acceptable.

  7. I absolutely loved the section on “videophony”. It is so current today with the generational gap and how I use technology compared to my 20-something kids. They don’t leave voicemail messages or use answering machines – they just check the call display to see who phoned and decide if they want to phone back or not. Which always leaves me frantic as a mom, wondering why they phoned – is anyone hurt, what’s wrong, do you need money, etc. I thought it was brilliant.
    I also loved p. 200 New Facts – lots of great information there, especially the bit about tattoos. My husband said he was sick and couldn’t go to Disneyworld with us one day of our vacation because he had already lined up a famous tattoo artist and was going to get inked. And yes I am still married to him. And no I do not (nor do I ever intend to) have any tattoos myself.
    I’m sure I’ve gotten over the hump – I’m still reading (even reading ahead because I don’t want to stop), I’m laughing, and I’m adding new words to my vocabulary. And I know that after reading comments this week, I’ll also be learning.

  8. Tai McQueen

    Hi there. I’m another one late to post a comment on here.
    The mention of the barrel of bricks reminded me of the first time I read that scene, which was a couple of years ago. When I read the barrel of bricks email, it provoked the sort of uncontrollable, tears-rolling-down-the-cheeks laughing in public that I haven’t gotten from a book since I read Hitchhiker’s Guide as a kid.
    The fact that I happened to be sitting in the waiting room of a community mental health centre at the time did provoke a few worried looks from the strangers in the room.

    I also love the essay on the catatonic hero. It touches on themes that I’ve come across elsewhere in DFW’s work (some interviews, and, if I’m remembering it right, his famous commencement speech, and I think he was working this theme into Pale King) – how the true heroism of our age is to be found in the ability to maintain a diligent, grounded persistence in the face of that which is boring.
    Which I am also slowly discovering seems to be the big, challenging lesson of my own adult life.

    • Johanna Schwartz

      Welcome Tai! The ‘persistence in the face of that which is boring’ i think is a key element for the recovery of those in Ennet House too.