Infinite Jest IV

I realized that I was going to have to sacrifice my goal of blogging about each section as I read it to the larger goal of finishing the book this summer. I’m hoping to still check in with a post every week or so. This post covers through roughly page 86.
In this section of the book, I’m starting to get a little bit of a sense of a larger-scale plot. Just glimpses at the fringes: periodic reminders that the doctor is still paralyzed before the mysterious cartridge, the emergence of some character interactions, glimpses of a metafiction.
I’m also constantly awestruck by how many variables DFW juggles in delivering his story. Sometimes the struggle of really reading the texts prevents me from truly appreciating how ambitious a project it is. It’s not just the chronological games he plays, or the vocabulary, or the large stable of characters. It’s also that he’s writing in a variety of tones, modes of writing, degrees of formality and reality. He’s almost always funny and careful, but there’s a tremendous difference between the realism of, say, the Tiny Ewell introduction and the patent absurdity of Les Assassins des Fauteuils Rollents. It’s actually quite the trick, that he’s able to derive humor from both patent absurdity and from closely-observed detail.
Stray Observations:

  • The mysterious cartridge that traps viewers into watching it forever reminds me greatly of Ice-nine from Cat’s Cradle.
  • Inability to communicate continues to be a theme; the novel almost contains a taxonomy of the different ways that we can fail to be understood. The death of the Canadian official in his home contains many: he is attacked by his robbers because of language barrier, he cannot get help from the person that calls at the door because of the tape across his mouth, and he cannot get help from his wife because of distance.
  • I’m enjoying the flashes of metafiction that we get: we’ve had repeated and unrelated references to Toblerone and Byzantine erotica.

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