Friday, April 29, 2011

Infinte Jest, "Come Dance With Me"

I sit in my living room. The very, very lo-fi soft rock (the un-hip kind: this is not Double Wonderful kitsch or that je-ne-sais-quoi that is emnated from Hall and Oates, the likes of which manifests triangle smiles, South Park style, evoke Carlos, MacGruber sex scenes &c.) of my uncle "Uncle Rick" plays from my Grandma's speakers. It sounds like a more soulful and bluesy Randy-Marsh'd James Taylor if he were vaguely interested in wizards. Makes me worry about World of Darkness in more than one capacity.

I am thinking about Infinte Jest, which I completed yesterday. Completed reading, that is. There is a still-too-hot-to-eat Meatloaf TV dinner sitting in front of me. I got home from Stony Brook at 5 AM this morning and this will be the day's inaugural meal. It is nearly 2 PM now, but I woke up at 11 so I don't really feel guilty about sleeping too much or anything.

We will not practice this weekend.

At the tail end of the first chapter there is a part where Hal, narrating from the furthest point chronologically, references John Wayne's not having won and Whataburger and Hal and Donald Gately digging up the late Himself's head (or what's left of it, apparently [via Joelle I think] where the cartridge, the novel's fifth or is it sixth and only lethal titual Entertainment).

As of right now I postulate that Hal dosed himself with DMZ. Haven't read any online summaries or explanations yet. This is unadulterated Ginsberg literary detective work, ladies and gents.

Makes me think about those novels in the works of mine. (Last night inspired by Mike Seminara, my successor at Spoke the Thunder to return to fiction writing)
But really it also makes me think about the Harry Potter franchise, those really gratifying plot books &c.

A Tale of Two Cities is one of the most excellently composed novels of all time. Its writing is not particularly enjoyable. However, its plot is more or less unparalleled among works of literary fiction. I remarked all throughout the end of high school that the end of Arrested Development was Dickensian. This should cement just how much I attribute really airtight, complex plot-based writing to the man, whom I only read once and when I was fifteen and probably not a particularly good judge of all things literary. Infinite Jest could have been A Tale of Two Cities and comes closer than any of the other great big postmodern novels (V., Gravity's Rainbow, Underworld) that I've read. The reference to Gately in Hal's chronologically last narrative (the novel's first) was what stopped my vacillation and made me feel for certain that Infinite Jest is a truly Great Novel.

With about two hundred pages to go, I could have outlined a legitimately great, action-packed, skeletal arc of where the book could have gone. Not all of it would have been any good. The AFR assault on ETA could have been something like Death Eaters. Hal's harrowing decision to take DMZ, told from--gasp--Pemulis' eyes... Fighting alonside one another readers and Hal alike chuckle when, somehow, Orin sees Helen Steeply's penis. Perhaps Mario is skilled in the struggle by Marathe's Avada Kedavra. Joelle watches Infinite Jest V or VI and is unfazed, amid womp womp wahhhhhhs and the like.

In all seriousness this is not the sort of gratification I expected. And thank (G/g)od this is not how it all turns out. I trusted DFW would end the novel much better than I possibly could have and he did. But I expected something else, at first.

There are two main points I want to make from here on out and I am not sure how they will be organized. Let me say though that they are points about anit-Pynchonism and Impressionist Entertainment. I think they will weave in and out of one another, because they are more related than I first thought.

I love Thomas Pynchon, which people I know know too well. And I wrote extensively about Thomas Pynchon and the notion of closure in an independent study I completed this fall. Maybe I'll post that here, too, to the chagrin of Craig and whomever reads this thing for entertainment, whomever that may be. In novels like Gravity's Rainbow what actually happens to any characters short of a burnt out and amnesiac Slothrop and an even more burnt out Gottfried (this is a VERY clever joke, sucks no one will get it but a by-this-point-quite-enervated-FDB) is not really alluded to or important in any way. Abundance renders so much obsolete.

I'm going on and on, so here's the point. Infinite Jest is fucking long. It is not a hard read, but it is mammoth. And its 1079 pages could easily crest more like a traditional novel but they do not. Instead of the Deathly Hallows epilogue we get a last vignette, a final fucked up, not at all lucid flash of Gately, a former drug addict, hospitalized and refusing narcotic painkillers after becoming brutally fucked up in an honorable way, waking up on a cold beach after like some seriously like fucked up binge-shooting up and a little Sunshine, in more than one sense. The revelation 20 pages in that Gately and Hal, perhaps the novel's two most central charcters who do not meet at any other point in the novel, are digging up Himself's skull implies something very purposeful, but is ultimately completely superfluous. It alludes to that page-burner plot and the crazy, compositional wild magic that would have extended IJ at least two hundred pages longer, had Dickens been brought in as a consultant toward the end. It reminds the reader curious enough to re-read the first chapter immediately after finishing the novel that DFW is a commericial writer as well as a novelist and, as the entire brunt of the novel's immense statement about entertainment suggests, perhaps the most articulate critic of all entertainment who has ever lived, been published and cared about, that too much entertainment is not good.

What I love about this little impressionistic joke is that DFW is playing with readers interested in what plays out beyond the "fifth wall." I haven't looked for the IJ fan fiction yet, but there's so much room for it to exist. As Eggers suggests in the introduction the edition I have, Infinite Jest suggests that there are readers who could enjoy Pynchon and Elmore Leonard. I suppose he is right, becuase in some capacity that's exactly the audience to whom Infinite Jest is tailored.

DFW's writing does not make me swoon for the poetry of his words. As someone, Eggers again, I think, suggests, there is not one lazy sentence in the novel. His writing is not Pynchon's sublime, as in Edmund Burke, frightening, Andrew Marvell on a bit of DFW's DMZ, comic books and Faulkner mind-obliterating fairweather ecstasy. It is more akin to DeLillo's straighter-forward writing. It is not ravishing so much as it is kind of pretty, pretty potent and, well, sorry T Ruggles P, way, way coherent.

If I were not composing a Spotblog post and were trying to shape this into like an academic paper, I might write something like: Wallace practices what he preaches. He foregoes gratifying his readers with the climax of the AFR's terrorist plot, or the circumstances of Hal's ingestion of DMZ or Joelle and O. sitting together on that porch swing. Gately having a catch with his son, throwing righty and like a rocket. Wallace is not C. He does not guide the needle to your badly bruised forearm and shoot you up with Sunshine. Infinite Jest refuses to give its readers the gratification that Blood Sister, IJ V or VI or Demerol do.

The line "The book Infinite Jest is unlike the film Infinite Jest, perhaps a statement about a difference or two between literature and film" would surely be somewhere in this essay.

I'd probably go on longer, but I'm bored.

When the A.D.A. man comes to Pat, before you re-read Year of Glad, the reader who trusts the shadowplay that DFW casts knows in that impressionistic, intuitive way that Gately will turn out all right and anyone who remembers the basic gist of the novel's first chapter knows that Hal does not. Personally, I like Gately a lot more than Hal, anyhow.

No comments: