Saturday, July 18, 2009

Infinite Summer Status Check

I'm keeping pace with the official schedule, though I'm not sure if I should be pleased or somewhat humbled that I'm not getting through IJ faster. Over the past 40 or so pages, I've found the book becomes increasingly enjoyable, however, so I hope that I'll be accelerating.

Also, I have been splitting my time between Jest and Midnight's Children (about which I'll have a post soon), as well as a couple of other books which I may not post about in full. The executive summary of that reading would go something like
  • Ishmael Reed's Flight to Canada: what is so dull about the Underground Railroad, much less the Civil War, that you have to add airplanes to it? There is a sort of smallness to the literality of Reed's historical disruptions that robs them of being anything more than cleverly irreverent.
  • Peter Handke's The Left-Handed Woman: Brilliant. Still ruminating. Eager to read more Handke.
  • Athol Fugard's play Master Harold and the Boys: also read Soyinka's Death and the King's Horseman a month or so back and together they present, one might say, Aristotle's pity and terror. And while terror is perhaps the more interesting spectacle, I would almost rather see this performed—where Soyinka's play presents all kinds of interesting choices and challenges for the director, I feel Fugard's play may be more dependent on the living performance of its words—the challenge to the actors must be immense, and to see it successfully acted would be a mind-and-soul-rearranging experience.
  • Victor Pelevin's The Sacred Book of the Werewolf: it takes you 4/5 of the book to figure out how scant the plot is, and then the last fifth is a discourse on vaguely Daoist/early Chan Buddhist philosophy and mystical practice. I honestly don't know how most people got through the last fifth; I very enjoyably took a number of courses in college on East Asian religions (particularly Daoism), and I found Pelevin's handling of it really plodding and dull. What someone who isn't familiar with these concepts is able to dig out of it by way of profit or pleasure, I can't fathom. That said, everything about the novel up to that point works way better than it deserves to, and it's a really fun ride while it lasts.
Back to Infinite Jest for a few short observations: I'm liking basically every section Orin Incandenza appears in, and everything that Hal appears in that doesn't have to do with drugs. The phone conversation Orin and Hal have about the suicide of their father is just really remarkable dialogue, a moment when I feel Wallace's genius not as a function of his knowledge, but of his ability to think.

I haven't really enjoyed the Don Gately sections (although, admittedly, the toothbrush in the butt section was funny, albeit rather macabre in its ending), but I suddenly got a real feel for him as a character in the long exchange between him and Day in endnote 90. Again, just ludicrously good dialogue, really giving a sense of someone trying to have a conversation with someone bent on delivering a monologue. And, I guess the section about the different "Units" was really enjoyable as well.

All of which is to say that, nearing page 300, I feel like I've settled into what Wallace is doing with at least two of the main characters. There hasn't been a section involving Steeply and Marathe recently, and I really didn't find their previous sections interesting at all.

If you have advice about how to approach upcoming material (or the book as a whole), or want to add your own status report, please share!




and 13 sub-sites

the newest:
contains the psychoanalytic monograph [the drama lecture]

[dem handke auf die schliche/ prosa, a book of mine about Handke]
[the American Scholar caused controversy about Handke, reviews, detailed of Coury/ Pilipp's THE WORKS OF PETER HANDKE, the psycho-biological monograph]
with three photo albums, to wit:


[some handke material, too, the Milosevic controversy summarized]

Member Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society
this LYNX will LEAP you to all my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS:

"Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben]

john said...

Lots of people like the upcoming Eschaton section because it's funny but it's also important because who is or isn't sitting across from big Don G. later in the novel when he's in the hospital. It's no coincidence that following the Eschaton section is the longest explanation, to that point, of just what Wallace sees as AA's possibly good points.

I'd like to hear your take on the long and incredible monologue on pg. 157 by Hal's granddad, starting 'Jim not that way Jim' which is the kind of sentence that gives me the same tingle as 'Stephen Dedalus, displeased and sleepy'.