A Supposedly Fun Blog

September 16, 2009

Infinite Jest As Infinite Jest

Filed under: Uncategorized — ezraklein @ 6:04 pm

By Ezra Klein

I’m done. I have not eliminated Infinite Jest’s map, but I have walked its length. As such, this post is pretty much all spoilers. Indeed, this post is about the ending of the book. I was going to wait on it, but not that even Infinite Summer is talking about the end, well…You were warned.

You’re being warned again.

I’m warning you.

Here we go.

AAAAAARRRRRGGGHHHH. I was expecting that. But not that. It was like waiting for your friend to give you a dead arm and instead taking a brick to the face. The ambiguous ending has a role, of course. There’s no doubt that I’m thinking harder about the book and its pieces than I would’ve in its absence. But the trick of the ambiguous ending is that the parts really are there. The Sopranos played this game, and for my frustration with the show’s final fade to black, did it well: an attentive viewer, given the information at hand, could project the possible endings, and choose the one that fit best with his read of the data.

A quick jaunt around the world’s online Infinite Jest forums suggests that that’s not true here. Wallace himself has suggested otherwise, but the author’s mind is little match for the reader’s experience — especially the obsessive reader’s experience. That’s not to diminish the incredible breadth of the book, and the clues contained therein. This theory, for instance, of Hal’s speech impediment is both fairly convincing and a grand reminder of not only how much I missed, but simply how much there was. But there does not appear to be a reader consensus on the ending of the book. In fact, there don’t even appear to be many complete theories.

And for good reason. I don’t buy the idea that there are sufficient clues to fill in the frames between the final page and the final frame, in which Hal and Don Gately dig up Himself’s head somewhere in the wastelands while a masked John Wayne stares down at them. The lines from here to there are not plausible. Wraiths may not be plausible either, and nor are prophetic dreams, or Lyle, but they fit better in the world of the book. Hal and Gately doing some grave robbing doesn’t fit the world of the book at all.

The ending, however, fits well in the sense of the Entertainment. For most of the book, I didn’t understand the phenomenon of IJ’s rereaders. I do now. It’s not because the book is so fun. It’s because of the explosive carnage of the final sections. The destruction of beloved characters forces a frantic search for textual clues that signal a rebirth in their future, or at least create some meaning amidst their fall. I didn’t want to reread IJ because I loved the book, but because I wanted a way out of what the book was telling me. And so I could flip back to page one and begin again. And when I didn’t find the answer, do it again. And again. What does this sound like?

We knew of two scenes in the Entertainment. A beautiful woman telling you something horrible about the way the world works. A revolving door in which you never quite caught your target. James Incandenza didn’t create something entertaining. The title was, as Himself told Joelle, a joke. He created something terrifying. The central theory was outlandish and awful. But people couldn’t let go until they found the information that would put their world right again. And that information never came, and so they never left. They just kept running through that revolving door, being told those horrible things again and again, which made them run all the faster.

So too with the book, at least in a miniaturized form. The conclusion is outlandish and awful. And that keeps you from letting go. In a dystopically idealized world, you keep rereading this immense, absorbing book, always looking to explain away the horrifying events of the end, but on each read, your connection to the characters becomes stronger even as the end doesn’t clarify. You discover just enough new details and new theories to keep the cycle going, but never enough to resolve it. And the time you spend in the book’s world takes you further and further from the real world. You spin in that revolving door again and again, continually hearing these horrible things.

In a way, I wonder how much of this sensation was subverted by Infinite Summer. Reading this book should be a terribly lonely experience. It is so sweeping and detailed and consuming. No one outside the novel can possibly understand what you’re talking about. And if you’re reading it twice? Three times? Before the acceleration of the internet, how many similar obsessives was the average reader likely to run into? Most people don’t read this book, and most who do don’t finish. Those who did finish and find themselves trapped were in for a lot of alone time. A lot of time drawing out theories that no one else would understand on piece of paper.

After all, before there was the Entertainment, there was Hugh Steeply’s poor father, scribbling out increasingly esoteric theories about what M*A*S*H was really trying to teach us, going slowly mad. The Entertainment affected everyone that way. But even something as innocuous as M*A*S*H could affect someone that way. This book is somewhere in the middle.

What all the Entertainment has in common, though — be it Infinite Jest, “Infinite Jest,” or M*A*S*H — is that there are no answers. There’s no way out. No answer to the equation, or if there is an answer, no numbers that add up to it. By the time you look up and scream that it’s too late, however, you’re long past the point when anyone can understand you, and you’re holding some dead guy’s head in your hands.

Not here, though. Here, people can understand you. The brilliant Gerry Canavan, for instance. And the delightful mind behind Infinite Detox. And the Zombies, and the forums. A book that is about loneliness and that creates isolation has been subverted into a communal activity. Instead of being turned into Hal, we enrolled in the Enfield Tennis Academy, sharing a fundamentally strange and obsessing experience, but sharing it nevertheless.

September 7, 2009

So I Lied…

Filed under: Uncategorized — kevincarey1 @ 4:55 am

…about waiting until the 21st to post, having finished the book yesterday. I enjoyed it to the end, although I started to resent it about three weeks ago, not because the quality flagged (it didn’t) but because my stack of unread books began to reach truly frightening heights. Getting through all 1,079 pages (1,096, really, because when you finish you have to then go back and re-read the first 17 pages, which are the last chronologically and contain several crucial bits of information vis as vis the fate of some important characters, in particular Don Gately) requires, psychologically, something akin to the “One Day at a Time” mentality that’s key to successfully navigating A.A., to wit Joelle Van Dyne on her previous failed attempts to kick crack cocaine:

“Did you ever hear of this fellow Evel Knievel? This motorcycle jumper? What I used to do, I’d throw away the pipe and shake my fist at the sky and say As God is my fucking witness NEVER AGAIN, as of this minute right here I QUIT FOR ALL TIME. And I’d bunker up all white-knuckled and stay straight. And count the days. I was proud of each day I stayed off. Each day seemed evidence of something, and I counted them. I’d add them up. Line them up end to end. You know? And soon it would get…improbable. As if each day was a car Knieval had to clear. One car, two cars. By the time I’d get up to say like maybe about 14 cars, it would begin to seem like this staggering number. Jumping over 14 cars. And the rest of the year, looking ahead, hundreds and hundreds of cars, me in the air trying to clear them. Who could do it? How did I ever think anyone could do it that way?

Think too much about how long it will take and you’ll never get there. 

The length raises obvious questions of “What’s the Point? and “Is it Worth It?” and “What Does it All Mean?” Wallace himself provides as satisfactory an answer as any, in this excellent interview conducted for Salon by Laura Miller. 

What do you think is uniquely magical about fiction?

 Oh, Lordy, that could take a whole day! Well, the first line of attack for that question is that there is this existential loneliness in the real world. I don’t know what you’re thinking or what it’s like inside you and you don’t know what it’s like inside me. In fiction I think we can leap over that wall itself in a certain way. But that’s just the first level, because the idea of mental or emotional intimacy with a character is a delusion or a contrivance that’s set up through art by the writer. There’s another level that a piece of fiction is a conversation. There’s a relationship set up between the reader and the writer that’s very strange and very complicated and hard to talk about. A really great piece of fiction for me may or may not take me away and make me forget that I’m sitting in a chair. There’s real commercial stuff can do that, and a riveting plot can do that, but it doesn’t make me feel less lonely.

There’s a kind of Ah-ha! Somebody at least for a moment feels about something or sees something the way that I do. It doesn’t happen all the time. It’s these brief flashes or flames, but I get that sometimes. I feel unalone — intellectually, emotionally, spiritually. I feel human and unalone and that I’m in a deep, significant conversation with another consciousness in fiction and poetry in a way that I don’t with other art.

Again there are parallels with the struggle against addiction, with A.A. members urged to Identify, to resist the temptation to obliterate their loneliness with Substances and do the hard work of genuine human contact instead. As Dave Eggers notes in the foreword, the act of writing Infinite Jest must itself have required a level of immersion and obsession not wholly dissimilar from the Substance-mania and single-minded drive for tennis greatness that occupies much of the novel. 

by Kevin Carey

September 3, 2009

On Not Blogging

Filed under: Uncategorized — kevincarey1 @ 6:42 pm

Can’t speak for my co-bloggers but I’m on page 920 and it doesn’t seem like there’s much to be gained by posting in-progress thoughts on the book at this point, so I’m planning on coming back in a few weeks when the Infinite Summer schedule wraps up and talking about the book as a whole. Plus that’ll give me a little time to read some of the other analyses of the book which I’ve been avoiding for spoiler reasons.

August 17, 2009

Expectation and Ecstasy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dayo Olopade @ 3:44 pm

by Dayo Olopade

Ezra, I have to disagree strongly with you about the book not being as fun as you supposed. Yes, this is a subjective designation, but the disappointment you express seems to come as a result of the supposing, not the text. I say that not because I’m eating it up, for the sheer procedural enjoyment (as opposed to an ends-based enjoyment). But because it’s critical to the project of the book to note that we can be—as perhaps was DFW—exquisitely hampered by expectations, or rather, the belief not strictly that a work of art is great but that a culture has collectively decided that such work is “great,” or a person “beautiful,” or an idea “novel.” (Indeed, college friends and I spent hours playing an enchanting game we called ‘overrated,’ wherein things like California rolls and NASA were put in their place.) This is the reason for which people read Moby-Dick, Ulysses, Middlemarch, or the Bible, for that matter–however excellent or awful each text may be.

What is so ironic about your difficulty in enjoying Wallace’s “paper brick” is how it intersects with the metaphysical play involved in the book’s thematic and narrative construction. We want to read Infinite Jest not just because the book was well-received—that came long after Wallace came up with its conceit—but because Infinite Jest and the world it describes is obsessed with value-claims in entertainment.

This obsession takes several forms, most notably James O. Incandenza’s own hilarious and gleeful tweaking of academic convention and the “après garde“. But if you’ve gotten to the parts of IJ that dwell, with ever greater specificity, on “the entertainment,” the last work of the Mad Stork, for which Walllace’s book is named, you’ll note that its power to destroy lives is linked equally to its aesthetic merits and its unexpectedness. Gradually, the subject matter of the movie, its basic act and actors and narrative trajectory, come into focus. But within the novel, its power comes from it being unexpected—a mythology due in no small part to the tales in which guileless test subjects and unwitting governmental monitors turn a corner, spy the samzidat, and are reduced to diapered audiovisual addiction in an instant. For these poor souls, there is no expectation, only ecstasy.

Of course, as the cartridge gains a certain notoriety (and as the plot of IJ increasingly centers on the canuck quest to find this cartridge), the reader likewise grasps for signs of what could possibly be so awesome about the object—is it mental porn? Aural opium? A transubstantiated sex act? No matter what it is, its relationship to readers is markedly different from that of the characters in the novel itself, who are quite blissfully unaware of the serious Medusan entertainment powers they are starting to fuck with.

And while “Infinite Jest” the movie necessarily must be orders of magnitude more compelling and enjoyable than Infinite Jest the book—the latter’s brilliant play on expectation rather requires the reader to dream on, imagining the idea of entertainment so beautiful and bizarre as to justify meandering through pages and pages of text and footnotes that are painfully (I think wonderfully) oblique to that entertainment. In other words, the book is all expectation, and—sorry for you—very little ecstasy.

August 11, 2009

Not As Fun As I’d Supposed

Filed under: Uncategorized — ezraklein @ 4:14 am

By Ezra Klein

Infinite Summer correctly calls us out for not posting lately. So here’s my post: This was supposed to be fun. It’s right there in the name of the blog. But I’m not having much fun. I’m somewhat past page 500 now — 538, actually, and if I were DFW I’d have put that in a footnote even though that would have annoyed you — and am enjoying the book more than when I was at 400, and more than I was at 300, and more than when I was at 200. It’s getting better, richer, deeper. I care more for the characters. I’ve come to anticipate Don Gately’s every appearance, and I really love the perspective on Alcoholics Anonymous and the sensations of addiction.

But my enjoyment of the book is not outpacing my growing frustration with it. I ignore most of the footnotes. If you want to know why I ignore most of the footnotes, check out footnote 216. Yeah, fuck you too, David. Things are happening, which is a distinct improvement on things not happening. But the things that are happening aren’t really happening in the confines of a discernible plot. Rather, they are happening in the service of beginning to bring together a discernible plot. That’s fine on page 200. We’re on page 500. When I was a teenager, I remember reading Maxim’s interviews with actresses and supermodels of various kinds. A standard question for them was “can ‘it’ ever go on too long” As you might have guessed, “it” meant sex. And the answer was often “yes.” That’s sort of how I feel about IJ at this point. Enjoying the journey is important, but the reason people don’t always take the scenic route is that it takes too damn long.

At the end of the day, though, it’s not DFW I’m mad. It’s me. It’s not that I don’t want to finish Infinite Jest. It’s not that I don’t enjoy reading Infinite Jest. It’s that I don’t have time for Infinite Jest. But this is not a book that takes the opportunity cost of the reader seriously. In my other life, I write 15 blog posts a day and a weekly interview column and a twice-monthly food column. I need to read books on the Federal Reserve and papers about obesity and CBO scores. I don’t want to be the sort of person who doesn’t have the time to read a long and serious and difficult novel. But I am that sort of person. And it is not as if Infinite Jest richly rewards every sentence read or page finishing. It is not taut and there is little forward motion. I can’t shake the feeling that DFW is wasting a lot of my time. But at this point, I can’t tell which bits are actually unnecessary, and which just feel that way.

Will I give up? Probably not. I’ve sunk too much into this book. I have too much nagging anxiety over the fate of Hal Incandenza. I haven’t heard from Orin in awhile, and I want to know Gately’s role. But I’ve not been convinced that Infinite Jest is a truly great book. It is brilliant, but it is self-indulgent and petulant and difficult in the way brilliant people often are. It seems seduced by its own intelligence and talent, and feels to me like it’s reliant on readers who want to be the sort of people who have read Infinite Jest more than readers who want to keep reading Infinite Jest and so simply continue until it’s done. That, after all, is why we’re in this book group: Because it’s a book that people legendarily don’t finish. At page 538, I understand full well why people don’t finish it. Without Infinite Summer, there is no way I’d finish Infinite Jest. But I am not without Infinite Summer, and I will persevere.

How are the rest of you doing?

August 10, 2009

Wisdom

Filed under: Uncategorized — kevincarey1 @ 11:22 pm

by Kevin Carey

I started reading Infinite Jest a few weeks before I realized anyone else had had the bright idea of spending the summer of 2009 this way, and once I passed the magic 200-page threshold I really took to the book, so for a while I was waaay ahead of the “Infinite Summer” schedule, to the point that it became frustrating because I couldn’t blog about what was on my mind. In the future it would probably make sense to set up blogs like this so each post comes with a book page number attached and readers can sort the blog by posting date or book page. That way people can post ahead if they like and readers can stay unspoiled. But all of that’s moot because of a recent sever two-week work-related time crunch that left no opportunity for mentally taxing recreational reading, so now I’m barely 50 pages ahead of the horizon. A marathon and not a sprint, I guess.

But the good thing is that now I can finally write about the big 35-page section from page 343 to 379 that (with a few interruptions) really dives into the heart of Boston A.A. Most descriptions of IJ use words like “satire” or “post-modern” but empirically speaking it seems to be, more than anything, an exploration of the modern human mind trying to balance the primal urge for happiness and fulfillment with the temptations of artificial gratification and dangers of addiction in all their forms. Maybe that doesn’t make for good jacket-copy, I don’t know.

The A.A. section is where, per Ezra, Wallace’s skills as an observer really shine. Some people have a knack for noticing the crucial detail. Some are particularly skilled at writing and scene-setting, and some are able to look deep inside everyday events and grasp the larger meaning within. Not that many people are good at all three of those things at once, but Wallace was, which is why his non-fiction stuff is generally so good.

This is also where Wallace does some of his best work (so far!) on the subject of wisdom. For example (p. 358) :

“Pat Montesian and Eugenio Martinez and Ferocious Francis the Crocodile wouldn’t answer Gately’s questions about enforcement. They just all smiled coy smiles and said to Keep Coming, an apothegm Gately found just as trite as ‘Easy Does It’ and ‘Live and Let Live.’

How do trite things become trite? Why is the truth usually not just un- but anti-interesting? Because every one of the seminal little mini-epiphanies you have in early AA is always polyestrishly banal…”

When you’re young—adolescent young—the world is confusing and painful as hell, and you grope around trying to make just a little sense of it and to find a way to protect yourself and live day to day. Then, if you’re lucky, you figure some things out and learn from experiences that hopefully don’t leave scars that are too deep or wide, and you collect those insights and ideas into something at least vaguely resembling a worldview that defines you and guides you as you live. And there’s comfort in that kind of control, in the sense that you’re smart enough to understand how things really are, that you can take or leave ideas and maybe even contribute some new ones of your own.

And then—again, if you’re lucky—you realize that every big idea you’ve ever mulled over has been pondered since pretty much forever by untold multitudes before you, and all that experience and wisdom has been sanded down into little bite-sized sayings and aphorisms that seem impossibly trite, reduced to utter simplicity in the desperate hope that enough people in future generations won’t have to re-learn hard lessons at terrible psychic and material expense but will instead internalize them from the beginning and have at least a fighting chance of being among the relative handful of people in all of history who had the fantastic luxury of spending their brief lives doing something other than staying safe and fed from day to day. And that among those lessons perhaps the most crucial is that the key to happiness isn’t forging new wisdom but acting on the wisdom the world has been practically shoving in your face all along. And hopefully you get to that point with most of your life in front of you and no permanent damage done to yourself or others along the way. Gately ponders how to submit to a higher power if he doesn’t believe in God–to me, that’s the higher power, the inheritance of human wisdom. It’s hard to submit to that and maintain the kind of confident intellectual curiosity that I imagine Infinite Jest readers value so much in themselves. But Wallace did it, or at least tried to, and he was smarter than us all.

A few other random thoughts:

1) I appreciate Wallace’s affection for good words, e.g. the frequent use of “befouled” with respect to the Concavity. That’s just an inherently superior word, “befouled,” and it should be used as often as possible.

2) What’s with the narrator(s)? When it says on page 437 “plus I should mention the odd agonized gurgle-sound,” who is “I”? Same thing when Endnote 142 says “The speaker doesn’t actually use the terms thereon, most assuredly, or operant limbic system” –okay, who did use those words? This strikes me as the kind of question that must have been fully explored by now and made the subject of various graduate theses, etc.

3) Is there an IJ concordance on the Web somewhere? When I was reading the whole sickly funny Raquel Welsh mask / diddling section (another good example of the reading experience simulating the racing addicted mind), I knew that Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Theresa had come up before, but it took a while to figure out that it was during (I think?) the Joelle Van Dyne bathroom crack overdose / attempted suicide scene.

July 30, 2009

Lyle

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dayo Olopade @ 3:27 am

By Dayo Olopade

This post is behind the pace of our reading schedule, but indulge me. What on earth to make of this creature? A refresher:

This guru lives off the sweat of others. Literally. The fluids and salts and fatty acids. He’s like a beloved nut. He’s an E.T.A. institution. You do like maybe some sets of benches, some leg-curls, inclined abs, crunches, work up a good hot shellac of sweat; then, if you let him lick your arms and forehead, he’ll pass on to you some little nugget of fitness-guru wisdom. … Some of the newer kids think he’s a creep and want him out of there. What kind of guru wears spandex and lives off others’ perspiration? they complain. God only knows what he does in there when the weight room’s closed at night, they say (128).

What kind of guru indeed? I know not when and where or how, if at all, this “literal” Lyle will seamlessly advance the story of Enfield and Ennet and O.N.A.N.–but he is one of DFW’s rare departures from what is frequently an overdetermined realism. Everything from the “sound of [Joelle's] wood-sole clogs against the receding staccato of brittle women’s high heels on brick” (221) to the “booming Zuckung zuckung zuckung” of Poor Tony’s “high heels’ heels drumming on the soiled floor’s tile” (305) receives a sort of awe-inspiring, real time literary autopsy. And then there is Lyle, a recurring character detailed and contextualized as well as any other, yet so obvious a fantasia as to cry out for investigation.

Providing a behind the back assist in this effort is a charming essay from the Atlantic’s 2009 Fiction issue (a great pickup before a recent 12-hour flight to Shanghai). Therein, novelist Tim O’Brien probes the failure of imagination in contemporary fiction.

[C]lassroom discussion seems to revolve almost exclusively around issues of verisimilitude. Declarations such as these abound: I didn’t believe in that character. I need to know more about that character’s background. I can’s see that character’s face… These are legitimate questions. But for me, as a reader, the more dangerous problem with unsuccessful stories is usually much less complex: I am bored. And I would remain bored even if the story were packed with pages of detail aimed at establishing verisimilitude. I would believe in the store, perhaps, but I would still hate it. To provide background and physical description and all the rest is of course vital to fiction, but vital only insofar as such detail is in the service of a richly imagined story, rather than in the service of good botany or good philosophy or good geography.

Of course, Wallace’s novel practices an intricate form of geography and science and certainly philosophy. But is there a limit to the integration of imagination? O’Brien describes, with great joy, the highly absurd eventuality of tail-possession among his offspring—and concludes that while nonsensical, is it qualitatively better to have tails (aka imagination, unmoored) than not, because tails are inherently interesting.

Lyle, I suppose, is meant to function rather like a tail, waggling creepily from behind this novel. For me, however, he seems a bridge too far. The highly conceptual presentation of annular physics is a plausible, if totally imaginary feature of Wallace’s near-future. But we know, definitively, that man cannot live by sweat alone.

July 29, 2009

Can’t Be Right About Everything

Filed under: Uncategorized — kevincarey1 @ 7:43 pm

By Kevin Carey

While as others have noted DFW was in some ways quite prescient about how technology would change future society, he wasn’t right about everything. Take for example the sad tale of the meth-addicted headliner who keeps getting fired for writing heds like this:

BLOC QUEBECOIS TO CANADIAN P.M.: ACCEPT TOXICALLY CONVEX ADDITION TO OUR PROVINCE AND WE ARE OUT OF HERE SO FAST YOUR HEAD WILL SPIN ALL THE WAY AROUND

In the real Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment that guy would have a massive following on Twitter and would no doubt be heralded as a prophet of media to come.

July 27, 2009

Learning From Pretend

Filed under: Uncategorized — ezraklein @ 7:43 pm

By Ezra Klein

I liked this paragraph from Alyssa Rosenberg:

I haven’t watched The People v. Larry Flynt for years, but I remember how gorgeous Courtney Love’s portrayal of Althea Flynt was, as a picture of someone just kind of slipping away (incidentally that, and Lindsay Lohan’s performance in Mean Girls rank as the two roles I most wish the actresses who took them learned life lessons from.).

I find that I get this a lot more with books than I do with films. I’m reading Infinite Jest right now, and it’s brutal for exactly this reason: It’s in no small part about why it’s worth living even when living hurts. And its answer, at least in parts, is that if you can get through this day, and then get through the next day, and then get through the day after that, then even though you can’t see it now, there will be a day when it doesn’t hurt so much. What’s so wrenching about it, of course, is that David Foster Wallace didn’t play the author of Infinite Jest. He was the author of Infinite Jest. These were lessons he had learned, and was trying to teach. And then, eventually, they weren’t enough.

July 21, 2009

Third Person Plural

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julian Sanchez @ 3:16 pm

A quick one for a change of pace: It strikes me that my first post on the structure of IJ oversimplified a bit by lumping together all the sections in “third person” voice. But there’s clearly a bunch of different “third person” voices. At first, I assumed that all the third-person sections are written in what I think of as the “sobjective” voice. (I’m sure there’s some more precise literary term for this, but I abandoned English for philosophy, so I’m stealing a term from ethics.) That is, it’s an external narrator whose tone has somehow absorbed or been infected by the thought patterns of the central character in the scene. But the extent to which this is the case changes—sometimes the third-person voice seems more detached and conventionally neutral-narratorish, and other times it seems to be a distinctive voice that conspicuously isn’t that of any character in the scene. Sometimes they even use different typographic conventions. The narrator of the first scene between Mario and Gerhardt Schtitt, and of Pemulis’ November 4 scene, uses “w/” and “w/o” for “with” and “without.” The narrator of Orin Incandenza’s first scene spells those words out. (Amazon’s “search within this book,” incidentally, is incredibly useful for following up these hunches without wearing your thumbs out flipping around.)

Even some of the scenes without any apparent narrator are hinted to have an implicit one. Remember that first scene between Hal and James, where James poses as the “conversationalist”?  That’s pure dialogue, no external narrative voice at all. But the next section, I just noticed, begins: “Another way fathers impact their sons…” suggesting the narrator (who seems to be a very different third-person narrative voice than, say, the one who narrates the medical attaché’s scenes) is either continuing from his presentation in the previous section, or at least somehow “aware” of it, or of the place of his description in a larger narrative. And there’s no earthly reason for DFW to start the section in this conspicuous way except to establish this unexpected continuity across the shift in voices. So how many third-person narrators are there? And to the extent that they’re different, are some of them identifiable characters in the story? Are some just more abstractly distinguishable as “the detached narrator” and “the sobjective voice”?  Probably I’ll have a better idea of the answers if I stop blabbing prematurely and catch up on the damn reading already…

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