#InfWin – Week 3: Feb 15-22

Byzantine erotica and Hal’s dad

From the “Is IJ among the whitest novels ever?” thread:

[–]ahighthyme 5 points 13 days ago

By genealogy Hal is one-eighth Pima Indian (one-quarter ethnic Arab if his father is a Near Eastern medical attache) so it’s really just the whites of the eyes.

[–]AntipodalBurrito 2 points 13 days ago

If his father is a Near Eastern Medical Attache?

#InfWin – Week 2: Feb 8 -Feb 15

Webbed with Nerves

sylvanshine_claude 10 hours ago

I just finished my week 2 p.m. drills and have spiders on my mind.

Reviving our spiderwebs from Week 1 – Spoilers, and nudging you: /u/ZepNess, /u/platykurt, /u/nathanseppelt,/u/Peemsters_Yacht_Cap, /u/MarkVo, /u/emindead, /u/0liviakay, /u/chaichaya, /u/blattanzi, /u/lifeofglad

Going to tag you two because you’re fun(ny) arachnids: /u/Alex_Sinclair, /u/corriebaldauf

When J.O.I’s dad takes the fall during the game, he’s certain that he slipped on something: “I don’t know what I slipped on, son. There were spiders well-known to infest the palms’ fronds all along the courts’ fences.” (bottom of p. 166).

He says (more than once) that he started to fall before he heard his dad’s reply: “Yes, But He’ll Never Be Great“, and then blames his fall on dead-spider sap, or sap from rotting palms. When J.O.I’s dad notices that his dad doesn’t sit on the ground in the shade out of fear that a black widow will drop on him, it’s as though the impending sense of doom felt by his dad has been noticed on some level, and becomes real/concrete for J.O.I.’s dad.

So when J.O.I’s dad blames the black widows, he’s really blaming the impending sense of doom that caused the “second of misplaced respect.” I think “respect” here is respect for the “presence” and “animal grace” that’s discussed earlier, a mind-body machinic flow. The impending sense of doom breaks this for J.O.I.’s dad on the court. So basically the spiders make him “webbed with nerves” (168) and become the reason for the cycle of self-sabotage that began with J.O.I’s dad (lost potential and self-destruction etc.).

Anyone remember that the above mirroring * is similar to the black widows and parent-child experience in “Philosophy and The Mirror of Nature” in Oblivion?

*Too reductive, though. Psych idea of mirroring can be taken further with “gesture,” Agamben, and communication. More later!

#InfWin – Week 1: Jan 31 -Feb 8

The Silence and Speech of Hal Incandenza

*am compiling relevant posts from our subreddit w/ intentions of exploring this further

[–]Nutmegger1980 2 points 12 hours ago

Allusions to both Hamlet and the Metamorphosis of course. But I wonder whether his inability to speak is due to withdrawal from his pot addiction or is somehow related to his father’s inability to hear him (i.e. his view of his son as essentially mute.) Or perhaps a nervous breakdown from the stress of competitive tennis, his father’s death, and his mother’s various dalliances?

[–]Edraso 3 points 11 hours ago

Hal says: “Call it something I ate,” and then goes on to describe a childhood memory in a flashback sequence.

[–]MuratedNation 2 points 11 hours ago

Since this is also “the end” in the timeline of the book, there is the theory that he ate the DMZ, which we wouldn’t connect until rereading this section after finishing the book. I’ve always been a little hesitant on the DMZ theory but now I’m a little more on board.

[–]makingabirdhouse 7 points 9 hours ago

The Aaron Swartz version of the DMZ theory is the most convincing to me. It says that the James Incandenza wraith dosed Hal’s toothbrush with the DMZ (a mold that grows on mold) in order to counteract the effect of the mold he ate a child. Whereas Hal had always been able to communicate brilliantly, he was unable to feel real emotion. The DMZ had the effect of reversing this situation. You can find the whole thinghere

§ 22 – Meaning, Ritalin, and Conformity

Thanks v. much to Brian Cochran + summary writers + wallace-l for catch-up week this week (beginning Aug. 4).

Will add more to this post as the week progresses.

Some words and phrases:

-squeezing my shoes
-the rotating foot
-childhood’s end

-information vs. experience dichotomy (discussed in prev. post)

-apathy (this word is not in the text)

-delusions and self-deception

-norms and expectations, conformity and nonconformity
-Ritalin and Obetrol


-subdivisions: the accident (fragmented body), branches of the IRS, the “wastoid” protag.’s self vs. the protag’s self post-accident
-“frame” (p. 170)

-the § 22 protag. is possibly one of the people in the elevator with DeWitt/Glendenning in § 19 (see top of p. 193).


 * * *


-“Meaning” : ongoing translation/interpretation to understand the unreality, which contributes to the incongruity between protag’s childhood “wastoid” self, and post-accident self:

“People who are, as the substitute father said that final day in Advanced Tax, ‘called to account.’ Meaning we are talking about almost a special kind of psychological type, probably. It’s not a very common type–[…]but the thing is that the sort of person of this type who decides that he wants to enter the Service really, really  wants to …” (176)


 “–I was in the paralyzed shock of the totally busted kid, and I sat there paralyzed, unable to do anything and yet seeing each frame of him coming in with horrible focus and clarity–and him standing there at the edge of the few stairs down to the living room […]” (170)

This objectivity, and detachment happens in traumatic moments, when Obetrolling, and when in Advanced Tax he notices that this type of profession and learning requires one to work while being split (not those exact words, will locate page this week). This sort of objectivity can be achieved naturally (if I can use that word!) w/ cameras and film.

The detachment has grown from something that began w/ a traumatic experience to something that has been internalized as an enjoyable experience (e.g. while Obetrolling), and later as a job in the Service. (So nonconformity is actually conformity, as mentioned by the protag. himself, and disc. in Glendenning and the elevator, § 19)

This detachment is also made concrete in the:
-$5 shopping in divisions
-The IRS’ subdivisions
-The accident and father’s fragmented body


Knowledge and self-deception 

-E.g. His mother’s birds
-What I found interesting is that the protag. constantly mentions that he knows, that he is aware, and reminded me of things I thought I’d have to note (e.g. how he’s been “primed”), but the very fact that I can see that he knows these things allowed me to see how much what he didn’t know affected him (unconscious). Intend to develop more about knowledge and self-deception.


… tbd.

§ 1 – 9 Worms and Porousness

Greetings from The Great Convexity,

I am reading the 1st edition hardcover of The Pale King.  § 1 begins on page 3.

Some thoughts on § 1-9, in response to the summary by Matthew Evans, and conversations on wallace-l:

 § 1

“coins of sunlight” (p. 3) which I first remember as being in Lord of the Flies by William Golding. For me, this quickly set up the nature vs. nurture binary, and conflation of both, which Matthew discusses in terms of intelligence reacting with nature, and generally man-made vs. not man-made things, as well as Bakhtin. (Matthew, thanks again for sending as an attachment, and for your thorough notes.)

Judd Staley has pointed out previous refs.:

“On his wise shoulders through the checkerwork of leaves the sun flung spangles, dancing coins.”  (Ulysses 2.448-9)

-Language Poetry, Systems & Worlds, Worms

The style of the associative, poetic language reminded me of Language Poetry e.g. Lyn Hejinian’s My Life in which an attempt is made to refuse closure, to refuse the cause-and-effect logic for the creation of meaning, and to use instead associations that inform each other by repetition, juxtaposition, and to draw attn. to how the self is formed by and in language (so “coins of sunlight” is p. awesome) etc. Ok so.

§ 2

-This happens throughout § 1 – 9.

-In §2, when Claude Sylvanshine repeats the word “illiterate” until “it became just a rhythmic sound,” I wondered how language was learnt i.e. by hearing or speaking first (I think Wittgenstein said hearing first, and Heidegger said the baby learns by speaking first… or the other way round?).

Which brings me to worms. Worms are porous creatures. As are we. Worms respire through their skin, and are essentially segmented creatures constantly in flux, informed by what’s around them, being changed by it (like forms). They are neither open nor closed. And when DFW ends §1 with “Read these,” I took it to be “read these parallel worm-like lines which refuse closure and inform each other kind of like language poetry.” So, things are porous, which also makes sense in terms of concentration, and choosing what to pay attention to (to control this porousness).

-p.15 – “Segment, significant segment, combined segment revenue” (Yep I like these worms) implies the beginnings of the dissociative self via language that appropriates segments and dissociations.

§5 (Stecyk) and §6 (Lane and Sheri)

These two subsections both start by drawing attn to particularities e.g. “It is this boy who dons the bright-orange bandolier,” (§5 Stecyk) and “They were up on a picnic table at that one park by the lake” (§6 Lane and Sheri). Why the sudden dive into the particular?

Stecyk’s subsection could be summed up as an example of “how one comes to be ‘good,'” and Lane & Sheri’s subsection develops that by exploring “what does it mean to be good?” Regardless, both these subsections are examples that prompt questions related to the nature vs. nurture debate (how are kids directly or indirectly informed by parents, religion, norms etc.)

§7 Ice-cream Truck

Help needed here. I am fairly certain that an ice-cream truck was mentioned before this chapter (mention of an ice-cream truck that is not this particular Mister Squishee truck). I’d love to see how this repetition and its variations developed to create meaning.

Dehumanization at the end of §7: “creatures just did what they did.” They are “creatures” because of their ability to assimilate and not be discerning (which also relates to akrasia/weakness of will). One example of this assimilation is on p. 50 where Tom Bondurant understands Cheryl’s gaze in terms of returns (“a person who’s about to transfer something he knows in advance he can never get sufficient return on.”)

This language of exchange (not reciprocity) was also in the passages about Orin and P.G.O.A.T in IJ (p. 295): Confusion and conflation of the emotional, spiritual, sexual, with the celebratory spectacle of sport. Ok back to…

§8 Toni Ware

“The mother’s relational skills were indifferent and did not include truthful or consistent speech.” (p. 55) changes to “the mother’s relational skills being indifferent to this degree since the period of clinical confinement in University City MO.”

§9 David Wallace

The full extent (so far) of being implicated.