Wednesday, July 1, 2009

DFW CATS


1. Spoils

As mentioned previously, this is my second time through IJ. I should mention also, though I’m unlikely to mention it again, that as I think out loud here through this reread, there will be spoilers aplenty. I must confess to the following two deficits of character: I actually like spoilers and have difficulty mustering sympathy for those who do not. To those of you who aren’t always skipping to the end like me, this may very well be your last warning.

2. Notes on the beginning-end and some Moby Dick-ishness.

It hadn’t previously occurred to me that literal end of the (non-endnote) text (p. 981) and the chronological end of the story (p. 17) have Gately and Hal, respectively, both relatively aware of being trapped in their own heads (Hal’s “red cave,” for instance (which may as well be Plato’s)), peering outward, flat on their backs, and contemplating the sky. This peering out the head theme is something that I noticed a lot in Moby Dick, which I’ve read only recently. Another parallel to MD is the violence toward the sky in the Hal sequence (p. 16). Ahab threatened to stab the sun, I recall, and Hal observes cell phone antennae stabbing the sky and a jet’s contrail slicing blue sky-skin.

3. Infinite Rainbow

The sky-slicing aerial violence also makes me think of Pynchon’s opening, “a screaming came across the sky” in Gravity's Rainbow. Two other bits of GR-ish stuff in the early pages of IJ: (1) Ray Gunn and I are both convinced that IJ’s annular glyphs at section openings are evocative of GR’s “sprocket holes” (see here for Ray's nice remark about the glyphs of both authors as signals of unfilmability). (2) When, toward the end of their session, the conversationalist is going off about the polycarbonate found in both Hal’s racket and JOI’s cranial cartridge, the mutual proximity of descriptors like “polycarbonate,” “gyroscopic,” and “priapistic” just screams (across the sky!): “imipolex-g.” The confluence of cybernetics and pleasure embodied in GR’s Slothrop-hounding V2’s turn into IJ’s “entertainment” which, in varying degrees of literalness (with the excessively literal instance being JOI himself (“Himself”)), really gets inside one’s head.

4. Total Foreseen Horror

DFWs breathless super-long sentences are often put to their best effect in describing someone dying, leaving their body, and or, just transcending the local action. (See for example, the end of the essay “a supposedly fun thing…” where DFW ascends to bird’s eye view of the cruise ship, or the story in Oblivion about the victim of the scalding diaper). Consider the hilarious and terrible section on the paranoid schizophrenic (PS) in the show Orin is watching who, the PS, afraid of radio active fluids, is injected with such fluids and subjected to a PET scan. Here the sentential breathlessness is pressed into the service of conveying absolute terror (the PS ends up screaming his mind away). Note too the strange-loop-y-ness of what happens to the PS. The PET scan generates and image of the fear, a fear of radioactive fluids and large machines that, the object of the fear, is pretty much definitive of the processes of PET scanning.

5. On Quote Marks

A query and a theory.

6. DFW CATS

See also this. And this:


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