Can you believe it? Page 900….less than 100 pages to go. The end is in sight. We are going to finish Infinite Jest.
Two specific things in this section that caught my eye. Well, two-and-a-half.
The first was the acutely realistic story of Don Gately. For as much blabbering stream of consciousness, as we have gotten in this book (e.g., moving a mattress), the Gately SOC is very effective writing. The theme is one of the thickest threads in the last part of the book: the difficulty (or impossibility) of getting rid of the crutches you have used to cope with life. We see Hal trying to wean himself off pot. And we see Gately, injured protecting Ennet House residents, lying in a hospital bed in severe pain but unable to take painkillers because painkillers were his Disease.
Here, in his fever, Gately has a revelation that I believe is one place DFW has been pointing us all along.
What’s unendurable is what his own head could make of it all. What his head could report to him, looking over and ahead and reporting. But he could choose not to listen; he could treat his head like G. Day or R. Lenz: clueless noise. He hadn’t quite gotten this before now, how it wasn’t just the matter of riding out the cravings for a Substance: everything unendurable was in the head, was the head not Abiding in the Present but hopping the wall and doing a recon and then returning with unendurable news you then somehow believed.
Now, that’s a pretty incisive piece of prose…”everything unendurable was in the head.” To be sure, nowhere does he say that it is an easy way to live–in fact, Gately’s extreme pain and temptation and a Pakistani physician (read: The World) pressuring him to take another way out reveal this as an extended metaphor of that exact struggle. But there’s the insight, memorably unveiled.
The second thing is a hilarious meeting where the national leaders are brainstorming how to run an ad campaign to prevent children from viewing the Entertainment…particularly if they walk in the room while their parents are already zombified–in which case they are supposed to find someone to shut the power off to the house.
Anyway, the discussion is a satire of the “War on Drugs” as practiced during DFW’s youth by Nancy Reagan, where people were given bumper sticker slogans as opposed to methods of coping with whatever feelings drove them to hard core substance abuse in the first place.
This was not something that was easy to satirize, simply because it was so fucking stupid in the first place. Note this description of the Joe Camel-ish character they are considering.
He stands for the attraction of capacity, agency, choice. As versus the spot’s animated adult who we see in a recliner ostensibly watching the Canadian cartridge, little spirals going around and around in his eyes….
Really? He stands for the attraction of capacity? Honestly, this is not only an eerie characterization of the moronic thinking behind JUST SAY NO but also sounds a lot like a meeting I have been in too many times.
And then there was this.
Now, for the half observation…Canada is a long-term theme in the book since the Quebec characters are as close to the story’s antagonist as you are going to get. Here is their thinking about portraying Canada…
That’s why the plaid cap in the traumatic graphic. Response data indicates a plaid cap with earflaps signifies the Big C[anda] to over 70% of the spot’s target. The overalls drive the association home.
This is another great satire of advertising “metrics” and popular culture, this time the view most Americans have of Canada. To wit, the President of the United States.
“Canada is no problem,” Trump replied, according to the leaked transcript. “Do not worry about Canada, do not even think about them.”
And, of course, my wife is Canadian.
See you at the finish line kids.