Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Blogging DFW 14 -- the end

I don’t want to end on a sour note, especially since people I genuinely respect adore this book, but . . .
 I felt like every REAL writer had read it--so I forced myself to listen to all 1000+ pages of it on audible. And here are some thoughts:
1. Don't. Do. It.
2. The narrator was fabulous. Should I know Sean Pratt? (When I began listening, I thought it was Sean Penn narrating—and I got all excited. As it turned out, Pratt was amazing.
3. Did as many people read this book as I’ve been led to believe?
4. Would you believe that I missed the end? I didn't get it. A friend gave me this link. So I suck. And I still don’t really get it.
5. You know DFW's history, yeah? Classic Gen X writer man, got his MFA at U. of AZ (maybe when some of us were there), was always mentally troubled, killed himself when he was--tragically--between working meds. There's much speculation on how this was a death that shouldn't have happened, had he been properly medicated. Well, all this to say, I think this never-ending book is a glimpse into a beautiful mind (you know the film?)--but it is, nonetheless, the work of a special kind of madman's brilliance. "Normal" people are simply incapable of DFW's style--which is to dissect any given moment (ANY GIVEN MOMENT) perfectly. I can't tell you how many perfect moments there are in this book. He nails childhood trauma, addiction, every minor character who walks briefly through his pages, every mother/father/dog--and, yet, it doesn't add up. Seventy percent of this book could've been cut, but I bet his brilliance overwhelmed everyone who he met and the book made it. Go watch the film, The End of the Tour.
6. INFINITE JEST, indeed. The joke is certainly on us.
7. I must say I'm very sad about his death. He was brilliant--and probably a very sad man. It is tragic, and my affection for him endures. I would recommend A Supposedly Fun Thing I’d Never Do Again and Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.
8. A friend posted this. I haven’t read it yet. But I will.

I wanted Gately to be okay.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Blogging DFW 13

I’m on page 950. 

This is an entirely self-indulgent blogging project, meant mostly for myself; I’m just trying to do it.
Right now two important things are happening . .  .
1.     Gately is hospitalized, trying to resist Demerol for serious pain, and we’re getting a trip down his memory lane.
2.     Hal gets a whole, big first person point of view section.

Listening for the lovely moments:
HOW ONE WALKS IN THE CITY: “Lenz walked by with urban dignity, like he both saw them and didn’t.”
LIFE IN REHAB: “Marathe and the others were invited to sit in the living room with a cup of unpleasant coffee.”
WHEN YOU MEET SMART-ASS PRETENTIOUS TYPES: “. . . the sort of guy . . that knew how to long-divide and say whom but didn’t even know how to look up shit in the Yellow Pages.”
I think the only two characters I feel fully engaged with are Gately and Joelle. Joelle’s story of bringing Orrin home to Kentucky, her father’s unnatural affection for her, and her mother’s breaking point are amazing. Beginning on page 793 and continuing . . . ending, tragically, in the chemical disfigurement of Joelle and the suicide of the mother.
GATELY HOSPITALIZED: “ . . . each breath was a hard decision. . .”
RE: THE TENNIS KIDS WATCHING PORN: “bombed by their own glands—they were pop-eyed at the prospect . .  .”
A COUPLE INSTANCES OF GOLD: “. . .shaken him like a margarita . . .”
“Yes, she did look witchy, but who over fifty didn’t?”
“[the sexy nurse] comes over and puts a cool soft hand on Gately’s forehead in a way that makes the forehead want to die with shame . . .”

This is from Molly Notkin . . .
 “ . . it features Madame Psychosis as some kind of maternal instantiation of the archetypal figure Death, sitting naked, corporeally gorgeous, ravishing, hugely pregnant, her hideously deformed face either veiled or blanked out by undulating computer-generated square of color . . . sitting there nude, explaining in very simple childlike language to whomever the film’s camera represents that Death is always female, and that the female is always maternal. I.e. that the woman who kills you is always your next life’s mother.”
“—That Madame Psychosis and the film’s Auteur had not been sexually enmeshed, and foe reasons beyond the fact that the Auteur’s belief in a finite world-total of available erections rendered him always either impotent or guilt-ridden.”
“That Madame Psychosis had never mentioned the fate or present disposition of the unreleased cartridge . . . and had described it only from the perspective of the experience of performing in it, nude, and had never seen it, but had a hard time believing it was even entertaining, let alone lethally entertaining, and tended to believe it had represenred little more than the thinly veiled cries of a man at the very terminus of his existential tether . . .”
“That it seemed pretty unlikely to her, Molly Notkin, that the Auteur’s widow had any connections to any anti-American groups, cells, or movements, no matter what the files on her indiscreet youth might suggest, since from everything Molly Notkin’s heard the woman didn’t have much interest in any agendas larger than her own neurotic agendas. . .”
“ . . the widow struck her as very possibly Death incarnate.”
“and it had struck Madame Psychosis as bizarre that it was she, Madame Psychosis, whom the Auteur kept casting as various feminine instantiations od Death when he had the real thing right under his nose, eminently photogenic to boot . . . apparently a realrestaurant-silencer0type-beauty even in her late forties.”

Notkin “testifies” that the film might’ve had less to do with lofty theoretical mumbo-jumbo, “but rather much more likely to do with the fact that his widow-to-be was engaging in sexual enmeshments with just about everything with a Y-chromosome . . . including possibly with the Autuer’s son.”

Joelle also “testifies”? She says of Incandenza, “He’d stopped being drunk all the time. That killed him. He couldn’t take it but he’d made a promise.” She says, “There wasn’t anything unendurable or enslaving in either of my scenes. Nothing like these actual perfection rumors. These are academic rumors. He talked about making something too perfect. But as a joke.” She continues, “I used to go around saying the veil was to disguise lethal perfection, that I was too leathally beautiful for people to stand . . . I hid by hiddenness, in denial about the deformity itself. So Jim had a failed piece and told me it was too perfect to release—it’d paralyze people. It was entirely clear that it was an ironic joke.”

Friday, May 5, 2017

Blogging DFW 12

I made it to page 700!
Some random highlights:
  • Lenz killing the chained dog in the alleys of a Bostonian night with Green witnessing had to be among the most chilling passages I’ve encountered. “The music balloons without cease but Green hears Lenz say what sounds like ‘How dare you?’ with great emphasis as he drops the dog forward . . .”
  • “There was something almost unbearably touching about a bald spot on a handicapped man.”
  • “Americans’ conversational hands sit like lumps of dough most of the time . . .”
  • Mario. Idiot-savant? Lenny in Of Mice and Men? Forrest Gump?
“Mario loves Hal so much it makes his heart beat hard.”
“The inside of it smells like an ashtray, but Mario’s felt good both times in Ennet’s House because it’s very real; people are crying and making noise and getting less unhappy, and once he heard somebody say God with a straight face and nobody looked at them or looked down or smiled in any sort of way where you could tell they were worried inside.”
“Mario’d fallen in love with the first Madame Psychosis programs because he felt like he was listening to someone sad read out loud from yellow letters she’d taken out of a shoebox on a rainy P.M., stuff about heartbreak and people you loved dying and U.S. woe, stuff that was real. It is increasingly hard to find valid stuff that is real . . .”
  • And Hal . . . who is the closest thing to a protagonist we have and who maybe (?) joins Gately in Hemingway’s famous prayer: ““Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee.”

 “One of his troubles with his Moms is the fact that Avril Incandenza believes she knows him inside and out as a human being, and an internally worthy one at that, when in fact inside Hal there’s pretty much nothing at all, he knows. His Moms Avril hears her own echoes inside him and thinks what she hears is him, and this makes Hal feel the one thing he feels to the limit, lately: he us lonely.”
“It’s of some interest that the lively arts of the millennial U.S.A. treat anhedonia and internal emptiness as hip and cool . . . Maybe it’s the fact that most of the arts here are produced by world-weary and sophisticated older people and then consumed by younger people who not only consume art but study it for clues on how to be cool . . .”
“We enter a spiritual puberty where we snap to the fact that the great transcendent horror is loneliness . . . The U.S. arts are our guide to inclusion.”

“ . . . [there's a] queerly persistent U.S. myth that cynicism and naiveté are mutually exclusive. Hal, who’s empty but not dumb, theorizes privately that what passes for hip cynical transcendence of sentiment is really some kind of fear of being really human . . .”