Friday, October 10, 2014

Endless Cycles

Here are some notes, observations, and connections that we (Carissa, Emily and Callie) made during our bi-monthly meeting where we discuss DFW's work.

"The Depressed Person"
The Depressed Person has a risk free relationship with her therapist because she pays her(the therapist) to listen to her (the depressed person) problems. [Like my inserted clarifications there? Wallace inspires me.] Her relationships are strange to say the least with everyone around her and all seem to be one-sided.
The parents.
The therapists.
The support group.

She only speaks about how her parent's divorce hurt her, but never once talked about where her parents are at in their lives now.

She realizes only after her therapist died that she knew virtually nothing about her, while the therapist knew everything there was to know about the depressed person.

Her support group, and specifically her closest friend in her support group, listen to her talk about her feelings and depression but never once reciprocate the conversation. For crying out loud, her dearest friend has a terminal illness and she does not ask (to our knowledge) how she is doing.

It is frustrating as a reader that the depressed person cannot get far enough outside of herself to recognize that her best friend is also suffering, perhaps more than she is. She is used to having a one-way relationship that she pays for (the therapist) that she does not know how to have a giving relationship and therefore cannot be a true friend to her terminally ill friend.

DFW sets up the depressed person to make us empathize with her, but at the same time we want to shake her out of her depression because things could be much worse. It feels like we are the friend on the phone that is trying to find a good place to let her know we have to leave and get on with our busy lives. Though, since we are reading the story through her extreme lens of self- consciousness, we never know if the friends are actually there for her and are indeed great friends, or if they really are as she is seeing them.

The depressed person goes through the motions of life, writing in her feeling journals, saying she does not blame her parents when she clearly does, expressing herself to her support group- but does she actually feel anything other than her own self-consciousness? Unlike recovering addicts (which we discussed are equivalent to depressed people in their addictions to something that is harmful to them) of Infinite Jest, she does not put herself into the work. She does not separate her mind and body, she does not recognize her intellectual issues as a part of the problem.

Silverblatt Interview
Michael Silverblatt makes some very astute observations, the first on the idea of Infinite Jest existing in series of fractals, the idea that the book is something that must be pieced together.  It truly reflects the way we live now, overwhelmed with unrelated pieces of data that we must string together and find meaning in.  As Silverblatt aptly noted, the structure of the book is not difficulty for difficulty’s sake, but reflects how hard it is to be a human.

Wallace seems to suggest that he didn't intentionally structure it in fractals, or even totally realize the book's structure until editor Michael Pietsch compared it to glass being dropped from a great height.  But we wondered just how much you can trust any author on the subject of intentions and what was pre-planned for their fiction... Wallace especially.  There is clearly nothing in Infinite Jest that is there by accident, a realization he appreciates from readers.  So which is it?  Designed purposefully, or accidentally arising as a reflection of our fragmented contemporary lives?

For now, we were content to imagine it as a little of both.

First Chapter of Infinite Jest
There is so much going on in Hal’s mind in this first chapter that it is hard to piece together the story.  Thoughts and observations are constantly thrown in (“This is not working out.  It strikes me that EXIT signs would look to a native speaker of Latin like red-lit signs that say HE LEAVES.” p. 8) that we can’t quite understand within the context.  It is so genius and crucial that this first chapter is narrated in first person.  It is both a privilege and a sad burden to know all the thoughts in Hal’s head while he is helpless to express them.

(Emily's notes end here... she and Carissa got rather off topic talking about the rest of IJ because Carissa had just finished it.  We were absolutely all over the place.  We talked a lot about how you can make so many connections within the book by reading and re-reading and re-reading, but where does that get you?  It won’t get you a resolution, and by obsessing you are participating in that endless cycle that the Entertainment was created to avoid, but instead intensified.)

We want to know what you think.  Comment below!

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