Filed under IJ
from T. Theodore: The next 50 pages seem to bring another theme for us to consider. The sections in this clump appear to emphaisze the dual themes of infinity and denial. Sometimes these themes are mixed and sometimes they are seperated.
In the first section, on the drug testing of the E.T.A. “student-athletes” we encounter the basic nature of denial of us all to think and insist that what happens on the court by these spectacular young men is not, in part at least, connected to the steady flow of drugs of various types that they consume.
Infinity and denial are combined in our next very interesting and weird segment in which Hal’s great-grandfather is implicated in the story of his his son’s (Hal’s grandfather) failure to reach greatness. The infinity I believe comes to us through this infinite regress of generational obsession, expectation, and sabotage. The denial takes two forms, one is the denial on the part of Hal’s grandfather that what his father said effected him. He insists it did not. Having cleared the old man’s name he then goes on to the second part of the denial by blaming his tragic fall on a spider on the tennis court. Give me a break..a spider? Has anyone actually slipped to their doom on a spider? This one, of course, has some hidden meanings as well. Hal’s grandfather descibes this spider as a bulbous, goo-filled widow…now it is true that many a young man has slipped from his dreams by an encounter with a bulbous, goo-filled widow, but it can only be said that to allow said widow and said encounter to ruin the pursuit of your dreams can only be called a form of denial and failure to take responsibility. This little section on the spidery widow is a classic.
This entire segment is actually loaded with other valuable stuff. I love this section in all its weirdness and abuse. We find the flow of obsesesion and dysfunction flowing down through the Incandenza line, adding depth and reality to this very strange and dysfunctional family we are dealing with in this tale. We also learn some of the depth of what might today be called the kinetic intelligence that is this family’s gift and curse. The incredible connection with the body and with movement, touch, and effecting the world physically comes genetically down this line like music or logic does another. This is a family of thoroughbreds and carries the strength and focus of that as well as the tragic aberrations that are bound to occur (like Mario). Here in this segment we also find the author’s concept of the pressure of promise, which he develops quite nicely. And last but not least, the segment ends with the boneless Christ as the family trait. We have seen hints of this idea in our knowlegde of Jim and have to wonder how this figure is going to play out in Hal’s story as he has been so strongly cast as the Christ figure in this story.
Next we are back with infinity, as the segment on what has to be endured for the sake of the game. DFW spends pages on the sacrifices a student at E.T.A. must make and it ranges across all of life, from the body to the soul, to the mind, to the social life. Everything must be given up for tennis..the game of life.
The piece on the Ennet House then brings us back to a mixture of infinity and denial as this collection of statements from the residents take on an infinite array of denial and partial insistence that they are not seriously sick and deranged.
…to be continued
Interesting insight on the Spider/denial thing. We can also note (if you didn’t already) on the goo-filled Widow spider that Himself slips on must have something to do with the widow he makes of Avril. And again he’s blaming the widow (spider/Avril) for his downfall, instead of….what? Himself? The Man Himself?
As far as the aberration of Mario, (this is totally SPOILER, though I didn’t really notice it until my 3rd time through) there is evidence to suggest that Mario is the product of Avril & CT. Which, if true, makes the relationship between Mario and Himself even more intimate, them working together on films and such. (This is all revealed later, in various detail.)
The sequence of the Ennet House patient statements is one the most hilarious in the book. “‘I’m awful sorry to bother. I can come back. I was wondering if maybe there was any special Program prayer for when you want to hang yourself.’” Priceless.
from T. Theodore: Then comes the section that has to be everyone’s favorite, the appearance of Madame Psychosis. This is absolutely side-splitting and gut wrenching humor…I just couldn’t stop laughing at the mind picture of this strange lady reading in the dead of night the list of human deformities and imperfections. This scene brings back to mind the infinite theme as their seems to be no end of strange and improbable deformities on this list, a PR flier produced by the Union of the Hideously and Improbably Deformed. The particularly juicy trio of the leukodermatic, and xanthodantic, and the maxillofacially swollen takes its place among the cascading reems of aesthetically displeasing traits that spin silkenly from the lips of Madame Psychosis. Denial enters the picture however as these traits can only be spoken of in the dead of night at MIT on a radio station of limited range (though Mario can hear) with the call letters WYYY, pronounced I assume by the depressed deformed as WHY? Why? why? and by the paranoid schizophrenic students at MIT as why? Why? WHY?
The final segment that takes us up to page 200 concerns the 7 units at the Enfield Marine Public Health Hospital. This is a segment of genius in my mind. The 7 units that surround the old hospital each have a given speacialty of treatment, with number 3 unfinished but working toward use suggesting that there are more illnesses and problems to be dealt with in this way. Most interestingly, DFW sort of folds the E.T.A. as # 7 by placing it close by, connecting the two properties and pointing out that E.T.A. actually leases old number seven. E.T.A. then, is just another fancier and more acceptable form of a social service agency in which the inmates or residents have something desperately wrong with them.
Finally…to be continued
I do love the Madame Psychosis bit, and it also ties into ‘Ulysses.’ Early on in the book, in the morning, Molly asks Leopold about ‘metampsychosis’ which the OED explains is the ‘Transmigration of the soul, passage of the soul from one body to another; esp. (chiefly in Pythagoreanism and certain Eastern religions) the transmigration of the soul of a human being or animal at or after death into a new body of the same or a different species.’
from T. Theodore: My final thoughts have to do with this old structure of the Enfield Marine Public Health Hospital. As we have seen, the complex has as its working parts 7 buildings that look something like big houses dispersed around the property, each one with its purpose (#’s 3 (unfinished) and 7 (the E.T.A.) being of particular note, as well as # 6, the drug and alcohol one). Meanwhile, in the center of all this, at the guts of care, stands the actual hospital building itself where presumably people would stay for a while and be made well. That building is empty and boarded up, as that approach to helping people and of health has been abandoned. Stripped of everything of value, like the copper wire within it, it stands in the midst as a broken down memorial to a different time, a different approach to illness, a different philosphy of human life and health according to which people could be treated and actually get better and go home. That particular way has been superceded in the O.N.A.N. with this perpetual treatment of people not expected to improve and not expected to change.
Hey, is anyone going to answer these angry arguements?