Filed under IJ
from T. Theodore: This 50 page segment opens in the middle of Mario’s film which demonstrates once again this penchant DFW has for having kids play out the politics of their elders. Mario himself illustrates this by making this political movie. We have seen the Eschaton as an example of that. Now we enter the real world where it again happens with the sad tale of Eric Clipperton. This jr. tennis player wins every tounament by threatening to blow away everyone and himself with some kind of uzi or something if he does not win. Everyone plays into the hand of his threats and he wins tounament after tournament. His strategy echoing perfectly that of Johnny Gentle in his successful attempt to get the world, or Canada, to do as he wished. The end of this sad tale has interest of its own, as EC does himself in at the good ol’ ETA, but DFW seems more interested in how this applies to the discussion that follows between our old friends Steeply and Marathe. Stuck on an outcropping ledge over the desert they are discusing the honored USA notion of the greatest good for all being produced by each person following their own individual personal good. (We need Joelle to parse this one out for us!) Steeply of course insists that yes this is true, though every development in this book including international relations, adolescent games, personal addictions and bizarre self-seeking, prove the opposite. Steeply’s argument is hardly convincing and DFW leaves them up there on the ledge while he returns to the story that seems to prove Steeply wrong.
Eric Clipperton profoundly illustrates the dynamic of seeking his own greatest good with force and not only screwing up the entire system of jr. tennis, but also unltimately destrying himself. Here the theme begins to seep in: one’s personal goals (or pleasures) contain the roots of self-destruction from which suicide or insanity are the only excapes. The unnamed kid from Fresno adds to this point…as if piling on is necessary here.
…to be continued
from T. Theodore: Just a final short note on this segment: These pages end on a disturbing note. First, Gately begins to remember, always a dangerous thing for alchoholics to do. We begin to get some nasty stuff coming up from his past. This parallels the stuff that Noelle brings up from her weird days among her snake-handling family and, we’re guessing, her incestuous “personal daddy”. Though Erdedy seems to find Noelle sexually attractive, the relationship between Gately and Noelle seems to have a little more depth and possibility to it, and these parallel pasts may hint at that. But back to Gately’s memories: whenever this starts happening there is unleashed a powerful force to remember more and more. This is not looking like a pleasant ride for Gately.
Second, in a comment I find very compelling, we find Mario misses M.P. on the radio, trying to listen to the replacemnt but getting little or no satisfaction out of it. This is fine, but then Mario finds out that Noelle used a screen while on the air, that is, I guess, she spoke behind a screen so no one could see her. Finding this out agitates Mario. Why? We are not told. But we can only assume that if Mario is upset there must be something pretty significant about this. I’m thinking that it may mean that she takes off her veil while reading on air and that the screen prevents anyone from seeing her by accident. Not that anyone can see her on the radio, but someone in the station might. I’m not sure why this would agitate Mario, but this really has my curiosity winding up full speed.
So long til next time.
Still waiting for your thoughts Sweet Lois.
from Lois: Well Ted, I don’t really have any thoughts in particular. I’m reading with a great deal of concentration to keep the understanding going. It’s very intriguing and I now see why Joel has read this book so many times. Kind of like the Bible (:
A few questions from today’s read. On page 418, what do Steeply and Marathe have to do with anything? I’m not sure if it’s the Interlace thing or what. They confuse me.
The description of the driving in Mass. on Pages 478 & 479 are very accurate. I’ve ridden with people in Ma. that drive like that, namely my brother-in-law.
I admit after reading what you all have posted my understanding is enlightened. Thank you for writing and don’t stop. I’ll try and write something more before the end of the book.
from T. Theodore: I’ll have to let Zach know you’ve linked up this book with the Bible. That’s one I sure didn’t expect from you.
I agree that Marathe and Steeply are a confusing duo. They both are very bizarre characters (one a wheelchair assassin and the other a female impersonator) so one would expect their conversations to be rather remote. As near as I can figure it, they play two roles in the book: they are part of the plot and they also give voice to one of its fundamental philosophical debates. In terms of the plot, they are both agents for organizations that are competing in their attempts to find the secret entertainment cartridge filmed by James Incandenza before his death that is so entertaining that people choose to die watching it rather than leaving it to get food or tend to other necessities of life. That middle east guy near the beginning of the book whose wife comes home to find him dead in his chair is the first example of that happening. Steeply works for the Office of Unspecified Services of the newly constructed government. Marathe works for an Quebecean organization (the wheelchair assassins) who are opposed to that new government. Steeply is also a double agent, or informant, to the assassins, and that is why the keep talking in strnage and secret places, like the Arizona desert. There is some mystery (of course) about the double agent thing and it remains unclear if each is doublecrossing each other and the organizations leading to yet another infinite regress of questions like “What if Steeply knows that Marathe knows that Steeply knows that he is really simply planting false knowledge?” Stuff like that.
As for the philosophical debate part, these two meet up on a ledge in the desert and talk basically about the question: can a society be soundly constructed on the basis of each individual seeking their own personal good? Can the highest good for the society be reached by asking each indiviual to seek for personal pleasure? Will not such a society break down? Will not such individuals end up marred and twisted? This is the question that drives this book forward and these two interesting characters are the only ones to talk about it in (somewhat) philosophical terms.