We are moving slowly. This is hyperbolic understatement. “We” meaning the initial trio of readers, the three Jest-a-teers, each of us in Life’s full embrace. 75 pages a week? More than a month has passed and even I, the docent, have only gotten to page 128 (though that does include thirteen pages of footnotes, wink) (but still).
I will say this. It’s fucking awesome the second time.
This time around I’m savoring everything. Circling whole sentences with admiration and awe. Making notes in the margins. HFS. WTF. WOW.
Poor Kate Gompert.
|There are dark halls and sad places|
… the sour odor of medical waste awaiting collection … (p69) Kate Gompert in the psych ward
… sarcasm and jokes were often the bottle in which clinical depressives sent out their most plangent screams for someone to care and help them. (p71)
On a single page, we get circumorals, thigmotactic, dentate, and synclinal. (pg75)
The Enfield Tennis Academy (E.T.A.) and Gerhardt Schtitt, the Head Coach and Athletic Director who … has the creepy wiriness of old men who still exercise vigorously. He has surprised blue eyes and a vivid white crewcut of the sort that looks virile and good on men who have lost a lot of hair anyway. (p80)
Surprised blue eyes.
We also get a hefty dose of the tennis student-players themselves, teenage boys mostly, but also some girl players, and we start to form a picture of the culture at E.T.A. (which, I should say, is an abbreviation I find jarring and unpleasant to behold; it makes me think of the Basque separatist group ETA).
Hmm, but maybe that’s DFW’s point, to subtly insert the acronym of a famous international separatist group so that the fictional Quebecois separatist group in IJ seems completely plausible.
Note (from Google):
ETA (Basque: [eta], Spanish: [ˈeta]), an acronym for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna(Basque pronunciation: [eus̺kaði ta as̺katas̺una]; “Basque Country and Freedom”) is an armed Basque nationalist and separatist organization in northern Spain and southwestern France.
Perfect entry for Marathe and Steeply (Marathe p87, Steeply p88) … though not before the Infinite Jest entertainment cartridge strikes! (p87)
The first time I read this section, I had no idea what the fuck was going on. It was surreal and disconnected to anything that came before it. Who ARE these people and are we really talking about a guy in a wheelchair and a guy in drag way the fuck up on some cliff overlooking a city in Arizona?
Actually, yes. and – SPOILER ALERT – Marathe is a member of the A.F.R, Les Assassins des Fauteuils Rollents, the Wheelchair Assassins, … pretty much Quebec’s most dreaded and rapacious anti-O.N.A.N. terrorist cell; and Steeply is an Unspecified Service’s field operative. (We’ll have to deal with what “O.N.A.N” is later on).
Marathe to Steeply (a LOL margin note), commenting on Steeply’s woman’s disguise:
And your tits, they have become cock-eyed, I will tell you, Services Without Specificity, they have given you ridiculous tits, and now they point differently. (p92)
Steeply is described as some type of brutal-U.S.-contact-sport athlete now become fat. Priceless.
Hal at E.T.A. The Halster. Halorama. Halation. (p97). I’ve written in the margin “Hal is the young, troubled, genius”.
Hal is sleek, sort of radiantly dark, almost otterish, only slightly tall, eyes blue but darkly so, and unbearable even w/o sunscreen, his untanned feet the color of weak tea, his nose ever unpeeling but slightly shiny. (p101)
Hal is a stoner. This is DFW knowing what that means and describing Hal as if he, the author, were stoned and noticing Hal. There’s a scene in the boys locker room, a bunch of kids are sitting around tired after a huge practice. In the margin I have written next to this “This is deep noticing!”
Hal’s face’s reflection just fits inside one of the wall-tiles opposite, and then if he moves his head slowly the face distends and comes back together with an optical tang in the next tile. (p104)
Are you fucking kidding me?
And then, 16 pages later, Mario, Hal’s weirdly deformed (elephant head, claws for hands) younger brother, gets sexually molested by U.S.S. Millicent in the thicket on the perimeter of the grounds. I know. WTF.