Of all our weekly ‘lenses,’ this week’s theme of otherness fits like a glove.
Let’s start with Orin. Orin, the hale and handsome eldest Incandenza. Orin, the tennis player with a terrific lob, wooed by colleges, lured by a beautiful cheerleader. Orin the punter, effortlessly finding his place in O.N.A.N’s (nee America’s) prestigious sport, seems the farthest from otherness. He exudes wholesome, conformist, almost banal ideals. But Orin is the odd one out. Within the Incandenza clan he is very much the other. His form letters to his mother, his lack of knowledge about his father’s death – Orin has put significant space between himself and his family. (Hal has a lot of very pointed thoughts on this – mostly about Orin’s sexual proclivities and how they may or may not relate to his mother).
In juxtaposition, the details of Mario’s otherness read like a medical textbook was put through a Burroughs-esque cut-up technique. Yet he is a welcome confidante for Schtitt, has carried the torch (or lens) of his father’s craft, and stays close to Hal by being his bunkmate. Mario is not seen as an outsider at all. In the world of Infinite Jest, as in the U.H.I.D, all are welcome.
Poor Tony Krause. Poor, poor Tony Krause. Isolated, drug sick, “gender-dysmorphic” Tony. His own body becomes the Other as he detoxes in the Armenian library washroom stall. During the complete breakdown of his corporeal self, culminating in a subway seizure, (“watching his tumid limbs tear-ass around the car’s interior like undone balloons” – p. 305) Tony is back in his childhood, worried that his “red-handed Poppa could see up his dress, what was hidden” (p. 306), having lived a life that is true to his own self, but decidedly in the realm of otherness as far as his father is concerned.
There was also an incredibly playful sense of otherness w/r/t the endnotes in this section. We are tossed all around in terms of voice, time, and perspective. It’s a complete, beautiful mess. I was tickled by Pemulis’ narrative on the Mean-value formula, as told to and later transcribe by Hal, who interrupts editorially. It assumes Pemulis/Hal are indeed writing this to someone – are they speaking directly to us? Endnote 127 seems to be written entirely by Pemulis, who can’t help himself by adding a “P.S. Wolf-spiders Ruleth the Land.” And the cheeky “…overshot the place to mention” and “…also overshot the spot to include” (e. 117/119 p. 1022) create a false editorial structure that indicates the narrator is somehow prevented from accurately placing his own damn endnotes.
- 47 endnotes!!!
- “The first birth of the Incandenza’s second son was a surprise” (p. 312 – emphasis mine)
- The dense, detailed Eschaton section is in turns so cinematic and so numbingly academic. I love it. But Hal sure is acting strange, and we are kept at a distance from his thoughts that we aren’t accustomed to. He seems to be struggling to articulate his ideas, the narrative voice just scratches the surface, and never dives deeper, and near the end, Hal feels at his face to see if he is wincing (p. 342), a gesture we saw in the opening section of the book in the Year of Glad. It’s November 8, YDAU. Have we started to lose Hal already?
- On November 8, YDAU Joelle van Dyne enters Ennett House, one day after her attempted de-mapping (e. 134 p. 1025)
- Calgarian pro-Canadian Phalanx! That’s where I live!
I would take all of these prorector classes.