Week Two: 2/17 - 2/24, start at “The feminized American stood at a slight...”, end at “some broad mock-supplicant’s gesture Schact’s just now made.” (219)
Week Three: 2/24 - 3/3, start at “You can be at certain parties and not really be there”, end at “who told the guy to go peddle his linen someplace else.” (317)
Week Four: 3/3 - 3/10, start at “The sky of the U.S.A.’s desert was clotted with blue stars”, end at “rocketing people’s waste into the forgiving chill of infinite space.” (418)
Week Five: 3/10 - 3/17, start at “Marathe did not quite sleep”, end at “Marathe think of many windblown sparks.” (508)
Week Six: 3/17 - 3/24, start at “The following things in the room were blue”, end at “in a fish-eye lens, lifting: ‘Ready?’” (619)
Week Seven: 3/24 - 3/31, start at “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment: InterLace”, end at “both seeming to be shrieking for help.” (716)
Week Eight: 3/31 - 4/7, start at “A disadvantage of your nasally ingested cocaine...”, end at “and past Hal, his face unspeakable.” (808)
Week Nine: 4/7 - 4/14, start at “The ceiling was breathing.” End at “I was impossible to knock down.” (902)
Week Ten: 4/14 - 4/21, start at “Gately’s cognomen growing up...”, end at “and the tide was way out.” (981, END)
*page numbers correspond to the First Edition, 1996. ISBN: 9780316920049
O, Year of Glad: Hal Incandenza, tennis player, at the college hearing with his uncle, C.T., where the panel is trying to determine if they should admit Hal. Hal is silent for the entirety until they prod him, after which he explains himself very eloquently, but as it turns out he was creating a raucous instead. He ends up being taken away by an ambulance.
O, Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment: An addict is waiting for a woman to deliver drugs to his house. He has obsessively planned and cleaned to get ready for the stupor-filled days that will follow. Ends with the telephone ringing and the doorbell ringing simultaneously and the addict on the floor, unable to decide which to address first.
O, 1 April - Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad: Hal(10, 11,14) and the conversationalist/his father talk about Hal’s ability to memorize portions of the dictionary, his mother’s dealings with medical attaches and diplomats and whatnot, his father’s drunkenness, etc.
O, 9 May - Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment: Hal wakes up extremely early for tennis drills while his brother Mario sleeps. As he is getting ready, Orin (O) calls on the telephone.
O, Year of the the Depend Adult Undergarment: The medical attache in Boston comes home on a Wednesday evening, the one night of the week his wife has plans and can’t attend to all his needs. He gripes on about having to figure out something to eat and sort the mail. While doing the latter task, he finds a weirdly marked entertainment cartridge which was postmarked from Arizona and had smiley faces and Happy Anniversary on it (it is not his/his wife’s anniversary.) He watches the beginning and the TP (teleputer) reads 1927h.
Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar: In dialect, Clenette talks about life in the Brighton projects. Wardine, her half-sister, was beaten with a hanger by her mother, who thinks Wardine is tempting her mother’s boyfriend Roy Tony with her youngness. Reginald, who has a crush on Wardine, and Clenette help clean Wardine’s back. In another section, Bruce Green is introduced, as well as Mildred Bonk, an unfortunately named but beautiful young woman. The two both grow into depressing versions of themselves, have a child together, and move into a trailer in Allston with a drug dealer called Tommy Doocey who keeps snakes.
O, Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment: Hal and his brother Mario (called BooBoo here) are laying in bed at school and Mario keeps asking Hal about God. It is revealed that Himself (H & M’s father) has died and there is a discussion about whether the Moms (their mom) was suitably sad. A last and separate sentence is added to note that the medical attache of earlier is still watching the weird cartridge at 2010h.
October - Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment: We meet Orin Incandenza, Hal’s older brother, who is a football player (punter) in Arizona. He hates mornings, lives in a yellow-tiled condo filled with roaches he can’t get rid of, and sleeps with a lot of women he calls Subjects, one of whom watches a documentary about schizophrenia in this portion and Orin is reminded a bit of Hal. (also, he is reminded to call Hal (Hallie) when the subject of PR interviewers delving into the unmined pasts of the players is discussed)
O, Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment: Hal is 17 and at Enfield. He talks about getting high covertly and who does/does not know he does it. We find out the Moms’ name is Avril Incandenza and that C.T.’s actual name is Charles Tavis. At this point, Hal’s father has already passed away. Also, it is revealed that the Moms has three sons (so presumably Hal, Orin, and Mario are the only kids) and two of them are “high-functioning.” (Mario being the one not, I assume.) There’s a lot of description about the design of ETA, where Hal smokes, and how he gets away with it. (i.e. the failed pro alumni of the school don’t give a crap what students do.) The medical attache is still watching the cartridge, on repeat, at 0020h the next day (April 2) before his wife gets home. He has wet himself and the recliner he is sitting on.
Autumn - Year of Dairy Products from the American Heartland: We meet Don Gately, a narcotics addict who burgles to feed his habit. His MO includes a straight shunt of the power lines, which is ultimately his downfall because he uses this method when robbing the ADA who prosecuted him as well as a rich man in Brookline who was meant to be away at the time of the burglary. The rich man turns out to home, ill, and a Quebecer very involved in the nonsense I am having a really hard time following (and also have no interest in following.) Gately and his friend proceed with the burglary but it turns into a robbery after they tie the man up. The man dies. This section ends with what is presumably the back blurb/details to the cartridge that was delivered to the medical attache.
3 November - Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment: Jim Troeltsch, at ETA, roommates with Ted Schact and Michael Pemulis, who are both gone from the room. Troeltsch is sick, hopped up on different medicines, and having nightmares/daydreams. (DFW says Troeltsch is “awake and almost twelve” but not sure if this is part of the daydream or if actual age.)
O, As of Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment: About H/O/M’s father James Incandenza and his father, also James Incandenza. The elder was an actor and the younger was a filmmaker, among other things. The world’s longest footnote is included in this section--a rundown of all of JO Incandenza’s films, which includes several different versions of Infinite Jest. It is revealed that JO Incandenza committed suicide at fifty four in the Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar.
Denver Co, 1 November, Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment: A quick interlude with Orin, still a punter for the Cardinals, in Colorado. He is dressed as a bird, doing promotional vid work for the team, and he is miserable about it since he is afraid of heights.
O: I *think* this is Hal, going on about a big brother/little brother program at ETA and about how early kids get into drugs at the school. He then talks about a recurring dream he has about playing tennis on a gigantic court against an unknown opponent, with his mother as the one decipherable spectator.
O, Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment: Kate Gompert is in a psych ward on suicide watch. She has attempted suicide several times in the past and has a long conversation with the resident on duty about her feelings of depression. She mentions that she smokes weed and buys from a dealer who calls it “Bob Hope,” which indicates that she is in the same dealing area as several other characters. She also mentions one dealer who keeps snakes in a tank--which would be Tommy Doocey, who lives in the trailer with Bruce Green & Mildred Bonk from earlier on. Kate repeatedly requests that they give her electro therapy to help get her out of the pain she’s in. (which may or may not be caused by giving up smoking--or rather, giving up smoking leaves her depression out in the open.) In a separate paragraph, the medical attache’s wife finally comes ohome at 0145h, 2 April YDAU and sees him in the recliner. He has no response but she looks to see what cartridge he is/was watching. Next, on to Gerhardt Schtitt, who works at ETA and spends a lot of time with Hal and Orin's brother, Mario. It is mentioned that Mario Incandenza is 18 years old here.
Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment: We are introduced to Tiny Ewell, an alcoholic who has just finished detox and is now in a taxi on his way to Enfield VA to do rehab. While in detox, his roommate is a yellowed-from-hepatitis man who repeatedly turns the air conditioner on all different levels, chain smokes, and has long hair and glasses with one lense missing. (just in case we find out who this person might be later on...) It is mentioned that at detox they sometimes take your shoes away and give you foam rubber slippers embossed with smiley faces on top--smiley faces like those embossed on the cartridge the medical attache is still watching? At the end of this section, we revisit the medical attache, who is joined in watching the cartridge by his wife, the Saudi prince, the prince’s physician, and a few more people.
O, 30 April - The Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment: Marathe, a wheelchair assassin, meets with Steeply, another covert operative of some sort who is dressed as a woman, on a mountain in Arizona. The two talk about whether or not Marathe is a double agent and about the cartridge (“the Entertainment”) that the medical attache and about a dozen other people are now affected by. It sounds like the cartridges are multi-sensory experiences and perhaps some sort of chemical or bio-warfare. Also, they mention DuPlessis, who was associated with Marathe. DuPlessis is the sick man who died when Gately burgled his house earlier.
Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment: Hal and other upperclassmen are in the locker room at ETA. More talk about the buddy system, using lemon Pledge for sunscreen (does this really work?!), and Hal’s secret smoking. Confirmation that Mario is the middle child and Hal is the youngest. One brief paragraph about Marathe and Steeply still in Arizona. (We stopped in the middle of a section, so this section will begin next week's assigned reading.)
Here's this week's thoughts and comments:
- Heartbreaking quote: “I’d tell you all you want and more, if the sounds I made could be what you hear.”
- Reader comment: "I kind of can’t stop reading the book, even though I have no idea what’s going on. My husband asked me what this book was about and I opened my mouth to talk but then just had to close it again and shake my head because there’s no way to describe what’s gone on so far without sounding like an insane person."
- We are torn about whether the ebook or the physical book is a better bet. Those with e-readers don't love that they can't see the visual evidence of progress and the footnotes are a bit harder but the paperback/hardcover readers are finding that the weight of the book is annoying (my word, not theirs).
- Quote: “The moment he recognized what exactly was on one cartridge he had a strong anxious feeling that there was something more entertaining on another cartridge and he was potentially missing it. He realized that he would have plenty of time to enjoy all the cartridges, and realized intellectually that the feeling of deprived panic over missing something made no sense.” (26) I sometimes feel this way about books.
- Several of us are finding DFW's technology inventions (Teleputers? Cartridges?) a bit clunky and we have to keep reminding ourselves that this was written in the mid-90s.
- The hardest parts to get through and fully understand seem to be those dealing with the political issues.
- Most of us agreed to NOT put off our weekly reading until the last few days of the week. This book is not a breezy read and it is legitimate work to try to read tens of pages in one go.
- At least three of us found Kate Gompert's chapter to be the most readable from the first week's sections. And we wish there were more female characters in this book.
- Some things keep recurring: worrying that if you speak, no one will understand you; pot addiction; Byzantine erotica; Toblerone; bugs; sweat stains on pillows/bedsheets; your worst nightmare becoming reality (noticed by Maggie M.).
- Several of us are wondering how JO Incandenza's movies, 5 of which were titled "Infinite Jest" are related to "the entertainment" and this book. There are several possibilities we are keeping in mind, including the idea that the book is a written version of one of the movies, that one of the movies IS "the entertainment," and whether the confusing nature of the movies is meant to be the same with the book, namely that readers are meant to be confounded whilst trying to figure out what the hell is going on and how everything relates to everything and everyone else.
So, we are 10% done with this book. On to 20%, eh? Feel free to discuss anything in the comments section. Spoilers for the first 10% are welcome, as that's where we all are but PLEASE DON'T INCLUDE SPOILERS FOR THE OVERALL BOOK IN THE COMMENTS. If you'd like to join our readalong and think you can catch up, email me at (our blog name @ gmail) or tweet me @ our blog name. In nine weeks, we'll be done with this infinite readalong.