A Fond Farewell

Where to start? How to end?

I decided to write this the morning of because I just couldn’t think of where to begin last night, and last night I was exhausted. I thought a fresh morning brain would fix things right up, so let’s see if that’s true.

It’s slightly weird that I feel an urge to say goodbye. Although I’ll still be around, I won’t be here blogging about IJ every week, reading each blog post in the morning, tweeting out the blog posts in the morning (or in the afternoon when I had forgotten), and trying to get a guest blogger for each Friday. Quite literally, my life revolved around this blog. I don’t want to say “this book” because it wasn’t just IJ. In fact, reading IJ this time around seemed almost “in the way” of reading everyone else’s blog posts and comments. I was more interested, at least this time around, to see what other people had to say about one of my favourite books. It was my 4th time reading IJ within my 20s and that’s a lot. I found returning to the book a bit exhausting this time around because I had read it 2 or 3 years ago. But what made me keep reading, and what made me see a lot that I never saw before, was reading with all of you.

It was like I was reading it for the very first time.


And reading it with others was important to me. I really wanted to see what others brought to the book. But on my fourth time around, I was kinda done with loving the book as much as I did the first and second and even the third time around. I wanted to know it’s problems, its shortcomings, its flaws, its failures. And I wanted to acknowledge all of them and be able to talk about then with others. I think that’s important when you love a book, and it’s even more important when you study a book. So when Allie messaged me a bit ago about whether or not she could discuss not liking the book thus far in the reading group, I said absolutely and encouraged it. Because we’re a book club, not a fan club (although the majority of us writing on here have read the book before and are fans, so I understood the pressure). So, I want to thank her for doing just that: opening the doors to talking about the book’s shortcomings. I believe Infinite Summer also had a guide who disliked the book most of the way through, if not to the very end (I will have to re-read all of the posts again to make sure). But this is how discussion is carried on, and this kind of discussion is important to first-time readers (who I know read along with us but were shy or too busy to comment, which is totally cool!) to feel comfortable talking about any reservations that they may have. It was great, for me, to not only talk about this online but also offline.

And BUT so I think I should take some time right now to thank all of the guides. Shazia, Joe, Allie: thank you all so much. You all did a great, wondrous job. Because this is a lot of work. And the thought, the time, and the devotion that went into all of these posts (the pictures, the videos, the gifs, the links to elsewhere) was above and beyond what I expected. It was lovely to blog with you all, and it was lovely to read your reading. As guides, I think you were all exceptional because you each guided readers through the book in your own way. Let’s give a round of applause for all of the hard work that the guides put in!


I also want to thank ALL of the guests. Thank you for putting up with my sometimes vagueness, my last minuteness (“can you write a post for…next week!?”), and for your contributions. You all took time out of your busy schedules to write those posts and communicate back and forth with me about ideas and clarifications. My heart goes out to all of you: Danielle, Clare, Michael, Allan, Steve, Alana, Matt, Nat, Brett, Nathan, Eden, Corrie, Raoul, and Aimée. And I’m glad to just have noticed that the guests (in addition to the guides) have been an even 50/50 split between men and women. That is fantastic. I also want to thank the people who declined to guest appear. I won’t name names, but I want to say thank you for taking the time out of your day to talk with me and discuss possibilities but eventually having to turn down the offer.

There were some guests I was considering but decided not to. A little something about me: I have a good case of social anxiety. Although I can manage it well, it still takes me like an hour just to write an email to someone new with the line “Are you interested in writing a guest post for my blog”. The fact that I had to ask this to so many “strangers” (and I put “strangers” in quotation marks because I kinda “knew” most of you all, either through the wallace listserv or my own life or past reading groups) to write a blog post for me, sent me through like existential hell. It was really tough for me to do little things like tweet out the blog posts, write these blog posts, and to ask a number of people to write up a blog post. I feared rejection; I feared someone saying sure, then reading the blog and being like “what’s all this crap, you suck, phil, go away, I’ll never write a blog post for you, what is your LIFE.” Yeah, sometimes I imagine the worst. So, yeah, I had plans for “big names” but upon opening up my email, I just couldn’t. That being said, all of the guests, to me, were “big names” because they all made a big contribution to the blog and were more important to me because they were all, in some way or another, connected to me. And at some point or another, most of us met in person. It was more important to me to have guests that I wanted to get to know more, if that makes any sense.

Are there things that I wish I can do better? Of course. One of the things I will be doing in the next coming weeks is just organizing this blog a bit better and making it easier to go through all of the blog posts (making them excerpts). So that way, if someone wants to do a scheduled read, they can just use our Week categories and “follow along” with us that way. I apologize for any messiness. All of the messiness is on me. As in it’s my fault. I don’t literally have messiness on me. Although sometimes I can be a mess.


I would also like to thank everyone that followed along, even if you weren’t reading the book. Like, thanks so much to everyone that retweeted the blog posts and liked them. I think Nick Maniatis reblogged every single one, sometimes catching up on a few all in one night, making my phone make me look like I was super important. I want to thank all of the commenters, and I hope discussion never got too too heated! I also want to thank the lurkers. Sometimes a lurker would chime in and message me that they are really enjoying the blog. Other times, I’d hear that someone in KW was like following along and was like OH YOU’RE THE ONE RUNNING THE BLOG!? These little instances made me feel good, that we weren’t just sending a signal into space and not getting anything back. There is someone, somethinglife, out there. All jokes aside, I hope you all enjoyed Poor Yoricks’ Summer, which I realized I just could’ve called Poor Summer. Ah, poor me, poor me, pour me a drink. Sometimes we make mistakes! If you haven’t commented on the blog and would like to say thanks or give some kind of feedback, you can do so in the comments below. That would be nice.

Of course, this blog is not quite done. Well, I’m not quite done with the blog. It is now going to become a chapter in my dissertation, a chapter devoted to auto/biography and IJ reading groups. The focus is Infinite Summer, but I am using this blog to write about my experiences moderating, organizing, and participating in a reading group like Infinite Summer. What direction will this chapter go? Well, I think one of the major points I’ve realized and what I kinda touched upon above is how much I have had to go outside of myself, and how these blog posts have been a presentation of myself shaped by the idea of people reading along and responding and by my fellow guides. What drew me to Infinite Summer was the amount of auto/biographical writing that occurred in that space. And even in here, autobiographical moments emerged. I found myself sharing with you all that I was going through a difficult time one week. Joe would share pictures and in-jokes about his dad. Shazia brought in why she missed her post one week. Allie would bring in the kinds books and films and music she loves, weaving this auto/biographical narration with the explanation of her title choice and the gifs she used. And look at the guests, too. Although I won’t go through all of them, the one that stood our for me was Clare’s discussion of motherhood and parenting.

So why this book in this kind of setting (an online reading group). Auto/biographical theory aside, I think part of it is because of how drawn out the reading of this books is (and also how long the book is). Like I said earlier, I was waking up to IJ posts, writing at least once a week IJ posts, and reading IJ nearly every day. Just as I was managing reading the book into my life, the book was making its way into my life and vice versa. It became a platform to look at my life and discuss it in relation to others. There are other aspects of why this book spoke to me: there are events and ideas in IJ that have occurred to me in some form or another. When I first read this book, I realized how much the novel spoke to me at that moment in my life. Shortly after I read the book a third time, I stopped smoking pot because I noticed I had the same tendencies of Hal – being secretive and doing it alone, and just feeling altogether lonely because of it. So there’s that, too. I think when I read auto/biographical posts in relation to this book, it’s a combo of them identifying with events and characters in the book and the fact that the book is being reading for nearly 4 months, exactly 14 weeks.

So, how do I end this? I’m nearly at 2000 words, here. And I think I should wrap this up. But I’m not sure how. I want to say, one last time, thank you. To everyone. This meant a lot to me. It all really meant a lot.


Hello, Goodbye

Hello, dear readers, and happy Thursday from me to you!


Why that particular Beatles gif, you ask?

Well, first off, I personally think it’s exquisite; everything from their outfits to their awkward faux-strip-tease dancing brings me immense joy every time I see it. Second of all (and slightly more on-topic), this rare footage is from one of the three promotional clips they filmed for their 1967 “Hello, Goodbye” music video – hence tying this gif in nicely with the title of this week’s blog post.

Which brings me to this: my last contribution to Infinite Summer. Fourteen weeks ago, I said “hello” in my first blog post that talked about my first impressions of Infinite Jest. Now, I will come full circle to say “goodbye” in my final blog post and talk about my final impressions of Infinite Jest.

So… here it goes!

If you’ve been following my posts these past few weeks, you’ll know that – despite my best efforts – I ended up not really clicking with IJ. Back in August, I confessed to my struggle with liking the novel and have continued to chronicle my inability to fully connect with DFW’s magnum opus.

While it was immensely satisfying to hear that heavy thunk of the book closing one last time, I am sad to report that the conclusion did nothing to change my feelings. That being said, I would really like to end my run on a positive note and dedicate my last post to all of the things that I enjoyed and appreciated about Infinite Jest.

So, in no particular order, I give you…

Allie’s Top Ten Things She Liked About IJ

# 1. The Prose

Even if I didn’t always love his modernist digressions and stream-of-consciousness style, Wallace truly was a master of language and knew how to pack a punch in just a few words. As I flip through my copy of Infinite Jest, I see lots of underlined bits with stuff like ‘Gorgeous’ and ‘Nice’ scribbled in the margins. A few of my favourite little passages:

  • “the no-sound of falling snow” (342)
  • “its black has the bottomless quality of water at night” (461)
  • “so quiet Hal can hear the squeak of blood in his head” (798)
  • “a long-tailed comet of flour on her cheek” (954)

DFW’s writing is so evocative and these are just a few examples from the text that gave me a mad case of writerly admiration/envy. His descriptions are so on-points that they make whatever he’s talking about burst into your mind in technicolour, leaving you wondering, “How did I never think of putting it that way?”

# 2. Mario and Joelle

These two emerged as my favourites early on and secured a special place in my heart as the story went along. Mario gave me all of the genuine emotion and earnestness that was lacking in the other characters and I always felt warm and fuzzy inside whenever the narrative returned to him. Joelle was a fascinating character from the beginning and only became more so as Wallace continued to flesh her out. I was always hungry to learn more about her and only wish that I could have spent more time with her.

All I can say is that I hope these two are doing well in their post-Infinite Jest lives and that Mario goes on to become the greatest filmmaker of his time while Joelle finds whatever brings her joy and does just that. (But if ever she wants to back to her radio gig, then that would be great because it would make Mario very happy, which would, in turn, make me very happy.)

# 3. All. The. Work.

As an aspiring novel writer, it truly was humbling to read a piece of fiction of this magnitude. The intricacy of the plotting, the long list of characters, the world-building, the footnotes… Even if it wasn’t my cup of tea, it’s impossible to remain unimpressed with just how much work went into Infinite Jest and I just have to applaud Wallace for bringing his vision to life because it would have not only taken guts to be such a trailblazer, but also a ton of determination. You don’t just write a one thousand page novel (plus footnotes) on a whim and I respect the hell out our friend David for the sheer will it must have taken to put this all down on paper.

4. How It Made Me Step Outside My Literary Comfort Zone

One of my favourite professors once told me that we never learn anything if we stay in our comfort zone because we don’t push ourselves when we feel at ease. That thought clearly resonated with me and has stuck with me to this day. That’s why when things force me to step outside of my comfort zone, I like to welcome the challenge and open myself up to the learning something new. IJ was most definitely a step outside of my literary comfort zone – I tend to gravitate more toward nineteenth-century British women’s lit – and so it was definitely a good way for me to widen my horizons.

Besides, I don’t think there’s ever a downside to having read a new book.

5. The French-Canadiana

As I’ve mentioned a few times over the course of Infinite Summer, I am French-Canadian. And while it’s Acadian rather than Québécois blood that flows through my veins, there are a lot of overlaps between the two branches of francophone culture. Therefore, it was a thrill to spot the French expressions Wallace would throw in from time to time. He really succeeded in writing Marathe’s stilted English – just the way DFW restructured his sentences to make him sound more French was spot-on it. It was exactly like hearing my relatives who live on the North Shore (the French part of New Brunswick) speak English! Unbelievably impressive.

6. The Intertextual References

If you’ve been following my blog posts, this is probably a very obvious one on my list, but I seriously loved all of the intertextuality in Infinite Jest. The references to Wagner, Greek myth, Tosca, William Blake, and – above all – Hamlet were all lovely to spot and I find that they really added a lot of texture to the narrative. I always feel a kind of rush when I notice these little nods to other pieces of culture (like I’ve been let in on the joke) and so it was fun to play this little game of “I Spy” with our friend David along the way.

7. The Reflections On Art and Form

One of my favourite threads woven throughout the novel that I didn’t really touch on much in my posts was JOI’s film career. I really enjoyed the in-world critical discourse surrounding it and particularly loved reading about everyone’s different opinions on his work. Getting a glimpse into Hal’s thoughts on Himself’s filmic fixation near the end of IJ was especially interesting: “One way of looking at the film-obsession’s endurance is that Himself was never really successful or accomplished at filmmaking. This was something else on which Mario and I had agreed to disagree” (949).

Not only does this give the reader some cool insight into Hal and Mario’s dynamic – especially in relation to their father – but it also seems to speak to some kind of writerly self-reflection. Do we persist with things because we are unsuccessful at them rather than the reverse? It’s an interesting notion. And I find that Wallace uses JOI throughout the narrative to drop all kinds of self-aware musings about what it means to create art. The amount of parallels between Himself and DFW’s work are too numerous to be insignificant (both use footnotes, both are criticized for a lack of plot, etc.) and so it was cool to read JOI as a sort of stand-in for Wallace as a writer.

8. How I Learned New Things

This may sound kind of lame, but I actually learned a lot of new things while reading Infinite Jest. It’s a very random assortment of things, but still.

I could rhyme off a ton of new things that I learned about in IJ, I’ll narrow it down to just my top three:

  • Tennis (I didn’t even know that there was that much more one could learn about tennis);
  • Drugs (I have learned so much about addiction from this book that D.A.R.E. never taught me); and
  • Wild Turkey is a kind of alcohol that actually exists (I thought it was a brand that DFW made up for the book, but I saw it when buying a bottle of wine the other day in the liquor store and was weirdly delighted that it was real).

Also, I just realized that I made a list within a list. List-ception!

9. The Soft Moments™

These are what kept me going even when times got rough, my friends. For every section that focused on scum like Randy Lenz, there were glimpses of gentleness to counterbalance those – for example, anything having to do with my sweet Mario. I’ve dedicated a lot of digital ink to my favourite soft moments throughout IJ, but I’ll focus here on one near the end of the book that touched me.

On page 956, Hal recounts one of Orin’s most moving memories of his father in which Himself talks to Orin about sex: “He said he’d personally prefer that Orin wait until he’d found someone he loved enough to want to have sex with and had had sex with this person, that he’d wait until he’d experienced for himself what a profound and really quite moving thing sex could be, before he watched a film where sex was presented as nothing more than organs going in and out of other organs, emotionless, terribly lonely” (956).

Like, how beautiful is it to read about a father figure being vulnerable and open with his son about the emotional side of sex? This was so lovely and really made me care about JOI for the first time in the whole book.

(I also love/hate Hal’s comment later on the page where he says that Himself “wasted” this moment of openness with Orin of all people – love it because it’s such a sick burn toward his brother, but hate it because it’s a it’s a very sad truth. Poor Hal.)

10. You

Now, I know this is kind of sappy, but you all made this crazy ride so worthwhile – you, the readers, the commenters, and my fellow guides. It has been an honour to write for you, hear from you, and get to know you all over the course of the past three months. To all those who followed this blog, but never commented – thank you. To all those who read along and took the time to leave comments – thank you. To the three other guides who have made me think, made me laugh, and inspired me week after week – thank you. (Also, to all of those to whom I didn’t find the time to reply, I apologize. Between a new job that keeps me super busy and other commitments, life often got in the way of being more present on here. Please know, though, that I have appreciated hearing from all of you!)

So, hello… and goodbye for now. Thank you – from the bottom of my heart – for including me in your Infinite Summer.


It’s ok! I Don’t Mind…

This is the end. My only friend—The End.

Finito, donezo.

Bingo bango! Cross another one off the bucket list.

And what a wild ride it has been, my friends.

We laughed, we cried, we loved it (well, some of us did, maybe) more than Cats.

Critic C.D paradoxically described it as being simultaneously “the best of times” AND “the worst of times”.

But damn it, man, we did it. As I mentioned last week, this has been an incredibly fun and interesting thing to do over the long, hot summer (absolutely sweltering here in Southern Ontario, Canada) with all of you kool kats, keeping it cool, oh so cool. Someday, in my 80’s, I will look back fondly (insert flashback Kung-Fu: The Legend Continues sound)  on the memories of sitting by my Hampton Bay oscillating fan in July at 11 or 12 pm in my room, perspiring freely (itsokitsokitsokitsok), tip tap typing away, for the FUN of it. I will remember being so busy with being an adult that I was constantly wondering if I would just tap out in the following week.

Well, that never happened, and it’s because it was a conversation.

Speaking to all who participated here:  thank you a billion + 1 for carrying my slouching disembodied brain-voice through this project. And for listening to my rambly things. And for being wonderful people. And, of course, for being a friend.

Yeah, I did.

Eight years ago, if you’d have asked me if I would voluntarily write a 1000-2000 word essay every single week , for, oh you know, the hell of it, I would have said you were seriously off your rocker.




Lost in Yonkers.

I’d have said something like, I’d say something like, I’d say, “stop suckin’ on grand pappy’s cough medicine, why don’t cha? Something uuuuh from the meatcase, Linda?”

Or something.

Mind you, these posts weren’t exactly essays in the traditional sense, in that they were a lot looser and not subject to the same kind of professorial scrutiny as the good ol’ university days (and why did profs always seem to go easier on you, mark wise, than T.A’s?, hmmm?), but whatever, they still required a fair bit of effort. I’m proud of the stuff that came out of this blog and I hope you are too. I also hope Phil is able to use some of our stuff in his dissertation.

Phil, you should know that I’m eagerly anticipating reading the final product, and I fully expect/demand a hard copy personally delivered, hot off the presses (physically warm like a Cinnabon, please…but no frosting, thanks) hand signed (“best wishes”—pm, or something), with a case of tasty beer and/or fine scotch to my front stoop, where we will toast to your fine achievement.

Three cheers for Phil Miletic, they’ll say. Hip-hip! Hooray! (x3)

But anyway (to the task at hand!), enough of this self-congratulatory stuff: there you have it. We’re done!

Wait…we’re…(gulp…) done?

So, what am I supposed to do now?

Am I supposed to be a man?! Am I supposed to say, “It’s ok, I don’t mind! (gesturing wildly) I don’t mind!” … Well, I mind! I mind big time!

(*dries tears using final three pages of footnotes that have separated from spine of well-loved copy of IJ)


It Hurts!

…sniff, sniff…

So to delay the inevitable heartbreak and impending sense of loss, this brings me to the final thing that I would like to discuss: the treatment of Donald W. Gately. This is probably no surprise, as the novel fades out with a horrifying Gately experience (and someone over at Infinite Summer mentioned they imagined the Beatles song “A Day in the Life” [specifically the sustained chord at the very end of the song] sounding as Gately wakes up “flat on his back on the beach in the freezing sand.” How perfect!)

So, I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m a Gately fan. I always have been and I still am even after this, my third reading.

Is he perfect?

No way.

Is he human? I think so…yes.

Way back when, Shazia wondered if Gately was actually just a creep. This is still a good question. More recently, I think Allie stated that she cared about all of, oh, perhaps, about a fraction of a fraction of a percent for Gately following his act of heroism that landed him in the trauma ward. I can’t blame her, really. He is a rough character who has had a rough life. But this is exactly what makes his decision to get clean and live life differently all the more commendable and admirable, from my perspective. When I think about all of the things Gately has had to contend with in his life (an abusive stepfather, a learning disability [arguably] that led to the denial of a sports scholarship, a mother who wasn’t there in any real sense, a biological father that didn’t care, witnessing a friend’s violent demapping, the list goes on), my heart hurts for him.

And then there’s all the stuff we get when Gately is in immense pain, laying in the trauma ward. I just can’t judge Gately when he is in this state. Yes, there is a hell of a lot of sexism, objectification, racism and generally icky things swirling around in his head at these points. But for God’s sake, he’s locked in his brain, suffering immense pain! I have to cut him some slack, here. This mentally imprisoned Gately is nothing like the one that we see in Ennet House: you know, the thing about preparing a face to meet the faces that you meet. The multi-dimensionality of any individual. All the world is a stage. Come on, guys–maybe? Just a little?

I think it’s important to make the distinction that Gately’s thoughts are completely unleashed in these sections. There is no filter, nor is there any need for a filter, because he is not interacting with anyone here, nor is he acting/saying any of these things out loud. You need to stay alive before you begin to think about how others might perceive you, and Gately is right in the middle of that battle.

Now, does that excuse his type of racist, bigoted, sexist thinking, or make it ok? Well, no…but we are being granted some pretty intimate access to the inner workings of his brain here, via a wraith, perhaps? I think that, in a way, Gately’s consciousness is being violated by the wraith, who is putting suffering on display in the name of entertainment (the book). This makes his part even sadder, at least from where I am standing.

Yes, it’s true that he’s the product of a seedy upbringing, adolescence and young adulthood. Yes, he thinks in racist slurs, he objectifies women (in his mind, in fever dreams, at least) and his motivation for acting heroically in defence of his housemates may not be entirely altruistic.

Yet despite all of this, I like Gately. He’s a human being, flaws and all. I think he he is quite strong (not just physically). As I mentioned above, he is not a perfect character, by any means, but he is somebody who sincerely tries. He wants to get better, and he takes steps to do just that.

Gately could very easily say, “Fuck it what’s the point? I am who I am, and there’s nothing I can do about it, so why even bother?”, but he decidedly does not take this approach to life. Even when he fucks up, he seems to realize it, and actually feels terribly about actions that he seems to know are wrong, even if he lacks the will to stop himself. Here, I’m thinking about that part where he beats up a guy with blonde hair and a mustache (MP step father, anybody?)—if I’m somehow misremembering (highly possible), then you can also look at the parts where he violently collects debts for Whitey Sorkin. Anger issues gone awry. He always feels pretty badly about the brutal beatings he administers: “the big kid Donny’d get so guilty and remorseful he’d triple his drug-intake and be no use to fucking nobody for a week.” Again, are his actions excusable? No, not really, but he has remorse, and that’s something, I think.

Further, he signs up for something that requires, at its core, a belief in a higher power that he doesn’t even understand/believe in (AA). He makes a conscious decision to accept the help of other people (he listens). Gately then becomes part of a community and shows signs of developing/honing his sense of empathy in the absence of self-effacing substances that cloud his mind (Dilaudid, et al.). When he speaks to others in the house, he seems aware of how he is coming across to others, and sometimes corrects himself when he is about to use a slur (I don’t have a page citation for this, but I do remember it). While in AA, he shows consideration for others and does his best to be a decent human being.

Guys, I need to ask you: what else is there, really? Living this way seems very basic, but it’s actually a lot harder to do than it seems.

Again, it’s the battle of head vs. heart: a classic of our time.

Head: “I’m the most important here! What am I feeling? What are my needs?”

To which Heart replied: “Why do I feel sick?”

I found my own understanding of Gately deepening with each of the flashbacks that we get through the book. At the very end of the book, when Facklemann is getting violently demapped, Gately is powerless to do anything for him. It puts a whole new spin on his actions against the Nucks who were after his people in the street on that fateful night when he was critically injured. When I read that final part where Gately is stuck in his drugged up soup of powerlessness, I thought to myself, “No wonder he felt he had to do something.”First his mother, then Facklemann, now his Ennet Housers. He was a ticking time bomb.

Again, it seems like latent memories (and who knows how much of that Facklemann murder he even consciously remembers) are compelling him to actions. Maybe he felt guilty about this event and that’s the reason he felt obliged to step in for the scum o’ the earth, Randy Lenz? As Bobby C. narrates on page 977, “[Gately] didn’t need to do anything except kick back and enjoy the party and let Facklelmann face his own music and to not let any like 19th- century notions of defending the weak and pathetic drag Gately into this.” But (I’d like to know) what exactly is wrong with traditional 19th century notions like honour, loyalty and kinship?

So, I guess it’s hard to say for sure if the guilt of the past drives him into action, but it’s certainly possible. Will Gately ever reach the point where he worked through his problems/griefs/guilts enough to function reasonably in day-to-day life? That’s impossible to say, as all we have is the text, but I think Wallace deliberately left that open to debate.

I think part of the point is that recovery is a process and not an end. I doubt any of the people in AA would ever say, “I have recovered. I’m done.” Recovery is presented as an ongoing experience, or a way of living. It’s endless—punctuated by waves of doubt, joy, despair, understanding, confusion, and sorrow. It’s about having the courage to be vulnerable to others and the strength and endurance to keep coming in. It’s about having the serenity to accept the things you can’t change, the courage to accept those you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

That probably makes everything more ambiguous, though. But at least it’s true.

So, for all of his flaws, I’m not ashamed to say that Gately is a person that I would be happy to call my friend. And I wonder (do any of you guys wonder too?), at the end of the book: is he dying, or is he just experiencing another feverish dream? I wish I knew. I can only hope he got out of his predicament alive so that he can continue his personal journey toward redemption.

Additional thoughts about heroism (‘cause I still don’t believe we’re done):

To return to mythology, I was reading about Gately as a possible analogue to Hercules over on Infinite Summer. Remember that part way back when Steeply and Marathe are on the mountain, and the narrator mentions that the constellation of Hercules has a “big, square head?” I think it was on my second read through that I thought, “Hm…that sounds familiar!”

So are we supposed to see Gately as a modern day Hercules of sorts?

It’s definitely an interesting idea, and it makes more and more sense the more I crack into it.

Ok, so let’s say Gately is a hero. That’s problematic because a common conception of a hero involves nobility, self-sacrifice, altruism, a pureness of heart–a type of ideal individual.

Well, I’m sure we can all agree that Gately ain’t that.

But does that mean he doesn’t fit the Greek notion of a hero? I think that his character aligns pretty perfectly with it, when I take a closer look. (A commodius vicus of recirculation, once again?…possibly!). When people think of Hercules, I’m sure many will revert to pop culture representations of Herc (e.g- Kevin Sorbo [my dad] in the TV show Legendary Journies, the cartoon, etc.).


My Dad with custom airbrushed Himself as Hercules father’s day present 2016 (Go Habs) 

In discussion of Herc, I can almost assure you that the average person on the street will not mention (or even have knowledge of) the murders of his wife and children that prompted the punishment/penance of the 12 labors. So there you have it: he does (a) shitty thing/things and embarks on a journey of redemption. I’m feeling some familiarity here.

So is Gately a hero then? Well, maybe he is…at least in the Greek sense.


Well, here are some illuminating points from the cats on the Infinite Summer forum:

Mjdemo writes:

OK, someone else in this forum – I can’t find the reference now – noticed that in one of the Steeply/Marathe passages, there is a reference to the constellation Hercules, who has a square head. Of course, our code hero, Don Gately, also has a square head. This got me thinking harder, and then I found this (here: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/Herakles/labors.html


The goddess Hera, determined to make trouble for Hercules, made him lose his mind. In a confused and angry state, he killed his own wife and children.

When he awakened from his “temporary insanity,” Hercules was shocked and upset by what he’d done. He prayed to the god Apollo for guidance, and the god’s oracle told him he would have to serve Eurystheus, the king of Tiryns and Mycenae, for twelve years, in punishment for the murders.

As part of his sentence, Hercules had to perform twelve Labors, feats so difficult that they seemed impossible. Fortunately, Hercules had the help of Hermes and Athena, sympathetic deities who showed up when he really needed help. By the end of these Labors, Hercules was, without a doubt, Greece’s greatest hero.

His struggles made Hercules the perfect embodiment of an idea the Greeks called pathos, the experience of virtuous struggle and suffering which would lead to fame and, in Hercules’ case, immortality.

So, the parallels here are huge –

1) As an addict, you lose your mind / go crazy and do stupid stuff.

2) The 12 labors are analagous to the 12 steps of AA – “Feats so difficult they seemed impossible” – this is very much in line with the philosophy of AA – that you could never do this yourself

3) Gately has to clean out the “Aegean stables” – he has to clean out the bathroom in a homeless shelter, which is about the lowest status work you could do in American society.

I haven’t read through all the 12 labors of Hercules, but maybe there are more parallels in there… This book is absolutely mindblowing in it’s referential scope.

Then, dioramaorama writes:

Interesting! This is what Wikipedia says about Hera:


Hera may bear a pomegranate in her hand, emblem of fertile blood and death and a substitute for the narcotic capsule of the opium poppy.

Ok, it’s me, Joe, again—that’s so great, isn’t it?:

Of course, since we’re dealing with a mythological character here, there may be more than one analogue to Hercules (apart from Gately) within IJ, so I wouldn’t let it rest there, if you were thinking of following that thread.

Here’s the full discussion, if you want to take a peak:


Bye, everyone! It’s been so much fun.

But you don’t have to take MY word for it. (patented Reading Rainbow ba-da-da sound)


The Wraith and Hal: A Possessive Sort of Love Beyond Language

Jesters, wraiths, Hals, Gomperts et al. of the world!

We are at the end beginning! Doesn’t it feel great?

[I’m just going to get this out of the way first: Sorry I missed my post last week; my lover broke his collarbone and all hell was revealed in increments. (Thank you, Phil, guide of guides for filling in for me and writing a spooky post on Tuesday!)]

I am feeling quite a bit of dread writing this last post. I just want to have IJ friends always and forever and in steady supply and every day ok thanks v. much no punctuation needed no thx.

I’m going to miss waiting to see Joe usurping my posts’ tidbits and writing his own posts that are truly beings of wonderment and beings of funny. I’ll miss Allie’s wit and gifs, Phil’s A+++ dork moves, and the commenters! TIME! ROB! MARGARET! (and DANIEL from Germany who never returned… I hope Kierkegaard (or me) didn’t swallow you into neurotic happiness (or bad times)).

Since I don’t want this to end, why don’t we talk about the end!?* YA! I mean the beginning! (If I had little leech teeth I’d be biting y’all on the face right now being like I’M A SWAMP BUG FILLED WITH MOLD AND WE’RE GONNA TALK ABOUT IJ FOREVER).

By the end of the novel Hal is able to talk with the wraith / J.O.I.

(Do y’all think so too? If not, let Aaron Swartz do the hard work for you.)

I think that IJ is a (very twisted and possessive) story about love at the end, if we consider the extent of schemery and extra-human problems J.O.I has gone through to talk to Hal. For one, he plants DMZ on his kid’s toothbrush so that Hal is able to feel. Then again, J.O.I. isn’t exactly the most loving person. I mean, what kind of father kills himself only to have his son talk to his father’s ghost? But, you know what kind of stuff is capable of doing ontologically impossible stuff? “Love.” Ya! My definition of “love” here is biased because (I can’t help it) I’m drawing from certain biographical tidbits from DFW’s life, the ones about his idea of love (based on his relationships). Apparently he was possessive and intense, in case y’all didn’t know. I’m not saying “so DFW’s life” then “so it happens in IJ” ­– that’s not what I’m saying. Just trying to explain the kind of “love” I see happening.

This has been my fourth time reading IJ, and Hal is still my fave! I also still think that DFW portrays the men and women in an equally terrible light. There is no one person who’s portrayed in a falsely positive light, I don’t think. Even with Mario it’s implied that sometimes he’s just blissfully unaware (like when he shakes Loach’s hand at the train station, it’s because he doesn’t have enough knowledge to judge the situation and social norms involved in that kind of situation). I like this very much about IJ.

The thing about wraiths and ghosts. OK. Going to do my best to talk about this.


In one of Don DeLillo’s stories “Midnight in Dostoevsky,” the character Ilgauskas says:

“If we isolate the stray thought, the passing thought,” he said, “the thought whose origin is unfathomable, then we begin to understand that we are routinely deranged, everyday crazy.”

Well, how do we even think things, does anyone know!? NO. Time to meet the problem of consciousness always and forever and once again.

I think I understand all the ghosty stuff from the perspective of a writer of poems and other things, so I’ll explain it keeping in mind this frame of mind.

So as a writer, one of the things I do is I’m constantly trying to be receptive/aware to/of “stray thoughts” that don’t sound like me (at least not too much, haha). This has something to do with writing to “discover” or “to find out.” At some point, influences jostle in my head and I feel kinda nuts. They’re not different “voices” or anything, but sometimes I’ll be arrested/jarred by myself and wonder what the hell I was thinking or where that thought came from… Similar to Gately and the way the word “pirouette” pops in his head. But then after a little while, I’m like OHHH that sounds like David Foster Wallace’s story! :3 But after that I always know myself a little better, and it’s very pleasant (not what I come to know, but the fact that I am knowing… haha).

Most of us are absorbed in language so it makes sense for seemingly random things like this (“pirouette”) to happen. Pretty sure we absorb enough information even when we’re not consciously paying attention.

To return to ghosts, I think that absorbing influence and the language of influences can feel ghosty when it arises in writing. I think this is one of the most exciting things about writing… reading and learning everything consciously and methodically… and then the surprise when it comes out when writing (at least this is (somewhat) how I “write”)! And the best part (for me) is when I read the thing I wrote a few days later and I’m honestly freaked out and wonder what the hell I was thinking. It means I “stepped outside of myself.”

I think that the wraith’s attempts to talk to his son are a way of wanting Hal to know about himself deeply. It might seem cruel and heartless at times, but let’s not forget how hard it is for the wraith to stay in one place, him being the quantum being that he is. Is IJ about self-knowledge for both Hal and Gately (and everybody else to some extent?)? Is this finally how Hal comes to know himself – he finally learns what it means to have thoughts and feelings like a human, instead of being somewhat bot-like?

There are other ways of looking at this “ghosty”-ness if you’re averse to the word “ghost.” There’s Bakhtin, polyphony, and dialogism, then there’s also mystical experience and William James, and so on and so on.

When we had just begun reading IJ together, I was suffering from allergies so all the maxillofacial problems in IJ really stuck out for me this time around. Look what I found when skimming thru’ Varities of Religious Experience by William James

In fact, one might almost as well interpret religion as a perversion of the respiratory function. The Bible is full of the language of respiratory oppression: “Hide not thine ear at my breathing; my groaning is not hid from thee; my heart panteth, my strength faileth me; my bones are hot with my roaring all the night long; as the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so my soul panteth after thee, O my God…

I think I’ve already gone a bit overboard in this post, so I’ll stop and say: thank you for reading with us! It’s been so fun and intellectually challenging and neurotic and exciting. I loved every single bit. NOW REFER TO THE SOLE ASTERISK BELOW and SEE YOU SOON (baring my leech teeth)…


*I want DFW friends always forever never-ending 24/7 thx, so I’ll be starting The Pale King slow read asap once y’all say yes in your brain voices.





High Five!

We did it. We’ve made it to the end. Maybe some of you are still a bit behind, but that’s okay. High fives for everyone. The thump of me closing the book was super satisfying this time around, and not only did I close it but I let it drop to the floor just let the whole house echo with this book being done. I didn’t throw it, no. I just let it fall. My book was barely holding together – I had endnote pages falling out left, right, and centre (which was actually convenient because I didn’t have to “turn to” the endnotes, I just had to pull out a page from the endnotes, sometimes keeping that page out and to my side for a quick glance)!

But I won’t be getting retrospective. At least not yet. Although today is technically the last day, I hope to have the guides post once more this week, reflecting on this past summer. And then I will post on Friday, wishing you all a fond farewell.

But let’s discuss the end:

Have I been missing something every time I read through the book: who’s the A.D.A. who waits outside Gately’s room and talks to Pat M. about making amends with Gately for something that Gately did. Like for some reason I always thought it was someone from Unspecified Services. Any ideas, friends?

Ok, but so I don’t really want to talk about the very end end. But I do want to talk about Mario’s high five. For some reason, I thought the short story about Barry Loach and Mario giving him a hearty high five, restoring faith in humanity for Loach, occurred WAY earlier. I totally forgot that this scene pretty much happens in the end. It’s the third last scene before we get Orin’s supposed and much deserved death and the conclusion of the brutal story of Fackelmann and Gately (and the conclusion of novel) with a dose of Sunshine. Like, did any of you even remember or know Loach existed? Also, wait, WHO’S NARRATING THIS THIRD LAST SECTION. First, I thought we were back to Hal. But then this line: “A couple of us remarked how Hal wasn’t eating the usual customary Snickers bar or AminoPal” (966). It just struck me that the “camera,” so to speak, just suddenly zoomed out, Hal now becoming just part of the events of the day.

But back to Loach. I really love this story. As most Mario sections, this one melted my heart and turned it all gooey, and I do like the dark humour: people seeing a cry for human transaction as a commercial/capitalist transaction. But when I finally stumbled upon this section, I was thinking about it’s placement. It’s right before the novel ends so shittyly, and up to this point there has been nothing but tragedy, really. Yes, there are some humorous parts but I do find this a very sad novel. Bleak, even. In fact, maybe a lot of us have been feeling like Loach lately, feeling bummed out about the events in the novel and what it’s saying about the world we live in. And the end of the novel doesn’t really help. Like that ending is really fucking terrible, as in depressing. But how did you feel ending the book (other than being satisfied/relieved to be done the book)?

I’m not going to say the ending is uplifting, because it’s not. But the placement of the Loach and Mario story just before these events might suggest a kind of optimistic hope for everyone in the novel and for the world. It’s those human touches and/or moments that pierce through the darkness; the high five from a stranger out of nowhere (about a month ago, a woman high fived me in the streets of  Toronto – I was instantly happy, and her friends cheered at the satisfying sound of our high five); a friend you can laugh with despite shitty things all around, or someone you can talk to who also appreciates that you listen to them. Having the Mario and Loach section in my mind while finishing the book sends me through these feels: the world can be heavy and brutal and sometimes unbearable, but a touch (and I like to point out that “touch” is not only physically but can be emotional, too, as in “I’m touched”), however big or small, can colour the world and restore some faith in humanity, faith in living.

I won’t wave bye bye just yet; I’ll save that for Friday. See you then.

Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend

Two years ago, in my last year of undergrad, I took an eighteenth-century novel course. Although it was taught by my favourite prof and I learned a lot over those three months, this class introduced me to books that I did not enjoy in the slightest like, for example, Robinson Crusoe (blech) and Gulliver’s Travels (double blech).

It was for this course, however, that I discovered my absolute least favourite novel of all time: The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne (or just Tristram Shandy for short).


Gah. That book. Just thinking about it makes me feel exactly the way Michael Scott looks in the gif above. My soul dies a little bit remembering the nightmarish time I had getting through Sterne’s 1759 novel full of pointless digressions and tedious experiments with form. Despite the fact that I have read many terrible books since, nothing can knock this sucker off its perch to claim the title of “Allie’s Most Hated Novel™.”

Even so, I have to give credit where credit is due and acknowledge just how revolutionary Sterne’s irreverent approach to the novel form was – he deviated from convention and dared to create something completely new. This is especially true of the way in which he straight up played with tradition just for the hell of it.

What am I talking about? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…

Exhibit A.
Exhibit B.

Ringing any bells? Looking familiar at all? If not, that’s okay. I’ll get there.

The images above are just a taste of some of the outlandish flourishes Sterne throws into Tristram Shandy to disorient the reader and differentiate his novel from every other one on the market in his time. How could I forget the famous blank chapter? Or the fact that the narrator is only born 200 pages into the narrative? Even though it was infuriating, the book remains one of the most memorable I have ever read because I have never experienced anything quite like it since.

Which brings me to Infinite Jest.

To be clear, IJ does not even hold a candle to how much I disliked Tristram Shandy. While modernism is not my cup of tea and Wallace’s proclivity for run-on sentences and stream-of-consciousness narration can get a little tiresome for me, it often feels like there’s a point to everything. Like, even if I can’t put my finger on exactly what our friend David wants to say, that he’s trying to say something – about life, humanity, relationships, society, politics, etc. I never got that with Tristram Shandy, which made the chore of reading the novel even worse because I felt like it all amounted to nothing.

That being said, the scribbly, hand-drawn graphics on pages 884 and 891 of this week’s reading brought to mind those in the images above from Tristram Shandy immediately. Then, it dawned on me: Infinite Jest is the Tristram Shandy of the twentieth century. Once I started thinking about it, the connections between the two are too many to be ignored – their playful approach to footnotes, their non-linear narratives, and – most of all – their desire to push the boundaries of what a novel can be. Both Sterne and Wallace were radical in their formal innovations and cheeky flirtations with metafiction, and redefined the literary landscape in their respective eras.

And I think this is why I haven’t fully warmed to IJ – even now in the penultimate week of Infinite Summer.While I can appreciate the significance of what writers like Sterne and, in this case, Wallace have done for the novel… it isn’t the kind of literature that speaks to me. I am a character-driven reader who feeds on emotion and gravitates toward the kind of dreamy, lyrical prose that strikes a sentimental chord. I want to be touched by a novel and I feel like the reason that Infinite Jest didn’t touch me was because my priorities just didn’t align with Wallace’s. But that’s okay. Just because two people don’t hit it off doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with one or the other – they gave it a shot, but there was no spark.

In sum, Infinite Summer has been like a (very long) first date. I am glad to have gotten to know DFW over the past three months and will part ways with him and his work on good terms next week, but I think we both know that we’re better off as acquaintances. Sure, I’d grab a coffee with him again in the future, but I don’t see us progressing much beyond that.

Honestly, as we approach the end of IJ, I’m at peace with my ambivalent feelings toward the novel. For a long time, I was frustrated because I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I wanted to, but that’s just how life works sometimes and it’s no one’s fault. DFW wrote a story that spoke to a lot of people and I’m just not one of them.


Now, I know that this kind of reflection-centric post probably should have been saved for next week, but Tristram Shandy (of all things) spurred this on and I just couldn’t resist sharing my feelings with ‘yall.

But enough of the sappy stuff! I’d like to wrap things up on a bit of an open-ended note and ask your opinion on two things from this week’s reading:

  • Joelle’s description of the role she played in JOI’s fatal cartridge on pages 938-41; and
  • This bit right here: “Stice had asked whether I believed in ghosts. It’s always seemed a little preposterous that Hamlet, for all his paralyzing doubt about everything, never once doubts the reality of the ghost. Never questions whether his own madness might not in fact be unfeigned. … That is, whether Hamlet might be only feigning feigning.” (900)**


F O O T N O T E S :

Is anyone else a bit shocked that we only have one more week of Infinite Jest left after this one? Like Joe said in his post yesterday, the season finale is upon us. Woah! How are we already halfway through September?

** !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hi, my name is Danielle Ely and I have an Infinite Jest problem

I first read IJ in the summer of 2009 in graduate school, just about the same time Infinite Summer launched. I read IJ again the very next semester, and then once more in preparation to write my Master’s Thesis on it. Back then, I even wrote a guest post for the St. Rose English Blog with the same name as this one. So, the secret is out: I’m a one-trick pony. When it comes to campy titles anyway.

Since then, I’ve talked about my love affair with IJ with friends, I’ve presented at conferences, I’ve published, I’ve written emails and responses in Wallace-I, I’ve even pressured friends to try it, and I still haven’t got IJ out of my system. Truth is, “I hope I never recover” (Ben Marcus).

This is the second to last post before you all finish IJ and Poor Yoricks’ Summer is almost at an end. It is an honor and thrill to ride off into the sunset with you all. For some of you, the sunset will appear matter-of-factly, as a thing you did once, and IJ will just be a crazy book you read—a conversation piece if nothing else. And this is something I love about the community of Wallace readers—the diversity. I mentioned reading IJ once at a unicycle club I belong to and sure enough a physical comedian chimed up and said he read it just for fun and loved the humor! For others, the sunset will take the hue of my experience. You’ll near the end of your journey through IJ and panic will set in. You’ll realize you’ll soon be out of content. And what will you do then? Will you flip out like these characters from Portlandia?


Maybe. I mean, it’s certainly an option. But wait, before you flip out, let me first ask a question: How many of you took a break from reading IJ to binge-watch Stranger Things on Netflix? Oh wow! That many! This is my surprised-face!


Okay, so this is my campy and very long-winded way of getting to the points I really want to discuss, which are bingeing and addiction.

Now, we have probably all binged before, during, and since IJ. Portlandia shows us, rather humorously, how toxic our desire to binge entertainment can be, which is a connection to IJ readers certainly won’t miss. And we obviously know that IJ takes the dangers of bingeing entertainment even further. But how toxic is bingeing really, in real life? I mean, I do it a lot. I binge-watch shows, I binge-read novels, I binge-clean, I even binge-craft, meaning if I can’t finish a project in a day I lose patience with it. I’m trying to binge-write this blog-post as we speak. And one binge will lead to another. For example, my binge of “Community” several years ago lead me to binge “Love,” a show on Netflix starring Gillian Jacobs.


Now, I realize that not all of the things I encounter in my everyday life are super relevant to a discussion of IJ, but one of the scenes stood out to me as pretty profound.

In episode 6, “Andy,” Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) “pretends to pretend” to be a caller named Mandy for the radio show “Heart Work,” hosted by her colleague, Dr. Greg (Brett Gelman). Things get pretty personal when Dr. Greg starts out by saying;

Dr. Greg: “Now people think that you can only binge on food, but that’s not true. You can binge on other people too and then before you know it….[smacks lips, whistles and imitates explosion]”

Mickey, [pretending to be Mandy] asks “what’s that?”

Dr. Greg: “That was you melting down, exploding.”

Mickey: [still pretending] “Now I feel like you’re just exaggerating or picking on me”

Dr. Greg: “I’m not. I’m just trying to make you understand that whether it is food, or drugs, or some new guy whose got your heart all aflutter, they all lead to the same things as an addict. Jails, institutions and death.”

Mickey: [perhaps no longer pretending] “Fuck this!” [slams phone and swiftly walks away]

(Spoilers) Though she obviously storms away from the conversation thinking Dr. Greg is bullshit, I actually agree with his notion that anything can be binged and not that it matters too much, but I also agree with his assessment of Mickey. But I think the real take-away for us is the question: is my bingeing toxic?

It’s true, IJ is binge-worthy. You’ve just spent 12 weeks reading it and there will be temptation for many of you when you finish. You’ll get to the end and then suddenly remember that the first section is chronologically the last—and although you only intend to review it and then stop, you’ll find yourself reading through the entire novel once again with fresh eyes! Is that an unhealthy thing to do? No. Is that exactly what I did? Yes. Do you have to do it? No.

Have I stopped talking about IJ since I read it? No. Did I read other books in the meantime? Yes. God yes. Did I remember to pay my electric bills while doing so? Yes. Will you remember to pay yours? Probably. I hope so.

Anyway, happy reading and enjoy the sunset.