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.

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Author: philmiletic

I am an English PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo. My dissertation focuses on "the virtual communities" of David Foster Wallace and Gertrude Stein.

3 thoughts on “High Five!”

  1. Phil–a quick thought about the A.D.A: his story is told, I think, waaaay back on page 55. This “remorseless A.D.A”puts Gately in a holding tank for “92 days” on “nothing more than circumstantial suspicion.” Gately gets even with this A.D.A, by breaking into his home, stealing a few items, but then, a month later, mails him “a standard American Dental Association glorry brochure on the importance of daily oral hygiene” along with “two high pixel Polaroid snapshots […] of big Don Gately and […] and his associate, each with a Halloween mask denoting a clown’s great good professional cheer, each with his pants down and bent over and each with the enhanced-focus handle of one of the couple’s toothbrushes protruding from his bottom.” (56)

    The fact that Gately has no clue that the A.D.A (that he assumes is after him) is planning to drop his pursuit of revenge against him only adds to the unfairness of Gately’s situation. More suffering. As if he hasn’t had enough. If he only knew!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Huh, I totally forgot about THAT A.D.A. Okay. And I like why it throws in more unfairness for Gately, making his recovery a kind of unfair struggle – that his recovery has just got so many curveballs and missed opportunities. Yeah, I like that, and I like how the A.D.A. is brought back into it. It’s really out of the blue but it plays a significant part.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Phil! I’m back from my 5km jog to finish my thoughts about your post. I’m excited that you’ll be joining the half-merry-thon club soon! What’s up next, a full? Need a training buddy? I’m about ready for round two…see how you feel after the halfsie.

    Anyhow, thanks for bringing up that Loach/Mario part: I positively love this part. I have always said, “YES!” out loud every time I have read this section. You’re right to point out that it’s a ray of light in a generally bleak and cold stew of a book, and yeah, the fact that it’s right at the end is saying something, I think. In a way, this is a payoff of its own (perhaps to compensate for the lack of finality?).

    The story also highlights the way in which people (in our time) have become resistant to taking anything literally or accepting something like a cry for help at face value (i.e- the sign that says touch me, please, please, someone!). In the margin, I scribbled, “This unwillingness to touch Loach doesn’t necessarily mean that people don’t care (they are donating money, after all…a form of caring/support)–maybe they are just uncomfortable/don’t understand what he’s really asking? After all, the haul went up–maybe people feel guilty?” How appropriate that Mario happens along and does what he does best: makes a literal reading of the sign, fulfilling Loach’s request. Amazing.

    As for the ending, weirdly, I didn’t really see it as shitty or depressing simply because we are smack dab in one of Gately’s previous memories. This is our vision Gately’s previous life. It created pathos in me in a big way and made me appreciate the path of recovery that Gately embraced through AA all the more. So, while it was definitely sad, unfair, bleak and ultra-violent, I couldn’t help but think about what could happen if Gately made a recovery (of course, it’s impossible to say what could happen, but I think it at least allows for the possibility of hope).

    Liked by 1 person

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