Meat Loaf in his prime
First off, just let me say this: Ineluctable modality of the visible. (know what I’m saying?…note: I still don’t know what this line means)
(one of the guests of M. Notkin’s party is cut off mid-sentence saying “ineluctable”, which immediately reminded me of the ridiculously technical and erudite narrative voice of one, Stephen Dedalus, of James Joyce’s device)
Schmi schmilloli bolli pibbidy-doo-wop-pop!
Scibboli, mmm, walla balla bang dang sha lala-lala gop!
(and so on)
*this is what the voices from M. Notkin’s party sounded like to me—pretentious academese as far as the eye can see—snobbery—hoity-toity-ness at it’s finest—“It’s good cheese, but I’ve had better cheese.”
Hipster party, y’all!
Who hasn’t been to one? Who hasn’t participated vigorously in one?
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they are here to stay: Punks. Emos. Hippies. Hipsters (call them what you will). These are all incarnations of the same sort of idea: groups composed of a few people that start out caring passionately about something whose signifiers are eventually reduced to a set of fashionable poses for conspicuous consumption for a broader population. Money in the bank for corporations. Basically, substance reduced to surface: a cool looking mask.
I’ve always struggled with what it means to be a “hipster”, because often, I find myself identifying with and enjoying many of pieces of art that hipsters find cool. Is my penchant for David Bowie, or Hall and Oates, or (dare I associate him here) DFW (!), or the filmography of David Lynch, or the music of Meatloaf, or the growing of the occasional scruffy beard/moustache, (or, etc. etc., you name it) enough evidence to classify me as a bonafide hipster? Do I want to be associated with such a group anyway? Do I even get a say in this trial?
Well, I guess the short answer to that question is that I really don’t care what cultural group I will be associated with due to my taste in any particular music/literature/film, or whatever. The plain fact of it is that I like what I like, and that’s all I have to say about that (Forrest Gump voice here).
The reason that I like Meatloaf, or Hall and Oates, or the occasional facial hair growing session really has nothing to do with affected irony, or liking something because it’s “bad”, or seeming clever because of it. The reason I like these things really has nothing to do with irony or image, but is actually because I genuinely enjoy them. I simply enjoy these things for what they are, plain and simple. That is to say that when people observe me enjoying these things, I’m not glancing from side to side like a young Mike Pemulis, as if to suggest I’m in on the “joke” (though, admittedly, I am certain that at one time in my life, I may have done just that).
Which, from swerve of shore, to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Infinite Jest.
So, that part with the party at M. Notkin’s: just a great little bit, amiriteguys? How sad is it that Joelle is attempting to have Too Much Fun in “the co-operative Back Bay-edge brownstone she had lived in once with Orin and performed in with his father and then passed on to Molly Notkin”? There’s a “stab you in the soul™” (A. Fournier, 2016, page whatever) moment if ever I did see one.
What really hit me about the party scene was just how disconnected everyone was from one another. It was reminiscent of many parties that I attended during my University days (and prior). Have you ever been to a party where everyone was talking to each other, but nobody really seemed to be talking to one another? I have. I can recall times when I have been at parties and have been suddenly overcome with this heartbreaking feeling of utter disconnection. It’s hard to explain, but it felt like I was missing some golden opportunity for connection, and I was hopeless to communicate my thoughts in that moment.
Similarly in IJ, all of the party people are disconnected from eachother: “this absence of shame at the self-obsession.” The party goers seem to be completely focused on their own thoughts, and are oblivious to outside perspectives. This is a party that represents a complete lack of empathy: an inability to think about or experience the feelings of another human. A communication breakdown. A squandered opportunity to talk about anything that really matters. Instead, guests retreat into abstract nonsense, preferring to talk about (this is my favourite) a “more interesting issue from a Heideggerian perspective is a priori whether space as a concept is enframed by technology as a concept.”
Like, come ON, guys. Really?
And heartbreakingly, all of this is going on while Joelle is suffering in a personal hell. Nobody asks. Nobody cares. Again, how sad!
Further, take Molly Notkin (a friend, supposedly) who “has no idea that Joelle’s been in a cage since Y.T.S.D.B, has no idea what she and Jim Incandenza were even about for twenty-one months, whether they were lovers or what, whether Orin left because they were lovers or what.” How sad is this? Did Molly ever make an effort to ask? Are they even friends? On the whole, doesn’t the way Molly thinks about Joelle seem judgmental as all hell, OR WHAT? Yet still, she greets Joelle “with the sort of delighted mock surprise U.S hostesses use for greetings.” Here, again more surface bullshittery.
The whole exchange comes across as completely fake and contrived, as do the rest of the human interactions between party guests in this scene. Take for example the group of party-goers “almost dancing” the “Minimal Mambo” while on drugs. It’s as if these party-goers cannot simply just enjoy dancing for what it is, they have to find a way to be clever about it, or to find some way of getting around looking too earnest. God forbid people actually enjoy something for what it is.
Again, what a waste of an opportunity!
As Joelle prepares to shoot up, like Hal, still, “no one out there knows she is in here”: in her cage, inside her head, suffering. And no one really seems interested in making an effort to meet her halfway.
How to bridge the gap? How to engage with each other meaningfully? I think this is one of the big questions that the book grapples with from start to finish.