A Failed Entertainment

I saw the ending of Infinite Jest coming about two-hundred pages before I finished the book. James O. Incandenza appears in the present for the first time in the book, hovering over Don Gately’s hospital bed. There’ s no mistaking who the wraith is, and the preponderance of ten-point vocab words popping in to Gately’s consciousness apropos of nowhere validate that his ghost is real as a fictional ghost has ever been.

There are things we just keep doing in life because we think if we do it, we’ll get some closure. What drives the junky forward? Physical addiction, yes, but there’s also that silent hope that the next high will be the high that will negate the need for other ones. In Joelle’s case, there’s no tiptoeing about it: She’s looking for Too much fun. You’re never going to not be an addict once you become one, so what’s the point in quitting? Why not just die doing what you, if actions really do speak louder than words, really love?

The tennis kids aren’t going to fare much better. After that high pressure Enfield Tennis Academy education, to go anywhere but the Show means they’re just going to be a “former tennis player” in maturity. The ones who do go pro will have to fight to stay there for as long as their muscles and skills support them. There’s always the next match, there’s always the next hit.

Real addiction, real habit lies in that uncanny place outside of what one might feel comfortable calling the self. That’s not just true of drugs. For every psychopathic hedge fund manager, there’s another who will tell you “This is what I do for a living, but it’s not who I really am.”

I want Don Gately to do well. He’s an Andre the Giant type whose strength pigeonholed him. I don’t see any other way to put it, really.

Who is happy? Happiness is investing oneself entirely in the creation of a thing outside of oneself. This thing can be “completed”, is completed upon the moment of its execution, its final entrance into the world. If the self is the site of improvement, happiness will be elusive. Or rather, happiness ought not be tied to the physical elements of the self. The physical wants to approach decay. Perhaps in the fight itself, the practice of the routine without an investment in the physical appearance of the body, one can find happiness. In the completion of a race, one might be happy for a moment. There is no telos for the thinking. Only at the lowest levels of intelligence can one invest all of one’s cognitive energy into a task. If one has a “single-channel” mode of thinking, maybe one can achieve bliss. Mario often seems like this. His pleasure is an extension of his body, latched onto his back with a customized rig. But the ETA boys won’t find that happiness. Why did James O. Incandenza produce films? Maybe the finitude of each filmic project attracted him. But he found that he was not the type who could “finish” a film, and the mode of cartridge distribution didn’t help. In the world of Infinite Jest, the big release doesn’t exist. And for one with so little commercial appeal as Incandenza, that release would never have been high profile enough to have satisfied his longing, anyway.

The suspension of the self into the external product.

Joelle’s beauty which becomes too much.

Avril’s infidelity.

Why did the Mad Stork kill himself?  He saw something beautiful and sought to film the pure in Joelle, or did he? On the back of purity, the most sinister exists. Young Hal ate the fungus. Though he never touched her so, Himself was thought to have trysted with Joelle. The idea of someone approaching such a temptation without succumbing unfathomable. Maybe that was his last tragedy, a triumph after which it was OK to die.

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