Ghost words

From DFW Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

In the hopsital bed, ghostwords invade Don Gately's brain: "more lexical terms and words speeding up to chipmunkish and then HELIATED and then all the way up to a sound like a mosquito on speed, and Gately tries to clutch both his temples with one hand and scream, but nothing comes out" (261). They almost certainly are being transmitted by James Incandenza's wraith, who has "no out-loud voice of its own, and had to use somebody's like internal brain-voice if it wanted to try to communicate something" (831). This is exactly like what Wallace must do as an author- because of the temporal gap and absence between the act of writing and reading, Wallace the author has no out-loud voice of his own, and relies on the reader's internal to brain-voice to communicate. Furthermore, Himself's ghost words are also David Foster Wallace's ghost words: he uses them time and time again in a text, getting them as lodged in the reader's brain as they become in Gately's. By the end of the novel, the words come in at a "chipmunkish" speed and it takes a great deal of effort to sort them out: it takes "incredible discipline and fortitude and patient effort to stay stock-still in one place for long enough for an animate man actually to see and be in any way affected by a wraith, and very few wraiths had anything important enough to interface about to be willing to stand still for this kind of time" (831). While this quote refers to Incandenza's wraith, it also describes perfectly Wallace's wraith, because due to to the Death of the Author, once he authors the book, he is dead; it is only his wraith or ghostlike presence that exists for the reader, haunting him or her at every turn, with every repetition of another ghost word, which works to achieve what Wallace admires so much in David Lynch: the ability to get inside the reader's (or viewer's) head.

Many of Gately's ghostwords appear previously in the book, adding further evidence to the idea of a wraith-like narrator moving between characters' consciousnesses. For example, at Molly Notkin's party, a grad student uses SCOPOPHILIA and ANNULAR with regards to Incandenza's Infinite Jest: "if it exists[, it] has to be something more like an aesthethetic pharmaeceutical. Some beastly post-annular scopophilical vector. Suprasumbliminals and that" (233). Indeed, the ghostwords themselves are suprasubliminal: they are not hidden from the reader's direct consciousness, but take serious effort to trace.

In "Wallace's Infinite Jest," Jonathan Goodwin asserts that the ghost words "recapitulate Incandenza's life." He unpacks the ghost-word "LUCULUS," which is "listed in the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources as a rare alternate spelling of 'louculus,' a small box or reliquary" and "has many other potential meanings and evokes many aspects of the novel."He writes that "of all the words Incandenza thinks at Gately, "LUCULUS" is the most obscure. It contains within its history many of the novel's own contacts between the fictive and the real."

  • Himself's films were to be placed in a small box (or "luculus") inside his coffin.
  • "The word "lucus" is derived from "lux" (light); and the paradox that it means "grove," or a small area shaded by trees, was the subject of Quintilian's epigram: lucus a non lucendo ("a grove [so-called] from the absence of light") (OED). Incandenza was a brilliant optical physicist, and many of the other words and phrases in the list refer to lenses and human sensory perception: "NEUTRAL DENSITY POINT, "MENISCUS," "CHRONAXY," and "PROPRIOCEPTION," for example. (832)"
  • Goodwin also argues, with regards to "LAERTES" and "POOR YORICK" (832), that "Gately's role in the events surrounding the search for "Infinite Jest" may strike Incandenza as being analogous to Laertes' role, as one of the director's innovations was the parody concept of "found drama": "A few people are randomly selected, and whatever happens to them in a set period of time constitutes the 'drama'" (1028).

List of Gately's Ghost Words

    • Millicent Kent tells Mario that her father was "capering. Pirouetting and rondelling" (124).
    • As he gives tennis advice, Schtitt paces "gradually faster, the turns becoming pirouettic" as
    • John Wayne pirouettes while playing tennis and-in an extremely cinematic, comical moment, his "post-pirouette backward intertia has carried him into the veaby black tarpaulin... producing a boom that resounds" (261).
  • ACCIACCATURA: An embellishing note usually written in a smaller size, not unlike a musical version of Wallace's endnotes
  • LATRODECTUS MACTANS: The scientific name for the black widow spider, also the name of one of Incandenza's productions companies (Latrodectus Mactans Productions).
  • CHIAROSCURO: a hazy effect in painting; gives the appearance of things being somewhat veiled or especially distant; pioneered by da Vinci, made famous in The Mona Lisa.
  • PROPRIOCEPTION: perception of motion and spatial orientation from internal stimuli, e.g. inner ear
  • ANNULATE: consisting of rings or ringlike segments, a major word throughout the novel
  • BRICOLAGE: in art, a mash-up work made with found materials; possibly the visual art version of found drama
  • SCOPOPHILIA: the love of looking; voyeurism. Also, scopophobic (544) fear of being looked at, stared at.
  • LORDOSIS: this word may very well come from Gately, as he uses "Sir Osis of Thuliver" as a play on cirrhosis of the liver (834) earlier in the novel.
  • SINISTRAL: left-handed
  • MENISCUS: A lens that is convex on one side and concave on the other, also the name of Himself's earliest production companies (Meniscus Films, Ltd).
  • CHRONAXY: minimum time needed to stimulate a muscle or nerve fiber
  • LUCULUS: louculous, or Lucullus, a Roman general noted for selfishness
  • DE SICA: post WWII Italian filmmaker
  • NEO-REAL: Himself pioneers this film genre
  • CRANE DOLLY: moves the camera around during filming
  • CIRCUMAMBIENTFOUNDDRAMALEVIRATEMARRIAGE: circumambient means to surround, and is very annular. Found drama is one of James Incandenza's film styles; "conceptual, conceptually unfilmable." Levirate Marriage is a type of marriage in which a man is required to marry his deceased brother's wife.

External Sources

"Wallace's Infinite Jest"