Annular fusion

In Infinite Jest, DFW uses the word “annular” frequently, fitting it into a variety of semingly unrelated contexts. It creates an interesting thread to follow through the disjointed narrative. According to the O.E.D. (and yes, I’m an O.E.D. woman, Doctor) annular means, “of or pertaining to a ring or rings, ring-formed, ringed.”

Even extra-lingual aspects of Infinite Jest are annular. For example, the circular symbols in between pagragraphs are certainly ring-shaped. On another level, they separate the different narrative threads, such that each thread becomes its own ring, in addtion to forming a larger ring of the novel itself.

Time takes an annular form in Infinite Jest. For one, the book starts in the final year of narrative time (Year of Glad), and then moves back via Hal’s memory to a much earlier date. While this shift could be seen as a mere flashback, a jump back in a linear time scheme, I think it makes sense to consider it an annular move- the narrative comprises a giant ring, and DFW shifts back and forth along it, with equal ease in each direction. Also, this may just be me, but it seems like it is often April 1, which is interesting to me because it’s like Avril I(ncandeza), Hal’s mom, and the return to April 1, each year, in the ring of narrative time, represents a return to the mother/origin/source. The fact that this is April Fool’s Day adds further signifigance- it is a day of Jest, a day dedicated to Poor Yorick and all the other Fools.

To bring those two ends together (in true annular form), at WYYY, there is “a numberless disk someone hung for a joke, to designate the annularized Great Concavity’s No-Time” (183). The numberless disk is a “joke” in the same way DFW’s little numberless disk section breaks are a “joke.” They designate the novel’s annularized, narrative No-Time.

More from the O.E.D: “annular process or protuberance (in the brain): the Pons Varolii; ‘a process of the medulla oblongata; thus called by Dr. Willis [1664] in regard it surrounds the same, much like a ring.’ Chambers Cycl. 1727-51.” This annular process seems a little too similar to “the coaxial medulla” that the WYYY engineer pumps the music through “into the crawlspaces above the high false ceiling of the corpus callosum’s idle tennis courts” (183). Here, we have DFW making architecture into a (prosthetic) body part, much like the phone center with a human temperature and the Antichrist’s lymph node in Broom, only this time, we have radio instead of telephones- a different speaker-listener ratio to be sure (still trying to figure out the significance of that… thoughts?, but not so far off. Within this body/object, the annular process is a step toward (radio) communication.

Furthermore, the engineer who pumps the sound out through the annular coaxial medulla is ALSO an annular physicist: his “graduate research specialty is the carbonated translithium particles created and destroyed billions of times a second in the core of a cold-fusion ring” (185). In this “cold-fusion ring” (a very annular set up indeed) the particles are created and destroyed in annularized No-Time, existing “mostly to explain gaps and incongruities in annulation equations” (185). These particles seem to me to correspond to the work we’re supposed to do as readers. Ideally, I think, our neurons should be firing billions of times a second as we read Infinite Jest. I know that while I read, more thoughts pop up and disappear than I can possible process or deal with properly, lest I read at the speed of about 1 page per hour. So these thoughts pop up and die, and ultimately, I believe, serve to fill the gaps in the novel, gaps left by DFW’s heavy use of annularized No-Time.

Later, as Joelle prepares to commit suicide, the ring of creation/destruction gets expanded to human level: “The ultimate annular fusion: that of an exhibit and its cage” (222). Is the real annular fusion the ring of self-consciousness that leads us to feel trapped in our solipsistic cells?

Another question- is annular fusion somehow related to/an answer to the question about a potential physics of fiction?

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