Author Archives: elizabeth

all at once

I feel like this class would have been a lot different if I had been in, as they say, a ‘different place.’ My freshman year I blogged my heart out, but now I just feel like I’m running out of gas. Probably senioritis doesn’t count, but it sure feels like it should. (It may not be senioritis. It may be Wallace-itis. Something that fills and deepens a need I have yet to pin down). Thanks to Wallace my poetry has improved and I’ve been experimenting with footnotes. The aspect of Wallace I enjoy most is his humor. Something I recently liked was the bit about someone reading Howl aloud in a Chaucerian accent. Also; “You’re the second most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, the first most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen being former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher” (925).


This class has pretty much defined my semester (perhaps my year), and it’s all I can talk about. My dad said, “Sorry for talking you into that class.” It’s a strange body of work to be digesting right as I’m heading out.  On Friday I was overjoyed to be done with Infinite Jest and I’m looking forward to discussing it. Last night when everyone was having a jolly time at the Seven Deadly Sins party all I could talk about was the different kinds of depression.   Today I wiki-ed for a little while, and I got pretty overwhelmed (is emotional distress a sufficient excuse for anything anymore?). I don’t know if I have the right kind of something for this kind of thing. All I want to write about is Infinite Jest and I told my dad today that I’m going to reread it this summer. Who knows if I actually will, but it’s a nice thought.


I can’t get the room full of all the meat he’ll ever eat and all the excrement he’ll ever shit out of my head. So maybe that’s my problem. Like Hal, I’m thinking of everything all at once. Joelle tells Gately “this is why I couldn’t get off and stay off…Did you ever hear of this fellow Evel Knievel? This motorcycle-jumper?” (859).  Side note: Also, I was sure that something was going to happen between Joelle and Gately.

not really about the work itself (but believe me, i read it and liked it)

As is to be expected with Favid Woster Dallace’s nonfiction, Consider the Lobster has been easy to grasp. Over winter break, my dad gave me a few of these essays on CD and I listened to them on the plane. DFW himself reads them and it’s pretty cool (and helpful) to hear his voice. This is the only book I’d read previously, and it’s been nice to revisit. While I enjoy these works, I feel like they are a bit formulaic. There’s the seductive intro, then the big drawn out descriptions and then a vague conclusion. But I guess we are all getting pretty used to that, right? Something we haven’t really talked about is: what do we do if we get sick of DFW?? (Whenever someone asks me how I’m doing I talk about DFW, and I carry around Infinite Jest and, depending on where I am in the novel, I abuse substance or start abstaining and I think about the ‘Hideous Men’ pieces when I’m with someone). What do we do when an author takes over our minds? What do we do when our sentence structure begins to mimic DFW’s (and we can’t pull it off)? Dear blogland: how are you all getting through these last few weeks?

Corrupted Domesticity

The Oblivion presented some problems for me personally. The “it’s all a dream” ending is so annoying, and sort of cheap. I’m wondering: what’s the point?  I see the statement: “none of this is real” as a key thesis of the story.    This statement causes the reader to go back and reexamine the previous text. But does it matter? Well I hope so, because I spent the majority of my day reading it. (Although I don’t have much to show for myself).


Key strangeness in this narrative: the Woody Allen/adoptive daughter affair thing that’s happening. For example: “for, as with most husbands, I had, of course, only seen my face when…masturbating with saffron scented under-garment.” The saffron scent, if we remember, is one connected to “our Audrey.” The daughters emergent sexuality foils the mothers’ aging (another key of the story is the sadness/inevitability of aging): “all the willful clinging to the…vivacity which their own daughters unknowingly serve to mock as they latterly blossom.” These same daughters, “all dispatched to ‘out-of-State’ colleges” (218). Being dispatched myself, this hit home and I think that’s the point. However, DFW’s depiction of a familial nightmare is a bit too strange to identify with fully.

According to my mother, snoring is a common problem in marriages. One of her friends reportedly said ‘earplugs saved my marriage.’ In this story, the couple’s conflict has escalated scarily, because of the different realities each party is functioning under. He finds himself thinking violent thoughts in the breakfast nook (the place emphasizes the strange/corrupted domesticity of the snoring problem). They essentially argue about who is insane, and the insanity of their disagreement justifies the confusion.   The idea of a dream emphasizes the precariousness of reality/perception. Still, their conflict seems to be about many things: “the fact is that Hope is even now returning home from Exercise or the cosmetician…” The traditional gender roles they enact appear as a source of stress. Also, there’s the issue of aging and thus mortality (dream and death kind of thing). I can’t escape from perception as a key theme in DFW’s work (thinking of the fraud thing in “Good Old Neon” most recently).

Orin and Hal’s Chat

During this time of year nearly everyone struggles to keep their head above water and I’ve found myself drowning in Infinite Jest. (Yesterday I sat in the fort we made reading and my suitemates dubbed our author Favid Woster Dallace). Despite my less than conducive work environment I thoroughly enjoy Jest. Every day is a struggle to keep from being brutally behind and (in a show of solidarity) I love seeing folks from class carrying around our books. Oh, and I’m thinking of another thing also: is anyone else sort of scared to read? This could be a personal problem, as I’m often someone who confuses the emotions of others for my own.


One of my favorite parts thus far has been the phone conversation between Hal and Orin that begins on 242. Orin begins: “Mr. Incredenza, this is the Enfield Raw Sewage Commission, and quite frankly we’ve had enough shit out of you.” Orin’s clearly done this before, Hal recognizes Orin and the prank is undermined. Still, Orin demonstrates dominance over Hal, calling him “Hallie.” We can see their intelligence and their one-upmanship in their diction: “You start to get like a superstitious native. What’s the word propitiate the divine spell.” Halfway down this page I was considering using the O.E.D. for the sake of my own comprehension and then they actually mention the lovely book.   Simultaneously they keep up the brotherly banter with the clippers. In connection, this passage informs us about Orin’s character. Now we know he’s the kind of guy who picks up women, goes back to their trailer where the “sweet little twins” play “very quietly with blocks without supervision the whole time” (245).  During their talk, Orin mentions that “there seems to be a statistically improbably number of wheel-chaired figures around” (245). I’m pretty proud of myself for discovering the bit of solipsism.   Orin’s only purpose for calling Hal is to run something by him. Hal validates his suspicion in a way which makes it appear plausible and ludicrous: “very shy vans, possibly?”  The conversation on 135 has a similar feeling.

DFW things I’ve been thinking

After spending the latter part of my spring break in front of the TV I think I may have come to understand “E Unibus Pluram” in a different more personal light. Don’t judge me, I don’t normally stare at the boob tube for intense amounts of time, but I was at my friends house and blah blah blah. We were being “voluntary shut ins.” We were avoiding the “psychic costs of being around other humans” (22).

After we finished the last episode of Big Love and I was alone in my room I felt drained, empty. Maybe it was because I knew I was heading back to school (this whole concept of “last semester senior” is really sinking in) and I don’t feel especially motivated to do work that should really be a pleasure. TV, like everything that unplugs your brain, puts off you problems. Even though your brain activity is lower when watching TV than while sleeping, I imagine a part of the brain still on and gnawing at problems in circles. (I know this isn’t exactly an epiphany moment, but as my title suggests this is just something I’ve been thinking about.)

The most significant part of the tribute Kathleen wrote and read to us in class is DFW’s feeling that fiction fully used his brain. He was so mentally unlazy and I really admire that. In order to do something well it must become like a meditation and one’s mind must be harnessed.

In our examination of Infinite Jest we’ve identified the theme of escape and release (in the masturbation, drug use and tennis). Those three aspects of the character’s lives illustrate that ways in which they’ve tried to control their brain. This reminded me of: “it is statistically easier for low-IQ people to kick an addiction than it is for high-IQ people” (203). I’m fond of the expression “her mind was not her friend” because it reveals a common difficulty, especially among the more bright folks.

Another post comprised nearly completely of rhetorical questions

The last of the Hideous Men made me think the most and repelled me the least (funny how that works). In the end, I forgave him his ills because he comes to realization that he’s never loved someone and that his “entire sexuality and sexual history has less genuine connection or feeling than” listening to her tell her story of violation (313, 317). He recounts listening and empathizing and comes to a conclusion about himself and what’s not to like? what makes him Hideous?

For one thing, with the story of the girl’s story (can we really trust three levels of narrator?) he sort of proves the point of the Frankl narrative we’ve been talking about so much. So: if we read the story and empathize with everyone, we also agree with Frankl’s unconventional belief about the pros of assault. And that’s kind of twisted, to bring us around like that (even if we believed him in the beginning). Maybe it’s something else? (Come to think of it: Maybe I just like him because he doesn’t remain critical of the girl throughout the whole story. and talks about how beautiful she is with the moon and her hair all over her. Think of this possibility makes me feel like a sucker, so I’ll ignore it for the time being).


There’s a part in all of the narratives of these Hideous men where I pause to categorize them negatively. Regarding Mr. New Haven CT, the instance of judgment passing occurred when reading what he tells the girl when he’s picking her up: that he “had felt some mysterious but overwhelming sensual energy,” which is why he came over to her blanket (291). (I underlined this and wrote “Jerk” in the margin.) The seduce-ment tactic is so completely false and put on and faked. So does he redeem himself in the end?  And also, how do we feel about her? Is the story even real? Does that matter?


I liked the line “that a deep need for anything from other people makes us easy pickings” (292). It seems truthful. Simultaneously, it warns against vulnerability, which is basically what interpersonal relationships are all about (aren’t they? is that just a woman thing? I don’t think so?).

It happens

Thought you all might like to know that my suitemate is, at this very moment, shouting answers (“questions”) at the TV while watching Jeopardy in her room.

Parts I Like: The Cruise One

So I’ve changed my paper topic and now plan to write about the title story, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. This essay soon became my favorite thus far, beating out the Lynch one and, of course, Expressionless Animals. (So get ready for some gushing, as Ryan put it). It reached this elevated status on the basis of its wit, which I think comes mostly at the expense of the other passengers on Wallace’s cruise. So what’s his deal? [note on reading of this post: maybe the presentation of block quotes is a little excessive.]


A friend was telling me today about how art was just about finding (determining) your friends. A ‘separating the men from the boys’ type of thing.


Anyway. When we heard the beginning of this essay the first day of class I was sort of overwhelmed by the negativity. I still don’t think I’ve gotten used to DFW’s power of perception and his attention to detail astounds me. It’s the stuff on the interpersonal relationship and introspective knowledge that really gets me. For example, when describing the women and their heels and their men:


“women have this trick of sort of folding themselves into men and snuggling as they walk, and the men’s postures improve and their faces firm up and you can tell they feel unusually solid and protective ” (284).


The tinge of loneliness I pick up it would be warranted. After all, he is the only passenger, with the exception of C.V., cruising unaccompanied (308).  But, from what I understand, it’s not so bad to be DFW because the “older couples” don’t really inspire jealousy. Wallace’s character is one who identifies with the younger crowd (“Blucky,” spiderman hat (274).) and then the competitors (chess, 3p, Best Legs). So he’s chosen the alternate route.  


In the same way C.V. is an agoraphobe and constant recorder, the Character of himself is thoroughly a writer,. A description of himself that I can really indentify with occurs in a footnote (as most of them do, giving the personal details a by-the-way quality),


“It’s have to sort of psych myself up to leave the cabin and go accumulate experiences, and then pretty much quickly out there in the general population my will would break and I’d find some sort of excuse to scuttle back to 1009” (297).



A little bit a change in topic: but I was interested in the way that DFW presents his experience. High points: reference to Auschwitz (the scene from the movie), “the engines’ throb a mother’s pulse” (268) (nothing short of poetic), and Conroy who “prostituted” himself in writing the “essaymercial” (288). There are definitely more factors (like his interactions with the staff) that go into his overall assessment of the experience, but how do we think he feels by the end?

and his eyes – the Lynch Cover

“and his eyes, which never once do that grotestque looking-in-opposite-directions-at-once thing they were doing on the 1990 Time cover, are large and mild and kind” (183).

here’s the cover:,16641,19901001,00.html

Masks and Faces in “Little Expressionless Animals”

I think I’m going to write my paper on identity in DFW’s work, so I’ll use this space for a little free/pre writing. “Little Expressionless Animals” seems to be chalk full of exactly the kind of thing I’m looking for, what with all the faces, masks, Alex Trebek etc., so I’ll start there.


An effect of Julie’s new found fame: Faye feels that now she is in the public eye, people will be clamoring to pin her sexuality down. She asks Julie, the ‘reason’ behind Julie’s current sexual preference, to help her think of an explanation that would satisfy the questioner.  Here, her own identity becomes like a question on the Jeopardy board and must have logic. Julie suggests: “say lesbianism is simply one kind of response to Otherness. Say the whole point of love is to get your fingers through the holes in the lover’s mask. To get some kind of hold on the mask, and who cares how you do it” (32). With the masks, the obvious point is that everyone wears a one, meaning everyone’s hiding behind something.  Faye rejects this suggestion.


So there’s something about Julie’s face that’s difficult for me to wrap my mind around. (it could tie to her mother’s “loose face”. What does it mean for someone’s face to be loose??). Julie’s face “has the texture of something truly alive, an elastic softness, like a ripe sheath, or a pod. It is vulnerable and has depth” and “Everything about her is sort of permeable” (13).  Here, it seems that Faye is searching for ways to remove the mask and sees perhaps the places where Julie’s face illustrates something about her personality.



Help me!:

“Something happens to Julie Smith when the red lights light. Just a something. The girl who gets a three-score and who stares with no expression is gone. Every concavity in that person now looks to have convex. The camera linters on her. It seems to ogle. Often Julie appears on-screen while Trebek of still reading a clue. Her face, on-screen, gives off an odd lambent UHF flicker; her expression, brightly serene reflects with the board’s data” (17).


So the only part that I can really grasp is the camera ogling her. The symbolism of the inanimate thing which stands for the million of viewers is not lost on me.  However, I don’t understand the concavity vs. convexity part. Any thoughts out there in blogland??