Author Archives: kk

Narration and Tennis

This is my second time reading Infinite Jest, and my second time being relatively confused by the ending. I have to say that the second reading is much easier than the first, and that you really do pick up a lot more details and make more connections the second time around.

One thing I didn’t pay too much attention to on my first reading, but that I noticed this time (partly due to our class discussions) was the use of the first-person narrative throughout the course of Infinite Jest. Or rather, the lack thereof. As we discussed in class, most of the novel is written in the third person; in the first 700 or so pages, there are only a few spots where that breaks and the story is told in the first-person. In the last 200+ pages, however, Hal’s story begins to be told in the first-person, yielding some interesting thoughts and results. One particular insight that I found interesting was Hal’s acknowledgement that “I didn’t want to play [tennis] this afternoon, even if some sort of indoor exhibition-meet came off. Not even neutral, I realized. I would on the whole have preferred not to play” (954). Throughout the last few Hal-related scenes in the book, we start to see his destruction that becomes painfully evident in the first scene of the book, which is the last chronologically. My main question about this passage is, what do you do at a tennis academy when you no longer have the drive to play? It’s clear that Hal still plays tennis at the end (or really, the beginning) of the book, because he’s being recruited for college-level play. So this desire to not play appears to be a problem in Hal’s mind, not one that he actually physically goes through with.

In fact, Hal doesn’t want to play so badly that he contemplates injuring himself so he is taken out for the day. But he goes one step further in his mind, stating that he could “fall so carefully badly I’d take out all the ankle’s ligaments and never play again. Never have to, never get to. I could be the faultless victim of a freak accident and be knocked from the game while still on the ascendant. Becoming the object of compassionate sorrow rather than disappointed sorrow” (954-955).   The phrase “never have to, never get to” seems to be quite indicative of Hal’s state of mind: in one respect he feels almost compelled by some force to play (“have to”), but on the other hand it’s something he chooses to do on his own (“get to”). His fear of disappointment if he can’t compete at the top levels of play-which he worries about after almost being beaten in a match by Ortho Stice-is evident, but even Hal is confused about who he is afraid to disappoint: “I couldn’t stay with this fantastic line of thought long enough to parse out whose disappointment I was willing to cripple myself to avoid (or forgo)” (955). This line of thought is particularly interesting given that it comes in the middle of several paragraphs of Hal talking about both the Moms and Himself; yet the Moms is adamant about not being disappointed by anything her children do or don’t do, and Himself is dead. So who is Hal afraid of disappointing? My guess is, himself. I think that this apathy is so unlike Hal that his contemplations of self-injury seem frightening and disappointing to himself, but he is so out of sorts that he doesn’t notice that he might disappoint himself. Does anyone have any other ideas of who he might be afraid to disappoint? Or why he doesn’t want to play anymore? Is it just fear of losing, or is it something more-DMZ-related, perhaps?

The Lobster Finally Considered?

The question that David Foster Wallace raised in the titular essay of Consider the Lobster-that is, do lobsters feel pain when they’re dropped into a boiling vat of water?-has finally been answered (or at least tested) by Queen’s University Belfast:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090327072759.htm

Even though the research discusses another type of crustacean, the hermit crab, it seems clear that the conclusions of the article would apply to lobsters too, with further testing. According to the article, “We know from previous research that they can detect harmful stimuli and withdraw from the source of the stimuli but that could be a simple reflex without the inner ‘feeling’ of unpleasantness that we associate with pain. This research demonstrates that it is not a simple reflex but that crabs trade-off their need for a quality shell with the need to avoid the harmful stimulus.” Wallace addresses this point quite succinctly, stating that “to my lay mind, the lobster’s behavior in the kettle appears to be the expression of a preference; and it may well be that an ability to form preferences is the decisive criterion for real suffering” (251). Lobsters, too, have been known to “exhibit preferences,” and it’s been proven that they can “detect changes of only a degree or two in water temperature” (252). A lobster, therefore, probably doesn’t prefer the boiling hot water that it gets dropped into before it is cooked, and thus “behaves very much as you or I would behave if we were plunged into boiling water (with the obvious exception of screaming)” (248).

It’s really interesting that this research would come out right before we read this story, and it certainly gave me a new lens with which to read it. For one thing, Wallace was yet again correct in his claims. Ag1646 recently wrote a post about Wallace and his authority, and I think the issue is once again prevalent here. Although he referenced his “lay mind,” Wallace obviously had some solid scientific information that was confirmed by scientific research five years later (251). But even before I had read about the research, I found myself trusting Wallace by the end of the work, believing exactly what he was telling me. And although Ag1646 posed a similar question, I have to wonder what that authority does for the readers, and how it can affect their readings of his work?

Wallace ended this piece with a series of questions, which was an interesting new step for him. After asking about whether the reader can “identify with any of these reactions and acknowledgements and discomforts,” he ponders the term “gourmet” (253). Wallace writes that “I’m not trying to bait anyone here-I’m genuinely curious. After all, isn’t being extra aware and attentive and thoughtful about one’s food and its overall contest part of what distinguishes a real gourmet? Or is all the gourmet’s extra attention and sensibility just supposed to be sensuous? Is it really all a matter of taste and presentation?” (254). Can a person be a “gourmet” and not consider the more gruesome aspects of food preparation, like the boiling of live lobsters? Or is it all about the sensory details like taste? I wasn’t sure I fully believed Wallace’s claim that he wasn’t trying to “bait” anyone, because it seemed that he was looking for a particular answer to these questions. Any thoughts?

SNOOTS and Snobs

Back to Wallace’s nonfiction! I always struggle to explain why his nonfiction is my favorite of all his work until I am in the process of reading it; then I stumble upon all the “Wallace-isms” and the personal anecdotes that make me love his work in the first place. So far, Consider the Lobster has not been an exception.

 

One section that I think is particularly telling about Wallace himself comes in the essay “Authority and American Usage.” In footnote six (page 70), Wallace explains his rather fanatical thoughts about grammar: “but I am so pathologically obsessed with usage that every semester the same thing happens: once I’ve had to read my students’ first set of papers, we immediately abandon the regular Lit syllabus and have a three-week Emergency Remedial Usage and Grammar Unit, during which my demeanor is basically that of somebody teaching HIV prevention to intravenous-drug users” (70). I think that what I enjoy the most about this passage (besides the mental image of him flying into a grammar-induced rage) is that we know this is true. In the New Yorker article, there was a quote from a woman who had him as a professor; he wrote “I hate you” in the margins of her paper after she made the same grammatical mistake for the umpteenth time. It makes me appreciate Wallace’s stories all the more when I know they have at least some truth in them–Wallace seems even more human than usual when he gives us a tiny insight into his life through an anecdote.

 

The notion of snobbishness that Wallace discusses in “Authority and American Usage” is particularly interesting because Wallace, despite seeming like the opposite of a snob, claims to have some “embarrassing” snobbish tendencies: “every August I vow silently to chill about usage this year, and then by Labor Day there’s foam on my chin. I can’t seem to help it. The truth is that I’m not even an especially good or dedicated teacher; I don’t have this kind of fervor in class about anything else, and I know it’s not a very productive fervor, nor a healthy one–it’s got elements of fanaticism and rage to it, plus a snobbishness that I know I’d be mortified to display about anything else” (70). As Wallace states, “a SNOOT can be loosely defined as somebody who knows what dysphemism means and doesn’t mind letting you know it” (70). One interesting point is that Wallace, while claiming to be a snob, doesn’t let the reader know what “dysphemism” means; perhaps this indicates some sort of difference between a snob and a SNOOT, or perhaps it serves to refute his claim that he is, in fact, a snob. Although this, in turn, is refuted by his mention of the “chilling little family song that Mom and we little SNOOTlets would sing in the car on long trips,” of which Wallace was himself the author (71). So is Wallace a snob? A SNOOT? None of the above?

 

I also greatly enjoyed the song that he wrote as a child, reproduced on page 71. The little family anecdotes and Wallace’s childhood writings remind give the reader a bit more information about his background, which–aside from his tennis-playing stories–is usually pretty rare.  How could he have grown up any differently given his mother’s pretend coughing fits if “one of us children made a usage error” (71)?

The Politeness Roulette

[I actually wrote this yesterday before our discussion about Avril in class, so some of it might overlap a tiny bit. I think it’s still pretty relevant, though.]

One character we have not focused much on during our Infinite Jest discussions is Avril Incandenza. There was a passage in the most recent reading that seems to sum up Avril perfectly: “Orin and Hal’s term for this routine is Politeness Roulette. This Moms-thing that makes you hate yourself for telling her the truth about any kind of problem because of what the consequences will be for her. It’s like to report any sort of need or problem is to mug her” (523).  Avril is a bit of a paradox to me: on one hand, as shown by this quotation, she seems like the perfect caring mother. The Politeness Roulette appears to highlight the selflessness of Avril-her willingness to give up her dinner so Hal can eat, for example. But there is another side of the Politeness Roulette that may be less obvious: “Orin believed she did it all on purpose, which was way too easy. He said she went around with her feelings out in front of her with an arm around the feelings’ windpipe and a Glock 9 mm. to the feelings’ temple like a terrorist with a hostage, daring you to shoot” (Ibid.). The comparison of Avril to a terrorist is clearly not a flattering one, particularly when articulated by her son.

Perhaps this is because a portion of my paper focused on Avril, but the more I read of her, the less I like her. The Politeness Roulette highlights the self-absorbed, rather two-faced nature of Avril: on the one hand, she seems to be perfectly caring, but on the other, it appears more and more to all be a narcissistic act. A lot of the characters in Infinite Jest are self-absorbed (actually, is there anyone other than Mario who isn’t?), but not to this degree. While what we see of Himself, for example, indicates that he is extremely withdrawn and self-absorbed, yet he does not give his sons the “special fantodish chill of feeling both complicit and obliged” (Ibid.) that Avril does. Maybe the part that most bothers me about Avril is not her actions or motives but her affect on other people. Hal, for example, “despised the way he always reacted, taking the apple, pretending to pretend his reluctance to eat her supper was a pretense” (Ibid.). Of course, people pretend all the time for polite reasons, but in the case of the Politeness Roulette, it seems affected-if a mother gives up her meal for her son, it should not have to be fraught with “pretending to pretend” and terrorist-hostage comparisons.

The phrase that seems to best fit Avril is that she is somehow forcefully passive aggressive. When Hal remarks that he doesn’t want to eat her apple because that’s all she’ll eat between 12 and 23 h, she says she’s “‘stuffed. Huge lunch with a set of parents not three hours ago. I’ve been staggering around since.’ Looking at the apple like she had no idea where it’d even come from. ‘I’ll probably pitch this out'” (Ibid.). Avril is not merely trying to give her son a snack, but she keeps pushing it on him through her polite yet passive aggressive comments, such as “I’ll probably pitch this out.” I know that this is something most mothers would do, but from Avril, given her narcissistic tendencies, it seems more plotted and self-benefiting somehow.  I feel like readers have yet to see a truly selfless or unmotivated act from Avril-it’s all self-promoting or helping. My personal favorite of her selfish moments is in the scene when Hal eats the mold and all she can do is run around in circles screaming that “‘my son ate this'” (11). I really cannot imagine a mother who wouldn’t do something in this situation-call 911, take Hal to the doctor, or at least make sure there’s no mold remaining in his mouth-besides running in circles screaming. I’m not really sure what to make of Avril’s self-absorption or its role in the novel, though.

Vapors

I will be upfront at the beginning of this post and say that of all of Wallace’s books of short stories (fictional and non-), Oblivion is my least favorite. Which isn’t to say that I don’t like it or find it an enjoyable read, because I do. Rather, I feel like Oblivion largely lacks the “Wallace-isms” that we discussed the other day in class. For the most part, Oblivion seems to be eaten up by large chunks of descriptions-something that Wallace does in his other works, but to less of a degree. The first four stories of Oblivion, too, seem quite dark, without the typical humorous edge that is such a large part of Wallace’s other writings. The reviews on the back of Oblivion state that Wallace’s “humor [is] ever dry,” but more accurate is the review that he’s “telling us a lot about the hypocrisy and the sordidness of modern life, and he doesn’t spare anyone,” especially not the reader.

That being said, I really enjoy the story “Incarnations of Burned Children.” There is something haunting about this story, beginning with the title: before I first read this piece, the title made me think that it would be about the ghosts of children who died in a fire, and how those ghosts couldn’t move through to the afterlife for some reason (although I now realize that type of story would be completely un-Wallace like). I was not too far off, though. Although the burned child doesn’t die, he does “learn to leave himself and watch the whole rest unfold from a point overhead, and whatever was lost never thenceforth mattered, and the child’s body expanded and walked about and drew pay and lived its life untenanted, a thing among things” (116). The image of vapor, too, seems almost otherworldly; it is described several times, from the “steam coming off his hair” (114) to the “anger at the Mommy for allowing this thing to happen just starting to gather in wisps at his mind’s extreme rear” (115) to the “first seen wisp of steam” (Ibid.) and finally the “self’s soul so much vapor aloft, falling as rain and then rising” (116). The notion of vapor or steam here seems to be a way of explanation for the things that Wallace chooses not to or cannot say. For example, he writes that “by then it was too late, when it wouldn’t stop and they couldn’t make it” (116), yet I cannot find any antecedent to which the “it” belongs. The vapor of the child’s soul is caused by this incident, and the vapor seems to be an explanation or an effect of the nameless “it.”

Another interesting tie that the story has to vapors is in its title itself. The word “incarnation” has several definitions, including both “1. a living being embodying a deity or spirit” and “2. assumption of human form or nature” (dictionary.com “incarnation”). The title of the story, then, seems to describe the deified souls of children living in their burned bodies. This almost supernatural or divine embodiment immediately reminded me of vapors-it is as though the soul is a wisp inside the child’s burned body, much the way Wallace describes the “self’s soul so much vapor aloft” (116). Perhaps the term “aloft” here is meant to describe a vaporous higher power or spirit that descended into the child’s body after the incident?

At the end of “Incarnations of Burned Children,” I walked away feeling little to no emotion whatsoever-almost like the story had been merely vapors. But I still really liked it. What did you all think? Did you come away with anything more from the story?

The Return of the Barber

While finishing up Everything and More, I came across a familiar paradox:

“Russell also has a famous way to set up his Antinomy in natural language, to wit: Imagine a barber who shaves all and only those who do not shave themselves-does this barber shave himself or not?” (Everything 278 IYI2).

Sound familiar?

“Lenore nodded. ‘Gramma really likes antinomies. I think this guy here,’ looking down at the drawing on the back of the label, ‘is the barber who shaves all and only those who do not shave themselves'” (Broom 42).

In The Broom of the System, Wallace uses the barber paradox as more of a plot device than anything else. Lenore Senior leaves the drawing of “a person, apparently in a smock. In one hand was a razor, in the other a can of shaving cream. Lenore could even see the word ‘Noxzema’ on the can. The person’s head was an explosion of squiggles of ink” (Ibid.) for Lenore Junior as a clue to the whereabouts of Lenore Senior. While Lenore Senior is indeed big on words and antinomies, the barber paradox is not really all that important to the story in the end.

In Everything and More, on the other hand, Wallace uses the paradox as it was originally used by Bertrand Russell in an effort to explain Russell’s Paradox. Russell’s Paradox, from what I can glean, is a long proof that eventually ends with the paradox that the set of normal sets is both normal and abnormal (sorry if I’m butchering this, math friends). Basically, the paradox here serves to help readers gain a better understanding of Russell’s Paradox through more concrete language than the original theorem offers.

My question, then, is why? Why does Wallace use the barber paradox in both The Broom of the System and Everything and More? I know this is backtracking to the beginning of the semester, but reading the paradox in its “original” state in Everything and More makes me wonder all the more exactly what it’s doing in The Broom of the System. Also (and here comes some sort of fallacy, I’m sure), I think it’s really interesting to note that The Broom of the System was Wallace’s senior thesis, which came just a few short years after his abrupt “click” away from the world of math. It’s interesting to see that math still plays a role in his first novel, no matter how subtle it may be. Furthermore, Wittgenstein apparently tried to prove that Russell’s Paradox was incorrect and should be disposed of. I don’t know if this movement got much of a following, but it is worth noting, especially given Wallace’s many Wittgenstein-like characteristics.

When I read The Broom of the System at the beginning of the semester, I had no idea that the barber paradox was as famous as it is-in fact, I had never heard of it before. But after having read Everything and More, it makes me wonder if the paradox plays a larger role in The Broom of the System than as a mere plot device, or something to just ponder over while reading page 42 and then forget about. Any thoughts?

Ah, Math.

David Foster Wallace’s Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity is about math. An obvious statement, yes, but also the reason that I had read all of Wallace’s work except for this booklet prior to the start of this class. I was always decent at math, but I never enjoyed it; some people think in numbers, but I am not one of them.

Before reading the first half of this booklet, I wondered whether Wallace’s signature style would shine through all the equations and theorems, or if the book would be more textbook-like than Wallace-like. Fortunately, I think that even among all the numbers, Wallace’s sense of humor and attention to detail are still present. One light-hearted moment that I particularly enjoyed came in Wallace’s description of the Number Line, which “infinitely dense though it appears to be, is actually 99.999 . . .% empty space, rather like DQ ice cream or the universe itself” (90).  The same attention to detail that is present in Wallace’s other works like A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (particularly the titular essay) is also evident here; I personally never would have made the connection between the Number Line’s density and DQ ice cream, but now that Wallace has, I see it and think that it’s a pretty good comparison.

The footnotes in this booklet, too, are still humorous and clever (despite being math-related). While discussing the Fallacy of Equivocation, Wallace inserts an example via a footnote:

“As in:

(1) Curiosity killed the cat.

(2) The World’s Largest Ball of Twine is a curiosity.

(3) Therefore the World’s Largest Ball of Twine killed the cat (57).”

Even though it has absolutely nothing to do with math, it still proves the point he’s trying to make, and allows the reader a humorous interlude among all the numbers. I feel like Wallace is greatly attuned to the fact that many of his readers might not be mathematically savvy, and is always trying to make the math more interesting for those of us who don’t share his love of numbers. At one point he even becomes a bit defensive in a footnote, stating, “Sorry if this is confusing; we’re doing the best we can” (116). Because Wallace himself was so mathematically talented, it must have been difficult to have to make compromises between the difficulty of the material and having the reader actually understand something.

Yet Wallace does succeed in his quest to make this booklet reader-friendly: I found that, despite only going through Calc I and not having taken math in two years, I still understood most of what he was trying to explain throughout the course of the first 157 pages. While talking about the “weirdness” of mathematics and the wide variety of symbols used, Wallace addresses this by talking about the Humanities:

This difficulty, despite what Humanities majors often think, is not because of all the heavy-looking notation that can make flipping through a college math book so intimidating. The special notation of analysis is actually just a very, very compact way to represent information. There aren’t that many different symbols, and compared to a natural language it’s ridiculously easy to learn. The problem isn’t the notation-it’s the extreme abstractness and generality of the information represented by the symbolism that makes college math so hard. Hopefully that makes sense, because it’s 100% true (146).

I found that I agreed with some of this analysis. Yes, the abstractness and generality of the information represented by the symbolism is complex and difficult to understand if you are not particularly math-inclined. But at the same time, there are several different symbols, and many of them look remarkably similar to one another (like X, and the x used to indicate multiplication). I think that here, Wallace is perhaps underestimating the complexity of the symbols (and maybe overestimating my math capabilities!).

Identity/Self/Other

The final story in Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, “Yet Another Example of the Porousness of Certain Borders (XXIV),” is a lovely narrative that I’m not sure I fully understand. It is quite brief yet very descriptive, so that in the first sentence the reader already has the knowledge that “between a cold kitchen window gone opaque with the stove’s wet heat and the breath of us, an open drawer, and the gilt ferrotype of identical boys flanking a blind vested father which hung in a square recession above the wireless’s stand, my Mum stood and cut off my long hair in the uneven heat” (319). One of my favorite aspects of Wallace’s writing is his attention to detail; I can always picture his scenes very clearly in my head, which I think makes the stories much more realistic and human. Even though I would never notice the tiny minutia that Wallace writes about, his including it in his stories somehow makes them more realistic and visible.

The main action of this story (apart from the haircut) describes the “copying game,” which is particularly interesting in this case because the boys are twins and technically already have “the same” (in a manner of speaking) faces. The brother who is being copied admittedly hates the game, and “as I became more agitated at the copying and the agitation registered-I felt it-on my face, the face of my brother would mimic and lampoon that agitation” (320), creating a loop of agitation.  As this loop progresses, the boy sees “the distortion in which there is, tiny, at the center, something cruelly true about the we who leer and woggle at stick necks and concave skulls . . . as the mimicry ascended reflected levels to become finally the burlesque of a wet hysteria” (320-21). During this game, there seems to be a blurring between the Self and Other-as the boy looks into the mirror, he sees both his own face and his brother’s, which look the same not only due to genetics but also because of the game. I was not exactly sure what to make of this-what happens when it becomes impossible to distinguish between the face of the Self and the face of the Other? It seems like a twisted version of Rick Vigorous’s desire to have Lenore inside himself so that the two of them become one Self.

The end is where I become a little bit confused about the meaning of this story. The boy eventually realizes that his only refuge is “slackness, giving up the ghost completely for a blank slack gagged mask’s mindless stare-unseen and -seeing-into a mirror I could not know or feel myself without. No not ever again” (321). Here, the boy is clearly struggling with the separation between Self and Other-the first time I read the story, I took “mirror” to be the actual literal mirror; the second time, I took it to be his twin. I’m not sure which reading is correct, but if I assume it’s the last one, it certainly has interesting implications. If it is his brother, and he could “not know or feel myself” without him, what does that say about individuality and the relationship between twins? And if Wallace is actually referring to the mirror, I don’t have any idea what he means. I think that the ambiguity there is certainly for a purpose (isn’t everything?), but again, I am not sure what, exactly, Wallace is trying to accomplish

Also, I just have to add that I love the way that Wallace ends most of his stories with these short statements that usually are not full sentences (in this case, “no not ever again”). They always leave me with a feeling that something important has been said (although sometimes, as in this case, I don’t really know what the importance is).

Calling all writers (and artists)!

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Dreams in Infinite Jest

In the first hundred pages of Infinite Jest, a number of dream sequences occur, at least two of which are directly related to the Enfield Tennis Academy. One of these dreams, which begins on page 61, is not in conjunction with a specific boy at the E.T.A–in fact, it is not clear who the narrator of this scene is. Rather, the dream is told in the second person, giving the reader the sensation that he or she is the one with the terrible nightmare. One aspect of this dream that is particularly interesting is that, while described as a nightmare, it’s not particularly frightening. The narrator describes a face in the floor of the dorm room on a student’s first night away from home; he describes how “all the time you’ve been scanning oh mother a face in the floor mother oh and your flashlight’s beam stabs jaggedly back for the overlooked face . . . a face in the floor there all the time but unfelt by all others and unseen by you until you knew just as you felt it didn’t belong” (62). While perhaps startling, the face in the floor seems more like a cheap Halloween trick than a frightening nightmare. The dream also has a universal quality to it, despite the extremely specific information given-the narrator claims that “you lie there, awake and almost twelve, believing with all your might” (63). Yet the use of the term “you” somehow fools me into feeling more connected and in tune with the dream (even though I’m not and never was a twelve year-old boy).  This universality and seemingly unreasonable fear makes me think that the motif of a face in the floor is going to come up in Infinite Jest again-it seems too strangely emphasized here to have no further direction or connections later on.

Another dream sequence that interested me belongs to a specific player at the E.T.A: Hal. Beginning on page 67 (and very close to the other dream sequence, I’m now realizing), Hal describes a recurring dream that he has about a tennis competition. He states that “the whole thing is almost too involved to try to take in all at once. It’s simply huge. And it’s public.   . . . we sort of play. But it’s all hypothetical, somehow. Even the ‘we’ is theory: I never get quite to see the distant opponent, for all the apparatus of the game” (67-68). Interestingly, Hal discusses how “unpleasant” this dream is, and how it was “beginning to grind me down and to cause some slight deterioration in performance and rank” (67). In fact, to get past this recurring dream, Hal has to resort to drug use before bed in order to calm himself down enough to sleep through the night. But as with the last dream, this one is not at all frightening-it too seems somewhat comical and exaggerated, particularly given that the tennis court of the dream is “the size of a football field” (Ibid.). While this dream helps explain Hal’s penchant for pot, it seems less universally important and less likely to come up in the novel than does the other dream.

It seems as though in these two passages, Wallace is making some sort of a commentary on dreams, particularly ones that seem frightening but are really just exaggerations or have comical undertones. It is interesting that, although both dreams involve the E.T.A., only one actually involves tennis, and this is the dream that is much more specific to one member of the academy. Furthermore, both of the dreams are startlingly complex, more so than most dreams that are later remembered are. Perhaps this is just a testament to Wallace’s descriptions and attention to detail, or perhaps these details will somehow become important-either as they are now or transformed in some way-later in the novel.