U 235's blog

Figuring out the father of anna nicole smith's child was bad enough....

I thought the scene where the Waterhouse Family splits the inheritance was absolutely hilarious (Origin 620-633). The notion that the contentious process of equally dividing all of Randy's grandmother's possessions by reducing their worth to two relatively simple variables, monetary and sentimental value which then have to be crunched by a supercomputer. In spite of the supposed equality and objectivity, Rnady admits that "certainly there won't be a mathematically exact solution" (630). With everyone's fixation on getting what they want, it seems that they may as well have just fought it out and settled it the good old fashioned way!

Sir, yes sir!

As I get deeper into Cryptonomicon, Bobby Shaftoe seems to remind me a lot of Hal Incandenza. Beyond his moments with Glory (which he promptly sets out to forget), Bobby has an automated robotic and detached quality about him. Beginning with the lizard incident, he feels unable to communicate with others except in his military protocol which Stephenson essentially boils down to a sterile enabler for the less pleasant side of soldiery i.e. killing other people. As we see on page 203 Bobby misses the "good old days, back on Guadalcanal" where he was "a free agent" able to accomplish his orders by all means necessary, but now he just takes exact orders with absolutely no freedom.

Secrets Revisited

With the other books we've had similar discussions about secrets and their place, so I thought it was interesting that Cryptonomicon treats these encrypted messages as secrets that have a set lifespan. On page 55, Randy asks "How long do you want these messages to remain secret?" ... "Five years? Ten years? Twenty-Five years?" It's interesting to see a character who recognize the difficulty of keeping secrets and the inevitability of secrets emerging into the open i.e. it's just a matter of time.

Gender in Infinite Jest

We've been here before, with the other novels, especially GR, and I'd like to revisit.

As I read this book, the vast majority of the characters are male and even in the relatively major female characters I never really sensed much of what would be considered conventional femininity. We've encountered the USSMK, Ann Kittenplan who's about as feminine as the East German women's swim team, Avril, the Incandenzas' mother but also for the most part serves both the role of mother and father, Kate Gompert who's nothing but horridly depressed and finally Joelle who we see mostly as the "pretty girl" and not particularly feminine. At the same time, Infinite Jest IV or V tells its viewer, "Death is always female and that the female is always maternal. I.e. that the woman who kills you is always your next life's mother" (788). Why such a strong focus on death as female? Why is this what people want to hear? that their mothers are "SO VERY SORRY" (839)? Or more puzzling why can Jim Incandenza alone endure the film?

Faith ... and Cake

I really liked "infamous Boston AA cake analogy" which compares AA's methods to baking a cake on page 467. I liked the tone of determined frustration in Gately's thought process as he describes it: "It didn't mater one fuckola whether Gately like believed a cake would result, or whether he understood the fucking baking-chemistry of howa cake would result:if he just followed the motherfucking directions, and had sense enough to get help from slightly more experienced bakers .... a cake would result. He'd have his cake." I think the analogy goes a long way to show that we can't understand everything on our own and that sometimes we just have to accept a blind faith in the directions in order to obtain the end result. I think one of the great ironies of these addicts and culture as a whole is how far they are willing to figure out how to be progressively more entertained when simple directions could pretty much do about the same. In other words, sometimes it just works.

Permanent Disease

"You will find out that once MA's Dept. of Social Services has taken a mother's children away for any period of time, they can always take them away again, D.S.S., like at will" (200).

"Chronic alcoholics' hearts are -- for reasons no M.D. has been able to explain -- swollen to nearly twice the size of civilians' human hearts, and they never again return to normal size" (200).

"Ewell decides this is what gives profundity to the tattoo-impulse's profound irrevocability: Having a tatt removed means just exchanging one kind of disfigurement for another" (208).

Over and over, DFW reminds us of the permanent affliction of addiction. The rehabilitation and recovery process only helps stave off the further progression of the disease, but can never erase or return affairs to their original proper state. Even more troubling, the battle continues after rehab; the slide back into addiction, like having the state take the children away, is so much easier than managing to keep hold. Moreover as stated on page 201, the addicts remain in permanent want of Substance even after quitting use. There seems to be no "health," only a new disease. Saving one's physical life, does not entirely improve their mental outlook.

everything is connected

I thought it was really interesting how DeLillo explicity connects Sister Edgar and J. Edgar Hoover as "Sister and Brother. A fantasy in cyberspace and a way of seeing the other side and a settling of differences that have less to do with gender than with difference itself, all argument, all conflict programmed out." Both characters exist in insular worlds without outside contact, yet cyberspace ultimately links them together albeit as only a "single fluctuating impulse now, a piece of coded information" (826). I'm not entirely sure as to what DeLillo means, but the ending seems very ambivalent, maybe intentionally so in order to mirror the increasing lack of a divide between what he calls cyberspace and the world.

Better Things for Better Living Through Chemistry

DeLillo ends the section of the alternating bits of storyline with Nick failing to call Marian because loneliness is "a thing [he] tried never to admit to and knew how to step outside of, but sometimes even this was not means enough. He ultimately says, "I didn't call her because I would not give in, watching the night come down" (637). I think that although the story threads have great differences between them, for the most part, they involve characters who knowingly practice and in a certain sense have an addiction to brinksmanship. Lenny Bruce's ideas are dead on and by bringing it to an audience he has the potential to effect real change, yet his addiction to heroin and his paranoid need to please the crowd weakens his message. In spite of the overwhelming evidence of their inevitable decline, Edgar and Clyde continue to insist on shaping the world in their own way. In Clyde's case, he ultimately mortgages his individual identity and potential in exchange for the safety and security of Edgar's patronage. Worst of all, Nick fails to make the simple gesture of calling Marian out of stubborn opposition to feeling vulnerable even as he can see a window of opportunity closing before him.

Quotidian

"'Everyday things represent the most overlooked knowlege. These names are vital to your progress. Quotidian things. If they weren't important, we wouldn't use such a gorgeous Latinate word ... An extraordinary word that suggests the depth and reach of the commonplace'"
-- Father Paulus on page 542

"I wanted to look up words. I wanted to look up velleity and quotidian and memorize the fuckers for all time, spell them , learn them, pronounce them syllable by syllable--vocalize, phonate, utter the sounds, say the words for all they're worth. This is the only way in the world you can escape the things that made you"

Time in Underworld

I really enjoy DeLillo's delinearization of time in Underworld. It seems that he embraces a cyclical vision of history in which the past and future depend on each other. In this vision, the traditionally distinct beginning and end really stand for a single arbitrary point along the circle depending on one's frame of reference. The book seems to function much like a human memory which patches together discrete frames of stopped time which influences what will happen, yet at the same time, what happens will influence the collection, arrangement and interpretation of memory such that the two become inexorably intertwined.

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