Skip

Finite Jest
October 8, 2010 12:45 PM   Subscribe

Here is a handy visual guide to Infinite Jest 1,2,3 [spoiler alert?] 4.

I thought that a concise description might provide a nice counterpoint to the book, but if you regard such condensation as effrontery to the weighty tome of maximalist metafiction, here are some endnotes from prior MeFi Jestings:

1.Playable Eschaton!

2.The Nightmarish Labor of Translation

3.Reading, Not Surfing

4. Technically, I suppose one might reveal some information before its time, but the likelihood that a largely incomprehensible flow chart would "spoil" Infinite Jest seems extremely low.
posted by solipsophistocracy (36 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
But who was mailing out copies of the samizdat? How did the medical attache and the wheelchair assassins get ahold of it?
posted by orville sash at 12:51 PM on October 8, 2010


I think there's more to Lyle than this lets on...

And it's Kate Gompert, with a G.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 12:52 PM on October 8, 2010


David Foster Wallace video in which he talks about genre vs literary books.
posted by stbalbach at 12:56 PM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Pretty good. Not perfectly accurate, but I imagine you could go mad trying to lay out all the linkages in Infinite Jest in a visually comprehensible format (I'm certainly not going to try it). One of my favorite things about reading the book was watching the various narrative threads come together -- the ways that characters' lives were interwoven was just to the right side of unbelievable.
posted by EvaDestruction at 1:00 PM on October 8, 2010


oh my god, the wheelchair assassins. Were they awesome or what? In a poetry seminar I wrote some (likely awful) stuff riffing on this, and my classmates were all whoa now there. Because I am a wheelchair I think they were wondering what this was all about.
posted by angrycat at 1:04 PM on October 8, 2010


Where do the roving herds of giant radioactive feral babies come in?

As much as I hope no one ever tries to film Infinite Jest, I would pay through the nose to view real-world versions of Various Small Flames and Stand Behind The Men Behind The Wire.
posted by chaff at 1:04 PM on October 8, 2010


Isn't a lot of this speculation? Some of these connections are only hinted at in the book. And I can't think of any evidence suggesting that Ortho Stice's supernatural experiences were due to the Mad Stork.

There's also a fair amount missing here. To take one example, Marlon Bain and his connections with Orin, Lateral Alice, Hugh Steeply, etc.
posted by dephlogisticated at 1:11 PM on October 8, 2010


First link is redirecting to a Cialis ad/scam site for me. The others seem fine (as do other links) so I don't think it's a browser hijack on my end.
posted by penduluum at 1:14 PM on October 8, 2010


Sorry, not first link; the #1 link. Playable Eschaton.
posted by penduluum at 1:15 PM on October 8, 2010


Yeah, it's dead for me, too. Leads to a generic placeholder page from my ISP.
posted by hippybear at 1:17 PM on October 8, 2010


stbalbach, that's an interesting discourse because he falls into the same trap that a lot of people do w.r.t. genre: he's basically conflating a market category with generalizations about the type of subject matter or the style of the writer.

But some of the "strangest" and "most difficult" stuff I've read has been produced squarely within a genre framework. And most of the stuff that gets labeled "literary" isn't very challenging at all (unless you count the challenge of staying awake while you read it).

Then fuckers* like Franzen go and mess it all up by writing "literary best-sellers".

I spend a lot of time talking about SF with friends, and some of us find it very amusing that most folks who read SF have never read either IJ or Broom of the System, and most people who've read them wouldn't be caught dead reading SF, and yet both books could fit quite neatly within the literary SF/F tradition exemplified by people like Delaney, Aldiss, Farmer, Bacigalupi, Ian MacDonald, China Mieville, etc., not to mention all that wonderfully weird stuff from the '70s new wave, the first wave of cyberpunk, and anything by Rudy Rucker. (See, I didn't even have to invoke Harlan E., Doris L. [who wouldn't mind] or Margaret A.)

--
*I kid, I kid, seriously. It looks like a good book and I might even get around to reading it, when I'm done plowing through the Watch tetralogy.
posted by lodurr at 1:17 PM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Playable Eschaton link is spam for me, BTW.
posted by lodurr at 1:18 PM on October 8, 2010


I seem to recall Don Gately being more prominent than this.
posted by Hickeystudio at 1:18 PM on October 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


First link is redirecting to a Cialis ad/scam site for me. The others seem fine (as do other links) so I don't think it's a browser hijack on my end.

Looks like a problem with the NoWhereBand website.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:20 PM on October 8, 2010


hmm, sorry about the dead linkage. I saved that page to disk, and must've been looking at my offline copy instead of the actual link during QC. My apologies.

I agree that this chart is definitely incomplete (and almost necessarily so, given reasonable screen size limitations), but I think it a nice reference. Especially if you're rereading IJ (or rerereading or whatever), it's a good refresher, whether or not you take issue with some of the connections.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 1:22 PM on October 8, 2010


can't think of any evidence suggesting that Ortho Stice's supernatural experiences were due to the Mad Stork.

There's tons of stuff for you to infer with. Reread it.

Here is a handy visual guide to Infinite Jest

Might you say this "re-maps" the book?

I don't know how handy, visual, or guiding this flowchart is. Yes, for instance, Mario and Hal are brothers, but it's so much more complicated than that. I'd explain, but the book does a better job. Flowcharts like this seem to miss the point.

I once read that some high school English teacher was able to divide IJ into 32 distinct storylines. But some storylines are broader, longer, more integral than others. For me, the complexity of Infinite Jest is Infinite Jest, and people find different parts that speak to them.

What I'm trying to say is that these DFW IJ blue posts miss the mark w/r/t the reason we read challenging fiction like IJ. If someone has not read the entertainment, then this post is useless. If someone has read IJ, they have opinions and a flowchart like this doesn't add to the experience and relationship with the text.

On the other hand... playable Eschaton? Damn you broken link!
posted by Michael Pemulis at 1:23 PM on October 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


There's also a fair amount missing here. To take one example, Marlon Bain and his connections with Orin, Lateral Alice, Hugh Steeply, etc.


Pemulis dealing drugs to members of the Ennett House; Steeply interviewing people at Enfield (not just Orin); didn't Avril have a sexual relationship with the medical attache...etc

The link between Wayne and Himself goes the wrong way (unless I'm misreading).
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:25 PM on October 8, 2010


MP, I vote we punch the first person who even starts to say 'epony...'

lodurr: I've read and enjoyed pretty much all the authors on your list. I agree with your argument though.
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:28 PM on October 8, 2010


I think we're going to pick this apart. It's nice that someone wanted to do this, to make a visual representation of IJ, but I don't think that it's particularly helpful in understanding the book, even at a structural level, except to point out how mind-bogglingly complicated the relations between people and institutions in the book are. Minor relations are presented with the same weight as major ones, and what are we to do with people like Ann Kittenplan and Kate Gompert just floating out there on the margins? Lyle is has an arrow to LaMont Chu and no one else, despite being connected in important ways to almost everyone at ETA, especially Himself. Or how about Hal's visit to Ennet House?

Okay, I've fallen into the trap of nitpicking a neat fan thing that someone did. I didn't need to do that. Thanks for posting, and I really liked stalbach's link to the DFW video.
posted by no mind at 1:30 PM on October 8, 2010


do we know anything about the originals of the map?

I seriously doubt it was intended as a cheat sheet for the book - it could just be someone having fun. And if it's just fun, then even if you haven't read the book (or read it 15 years ago and don't remember the vast majority of the details or characters) it's still fun to look at and marvel at how much time people have to do such things in romantic, condescending daydreams. Back to the important, impact-ful activity of my day...
posted by victors at 1:35 PM on October 8, 2010


Can I use this thread to point out that I just realized that "Madame Psychosis" is a play on the word metempsychosis?
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 2:40 PM on October 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


The Playable Eschaton page renders correctly for me, in Firefox with NoScript. The text-only Google Cache is oddly formatted but legible.

The graph is not informative & also badly laid-out. I wish I had the time to fix it.
posted by Pronoiac at 2:42 PM on October 8, 2010


Can I use this thread to point out that I just realized that "Madame Psychosis" is a play on the word metempsychosis?

Holy shit, yes, you may.
posted by pts at 2:45 PM on October 8, 2010


I am about 1/3 of the way through the novel for the first time. I'm finding it to be very funny, and sad, and weird, and hoo-boy is it long, and I'm sure that if I live long enough I will probably attempt to reread it. The "spoilers" so far in this thread are amusing me. Roving herds of giant radioactive feral babies? I can hardly wait!

It's the first fiction I've read by him. I've read his of his non-fiction collections, and that math-thing about Infinity. In 2008, during campaign season, I was working on the Barack Obama campaign as a field organizer. A campaign volunteer sent me his McCain piece, and it altered my perception of what I was doing and what kind of work I was doing in ways that I'm still working through. And then he went and killed himself two days later. (Wallace that is, not my volunteer.) And that was it. I couldn't read his stuff any more for awhile, because it would just make me cry. His work was always so personal, and I identified so strongly with his neuroses, that I got all weepy even reading his cruise-ship article. Sheesh.

Anyhoo, the chart is kind of neato, thanks for posting it!
posted by Cookiebastard at 2:59 PM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


freshwater_pr0n: Can I use this thread to point out that I just realized that "Madame Psychosis" is a play on the word metempsychosis?
I haven't read the book in years now, but... doesn't DFW explicitly say just that in one of the endnotes? I thought there was a passage discussing the origins of Madame Psychosis' name, and that pun was mentioned.
posted by hincandenza at 3:01 PM on October 8, 2010


can't think of any evidence suggesting that Ortho Stice's supernatural experiences were due to the Mad Stork.

The connection between the Darkness' roving bed and the Wraith wasn't immediately evident to me either. As for who was mailing out copies of the samizdat, I've read analyses that finger Orin as the culprit (e.g. he's at the post office or buying stamps in a couple of instances), but I suspect Avril.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 3:04 PM on October 8, 2010


One really way of looking at Infinite Jest is as a play on the (I think) 18th century French tradition of joke novels.
Tristram Shandy is in this tradition too. So if Tristram Shandy gets on your nerves in a major way, I'd think that IJ would too.

(Note: These ideas are things I've gleaned from other grad students in conversation, and these are their insights, although I agree with them)
posted by angrycat at 3:44 PM on October 8, 2010


A long time ago some friends and I had this copy of Infinite Jest that kept getting passed around among us. We called it the Infinite Book. The first one to read it annotated the book because of the difficult structure of the novel. More notes were added to by each subsequent reader. The added notes began to switch from helpful, to snarky and outrageous, and hillarious. The book swelled in size. Every so often the book would come back to you but different. Eventually the book got lent out, and didn't come back, people lost interest and moved on. For all I know it is still out there circulating like some weird chain letter with its broken binding, coffee stains, highlights, pencil marks and post it notes stuffed between pages.
posted by humanfont at 4:47 PM on October 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


If someone has read IJ, they have opinions and a flowchart like this doesn't add to the experience and relationship with the text.

This chart represents the opinions of someone who has read the book, I would imagine. If it detracts from your experience of having read it, don't look at it. I like visual representations of abstract, complicated stories. Can a graph or flowchart ever capture the subtle complexities of a literary endeavor? Fuck no. A lot of times, visual depictions miss the mark even for explicit empirical "stories." However, they present an opportunity to reorient oneself to a text with a different conceptual framework. I find this sort of thing useful, whether or not I agree with the interpretation.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 5:14 PM on October 8, 2010


A long time ago some friends and I had this copy of Infinite Jest that kept getting passed around among us. We called it the Infinite Book.

If you ever get it back, you absolutely need to scan the whole damned thing and make a torrent out of it.
posted by nevercalm at 5:18 PM on October 8, 2010


[SPOILERS GALORE]

orville sash: But who was mailing out copies of the samizdat? How did the medical attache and the wheelchair assassins get ahold of it?

I might be blurring together the book with one of the theses I've read about it, but I think John Wayne was a spy for the wheelchair assassins' leaders.


dephlogisticated: And I can't think of any evidence suggesting that Ortho Stice's supernatural experiences were due to the Mad Stork.

The first time I read it, there weren't clues. But stuff often gets dropped in after what it explains; remember, his father's view of Harold's voicelessness, & how that view of voicelessness seemed at odds with reality until the Madame joined them for dinner & gave her view of it? (That was one of the most amazing parts of the entire book for me.)


angrycat: One really way of looking at Infinite Jest is as a play on the (I think) 18th century French tradition of joke novels.

And I know I got this from a thesis, but the entire story is written both:
* like a Menger sponge or Sierpinski carpet, with what you might consider the core of the story having been ripped out.
* as a parabola, moving quickly at the beginning & end. With the middle ripped out, you can still trace the trajectories & connect up the paths before & after the, something, Wittgensteinian gap.


Lastly, I don't know about graphing people's connections to each other. I thought about making narrative graphs like xkcd's movie narrative charts, & even found some software to do that in the hunt for those charts, but there is a warning in that thread:
Schlimmbesserung: I kinda want to throw Infinite Jest into this, but I'd never be seen again.

At times I've gotten the urge to take the text for Illuminati & wikify it & analyze the tics & themes that pop up. Thinking about doing that for Infinite Jest makes me shudder with anticipation & annoyance with how little time I can afford to spend on it. It makes me look forward to uploading my mind to a computer some day, just so I can parallelize myself & work on cool shit like this.
posted by Pronoiac at 5:34 PM on October 8, 2010


The first time I read it, there weren't clues. But stuff often gets dropped in after what it explains; remember, his father's view of Harold's voicelessness, & how that view of voicelessness seemed at odds with reality until the Madame joined them for dinner & gave her view of it? (That was one of the most amazing parts of the entire book for me.)

Since you mention it, I think Hal's voicelessness is the most important theme in the entire novel. This is encapsulated in the conversation with Himself (as the Wraith) musing about figurants. Hal was gradually becoming a figurant in his own life, just as Himself had feared. The irony is that Hal's voicelessness eventually became literal, either due to DMZ or the samizdat (I lean towards the former interpretation).
posted by dephlogisticated at 8:04 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


wow.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:42 PM on October 8, 2010


A visual guide to my reading of Infinite Jest: imagine a fat book being forcibly hurled across a room, over a distance of about eight feet, and then smashing into a wall and tumbling to the floor in a fat flutter of useless pages.
posted by Decani at 7:54 AM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


WHAT THE FUCK? The Playable Eschaton site is mine, no clue what's up with the Cialis hijack. Mother fuckity fuck. Will be cleaning up.
posted by COBRA! at 9:36 AM on October 12, 2010


fixed, if anybody's still paying attention
posted by COBRA! at 11:58 AM on October 14, 2010


« Older No right to lawyer during interrogation in Canada   |   Basil Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post