Reach and Pull

Musings on Infinite Jest

Some obvious and not-so-obvious potential movie scenes

with one comment

I’ve only read the book once (started in late May and finished in mid July) (it was and remains the only novel I’ve read in the past three years or so) with the obligatory re-read of the first chapter.  I didn’t begin writing marginalia and underlining and whatnot in my copy until about page 145.  Sometime thereafter, whenever there was a moment I felt would be especially good to have visualized in a potential movie, I drew an eye in the margin next to it (looks like the first one of those was page 289, before that I just wrote “LOL” and “WTF”).  Here are some of those (I finally have my copy at hand, yay), and it goes without saying these are merely a fraction of the possibilities:

  • Orin gazing at Joelle in the sprinklers
  • A slo-mo side-by-side comparison of Orin’s kick serve and kick
  • AFR’s highway “prank”…duh
  • The unfolding physical hideousness of Mario…every inch of Mario Incandenza, lol
  • Mario’s photographs on Comm Ave walls
  • ESCHATON…duh (at certain points, an overlapping double exposure of the game and real war)
  • Nell Gunther’s eye, and the general average-day milieu at Ennet
  • (One eye I quickly struck:  The ‘base-head in Southie…[shudders]…some of IJ is unfilmable)
  • A montage of “Live Silence”
  • Lyle illuminated by lightning
  • Clipperton climbing the umpire’s chair
  • The legend of the night Subsidized Time was conceived
  • NoCoat commercials
  • What happens when people get “homicidally tired” of Happy Days
  • (Not because it’d make good film…but someone please draw Marathe’s wife’s head, still baffles me)
  • Rusk at work
  • Gately as Sir Osis
  • Warrior-esque dawn drills
  • ATHSCME logistics and Mario’s puppet show…duh
  • Pat’s dog, and Pat’s driving
  • The AFR/Antitoi scene…duh (except, a touch too violent in the end, no…still, need the call to arms)
  • Roy and Ken share a tender moment
  • CT self-consciously lurking, self-consciously
  • The blind kid at ETA (WTF)
  • Lord’s, um, box
  • (Jesus, no one needs to see Lenz in action, right?)
  • Glimpses of Infinite Jest the movie, as they are revealed…duh
  • Pemulis dressing up for Rusk, exploring Alice’s desk
  • Errr, the Wayne/Avril scene
  • Randy’s mom on the bus
  • Dial-a-Prayer
  • Gately’s apotheosis…duh
  • AFR slalom on the Common
  • Mr. Bouncety-Bounce
  • Wayne’s brother, trains, and the Kissers
  • “Meet Those Needs!”
  • (However one can depict JOI via CGI)
  • A focus on Cheers, including Norm and the figurants
  • Stice’s real face
  • The anti-entertainment ads by Viney and Veals
  • Sixty years’ worth of chicken fillets
  • The weinie reciting Howl
  • Oh shit, I forgot:  “Help!” + “HELP WANTED”, lol
  • Gately flicking Hoffman-Jeep awake
  • The Yale-Brown football game
  • Gately’s cubist dreams (paging Gondry!)
  • Gately vs. floor
  • JOI shouting Eureka at Watt (btw, JOI = Will Ferrell and CT = John C. Reilly?  Meh?)
  • Barry’s challenge
  • The “end”…duh
  • A montage of every single JOI film, especially those described in the main body
  • The “ugly” MGM rallies
  • Orin’s impression of Avril
  • The 12 meter pie

Wow, so…if it took me about a half hour to flip breezily through the pages and barely scan each page in about 1.5 seconds…how in the holy fuck is a film director going to make a remotely adequate version, even if massively abridged.  I think the only possible way to do Infinite Jest any kind of cinematic justice would be to present it as a four part mini-series or even as a year-long weekly series on some cable subscriber channel.  Even then, it’s going to be maybe the most difficult page-to-screen adaption in history, especially if the director(s) understand the core of the book.  Worth a shot, though.


Written by reachandpull

October 1, 2008 at 8:20 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Whew…time for more bemusing musings

with 6 comments

I’ve been rather desperate lately to disseminate what I consider to be a few master keys for unlocking the core of Infinite Jest.  I had forgotten that part of what I’d also intended to do on this blog was just babble about the book superficially, for shits and giggles.  So here, without further ado, are some songs off my iPod which I listened to intermittently while I devoured the book, and which I think would work well on any potential movie’s soundtrack:

  • Loved Despite of Great Faults by Blonde Redhead (as far as I’m concerned, the single most appropriate song for the book — it could make several appearances in the movie, accompanying many of the book’s relationships)
  • Frankie Sez by Phish (“orbits”, “circular”, “cycle”, “wheel”…really the entire lyrics are eerily suitable for IJ, maybe the second most appropriate song — from “Story of the Ghost”, an album which naturally has other good potential IJ songs)
  • Hey Chicken by Loose Fur (how is “I’m living rent free, in the back of your head” for an IJ line?)
  • Let Forever Be by The Chemical Brothers (reminds me…did anyone ask Gondry to direct IJ?)
  • Not Sport, Martial Art by Jim O’Rourke (another that could make repeat appearances, instrumental)
  • Insignificance by Jim O’Rourke (“everything that you felt was someone else giving you something”)
  • Les Yper-Sound by Stereolab (a fitting song for the ETA tournaments and separatist activity)
  • Le Voyage De Penelope by Air (a little more oomph than La Femme d’Argent, plus Odyssey tone)
  • Life in a Glass House by Radiohead (“someone’s listening”)
  • Street Spirit by Radiohead (beautiful song, relevant lyrics)
  • Nowhere Again by The Secret Machines (“erased”, etc.)
  • Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley (lol, pwn3d)
  • Aerodynamic by Daft Punk (for Lucien Antitoi’s call to arms?)
  • Spiders by Wilco (there’s plenty but…even just the title alone, right?)
  • On and On and On by Wilco (a little mushy, but…)
  • Smelling Cigarettes by The Fiery Furnaces (for the Ennet House?)
  • Animals by The Talking Heads (for Randy Lenz?)
  • Flying by The Beatles (various potential uses)
  • Water by The Beach Boys (how’s the water?)

Written by reachandpull

October 1, 2008 at 6:38 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Let’s cut the shit, time to spell it out

with 2 comments

From the message board for a reality baseball league:

Okay, so, I figure you might have posted that to remind me of the “real” reasons why DFW killed himself, to ground me in the “reality” of his lifelong depression and his desperate attempts to remain alive.  Mind you, part of my view on it is that he never would have made those attempts, he would have killed himself a long time ago, if someone had only realized and expressed publicly the observation that Lyle is a wraith, and all the corollary ideas of that observation.

Here, I’m tired of beating around the Bush, I think the clock is ticking loud enough to just spill my opinion as bluntly as possible:  I was one of those who at first prayed that DFW had left a suicide note, and wondered if he had left the greatest suicide note ever written, one loaded with footnotes per usual.  Answer:  He did.  Even though he wrote some stuff after Infinite Jest, mostly non-fiction short stuff…Infinite Jest is basically the last thing he ever wrote.  Infinite Jest is DFW’s suicide note, and moreover:  He knew it when he wrote it.  It is, in fact, the greatest suicide note ever written.

Now, secondly, to give you an idea of why I think he killed himself:  Realize that JOI committed suicide not merely because he was depressed, but because [i]he felt the overwhelming need to become a wraith[/i].  He knew about wraithhood before he died.  He knew Lyle well, and Lyle was a wraith.  Are you catching on yet?  DFW killed himself to become a wraith.  Infinite Jest isn’t just a playground for his imagination, it is a “secular” scripture of sorts, and I am 100% sure DFW believed — in his real life — in the existence of wraithhood.  He killed himself in order to help us the same way JOI killed himself in order to help Hal.  JOI tried to help Hal while he was alive, tried to penetrate Hal’s solipcism with film after film after film.  Only wraithhood, the last resort, gave JOI the power to finally reach Hal and pull Hal out of himself.  What do you think…if he is still around, if his conjecture wasn’t off…what do you think DFW is doing right now?

Does all that sound crazy?  Yes.  Does it matter how it sounds?

I’m going to post this on the blog, because it needs saying.  The time for cryptic didacticism is over, there’s almost certainly no time left for it, for us.  It’s time to spell shit out as clearly as possible, regardless of how fucking bizarre it might appear at first.

Written by reachandpull

September 26, 2008 at 6:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Rest in peace, David Foster Wallace

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This is all I can post right now:

To be fair, I’d independently figured out most of what you did, and I think you’re still underestimating J.O.I.’s role and overestimating Hal’s, and I view IJ as too important to worry about things like intellectual priority anyway.  Anyway, I just wanted you to know I still think you almost totally nail the narrator issue which is a hell of a lot more than everyone else can say.  I mean, for example, not to be a prick (well, kind of) but how in the hell could any IJ reader even a second think that Randy Lenz narrates the book?  Christ!
Along the lines of this: “I encourage everyone to let me know about any holes in the theory in order that I can find an excuse to read my favorite novel again”. Well, first off:  You mention that the syntax grammar and diction of the narrator points to Hal, but remember that 1) a pre-death J.O.I. presumably wasn’t a chump either when it came to eloquence; 2) J.O.I. has all the time in the world, so he could leisurely read the entire OED himself 50x over in the time it would take Hal to get through half of the letter F; 3) J.O.I. could be the one doing all (or at least just as much of) the OED borrowing, from Hal.  As for phrases borrowed from other characters, it’s just a far more efficient route for J.O.I. to be giving the reader coinages directly — yes, re-mediating them through/inspiring them in Hal at times, just like he mediates/inspires every other POV.  But your theory introduces too many inefficient devices, like Hal trying to fool the reader into thinking there are multiple narrators.
Remember how I reminded you in my previous email how Pemulis says Hal likes to write in the third person, according to the ESCHATON transcription footnote?  (I said that in that email, right?) Well, I no longer think that it’s a crucial sign of Hal being even a co-narrator.  I think it’s Hal just being an empty vessel at the time and (unintentionally, unwittingly, indifferently) letting JOI’s wraith (who’d be way more likely than Hal to use the third person for Hal, right?) flow through his speech unfiltered as Hal/JOI describes himself/Hal’s self.  When exactly does Hal use the first person?  The beginning, when he’s presumably been awakened and freed by JOI, finally, to speak, and be.  But narrator-wise, still through JOI as always.  Yes, it’s interesting (almost touching) that once Hal is rendered speechless to everyone else the only person he’d be able to communicate with would be his wraith father, finally.  I think this is more of a plot thing than a narration thing, though.  JOI  rendering Hal and Gately speechless/immobilized, to make them able/willing to communicate with him and be recruited into (or just survive) the samizdat war.
For the whole book to be written/narrated by Hal, think of the monumental effort and vast amount of time that would take the living Hal.  Now think of how much time J.O.I. has, and remember as you said his Found Dramas, which were phantom jokes to him alive but turn out (joke’s on J.O.I., ouch, the irony) to comprise his entire existence among the living as a wraith.  If Hal is basically Hamlet (and he is IMO) then his role in the novel (in the gap) is to be an actor (in the samizdat/AFR plot), not a describer.  There’s also just literally not enough time for him to narrate IJ, especially in the (feigned like Hamlet?) unhinged state he’s in post-whatever-J.O.I.-has-exposed-to-him.  J.O.I. on the other hand, has endless time, and can finish “writing” IJ from scratch in the span of, like, 15 living minutes.  Also, I think there might a limit to how much Hal could take of what JOI could show Hal, and of what JOI would be willing to show Hal.  Then again, maybe not, considering that one of JOI’s pre-death attempts to communicate with Hal was Accomplice! (!) (all of his films from a certain date on were bizarre ineffective attempts to communicate with Hal) and also considering how fucked in the head Hal seems to be (seeing everything JOI sees could do that, I imagine — but so would far less) and I think it’s impossible for Hal to receive the kind of information he gets from JOI without knowing JOI is giving it to him.  Also, Hal as the narrator would kind of spoil the multitude of parallels between JOI as filmmaker (techniques, structures, themes, everything) and DFW as novelist.  The reader is Hal, in a way, since DFW is trying desperately to communicate with us.
So then a question is, well how does the book get written then, if not by a living hand?  How could a wraith physically write a book?  Well, that’s assuming that IJ is supposed to be a book for the living.  Every reader of IJ (and any book ever, except choose-your-own-adventures, which I actually think there’s a small element of in IJ but that’s another subject) essentially becomes a fellow wraith, a fellow figurant.  Right there next to JOI as he traverses the book’s settings.  Maybe IJ is a book written by a wraith, for wraiths.  Based on the Lucien brother’s soaring call to arms and the little details we get of JOI’s wraith lifestyle, you’ve got to figure the wraith’s universe is absolutely fucking overflowing with wraith personality and culture and conflict, a world indistinguishable from the living’s except for some of our laws of physics etc. I mean, think about it, the living AFR vs. the living ETA’s/OUS’s must pale in comparison to the wraith wars being unleashed, using the living as pawns.  Surely there’s a thriving world of wraith literature.
But…after all that, then I think about Hal not being able to speak and Hal still having his mind boggled and speech incapacitated long after the samizdat plot has been resolved, and your theory makes sense in that context, that Hal isn’t limited to communicating with the wraith telepathically because he can also write about it, with JOI’s help.  And the parallels are surely there for DFW and Hal, the background of DFW considered.  So, ultimately I still don’t know for sure.  Maybe it’s somewhere in between us?  I wouldn’t be shocked if you’re totally right, though, and I’m just overthinking shit.
So, wow, sorry again, this time for the rambling mess above.
Once that blog is up I’m going to let only a handful of friends and acquaintances make comments/converse there, and I’d love for you to be one of them.  I’m going to start my 2nd reading of IJ (I feel like it’s been so long and it’s only been a month since I finished it), and my friend who recommended it to me will be starting his 3rd reading, and two other friends will be reading it for the first time.  So, what better time for you to re-read it, eh?  This blog thing is going to be fucking
epic, I promise.  Loose thoughts still, but way more structured than this freaking email, lol.”


“Okay man, screw all my don’t tell anyone crap, the blog is up prematurely and I got the Lyle thing out there, so it’s all good!
Like I said, I intend for the blog to have scholarly citations and whatnot, but for now I just wanted to get it up there asap.  BTW, isn’t it neat how the white font thing
parallels wraithhood kind of?”


You raised a great question.  My guess is the reason that JOI and Lyle don’t directly interfere with the movie is that 1) they are somehow opposed by separatist wraiths trying to spread the movie and 2) they aren’t all-powerful, even if they are all-knowing.  They can manipulate objects, obviously, like baseline winners and cafeteria decorations, and they can inspire action in the living, but there’s got to be some blockage preventing them from fixing the movie problem themselves.

As for JOI’s (and DFW’s) motives, maybe it’s for us, the Hals of the real world.  Not sure about your experiences, but after reading IJ, real life has become decidedly stranger for me.  For example:  As soon as I started the book a troubled younger cousin of mine shot herself in the head, but has miraculously survived intact…possibly better.  Days ago, her fearless younger sister took a dare to jump 40 feet into a lake, landed in 8 feet of water, and miraculously crushed just the one vertebra that wouldn’t have left her paralyzed, living only because the fool who dared her became a Gately-esque hero, holding her aloft in the cold water for an hour and a half.  I don’t mean to sound like a loon, but there are reasons why it would make sense to me if there were bad wraiths who incited those two incidents, and good wraiths who mitigated them.  Basically, our world needs saving from multiple catastrophes on the horizon, and I think DFW (maybe with the help of wraiths, lol, since how in the fuck can a mere mortal create this almost-perfect book as fast as he did) has given us a type of secular scripture to understand our world better, to awaken us, to reach us, to pull us out of ourselves, to salvage the hope that postmodern nihilism threatens to extinguish — would you expect anything less of the book’s ambition?  I have a hunch that DFW’s worldview incorporates this, literally:
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
I’ve never read any Nabokov, save for an aborted attempt at Pnin.  Naturally, I’ve read great things about him (in books like Nicholson Baker’s U & I), and a long time ago I wiki’d Pale Fire and discovered the general gist of the book and the cosmic mess of interpretations it has inspired.  It’s already “spoiled” for me, so (pale) fire away with your observations!
I just checked the blog and you should be able to comment, just click on “no comments yet” and then I’ll approve it and once I approve one from you then
you’re good to go the rest of the way.  I’ll have to tweak the settings later to make it easier to use.
Dude, we’re going to unlock the everlasting shit out of it!


“Just to clarify what I meant, so that I don’t seem even loonier than I am (lol), when I said wraiths would make sense to me in the real world, I don’t mean wraiths from the book, I mean what people refer to as ghosts, i.e., the ghosts of members of my family who have died.
But shit, back to the context of IJ, maybe the reader is supposed to be a wraith, i.e., the reader’s world is the world of wraiths, we’re living in JOI’s and Lyle’s universe, and IJ is a book written
by and for wraiths, like I had rambled in an earlier email.”


“That’s fucking wonderful to hear Jesse, I can’t wait to re-read it myself.  I totally plan on posting more, as soon as I can.  I’m a little busy at the moment trying to save the world in my own way, at the message board for Rigorous Intuition.  I go…there.
I’ll make you co-owner/blogger/manager of the blog, and you can post your stuff there, and I promise I will comment the living shit out of it even while I don’t have time to create blog posts myself.  I’ll also coerce my friends into commenting…on your posts and (for the time being) my comments.  We’ll have a grand old time, and we’ll probably be the world’s premier Infinite Jest interpreters, and we might help save the world a little. 
I promise.”

Written by reachandpull

September 15, 2008 at 7:36 am

Posted in Uncategorized


with 31 comments

Here’s how this blog is going to work.  Even though I’m the type of person who doesn’t mind having a movie ending “spoiled”, I’m going to try to keep spoilers out of here.  I’ll be using white font for anything that has spoiler potential, and of course with Infinite Jest, there is a lot of potential spoilage, so if you want to read this blog you’ll have to select it with your cursor a chunk at a time.  I’ll be authorizing only a handful of people to post comments here, so if you’re not one of them and you want to add your two cents or reach me, just go to the GoodReads page for Infinite Jest and join the discussion there.  Okay, first up is Lyle.  He’s not a critical character plot-wise, as far as I know.  But there is something about him which no one seems to notice.  Here is an excerpt from a rambling email I sent to one of the people who’ll be commenting:

…I asked my friend who’d read the book twice, who considers IJ his #1 favorite book of all time, who is the smartest person I know, and he had never picked up on it, and I find zero mention of it online, and it occurred to me as soon as JOI’s wraith was revealed, and then it was completely verified later in a hospital scene, and if you picked up on it then you and I might be the only two IJ readers in the world, lol, not quite (well, maybe) but still it seems the majority of readers never picked up on it — which would be astonishing since to me it is so freaking daylight obvious.  Ok, promise again you’ll seal your lips until the blog starts (or if I procrastinate, until 9/14 at the latest, then you’re free to blab/borrow)…Lyle is a wraith.  Did you pick that up?  Ponder it.  He sits atop a fucking towel dispenser lol.  Google images of locker room towel dispensers.  Such a feat is only pulled off by JOI on the heart monitor, later on.  He lives off fucking human sweat.  Sweat, lol!!!  (It’s a sign of how much weirdness there is in IJ overall that readers don’t really get hung up on Lyle’s sweat-licking.)  He never ever moves (remember how wraiths materialize?).  His rarer-than-rare journey across campus the night of Clip’s death was a sensation for the students…but they are never depicted as actually seeing him take that trip.  The students never realize he is a wraith, because he is continuously materialized from sitting so utterly still and peaceful.  Most important of all:  JOI escorts Lyle to see Gately, for some of Gately’s sweat (Gately gets cat-tongue-licked, it’s there, trust me — which by itself necessarily means that Lyle is a wraith, when you think about it, regardless of whether it’s JOI or Lyle doing the licking).  JOI and Lyle were life buddies and now they are wraith buddies (JOI may have even know Lyle-as-a-wraith while he [JOI] was alive, and if so it’d open up a can of worms about whether his knowledge of impending wraithhood affected his film career, among many other things).  And now, to bring it full circle narrator-wise, do you remember the odd 1st person insertion after the reader is introduced to Lyle, the thing about (and I’m sorry I don’t have my book with me, or else I’d quote this passage with a page number, my copy is absolutely fucking littered with cross-referenced marginalia like yours probably and I’d find it quickly) “I would like to be like Lyle” or “I wish I could be like Lyle” or “I think it would be great to be like Lyle”.  Why in the fuck would Hal say that, right?  It’s JOI, expressing his admiration as a fellow wraith for how well Lyle materializes because of how utterly at peace Lyle’s soul is.  Or…actually, in your Hal scenario, a Hal looking-back with the lens of knowing there are wraiths and Lyle’s one might say the same thing.  But anyway, Lyle is a wraith.  Absolutely, 100%, without-a-trace-of-a-doubt.  If you hadn’t picked up on that, aren’t you shocked you didn’t?  If you did pick up on it, aren’t you shocked there are people who still haven’t?


…LMAO, and if it turns out there are already 12 lengthy thesises about Lyle-as-a-wraith, then how much of a jackass do I look like right now, ahahahahahaha.

Written by reachandpull

August 26, 2008 at 6:19 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The Highest Common Denominator

with 3 comments

In this corner of the internet, I’ll be musing randomly on Infinite Jest, musing to myself and to the friend who recommended the book to me.

Written by reachandpull

July 21, 2008 at 6:52 am

Posted in Uncategorized