Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Illustrated Addict's Guide to Infinite Jest - Part I

or: A guide to managing your internal weathers chemically.

Note: I'm excluding Schedule I drugs such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine, X, and crystal meth. Those probably deserve — and will probably get — independent guides all to themselves.


Cylert (Pemoline) Abbott Laboratories.
Usage: Treats ADHD.
Most interesting side effects
: Depression, hallucinations, hepatitis and other liver problems, increased irritability, involuntary, fragmented movements of the face, eyes, lips, tongue, arms, and legs, suppressed growth, uncontrolled vocal outbursts such as grunts, shouts, and obscene language.
Notes: No longer available in the U.S. due to association w/ life threatening hepatic failure (but probably still available at IJ’s time of writing). Although, Abbott maintains that falling sales were the reason for discontinuation.
Schedule IV

Tenuate (diethylpropion hydrochloride) Multiple distributors. Structural analogue of Wellbutrin.
Usage: Prescription weight-loss. Anorectic CNS rattler.
Most interesting side effects: breast development in males, bruising, changes in sex drive, tremors, unpleasant taste, feelings of discomfort, feelings of elation, feeling of illness, hair loss.
: Habit forming. Favorite of Michael Pemulis and Jim Troeltsch.
Schedule IV

Fastin (phentermine hydrochloride) GSK Pharm
Usage: Appetite suppression. Weight loss.
Most interesting side effects: periods of mania followed by period of depression, feeling like you might pass out, unusual thoughts or behavior, feeling restless or confused, dangerously high blood pressure.
Notes: Don't be fooled by the crunchy herbal version.
Schedule IV

Preludin (Phenmetrazine) a.k.a Sweeties. Discontinued.
Usage: appetite suppressant, stimulates satiety center in hypothalamic and limbic regions.
Most interesting side effects: psychosis similar to that of amphetamine with long term use.
Notes: Favored by Bridget Boone, Swedes, Germans, and The Beatles. Eric Clapton wrote a song called 'Preludin Fugue'. High potential for abuse and creative songwriting.
Schedule II

Ritalin (methylphenidate) a.k.a. Vitamin R, R-Ball, Smart Drug. Novartis, previously CIBA pharmaceutical.
Usage: Treatment of ADHD, narcolepsy, methamphetamine addiction, developmental disorders, cramming for finals.
Most interesting side effects: hearing voices, visual hallucinations, urges to harm oneself, severe anxiety, euphoria, grandiosity, paranoid delusions, confusion.
Notes: High potential for abuse similar to cocaine.
Schedule III

Seldane (Terfenadine) a.k.a. the tactical nuclear weapon of nondrowsy antihistamines and mucoidal desiccators. Aventis Pharm
Usage: allergic conditions, antihistamine, mucoidal desiccator.
Most interesting side effects: ventricular tachycardia, torsades de pointes.
Notes: Toxicity is possible when mixed with grapefruit. Favored by Jim Troeltsch. Would have helped Guillaume DuPlessis more than the codeineless NyQuil.
Banned by FDA.

Look for Part II covering tranqs sometime in the future. Oral narcotics and antidepressants also coming later.
Also, I am constraining this to the Infinite Summer Spoiler Line, so this section may expand later.

Monday, June 29, 2009

"the sacred grass of Wimbledon"

How appropriate is it that Infinite Summer kicked off one day before Wimbledon?

It's already been a landmark year for tennis with Roger Federer (SUI) equaling Pete Sampras (USA) in overall Grand Slam titles with fucking fourteen, including five consecutive at Wimbledon and five consecutive at the U.S. Open. It's honestly something I never thought I would see, and I'm a little out-of-sorts about it. My own formidable tennis years — if you can call being top-seed at a extremely low-ranked high school formidable — were played during the rise of Pete Sampras. Pete was a clinician, an unbelievably economical player whose personality was anathema to his monster serve (his Wikipedia article only has about five lines under the personal life section). Pete wasn't flashy; Pete was as smart and pure a player as there ever has been and his rivalry with Andre Agassi did wonders for the sport.

Now, we have Roger Federer. He's devastating and dominating in every way. He's flashy and pulls off these balletic feats of athleticism not often seen in tennis. David Foster Wallace was a huge fan of these "Federer Moments" as he described in his essay "Federer as Religious Experience" for the NY Times.

"The Moments are more intense if you’ve played enough tennis to understand the impossibility of what you just saw him do."

He describes one particular Moment:

"...given Agassi’s position and world-class quickness, Federer had to send that ball down a two-inch pipe of space in order to pass him, which he did, moving backwards, with no setup time and none of his weight behind the shot. It was impossible. It was like something out of “The Matrix.” I don’t know what-all sounds were involved, but my spouse says she hurried in and there was popcorn all over the couch and I was down on one knee and my eyeballs looked like novelty-shop eyeballs."

I think DFW would be a content television-tennis-viewer this year. Although, as he himself put it "the truth is that TV tennis is to live tennis pretty much as video porn is to the felt reality of human love." That aside, this weekend I thoroughly enjoyed reading the section on the topography of E.T.A. while listening to the gentle pock, pock, and the rhythmic banshee wail of Venus Williams dismantling Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro 6-0, 6-4.

UPDATE: From an interview posted on the Official Wimbledon site:

Q. There were times during your match today when I was reminded of an essay by the late American author, David Foster Wallace. It's called, Roger Federer as Religious Experience. I'm wondering if you have heard of this essay, read it, or what you think of it?

ROGER FEDERER: Sure, I remember his piece. I remember doing the interview here on the grounds up on the grass. I had a funny feeling walking out of the interview. I wasn't sure what was going to come out of it, because I didn't know exactly what direction he was going to go.

The piece was obviously fantastic. You know, yeah, it's completely different to what I've read in the past about me anyway.

Friday, June 26, 2009

"the howling fantods."

A short passage from p. 45 which really blew me away:

Roaches give him the howling fantods. The parishes around N.O. had been having a spate or outbreak of a certain Latin-origin breed of sinister tropical flying roaches, that were small and timid but could fucking fly, and that kept being found swarming on New Orleans infants, at night, in their cribs, especially infants in like tenements or squalor, and that reportedly fed on the mucus in the babies' eyes, some special sort of optical-mucus--the stuff of fucking nightmares, mobile flying roaches that wanted to get at your eyes, as an infant--and were reportedly blinding them; parents'd come in in the ghastly A.M.-tenement light and find their infants blind, like a dozen blinded infants that last summer...

Not much to say about it right now. I just love it. Still slightly behind (p. 50), and I'll probably be even more behind after a weekend kayaking trip which I am NOT lugging the book along for.

Incidentally, Blogger's spellcheck doesn't recognize fantod. So here you go, from the O.E.D. of course:


A crotchety way of acting; a fad.

1839 C. F. BRIGGS Adv. H. Franco I. 249 You have got strong symptoms of the fantods. 1867 SMYTH Sailor's Word-bk., Fantods, a name given to the fidgets of officers. 1880 MRS. PARR Adam & Eve xxxii. 440 I'd do the trick, if I was she, 'fore I'd put up with such fantads from you. 1881 Leicestersh. Gloss., Fantodds, ‘megrims’, ‘mulligrubs’, a stomach-ache; a fit of the sulks or other slight indisposition, mental or bodily. 1884 ‘MARK TWAIN’ Huck. Finn xvii, These was all nice pictures,..but I didn't somehow seem to take to them, because..they always give me the fan-tods. 1886 BARNES Dorset Dial. 63 Fantod, a fuss, fidget. ‘She's always in a fantod about Meary’. 1910 Sat. Westm. Gaz. 1 Jan. 6/1 Sundays inside of a house gives you the fan-tods. 1920 GALSWORTHY In Chancery I. v, You mustn't get into a fantod, it'll never do. 1935 J. MASEFIELD Box of Delights viii. 220 ‘I say,’ Kay said, ‘what a place!’ ‘It gives me the fantods,’ Peter answered. ‘I don't like the place.’

Hence fantod a., Fidgetty, restless.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Is Infinite Jest science fiction?

I'm enjoying the science fiction overtones so far in Infinite Jest (I'm on p. 36, slightly behind the Infinite Summer schedule).

References to teleputers, entertainment cartridges, the InterLace Subscription Pulse Matrix, the "Texaco Oil Company-sponsored opera" nature of entertainment, entertainment cartridges themselves (video cassette tapes?), spontaneous pulses (on-demand tv?), and InterLace TelEntertainment (essentially Blockbuster and Directv and Comcast and maybe all-other-companies-in-one), all feel reminiscent of Asimov's predictive short stories. Unlike Asimov though, it seems DFW had no intention of actually describing what a near future world could be like for any other reason than comic effect. So maybe in that respect he's more like Philip K. Dick.

I'm still unsure (again, I'm on p. 36) if DFW is trying to express something truly dystopian in the manner that PKD would. Passages in Infinite Jest concerning a certain medical attaché's search for entertainment which involved a "Mr. Bouncety-Bounce" reminded me of PKD's Buster Friendly character in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? -- a ubiquitous character who's the ultimate product of a single-corporate-entertainment-source world.

PKD is one of my absolute favorites, and even if his prose seems a polar opposite to DFW's prescriptive grammar, I would love to hear the conversation those two would be having right now.

I'm sure I'll revisit this subject frequently during the summer.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"Sweet mother of Christ"

I'm already so happy I decided to be a part of Infinite Summer. I'm finding Infinite Jest to be just as challenging and twice as funny as everyone had said it would be. I had some difficulty right up front with there being so many characters in a room all at once, and I'm reading and trying to figure out who they all are and where they stand at the same time Hal is. It made my mind spin. I'm sure that's just what DFW intended; to throw you into the fray with Hal, to understand his anxieties. I laughed out loud after Hal's rant on Kierkegaard and Camus and Dennis Gabor being the Antichrist. And when the director exclaimed "Sweet mother of Christ" shortly after, even without yet understanding why, I was ecstatic.

The section on waiting for "the woman who said she'd come" is a fantastically hyperbolic example of the ritual of smoking weed. At least from what I remember (cough, cough) everyone had their little things they did before they sat down to smoke. Make iced tea, clean the coffee table, take off your shoes, feed the dog; all the things you wanted to be sure you didn't have to do after you smoked. This section just took it to an extreme multi-day nihilistic affair, and it was spot on. I've never known anyone that 'addicted' to pot, but I'm sure the anxiety and paranoia and mind games you play with yourself while waiting for your next (and always last) fix applies to other drugs as well. Again, I laughed out loud several time in this section.

I'm still catching up, and my mind is racing every day in a good way (in they way David Eggers alluded to in the foreword), but it's going well.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

An Inauspicious Start to the Infinite Summer

I had highly anticipated the first day of Infinite Summer since I heard of the project a month or so ago. The monolithic slab of a book has been sitting on my bedroom coffee table for a few weeks, beckoning me to open it. Finally, Sunday June 21st -- the first day of summer, and the official 'start reading' day -- arrived, and I spent the whole day in the bathroom. I haven't had the flu in over 10 years, and I won't describe in graphic detail how hard this one hit me, but I do believe I was speaking in tongues at some point, and I somehow got in touch with my animal spirit while huddled on the cold tiles in a pool of my own sweat.

So, I'm already behind. Yesterday was also a blur. Today, I play catch-up.