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Thursday, July 02, 2009

I'm now current with the Infinite Summer schedule, though not prepared to say all that much about it yet. Well, there's this: while I'm enjoying the early passages of the book much more this time than I remember enjoying the middle and end of the book last time, I'm frustrated again (as I was frustrated the first time) by Wallace's unattributed borrowing of well-known urban legends for the book. The toothbrushes-in-asses burglary and the workman's comp email (spoiler alert! +2 pages from today's spoiler line) spring to mind most immediately as particularly frustrating examples of this.

I'll also second Kotsko on the problem of the black dialect sections, which are in fact fairly painful to read. In both these cases (as well as the footnotes, especially the layered footnotes, and the ubiquitous acronyms and abbreviations, and the multiple perspectives, and the constant and sometimes unmotivated switches between first and third person [with a little second thrown in for flavor], and on and on) there seems to me to be a deliberate attempt to distanciate the reader from any possibility of too-complete identification with the text as narrative. This is necessary, I suppose, because the first-person Hal Incandenza sections would be too spellbinding otherwise, threatening to totally overwhelm the rest of the text by comparison.

I also read the tennis academy, as I did the last time, as a remarkable solution to the problem of writing about writing without writing about writing. (See 109-121.) The initials E.T.A. may as well be M.F.A., and it's hard for me not to recognize in my own creative output

the Complacent type, who improves radically until he hits a plateau, and is content with the radical improvement he's mode to get to the plateau, and doesn't mind staying at the plateau because it's comfortable and familiar, and he doesn't worry about getting off it, and pretty soon you find he's designed a whole game around compensating for the weaknesses and chinks in the armor the given plateau represents in his game—his whole game is based on this plateau now. And little by little, guys he used to beat start beating him, locating the chinks out of the plateau, and his rank starts to slide, but he'll say he doesn't care, he says he's in it for the love of the game, and he always smiles but there gets to be something sort of tight and hangdog about his smile, and he always smiles and is real nice to everybody and real good to have around but he keeps staying where he is while other guys hop plateaux, and he gets beat more and more, but he's content. Until one day there's a quiet knock at the door... (116)