OK, next bit.
We’re in the Tennis Academy again, not only physically, but immersed in the timetable, the workings of the thing, in the guts of the machine. And it’s pretty banal, isn’t it? I don’t mean that Wallace’s prose is banal – simply that he’s depicting a state of banality. Adolescent boys doing adolescent boy things, distinguished from their peers solely by their ability to do one thing well. But what they’re discussing as we begin to eavesdrop is not tennis, but Tolstoy; and specifically Tolstoy’s syntax, not the accuracy of what he says about families, just in case any of us might be drawing any conclusions from that.
And then a brief, tired silence.
And then they move on to communication technology, allowing Wallace to create things that must have seemed pretty exciting back in the mid 90s but now feel either quaint or ordinary or mildly steampunk or just plain wrong. Of course, now we know that the boys are discussing the technology that played the work of James O Incandenza and allowed it to cause the unspecified paralysis of the attaché and those around him, and that has some link with the nefarious goings-on being discussed on that hillside in Arizona. But do we need to know how it works? (By the way, I saw the film Looper yesterday, and one thing that impressed me was that nobody wasted time trying to explain how the time travel technology actually worked. It didn’t matter. It was a plot device. Move on.)
That said, it’s the little passing references that come up in the course of the discussions that matter to us, almost the gaps between the things that are important to them. The red weal that Stice’s waistband leaves feels pretty irrelevant; the stuff about halation, “that most angelic of distortions”, takes us back a few pages to Marathe’s Bröckengespent. And of course, we are reminded that Hal has a big vocabulary.
And then we’re back to Marathe and Steeply again. But nothing happens. Which makes me think of Godot, but specifically Godot’s syntax, not the accuracy of what he says about life, just in case any of you might be drawing any conclusions from that.