I am attempting to read David Foster Wallace’s very large novel and write about the experience as I go. That is all.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Ten: 30 April – Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment (F)

I’m a little uneasy about the description of the tryst between Mario and Millicent, to be honest. It’s funny and sweet, but there’s something a tiny bit exploitative about it as well; she’s enormous and he’s labouring under an unspecified array of deformities, held together with an “extendable police lock” and, well, that’s it, really.

But is this really about them, or about us watching them? When they discover the camera in the thicket, they know that they’ve been under surveillance but they don’t know that we’ve been watching as well. Simply for being readers, we’re implicated as voyeurs. And Millicent’s father was doing fine prancing around in his daughters’ leotards until he knew he was being watched. Think back to the last section in ETA, where the students were all watching their cartridges and the screen was described as a window; they were watching, but were they also being watched?

Back to Marathe and Steeply, and back to Wallace’s habit of dropping reality bombs into his fiction. There really was a group called the FLQ, which actually stood for the Front de libération du Québec (not sure if DFW is really getting his genders wrong). They were involved in a number of terrorist attacks in the 1960s and early 70s, and one of their leaders wrote a book with the provocative title White Niggers of America. I’m just wondering whether this has any bearing on the time Steeply spent pretending to be a “negroid” Haitian. Or could he be... no, hold that thought.

The notes give more background to various political upheavals, which have left Quebec in a state of pretended independence from the North American behemoth. Marathe’s wife is dying and the footnotes implicate the toxic events that have occurred since Interdependence. Some of Marathe’s comrades believe him to be eidetic; which may offer some sort of link with Hal Incandenza; but in any case, Marathe knows it not to be true.

And I just don’t get that lost fragment about walled and murated nations. I mean, “murated”, I’m guessing, derives from the Latin “murus”; but if you Google the word, the first hit you get is a reference to, um, Infinite Jest.

The Spandex-clad guru comes as something of a relief. Is it Millicent’s father? Unlikely, since she came to ETA partly to escape from him. But I like the idea of literally living off the sweat of others; so is he just a metaphor for the ETA management, thriving from the exertions of their charges?

Am I over-thinking this?

And then we’re back amidst Wallace’s attempts to invoke the demotic. Is this Clenette again? If so, she’s certainly become a bit more assertive. And I’m wondering whether Steeply is somehow involved, in his previous persona. Or am I being racist to assume that just because Steeply was pretending to be a Haitian, that he’d get involved in criminal acts? OK, is that more or less racist than pretending to be a Haitian in the first place?

Hey, is that the end of the chapter? I knew we’d get there eventually.

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