IJ: Dialog

David Foster Wallace makes a big point of Dialog where two characters talk past each other. This is annoying in real life and really annoying in fiction. Does he have some point here?

‘Hey Hal?’

‘Booboo, I dreamed I was losing my teeth. I dreamed that my teeth dry-rotted somehow into shale and splintered when I ate or spoke, and I was jettisoning fragments all over the place, and there was a long scene where I was pricing dentures.’

‘All night last night people were coming up going where is Hal, have you seen Hal, what happened with CT and the urine doctor and Hal’s urine. Moms asked me where’s Hal, and I was surprised at that because of how she makes it a big point never to check up.’

‘Then, without any sort of dream-segue, I’m sitting in a cold room, naked as a jaybird, in a flame-retardant chair, and I keep receiving bills in the mail for teeth. A mail carrier keeps knocking on the door and coming in without being invited and presenting me with various bills for teeth.’

‘She wants you to know she trusts you at all times and you’re too trustworthy to worry about or check up on.’

‘Only not for any teeth of mine, Boo. The bills are for somebody else’s teeth, not my teeth, and I can’t seem to get the mail carrier to acknowledge this, that they’re not for my teeth.’

‘I promised LaMont Chu I’d tell him whatever information you told me, he was so concerned.’

‘The bills are in little envelopes with plasticized windows that show the addressee part of the bills. I put them in my lap until the stack gets so big they start to slip off the top and fall to the floor.’

‘LaMont and me had a whole dialogue about his concerns. I like LaMont a lot.’

‘Booboo, do you happen to remember S. Johnson?’

‘S. Johnson used to be the Moms’s dog. That passed away.’

‘And you remember how he died, then.’

‘Hey Hal, you remember a period in time back in Weston when we were little that the Moms wouldn’t go anywhere without S. Johnson? She took him with her to work, and had that unique car seat for him when she had the Volvo, before Himself had the accident in the Volvo. The seat was from the Fisher-Price Company. We went to Himself’s opening of Kinds of Light at the Hayden 320 that wouldn’t let in cigarettes or dogs and the Moms brought S. Johnson in a blind dog’s harness-collar that went all the way around his chest with the square bar on the leash thing and the Moms wore those sunglasses and looked up and to the right the whole time so it looked like she was legally blind so they’d let S.J. into the Hayden with us, because he had to be there. And how Himself just thought it was a good one on the Hayden, he said.’

‘I keep thinking about Orin and how he stood there and lied to her about S. Johnson’s map getting eliminated.’

‘She was sad.’

‘I’ve been thinking compulsively about Orin ever since C.T. called us all in. When you think about Orin what do you think, Boo?’

‘The best was remember when she had to fly and wouldn’t put him in a cagey box and they wouldn’t even let a blind dog on the plane, so she’d leave S. Johnson and leave him out tied to the Volvo and she’d make Orin put a phone out there with its antenna up during the day out by where S. Johnson was tied to the Volvo and she’d call on the phone and let it ring next to S. Johnson because she said how S. Johnson knew her unique personal ring on the phone and would hear the ring and know that he was thought about and cared about from afar, she said?’

‘She was unbent where that dog was concerned, I remember. She bought some kind of esoteric food for it. Remember how often she bathed it?


‘What was it with her and that dog, Boo?’

‘And the day we were out rolling balls in the driveway and Orin and Marlon were there and S. Johnson was there lying there on the driveway tied to the bumper with the phone right there and it rang and rang and Orin picked it up and barked into it like a dog and hung it up and turned it off?’


‘So she’d think it was S. Johnson? The joke that Orin thought was such a good one?’

‘Jesus, Boo, I don’t remember any of that.’

‘And he said we’d get Indian Rub-Burns down both arms if we didn’t pretend how we didn’t know what she was talking about if and when she asked us about the bark on the phone when she got home?

‘The Indian Rub-Burns I remember far too well.’

‘We were supposed to shrug and look at her like she was minus cards from her deck, or else?’

‘Orin lied with a really pathological intensity, growing up, is what I’ve been remembering.’

‘He made us laugh really hard a lot of times, though. I miss him.’

‘I don’t know whether I miss him or not...

Wallace, David Foster (2009-04-03). Infinite Jest: 0 (pp. 770-771). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.

Mark Twain once wrote that he wanted to dig up Jane Austen and bash her head with her own femur.


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