Saturday, March 02, 2013

IJ: Milestone 740

The first hint I can recognize of something like character analysis. The subject is the central character of the novel, already deceased, bizarrely so, at the time of all its action: James Incandenza, AKA Himself and The Mad Stork, scientist, engineer, filmmaker and founder of the Enfield Tennis Academy, the scene of much of the action. The analyst, Joelle van D., possibly recovering crack addict and formerly Prettiest Girl Of All Time.

She might have known from the Work. The man’s Work was amateurish, she’d seen, when Orin had had his brother— the unretarded one— lend them some of The Mad Stork’s Read-Only copies. Was amateurish the right word? More like the work of a brilliant optician and technician who was an amateur at any kind of real communication. Technically gorgeous, the Work, with lighting and angles planned out to the frame. But oddly hollow, empty, no sense of dramatic towardness— no narrative movement toward a real story; no emotional movement toward an audience. Like conversing with a prisoner through that plastic screen using phones, the upperclassman Molly Notkin had said of Incandenza’s early oeuvre. Joelle thought them more like a very smart person conversing with himself. She thought of the significance of the moniker ‘Himself.’ Cold. Pre-Nuptial Agreement of Heaven and Hell— mordant, sophisticated, campy, hip, cynical, technically mind-bending; but cold, amateurish, hidden: no risk of empathy with the Job-like protagonist, whom she felt like the audience was induced to regard like somebody sitting atop a dunk-tank. The lampoons of ‘inverted’ genres: archly funny and sometimes insightful but with something provisional about them, like the finger-exercises of someone promising who refused to really sit down and play something to test that promise. Even as an undergrad Joelle’d been convinced that parodists were no better than camp-followers in ironic masks, satires usually the work of people with nothing new themselves to say. 306 ‘The Medusa v. the Odalisque’— cold, allusive, inbent, hostile: the only feeling for the audience one of contempt, the meta-audience in the film’s theater presented as objects long before they turn to blind stone.

Wallace, David Foster (2009-04-03). Infinite Jest: 0 (p. 740). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.

It's pretty easy to read this as the author's uncomfortable self-assessment.