"Infinite Jest: Reviews, Articles,
Live Online with David Foster Wallace
May 17, 1996
funny face: Hello???
funny face: Where did everyone go???
funny face: Cool... This rules!!!
funny face: Are you one of the programmers???
Marisa: Hi everyone, how are you? I am FINE
funny face: I doing great. I have been in one of these!
Keats: Hello, everyone.
Keats: Where were you in one of these before? Just curious.
Keats: Everyone has left me all alone.
Marisa: Hi there, I have absolutely nothing to say.
Marisa: As of now, I still have just about nothing to say.
dfw: I've had some unpleasant nicknaames and monikers in my time, but
nobody's ever hung "fosty" on me before.
Marisa: Well, I'm just sitting here, thinking and saying nothing.
Marisa: Keats, do you feel lonely?
Marisa: If I were paranoid, I'd wonder why no one was answering me.
Keats: Not anymore, now that you and, uh, Fosty are here...
Keats: You know, I still think it should be spelled Fostie, or Fostey.
Keats: Fosty looks too much like "Frosty" and "sty"
Keats: And makes me think of eyeballs packed in ice.
funny face: Sorry. I had to do some work. I am back now.
dfw: "Sty" as in an impacted eyelash or a pigpen, you mean?
Keats: Yeah. Is that what a sty as in "sty in your eye" is?
Marisa: I used to think the word "sty" was pronounced "stee".
Keats: I had no idea exactly, just an unpleasant feeling about it.
dfw: Yes. Massively painful and embarrassing, too. Like a carbuncle on
exact tip of your nose -- that sort of thing.
Keats: I used to think the word "trough" was pronounced "troff."
Keats: You know, I happen to have a carbuncle on the tip of my nose right
Keats: Except it's not a carbuncle, it's more like a welt. It's still
dfw: In my very first seminar in college, I pronounced facade "fakade."
memory's still fresh and raw.
Marisa: Keats, I don't want to know about your problems and feelings.
dfw: I'd like to hear more about keats's carbuncle, though.
Keats: *sniff* I only mentioned it because I thought it was relevant.
Keats: It's actually more like a welt.
funny face: This is wierd. Kind of like walking in on a conversation or
Keats: I was struck in the face by a lashing cord yesterday. It was rather
Keats: The trick, funny face, is to seamlessly integrate yourself into the
funny face: Keats, you don't have to take that from Marisa.
Marisa: I have performance anxiety now. See, I *can* talk about my feelings,
because I'm the BOSS.
Keats: Yes I do. She is close enough geographically to inspire fear.
Jay: I've almost finished the book. What do you think about William Gaddis?
ERVIN: where is mr. wallace?
Keats: Not just an anonymous cyber-entity.
talula: A lashing cord, Keats? Windy? What have you been up to?
dfw: A carbuncle's fucking HUGE, esse. Like an eggplant or something.
Actually life-threatening -- it can apparently explode like an appendix
spread toxins throughout your bloodstream. A small but riveting history
cases on death-by-carbuncle is avail
Marisa: I could beat Keats up if I wanted to.
dfw: able in back issues of "Mortality and Morbidity" magazine.
Keats: Oh well, in that case, dfw, I should not have made the comparison.
Keats: Since what I have doesn't approach the gravity of a carbuncle.
Keats: I think I'm just going to ignore Marisa. She's one of those live-chat
dfw: ervin, I'm not sure where I am. How does one denote locations in
cyberland or whatever this is?
talula: I have some cover-up make-up if you want to use it, Keats
Keats: Nah, I'll be okay.
dfw: don't shrug off a carbuncle, keats. they're not to be played with.
talula: so, dfw, what *do* you think of William Gaddis?
koleko: i could beat up both you guys. oops. not supposed to say stupid
Marisa: I am going to encourage people to save their questions until 4:00.
ERVIN: i guess what i meant, mr. wallace, is why are you talking to the
Keats: I hope I didn't come off as shrugging off. Everything I type has
tinge of sarcasm to it, even when it's unintentional.
dfw: I like The Recognitions very, very much. I haven't yet got all the
through "Frolic...Own" yet.
Keats: Approx. T minus five minutes.
dfw: What happens in five minutes?
ERVIN: i dare you to finish "frolic"
talula: spontaneous combustion
Keats: Didn't Marx have a lot of carbuncles? Just before he died?
Keats: Or is that what he died from? Some carbuncle-related condition.
dfw: I thought keats was going to weigh in against that nasocartilaginous
'buncle in five, is what I thought he meant.
Joshua S.: (Strep?)
Marisa: Ok let's start this fucking thing. Officially. Now.
Keats: Oh, nah. I have no beefs with buncles. T minus three till 4:00 PM
dfw: There's actually a Sherlock Holmes story called "The Case of
Fluorescent Orange Carbuncle" or something -- a real one, by A.C. Doyle.
ERVIN: the three weeks i devoted to reading "frolic" were a total
complete loss. i can never get those weeks back.
talula: didn't Eliot use the phrase "the young man carbuncular"
dfw: we can presume it wasn't your keep of tea, then, quite, ervin?
Joshua S.: (I'm thinking staph skin lesions.)
Marisa: I wanna know why you put all that stuff about avant-garde film in
Keats: Isn't there some sort of gem or precious mineral that sounds vaguely
like "carbuncle" ?
Jay: Why wouldn't a person like "Frolic"?
dfw: talula: yes, it's in "The Wasteland"; the wrinkled-dugs
man (I think)
is watching the Young Man Carbuncular seduce a stenographer who's weeping
something. Very grim.
Keats: Apart from it being in there because it's so funny, the
avant-apres-garde filmography I mean.
talula: thank you, david.
dfw: Well, Marisa & Keats, it's in there because that's the kind
that the Dad makes.
talula: why did you choose to have the Dad make those kind of films
koleko: what are you guys talking about?
Keats: I think it was more the idea of having all those references upon
references that was interesting. Maybe. Marisa?
dfw: Hmm. Well, how much time do you have?
Jay: Do you think what Joseph McElroy was doing in "Women and Men"
similar to what you're doing?
Marisa: Wow that is a great answer. You know, it's the *simple* things that
seem so easy to understand, that actually take a lifetime to master--without
help *from* a master, that is.
Slappy the Sad Clown: I think I hear the sound of lips hitting buttocks.
iczy: so david--a certain friend of mine (she knows who she is) gave me
bit of your essay on getting past irony (from Missis.Rvw.?) you still
thinking about that stuff?
dfw: I thought that book sucked canal-water, Jay. There ARE some affinities
with "Lookout Cartridge," though.
dfw: Marisa -- the point is to empty your mind of conscious cognitive
thought. Become like the surface of a pond. Clap with only one hand.
Marisa: So how are things out there in Iowa, man?
Keats: I do that sometimes but it makes my forearm hurt after a while.
Marisa: Lotta clapping with one hand out there in Iowa? I'll bet there is.
koleko: hey fosty. i read your cool piece on dostoevsky in the village
voice. do you think "dosty" informs your work in any way?
dfw: iczy: yes and then some. I think it's the single richest and knottiest
problem young avant-esque fiction writers in this country have to contend
raining sheep: can you become like the surface of a pond and still suck
Keats: Sometimes I feel as if irony is enveloping everything, in a rather
dfw: Mareesa -- I live in Illinois. Iowans do use just one hand a great
deal, but not for clapping.
Joshua S.: I was curious about your heavy use of pathology in IJ, which
enjoyed. Aside from their being a lot of it around, what made you decide
include so many medical references in the book?
Herb: Yes, irony can suck. So, what, if anything, is "redemptive"
dfw: koleko: Pleaase don't call me Fosty. It makes me do a full-body
Dostoevski informs everybody; or he ought to.
iczy: wow, you guys drive tractors around with just one hand?!
talula: Dostoevsky comes in with the redemption, is that it?
iczy: "irony can suck". how meta a statement.
dfw: Herb: Maybe nothing. I fear it's not for me to decide. The worst
about irony for me is that it attenuates emotion. "IJ" is at least
to be both funny and very sad.
dfw: Dostovski meant "redemption" in a pretty specific Christian
don't think we now can use the word the same way.
raining sheep: it's as if the whole book is set up not only as a look at
addiction, but a look a obsessive-compulsive behavior in the thoroughness
the footnotes, ie medicinal properties. No?
Herb: Well, I saw elements of hope, at least in the character of Gately.
koleko: sorry for the tasteless nickname. Dostoevsky used to take New York
Post-style newspaper articles about peoples' irrational suffering then put
those true stories in his books. do you mine the bleakness of our culture
for your work?
dfw: iczy: are you being ironic about irony sucking?
Herb: Though of course at book's end, the reader never finds out what
happens to any of the characters (which kinda pissed me off!).
Marisa: I was fascinated by the use of AA philosophy as a way to get through
cynicism and irony, because I know some people in real life for whom AA
Joshua S.: Humor and sadness are synergistic, in a weird way.
raining sheep: the endless circle of irony
dfw: koleko: I don't think one has to "mine" the culture anymore.
we breathe. It's all around us.
iczy: ironically, i'm not. ok, ok, i'm ambivalent about it.
dfw: I don't think irony's meant to synergize with anything as heartfelt
sadness. I think the main function of contemporary irony is to protect the
speaker from being interpreted as naive or sentimental.
raining sheep: Culture seems to be mining us
talula: or sincere
Marisa: Why are people afraid to be seen as naive and sentimental?
talula: or sincere
dfw: Dear Raining Sheep: is your cyber-name an oblique intertextual
reference to something?
funny face: But "raining sheep", we &rt;are< culture!
Keats: It's not cool, because it's not perceived as a useful survival
iczy: the idea of irony being a self-protective impulse is
interesting...maybe there's a distinction to be drawn between definsive
, uh, offensive uses of it.
chancho: whoa, wasn't i.j. , er, using an irony-cloaking (sic?) to veil
raining sheep: Yes, it's referenced to a chapter from Curious Hair, I used
as a song title a couple years ago.
Tristero: Is it naive and sentimental, then, to not be ironic?
dfw: Marisa: I think that's a very deep, very hard question. One answer
that commercial comedy's often set up to feature an ironist making
devastating sport of someone who's naive or sentimental or pretentious or
Marisa: Here's a question for later, when we're done with irony (which I'm
still interested in): do you think your work changed a lot between "Girl"
and "Broom", and "Jest"?
Joshua S.: There's a lot of sadness in the book, and the humor made it
easier to handle. Is what I was saying.
dfw: Dear RS, I recall the song title "It's Raining Men," but
sheep. That story seems like a long time ago.
Joshua S.: But it worked with the sadness, rather than as a breather.
dfw: Tristero: ask your local potsmaster.
Keats: I'm starting to see a lot of irony in Hollywood and in advertising,
but it's function seems to be to let them talk out of both sides of their
raining sheep: It was titled "the day it rained sheep", about
chuck nunn jr,
Marisa: I wonder what it is people are trying to protect, psychologically,
by being "on-guard" and supersmart all the time, rather than naive
Keats: Kind of like some of the works from the filmography: either "homage"
or "parody" or both.
dfw: Keats: advertising that makes fun of itself is so powerful because
implicitly congratulates both itself and the viewer (for making the joke
getting the joke, respectively).
Keats: And at the same time deliviring the advertising message intact.
dfw: Dear Maryssa -- why do YOU think? I'd be interested in your ideas
it. It seems monstrously confusing to me.
Avrill: dfw, i was wondering what you thought of barry hannah's "the
raining sheep: That's a stand-up comedian's rule, make fun of yourself,
your free to make fun of others.
duddy: The story about the raining sheep is titled "John Billy"
Keats: Is Subsidized Time (from I.J.) that kind of advertising, maybe? Very
ridiculous but immensely effective?
dfw: Dear Avrilla, I'm afraid I've never read it.
Marisa: Another question...I noticed a bunch of times in the book where
someone--a tennis player, or whoever--was trying to achieve a state of
egolessness, in order to be better at something--like tennis. Is that an
roxifresh: naiive and sentimental means childlike, and I think people are
scared of being trampled on Marisa, like they're weak if they're not
supersmart and psychologically ept.
talula: marisa: trying to protect themselves from being made fools of
raining sheep: John Billy, that's right!
Tristero: But irony isn't exactly making fun of oneself, is it?
dfw: I don't think it's supposed to be all that ridiculous. I think it's
implausible at all. Talk about Painless Revenue-Enhancement!
bookworm: Mariesa: isn't is just that being smart is the best human quality?
Marisa: Yeah but what's so bad about being a fool? I mean big deal.
Keats: But the thing with the statue of liberty holding a product? That
seems ridiculous now, but were you saying that it won't seem ridiculous
dfw: talula: but why is being maade a fool of such a Great Horror right
We (I, anyway) seem to fear it more than lots of other more objectively
Marisa: QUIT ASKING ME THE QUESTIONS!!! ASK DFW!!!!
roxifresh: irony is like seredipity or chaos to me, it's the lack of order
of some things, and that can be very humorous, it's not straight edged or
serious, it's random acts that make me laugh or cry the hardest.
iczy: what's interesting to me is how we all sort of accept that being
sentimental or emotional is the same as being naive.
Tristero: Question for dfw: Did you attend Woodstock 95?
Marisa: Who said being smart was the best human quality? That is fucked
talula: ok dfw, you tell me. Why is being made a fool of a Great Horror
duddy: roxifresh: Doesn't irony need to be intentional? How is a random
Keats: Yeah, being smart sucks.
dfw: I don't think irony's about disorder. I think it's about order --
dark confluence to events. And keats: OK, maybe the Statue holding a product
might be a little ridiculous. But think of the corporate revenue it would
roxifresh: that's like the point of Forrest Gump, right?
Marisa: Yeah iczy I agree with you. Well I think it all has to do with
"inner child", so nyah nyah.
Keats: My intuitions about the word irony go along with dfw. Things coming
together in a twitchy sort of way.
roxifresh: no, irony is not necessarily intentional at all, like finding
money on the street on your way to the cash machine or something
dfw: talula: I cannot tell you. I don't think there is any one set of
answers, probably. Or maybe the answer (i.e. "remedy") lies in
willing to consideer the question seriously. It's a serious question.
Herb: dfw: In other words, toe our line or be made a fool of?
duddy: iczy: I don't think it's sentimentality that's seen as naive. To
the argument is often about whether sincerity is naive. That was a theme
of the story about the Letterman show, "My Appearance".
Tristero: Re: Woodstock 95, there's an example of a potential irony-fest,
yet hardly anyone in the media pointed that out.
Marisa: "Dark confluence" is an interesting idea...but who would
the dark confluencing, Satan?
raining sheep: Naive, in this case, is not what you are, but what you appear
to be if you're sensitive and sincere, and that is screwed up.
Keats: The hidden forces of existence. Oooh--eeeeeh---oooh-aaah.
dfw: Herb -- irony and hip ennui are extremely authoritarian, I think
yes. And that's paradoxical, since hip irony gained much of its cultural
momentum through being an engine of rebellion.
Marisa: Yeah I think there is this horrible compulsion to be cool that has,
like, ruined everyone of a certain couple of age cohorts. Seriously.
roxifresh: can you explain ennui to me, please, I'm not getting that dfw,
Avrill: dfw, what do you make of that song at the end of "gravity's
dfw: Marisa: you're making Descartes' error, deducing Agent from Event.
Confluence could itself be Satan, or God.
Keats: It seems like being really sincere is hip in some contexts too,
Slappy the Sad Clown: ennui is French for boredom
talula: being cool and not looking like a fool are actually survival skills
in the wild
duddy: Devo said "We're through being cool" a long time ago
iczy: re: ennui: there's nothing more boring than being bored. i want to
Marisa: Same difference--at least that's what we used to like to say back
dfw: Keats was complaining of a carbuncle earlier. How's that carbuncle,
Herb: Everyone said everything a long time ago.
roxifresh: yeah Marisa, I went to a Hot Wheels Club meeting (the little
metal cars) with this 28 year old guy who's trying to impress me and vice
versa and we had as much fun there as in, well, you know.
raining sheep: duddy: and yet that was cool - more irony
iczy: and (ironically) devo is so fucking cool for having said that (even
more for having said it 15 years ago)
Herb: (aren't I ironic?)
Marisa: Wow we are all being so heavy here. Everyone who's sincere is now
kicked OUT! Time to PAR-TAY!!!
dfw: duddy -- I doubt you need it pointed out that Devo was trying to
cool when they said that. Trying to be anti-cool is just one exponent off
trying to be cool -- it's the same beast.
duddy: but I'm just being sincere ...
sterno: well all riiight!
koleko: hey dfw. how do you like to party?
Keats: dfw: I don't really have a carbuncle, already. I was mistaken about
the meaning of the word, which is the case with me and most words.
dfw: This horse walks into a bar, and the bartender says: "Why the
Marisa: "Sincerity" is *sooooo*, like, 5 minutes ago. Let's talk
physical and mental disorders now.
Joshua S.: dfw: On the topic of carbuncles. What made you decide to use
much pathology in IJ?
talula: dfw what's your worst character flaw?
roxifresh: I got a Hot Wheel Viper in green sparkly color, partaaay! And
red-hot Lexus coupe too!
dfw: koleko -- define "party." I never have understood the
word as a verb.
raining sheep: a termite walks into the same bar and asks "is the bar-tender
Keats: And references to various branches of knowledge in general.
Herb: Is there no "ending" to "Infinite Book" because
there couldn't be? Or
did you just get tired of writing it?
Marisa: Hey sheep, I don't get your joke.
talula: Come on, David , your worst character trait?
Herb: you are irony-impaired, Mareeesa!
Marisa: I wanna know what dfw does for fun out there in the fields of Iowa.
dfw: Herb -- there is an ending as far as I'm concerned. Certain kind
parallel lines are supposed to start converging in such a way that an "end"
can be projected by the reader somewhere beyond the right frame. If no such
convergence or projection occur
Tristero: A lobster walks into a bar and the bartender says sorry, buddy,
don't serve food.
raining sheep: is the bar tender here, the bar being made of wood and
termites loving wood together make a really stupid joke
dfw: ed to you, then the book's failed for you.
Marisa: Herb: I would tell you to fuck off, but, like, I don't wanna hurt
Keats: He lives in Illinois, M-risa. The whole midwest is probably one big
blob for you now, huh?
Herb: oh, it occurred to me. Guess I just sometimes get annoyed when it's
not s-p-e-l-l-e-d o-u-t for me.
dfw: My worst character flaw that I'm conscious of is that I tend to
my way into circles instead of resolving anything. It's paralyzing and
boring for people around me.
Keats: I think dfw has goten pretty good at answering that question. But
satisfied with that answer.
Marisa: Keats, that was my little joke. Hey, I want to know if dfw likes
Denis Johnson's books.
talula: Uh oh.
koleko: i guess that gets amplified by the fields of iowa. maybe if you
"partied" more, this phenomenon would halt
duddy: David, what was the impetus for renaming part of Brighton and Allston
to be Enfield, MA? I used to live across the street from St. Elizabeth's
Keats: The internet is a humor-impairing device.
dfw: Marisa -- I'm a huge Denis Johnson fan. He actually used to live
where I went to grad school. It was his poetry that first grabbed me.
Tristero: what about David Gates?
dfw: Isn't there a real Enfield? No wonder people always looked at me
in Boston when I asked for directions.
Marisa: On the WELL some guy researched Enfield, MA and discovered it had
been flooded to make a reservoir, and all the townspeople were evacuated.
raining sheep: humor is all timing, and 14.4 or 28.8 still make for joke
Tantivy: asking for directions in Boston deserves a funny look
dfw: Gates's habit of using the Royal We irks me a bit, but overall his
taste in fiction is hard to impugn.
raining sheep: 14.4 & 28.8 being modem speeds, of course
Tristero: people on the well have a little too much free time...
billygoat1: dfw, what do you make of that lightbulb in the middle of
dfw: Marisa -- will wonders never cease.
Herb: dfw: Do you think there's a "hero" in IJ? Or at least one
you were closest to? Who?
raining sheep: billygoat: speaking of long books
Marisa: What rock groups do you like, dfw?
Tristero: Much appealing irony was found in Jernigan, Gates' novel
dfw: bg1 -- harold bloom has a real famous exgesis of Byron -- I forget
which of Bloom's books it's in.
valmar: Hi DFW, It's your friend Valmar!
Herb: I mean, do you live with these characters in your head, or just watch
them like a movie?
dfw: herb -- it would depend what you meant by "hero." Furilloesque
McGarretesque hero, or cat.her., or what?
dfw: M -- I listen almost exclusively to the Archies. It's an Inner Child
Marisa: I love that classification of hero-types
Keats: So which hero in IJ is the purely inactive one?
Herb: Well, yeah, fine, "hero" is vague. So, which character did
dfw: herb -- I don't mean to be a pain, but you'd have to be more explicit
about "live with...head" and "watch...movie."
iczy: i read on the well the archies are touring this summer. opening act
the schoolhouse rock tour.
valmar: I love the Archies. Sugarhoneyhoney!
Marisa: I bet you haven't listened to the Archies in 20 years, poser.
dfw: Keats -- Hal.
billygoat1: yes, i've read the bloom thing, i actually think it was written
by one of his graduate students and it struck me as kind of stupid. among
other things, bloom seems to think Byron is funny, hilariously funny, do
dfw: Hi Valmar! I'm in cyberspace! Look at me!
jr: DFW --Great book. Not enough tennis though. Do you plan on writing more
Keats: Ah, makes sense. Thanks. (about the inactive hero thing I mean)
valmar: Way to go, DFW!
DaleK: Mr. Wallace, I'm curious...who among current novelists do you find
the most interesting?
raining sheep: dfw: are you in favor of "legalization?" IJ came
up in a
discussion recently around the bong at how a lot of obsessive nature comes
from having to hide to do it. It seems so unhealthy to hide anything that
you deem worthwhile to do.
Herb: I mean, are your characters like real people to you, or like
characters in a film you're watching?
Marisa: Yeah by the way thanks for writing so well, we in cyberspace cheer
you on, dfw.
dfw: Dalek -- DeLillo, Ozick, R. Powers, AM Homes, Denis Johnson, David
Markson, (old) JA Phillips and Louise Erdrich.
valmar: What about William T. Vollman? I think he pretty much rules.
Incster: McGuane? Chabon?
DaleK: Thank you...Ozick and Powers seem to have remarkable intellects.
dfw: OK. I have no opinion on decriminalization. Given the tobacco thing
now, it hasn't got a snowball's chance. My cybertime is drawing short. How
do I get out of here? Will I retain corporeal form?
Marisa: Bummer, I have a million questions but time is not infinite. DFW
to go in a minute.
DaleK: Nice to see Erdrich on your list...she's a graduate of my
dfw: Or will I be one of thosse smooth shiny metallic crash-dummyish
you see in popular depictions of people in cyberlaand?
Joshua S.: dfw: There are a lot of half- and unsolvable puzzles in the book,
like the Mold Thing. Was your intention, among other things, to comment
the futility of puzzle solving?
Marisa: Hey everyone say kiss kiss g'bye...
valmar: DFW, before you go, what book should I read next?
jr: DFW- Tennis. Do you still play? Will you write about it again?
Keats: You may go, dfw, but we have uploaded a pattern of your neural net
onto our server for later use.
iczy: no no, dfw, you look almost realistic.
dfw: Dalek -- I hope you weren't in the Locked part. I don't know how,
apparently WORD has some kind of timer on this modem, so at a certaain point
it'll cut off and I'll just st
koleko: but marisa.. we were just getting started
raining sheep: Infinitely informative chat, I commend you sir Wallace
koleko: hey dfw: if you were being executed, what would your final wish
DaleK: Not locked, dfw...Johns Hopkins U.
Marisa: He's gone, everyone...you have to deal with your abandonment trauma
on your own
Herb: feh. Bye, Mareeesa.
DaleK: Damn...only caught the last 5 minutes.
Joshua S.: Pretty dissatisfying, but that fits.
valmar: Yikes, I hope he didn't put his head in the microwave!!
Keats: And remember one of the real lessons of IJ: if you see a room with
bunch of people sitting in their own filth and staring at a screen, for
god's sake, don't go in!
DaleK: Cool idea, WORD...who's on next time?
Joshua S.: You didn't miss much.
Keats: Next time, Word hosts the live decapitation of Michael Kinsley.
raining sheep: brought to you by MSN
koleko: is it obnoxious to put up a post just to say you did the last one?
raining sheep: yeah
ttocs: hi this is my furst chat whats up
valmar: What's up? DFW just ran screaming from the room.
rossie: Sorry, it's over now
ttocs: i once scran reaming from a moor - painfully
Tony: It ends already?
Tony: Anyone still here?
funny face: But "raining sheep", we &rt;are< culture!
Tony: *sigh* I missed the whole thing