Well, now weâ€™re getting to the real shit, arenâ€™t we? It was incredibly hard for me to stop reading and I probably could have gobbled down another 25 pages before stopping, but then that would have been a whole lot oâ€™ reading to somehow review.
1 APRIL â€“ YEAR OF THE TUCKS MEDICATED PAD
I havenâ€™t quite figured out the specifics of the way dates are named, but Iâ€™ve surmised that theyâ€™re based on products, that years might actually be named after them. Maybe? Iâ€™m sure in my head that makes sense, but until I actually start mapping them out, I wonâ€™t be completely positive.
Weâ€™re back to Hal again, and DFW immediately drops us into his fantastically fluid style of dialogue as Hal is forced to sit in a meeting of some sort with a professional conversationalist. If that very concept seems absurd to you, then DFW certainly delivers on that aspect, giving us one of two entertaining and hilarious passages weâ€™ll be covering today. Hal is hyper-aware of his surroundings, has a nearly photographic memory, and interacts with every adult (so far) with an ongoing sense of contempt. Right off the bat, heâ€™s wondering why on earth heâ€™s even talking to this man:
â€˜But I rode my bike all the way up here against the wind just to converse with you? Is the conversation supposed to start with me asking why?â€™
And a fine question indeed. (FUCK BIKING INTO THE WIND, BY THE WAY.) What transpires, then, is a battle of wits, as the professional conversationalist slowly begins to realize what a handful Hal actually is.
â€˜Iâ€™ll begin by asking if you know the meaning of implore, Hal.â€™
â€˜Probably Iâ€™ll go ahead and take a Seven-Up, then, if youâ€™re going to implore.â€™
â€˜Iâ€™ll ask you again whether you know implore, young sir.â€™
â€˜Youâ€™re wearing that bow tie, after all. Isnâ€™t that rather an invitation to a young sir?â€™
â€˜Imploreâ€™s a regular verb, transitive: to call upon, or for, in supplication; to pray to, or for, earnestly; to beseech; to entreat. Weak synonym: urge. Strong synonym: beg. Etymology unmixed: from Latin implorae, im meaning in, plorae meaning in this context to cry aloud. O.E.D. Condensed Volume Six page 1387 column twelve and a little bit of thirteen.â€™
â€˜Good lord she didnâ€™t exaggerated, did she?â€™
No, â€œsheâ€ did not. (Who is she?) (Also, thereâ€™s O.E.D. again.) At first, it seemed that Hal was being contrary for the sake of it, but as this section continued, I got the distinct sense that maybe he couldnâ€™t actually help it. Words and phrases that the conversationalist spoke triggered any number of tangents and Hal made it appear as if he almost had to talk about those things.
Hal refers to his dad as Himself. Ok.
He really likes Seven-up. Who doesnâ€™t? (Ok, admittedly, itâ€™s been a long time since I had any, but thatâ€™s a separate point. I used to love it quite a bit.)
Hal has a healthy distrust for things. I like that.
â€˜I know only one person whoâ€™d ever use full-bore in casual conversation.â€™
â€˜There is nothing casual about a professional conversationalist and staff. We delve. We obtain, and then some. Young sir.â€™
â€˜Okay, Alexandrian or Constantinian?â€
â€˜You think we havenâ€™t thoroughly researched your own connection with the whole current intra-Provincial crisis in southern Quebec?â€™
â€˜What intra-Provincial crisis in southern Quebec? I thought you wanted to talk racy mosaics.â€™
HAL, I LOVE YOU. The conversation (professional or casual) quickly turns to Hal dismantling as much of the focus as possible. (A side note: I feel like the conversationalistâ€™s reference to the Quebec conflict is important, especially since it relates to Hal and his family, but since itâ€™s so early, I have about a 1% certainty that I know what it means.) Once itâ€™s clear the conversationalist has been properly offended and feels the need to justify who he is and what he does, Hal resorts to what can best be called as trolling, using a selection of well-placed bits of inanity to further piss off this man.
â€˜Gee, is that the exit over there I see?â€™
â€˜Would it be rude to tell you your mustache is askew?â€™
â€˜As a matter of fact Iâ€™ll go ahead and tell you your whole face is kind of running, sort of, if you want to check. Your nose is pointing at your lap.â€™
9 MAY â€“ YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT
So I assume this takes place in another year, not the same as the last section.
Itâ€™s Hal again. But with a younger brother, named Mario, and a phone call from another brother, Orin. Mario asks a lot of questions, but not as many as he will soon.
DFW likes to write from the very distinct point of view of his characters, doesnâ€™t he? His styles only match when theyâ€™re from a specific point of view.
I like Mario.
YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT
Just in general?
To further the idea that DFW specifically adapts his style to his character, the entire next section, which was a bit difficult to get through, completely meshes with what this character seems like. The sentences are long, filled to the brim with what seems like an endless number of clauses, going on and on in banal, minute, and specific terms. It reads like a legal document, one the attachÃ© it focuses on might actually write himself. Itâ€™s particular. Detailed. It lays things out logically, one after the other, as if it is obeying some unspoken textbook of grammatical rules and professional formats.
Will he have something to do with southern Quebec? Hmmm.
If anything, this section is an introduction of sorts to the ordered and robotic life of the attachÃ©, whose wife is less of a wife than something to be planned for and planned around. We get much more focus on those entertainment cartridges mentioned earlier and Iâ€™m curious as to how theyâ€™ll play into the story. Thereâ€™s no live television in this fictional world? Is everything planned out through these cartridges?
The attacheâ€™s anger is expressed through complicated diction:
So on 1 April, Y.D.A.U., when the medical attachÃ© is (it is alleged) insufficiently deft with a Q-Tip on an ulcerated sinal necrosis and is subjected at just 1800h. to a fit of febrile thrushive pique from the florally imbalanced Minister of Home Entertainment, and is by high-volume fiat replaced at the royal bedside by the Princeâ€™s personal physician, whoâ€™s summoned by beeper from the Hiltonâ€™s sauna, and when the damp personal physician pats the medical attachÃ© on shoulder and tells him to pay the pique no mind, that itâ€™s just the yeast talking, but to just head on home and unwind and for once make a well-deserved early Wednesday evening of it, and but so when the attachÃ© does get home, at like 1840h., his spacious Boston apartments are empty, the living room lights undimmed, dinner unheated and the attachable tray still in the diswasher and â€“worstâ€”of course no entertainment cartridges have been obtained from the Boylston St. InterLace outlet where the medical attacheâ€™s wife, like all the veiled wives and companions of the Princeâ€™s legatees, has a complimentary goodwill account.
One amazing sentence. DFW makes it sound like itâ€™s the end of the world. I love it.
As for what those cartridges hold, it doesnâ€™t make it any easier to understand what they are when we finally get some examples:
There is an O.N.A.N.M.A. Specialty Service film on actinomycete-class antibiotics and irritable bowel syndrome. There is 1 April Y.D.A.U.â€™s CBC/PATHE North American News Summary 40-minute cartridge, available daily by a wifeâ€™s auto-subscription and either transmitted to TP by unrecordable InterLace pulse or express-posted on a single-play ROM self-erasing disk. There is the Arabic-language video edition of Aprilâ€™s Self magazine for the attacheâ€™s wife, Nassâ€™s coverâ€™s model chastely swatched and veiled.
WHAT. This is what people watch? Man, I donâ€™t get it.
YEAR OF THE TRIAL-SIZE DOVE BAR
Well, I made it to page 37. Iâ€™m going to say that it does make me uncomfortable that a white dude uses ebonics like this, but, on the surface, heâ€™s actually quite good at it. I didnâ€™t like that the Infinite Summer guide said that the section was â€œpotentially offensive (if one wants to be offended)â€ becauseâ€¦.yeah, thatâ€™s not how it works. I donâ€™t want to be offended by things. It happens.
That being saidâ€¦Iâ€™m willing to give this the benefit of the doubt for now. Wardineâ€™s story is convoluted, sure, but to me, it sounds like her mother is worried about her daughterâ€™s safety because of a man named Reginald. (Wardineâ€™s boyfriend, yes?) Wardineâ€™s mother beats her, and beats her often. And then Roy Tony might kill them all?
Oh, and Wardine is pregnant. Hmm. I think Iâ€™ll revisit this section later when we learn more.
Bruce Greenâ€™s story wasnâ€™t that interesting to me. He fell for Mildred Bonk, who grew up in high school to become (basically) one of the cool kids. And Bruce changed in order to impress her. And â€œfor a while life was more or less one big party.â€
DFW sure is introducing a whole lot of characters.
YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT
Mario is my favorite character so far. Itâ€™s not hard to take this next segment and substitute in a younger brother or sister or cousin or niece or nephew and imagine the endless game of questions that we play. Since we move back to Hal, itâ€™s also back to DFWâ€™s dialogue style, which might help accent why this section is also quite entertaining.
â€˜Itâ€™s late, Mario. Itâ€™s sleepy-time. Close your eyes and think fuzzy thoughts. â€˜Thatâ€™s what the Moms always says, too.â€™
â€˜Always worked for me, Boo.â€™
They all seem to have nicknames and terms of affection for each other. I like this family so far.
â€˜When I asked if you were asleep I was going to ask I you felt like you believed in God, today, out there, when you were so on, making that guy look sick.â€™
â€˜Really donâ€™t think midnight in a totally dark room with me so tired my hear hurts and drills in six short hours is the time and place to get into this, Mario.â€™
â€˜You ask me this once a week.â€™
â€˜You never say, is why.â€™
Man, this is realistic as all hell. Reminds me of a friendâ€™s cousin who has the tendency to ask increasingly difficult questions.
â€˜So tonight to shush you how about if I say I have administrative bones to pick with God, Boo. Iâ€™ll say God seems to have a kind of laid-back management style Iâ€™m not crazy about. Iâ€™m pretty much anti-death. God looks by all accounts to be pro-death. Iâ€™m not seeing how we can get together on this issue, he and I, Boo.â€™
â€˜Youâ€™re talking about since Himself passed away.â€™
Firstly, that statement by Hal makes me smile. I think thereâ€™s a part of me that still believes that, that maybe there is a god and I actually am in defiance of him/her/it, but that was mostly from a long time ago. I think itâ€™s more interesting to learn that Himself (the father?) has passed away, and that the whole family seems to have the same nickname for him. Hmm.
â€˜Iâ€™m going to propose that I tell you a joke, Boo, on the condition that afterward you shush and let me sleep.â€™
â€˜Is it a good one?â€™
â€˜Mario, what do you get when you cross an insomniac, an unwilling agnostic, and a dyslexic.â€™
â€˜You get somebody who stays up all night torturing himself mentally over the question of whether or not thereâ€™s a dog.â€™
â€˜Thatâ€™s a good one!â€™
â€˜Hey Hal? Whatâ€™s an insomniac?â€™
â€œSomebody who rooms with you, kid, thatâ€™s for sure.â€™
KJASKL;FSDJKLFDSAKLJFSDFDS I LOVE THIS KID SO MUCH. Iâ€™ve talked about it a few times, but Iâ€™m now running a kidâ€™s site as a community manager, and itâ€™s hard not to think of the sheer joy working with kids has been giving me. The natural inquisitiveness, the sense of humor that seems so endless, and the way that the world makes perfect senseâ€¦and yet they still have another question.
â€˜How come the Moms never cried when Himself passed away? I cried, and you, even C.T. cried. I saw him personally cry.â€™
So I feel very positive that Himself was Mr. Incandenza.
â€˜Hey Hal, did the Moms seem like she got happier after Himself passed away, to you?â€™
â€˜It seems like she got happier. She seems even taller. She stopped traveling everywhere all the time for this and that thing. The corporate-grammar thing. The library-protest thing.â€™
Ah, so now weâ€™re getting some more history. Thereâ€™s a point I can remember in my life when it seemed my mom was happier after my father passed away a few years ago. I donâ€™t think itâ€™s the same thing here, but I think most people reach a point where the grief leaves and the joy can finally come back. Hal, however, disagrees that his mother is happy:
â€˜Now she never goes anywhere, Boo. Now sheâ€™s got the Headmasterâ€™s House and her office and the tunnel in between, and never leaves the grounds. Sheâ€™s a worse workaholic than she ever was. And more obsessive-compulsive. Whatâ€™s the last time you saw a dust-mote in that house?â€™
Perhaps their mother buried herself in work, in keeping busy as a distraction. Thatâ€™s certainly what I did for a long, long time.
â€˜Now sheâ€™s just an agoraphobic workaholic and obsessive-compulsive. This strikes you as happification?â€™
â€˜Her eyes are better. They donâ€™t seem as sunk in. They look better. She laughs at C.T. way more than she laughed at Himself. She laughs from lower down inside. She laughs more. Her jokes she tells are better ones than yours, eve, now, a lot of the time.â€™
â€˜How come she never got sad?â€™
â€˜She did get sad, Booboo. She just got sad in her way instead of yours and mine. She got sad, Iâ€™m pretty sure.â€™
Itâ€™s fascinating how their perspectiveâ€™s focus so differently, with Mario choose to aim more for her physicality. He canâ€™t believe sheâ€™s sad because sheâ€™s physically not showing it, where Hal believes her actions give her away.
We all grieve in our own ways, Mario.
â€˜Sheâ€™s plenty sad, I bet.â€™