Saturday, July 18, 2009

"It'll Help Your Attitude To Look For Evidence of Design"

Ahoy again, readers of this blog who may or may not exist. The beauty of the internet is also the supreme, hurtful ugliness of the internet in that one can self-publish without promoting one's work, in the vain and potentially unhinged mindset that no one is paying attention, anyway, but always there is the possibility that some unknown person takes the land of cyber make-believe very seriously and is getting cheesed off at you for not posting your every whim. A corollary of this phenomena is that said unknown person might then start building a very real resentment toward you and could potentially track you down in person and demand to know why you are depriving him or her of your typographical diarrhea, to which you can only respond that you do not take your cyberself so seriously as to consider that anyone would feel anything but a deep-seated indifference toward you, in reality or fantasy. Where it goes from there probably depends on the now-known person's rational thought capabilites in conflict with your own.

That's just my way of saying, "Hey, sorry I fell off the wagon, writing-wise, these past couple of weeks." I'm trying a different strategy w/r/t reading IJ this time around, namely that I decided that going completely, quickly insane near the beginning of the book would be preferable to going slowly, partially insane upon completion. So far, it's been an excellent strategy. It allows me to see my own actions in relation to the narrative from a more objective perspective and not worry so much that I'm doomed to make the same mistakes as the characters, since I've already dealt with some insurmountable neuroses in such a way that have not caused me to lose my job, my key interpersonal relationships or my ability to communicate.

It's sort of irritating, this identification I feel with characters in books. After all, isn't reading supposed to be a pleasurable diversion from the old meaningless trudge through human experience, an opportunity to release myself from the hard questions and incomprehensible answers I face daily? And but no. Books (and any form of enter-/infotainment, by extension) offer the opportunity to see things from another perspective, see how my imagined reaction fits into a fictional, or at least unreal, situation that, although I am not in at present, I could conceivably find myself in at some point in the future. Some people probably find this maddening and so stick exclusively to morally unambiguous works (i.e. Tom Clancy/Stephen King/Danielle Steele or the new Transformers movie), preferring to ignore the possibility of a chaotic and inconsistent future.

At any rate, I'm still reading the book, not at all adhering to the prescribed schedule because I have never, ever been very good about doing anything I "have" to do, particularly when it comes to reading--despite my insistence on reading objectively unpleasurable material, reading anything at all gives me immense pleasure, right down to the very cockles of my cynical black heart. I don't much see the point in reviewing it from a "no spoilers" perspective, since you, unknown reader, know that I have, in fact, read it previously. My deviated attention span is such that if I don't rabidly attack a perceived connection of one part of the text to another part of the text I know to be coming, well, I just might forget what made it so resonant in the first place.

So. I've been pursuing original thoughts about the text, which may not be original since, not having time to keep up with the seminal text itself, I have neither been keeping up with various Infinite Summer-related critiques. Such are the inequities of working a non-desk-type job, particularly since said job requires interaction with children, who get understandably miffed when I don't give them my full attention.

Be that as it may, I've noticed that IJ exists within a distinctly male perspective. At no point are the female characters given the same "behind the scenes" treatment as the male characters. If memory serves, the Moms and Joelle van Dyne never really express themselves outside some male person's interaction with them. There are no scenes of female ETA students' Big Buddy sessions, which is really a travesty, given the undoubtedly rich vein of Ann Kittenplan alone. Even in Steepley and Marathe's discursions on love and relationships with women, the women are always clearly secondary players, people who are full agents of their own destiny, of course, but not persons to be understood in any significant way.

The omniscient narrator takes a very clinical view of female subjects. For example, on and around page 123, he describes a traumatic incident involving Millicent Kent's father's clandestine transvestitism without any simple observations on the gender politics of the situation. It's not any different from most of his descriptions of similarly horrific formative years trauma, but for a book that has such a clear focus on father/son dynamic, it's interesting that there is a lack of exploration of father/daughter relationships. I suspect this is due more to DFW's (uncorroborated) feeling of inadequacy in writing about complexity of gender or women in general than any sort of malicious, chauvinistic John Updike-esque intent. In fact, it seems more likely to yours truly that if it was intentional at all, it's due to the fact that in Hamlet, Gertrude and Ophelia (Avril M. Incandenza and Joelle van Dyne) are never seen interacting exclusively with one another--the entire play is told from the perspective of the male characters, and while their effect on the females is discussed extensively, the women never get a chance to explain their choices and therefore remain, like twin elephants in the room, objects of mystery and conjecture rather than flesh-and-blood human beings. Or maybe the book was already getting to an insupportable length and DFW opted not to include some very interesting but inessential XX-chromosome pages.

The structure of the book's dystopian future puts me in mind of Mike Judge's Idiocracy, in that most of the denizens of said dystopia don't particularly seem to have an issue with the times in which they live. The subsidized calendar is just as potent an example of society's (ours, the real one) utter indifference to the fact that pretty much everything can be bought and sold, and so long as we're "happy," there's no real need to object to corporate ownership of our very lives--unless of course we're dealing with disturbing commercials for NoCoat Lingua scrapers, at which point we will rise up as one and demand commercial-free, Interlace-style entertainment. The contrast is interesting in no small part because in Idiocracy, American thought has devolved to the point where simply being able to read is viewed as elitist and in IJ, North American culture clearly went through some period of revolution where it became clear that ignorance was not acceptable--i.e. the MIT grammar riots. Even the lower-class characters (Marathe, Steeply, Enfield House residents, street addicts, Pemulis) are presented as operating with very complex levels of thought, and hey, the fact that enough people weren't too intimidated by the phrase "lingua scraper" to mount a wildly successful, culture-shifting protest certainly suggests that complexity of thought is viewed as an unmitigated good. The unfortunate flip-side of this shift is that many of the book's characters have followed this unmitigated good to the point where they are immobilized and crippled by their own minds, just as the non-cryogenically frozen characters in Idiocracy have followed mindless pleasure to the same end. Neither seems like a particularly positive outcome for America's future, so as always, moderation in all things, I suppose.

According to my sorely neglected notes, I detected some connection between Poor Tony, yrstruly and C and A Clockwork Orange. I think it might have been some use of the word "droogs," but reading that manic passage always makes me feel slightly ill, the awfulness of the lack of punctuation building to a horrifying crescendo with C's completely preventable death, so I'm not going to comb through to find it. I will say that it's an interesting concurrance, since the alternate future of Clockwork (I refer here to the book) is very similar to the one in IJ in tone.

The transcript of Madame Psychosis' "Sixty Minutes +/-" makes me wish that there actually was a Union for the Hideously and Improbably Deformed, because, seriously, sometimes ugly people are just ugly and no amount of makeovers is going to change that. I can totally throw my support behind an organization that promotes "Progress not perfection. It says Never Perfection," which I'm not sure how that squares with my own deep-seated desire for personal perfection, my deep wish that I had attended a school like Enfield Tennis Academy or my wish, as the "PGOAT," to be "fatally pulchritudinous."

Finally, I like that no one at Enfield begrudges Hal the special treatment he receives as the Headmaster's nephew (and previously, son). I guess the fact that Hal is such a genuinely good person, in my not-so-humble opinion, is what makes his tragic arc, you know, tragic.

No comments:

Post a Comment