Log24

Friday, February 12, 2010

Capital E

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 10:30 AM

Where Entertainment is God, continued

The following paragraphs are from a review by Piotr Siemion of Infinite Jest, a novel by David Foster Wallace. Illustrations have been added.

"Wallace was somehow able to twist together three yarns…. …there's a J.D Salinger for those who like J.D. Salinger. There's William Burroughs for those hardy souls who like some kick in their prose. And there's a dash of Kurt Vonnegut too. All three voices, though, are amplified in Infinite Jest beyond mere distortion and then projected onto Wallace's peculiar own three-ring circus….

Venn diagram of three sets

… there's entertainment. Make it a capital E.

Hilary Swank in 'Million Dollar Baby'

Illustration by Clint Eastwood
from Log24 post "E is for Everlast"

Infinite Jest revolves, among its many gyrations, around the story of the Entertainment, a film-like creation going by the title of 'Infinite Jest' and created shortly before his suicidal death by the young tennis star's father. The Entertainment's copies are now being disseminated clandestinely all over Wallace's funny America. Problem is, of course, that the film is too good. Anybody who gets to watch it becomes hooked instantly and craves only to watch it again, and again, and again, until the audience drops dead of exhaustion and hunger. Why eat when you're entertained by such a good movie? Wallace's premise brings you back to that apocryphal lab experiment in which rats were treated to a similar choice. When the rat pushed one button, marked FOOD, it would get a food pellet. The other button, marked FUN, would fire up an electrode rigged right into the orgasm center somewhere in the rat's cortex. Needless to add, one rat after another would drop dead from hunger, still twitching luridly and trying to finesse one last push of the button. Same thing in Wallace's story, especially that even those characters who have not seen the Entertainment yet, keep on entertaining themselves by different means."

The title of the Entertainment, "Infinite Jest," might also be applied to a BBC program featuring mathematician Peter J. Cameron. The program's actual title was "To Infinity and Beyond." It was broadcast the night of Feb. 10 (the date of this journal's previous post).

Few, however, are likely to find the Infinity program addictive. For closer approaches to Wallace's ideal Entertainment, see instead Dante (in the context of this journal's Feb. 4 posts on Cameron and the afterlife) and the BBC News.

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