Of High Wattage Interviews and Y-Chromosomes

Like getting strapped to a Raytheon missile and you don’t stop till that missile stops, Jim. – page 708

I took a short break from IJ last week to read and write about a short work of nonfiction, so this weekend’s been a bit of a marathon dive back into Wallace’s world, and what a whirlwind it’s been!

First of all, let me reiterate (assuming that I’ve already iterated) that, despite the fact that I’ve already read Infinite Jest, it was just once, and it was seven years ago. And when it comes to textual retention over time, I’m no Hal Incandenza. In fact, I’m pretty much the opposite, and as such, I am surprised at every turn.

Last week’s reading felt like Wallace shifted the novel into high gear. Marathe and Kate Gompert? Marathe at Ennet House?! Hal at Ennet House! Pemulis! Wayne! I think I just got strapped to that Raytheon missile, Jim.

The Return of Molly Notkin

I was entranced throughout the interview of Molly Notkin by Rod (the God) Tine, Jr. and all the revelations contained within it about J.O.I. and J.vD., Avril, and Orin, though it did feel a bit artificial. As though Wallace had suddenly glanced at his watch, though wow, look at the time, and decided he needed to crank out a bunch of exposition in a hurry.

Also, I’m not sure I’m buying the description of the Entertainment Notkin gives on page 788. First of all, I just don’t want to. The mystery as to the nature of the lethal Entertainment has been provocative throughout. What could it possibly be? And to have that answered with this sort of banal idea of Joelle, naked and pregnant, getting all Madame Psychosis in a death cosmology rant? Uh-uh. Not buying it. I’m sorry, but it’s just not lethally entertaining enough for me. So for now, I’ll choose to believe that either Joelle lied to Notkin, or that Notkin is lying to Tine.

But here are a couple of questions for you.

If I’m not mistaken, Notkin is the first to come right out and mention the possibility that Avril’s “sexual enmeshments with just about everything with a Y-chromosome” may have included her own son, Orin. Have we talked about this yet?

Because, while I was formerly of the C.T. as the father of Mario camp, there is the possibility that it could, in fact, be Orin. Speculate.

Question numero deux surrounds this bit from page 790:

“…the little rotter of a son’s despicable abandonment of the relationship under the excuse of accusing Madame Psychosis of being sexually enmeshed with their — here Molly Notkin said that she of course had meant to say his — father, the Auteur.”

Whaaa?? Their father? I mean, there’s no shortage of incestuous insinuations throughout Infinite Jest, but I’m having a hard time parsing the implications of J.O.I. being father to both Orin and Joelle. So why the apparent slip-up on Notkin’s part?


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8 thoughts on “Of High Wattage Interviews and Y-Chromosomes”

  1. Well we know right off the bat that Molly Not-Kin is “not” telling the truth. She explicitly does not tell them everything she knows; she instead tells them everything she BELIEVES she knows (and then some, i.e. lies). The only question is what if anything she reveals is true, what is intentional deception, and why?

    Perhaps trying to see what she can get away with, her very first statement contains known horseshit, and because it goes unchallenged she probably continues to make things up. She says it was Jim’s belief in a finite world-total of available erections that rendered him impotent or guilt-ridden, but that’s just what would’ve been fresh on her mind if she has just returned from the actually-so-tormented N.Y.U. lover she still takes the high-speed rail to visit every couple of weeks. She says that Jim was apparently extremely close to his mother in childhood, which we know is not true, but is that what Joelle believed and told Molly Not-Kin, or is it something that she’s making up? She tells them that Madame Psychosis is at an unknown elite treatment facility far, very far away, when in fact she had brought the radio show tapes to her at Ennet House. And in the middle of detailing the acid-deforming incident, to remind us that she’s most certainly making things up, she specifically fabricates the real names and location of Madame Psychosis’ family to the interviewers. Without any third party confirmation it’s clearly unwise to take what she tells them at face value.

    My take on her misstatement is that she is again trying to mislead the interviewers. She’s in the midst of placing blame on Orin and could have been attempting to lay groundwork for Madame Psychosis’ emotionally incestuous relationship with her father by equating it to a made up worse one about Orin’s with his mother, both of which she does explain to the interviewers later, saying they were both enmeshed with their. . . respective parents, but since her statement was about Orin only, she had to rephrase it mid-stream. There’s nothing anywhere else implying that Jim’s her father, and at least this is plausible. Don’t forget she’s making a lot of this up on the fly.

    With Orin’s puberty delayed well past thirteen it is impossible for him to have fathered Mario.

    1. In a book where everyone seems “related”, is amazing to see you reframe Molly Notkin as “not-kin”. You’ve got some of my gears turning…

    2. Thanks, Tim! I remembered the limited number of erections theory but didn’t recall that it was Notkin’s NYU lover. But are you saying that the Avril-Orin speculation has no basis in fact / is just Notkin misdirection?

      1. It seems more likely at this point, just because there’s been no other substantiatable evidence, and her statements concerning things we actually do know have proven deliberately false. It’s also worth noting that anything Molly does in fact know regarding what she’s relaying to the interviewers would only be what Joelle has told her, but her statement “seeing as it sounded like the little rotter had [. . .] issues with his mother” are her words, not Joelle’s, making the speculation it follows appear to be something she herself is inferring from all the weird and horrible things Joelle actually has told her about Avril and Orin, not something Joelle has told her directly, so it’s another perfect misdirection opportunity because it sounds so plausible.

  2. That’s a really great point, Jeff, and I’m totally with you on the six degrees. Every time a new character appears on the page, my mind immediately searches for where I may have heard about him or her earlier in the novel OR tucks the information away for some future connection. In the internal infant support group section, Wallace revealed that the subject’s parents had died in a fatal helicopter-related accident, and before Kevin Bains’ name was mentioned, I wrote “How did Marlon’s parents die?” in the margin. I’m sure that more than a few of the connections between characters in IJ have escaped my grasp.

    Have you seen Sam Potts’ excellent diagram? http://sampottsinc.com/ij/

  3. Yeah, yuck. I’d definitely like to sort out the gossip (it’s gross and weird and thematically fascinating in the novel, as incest and sexual abuse seems to come up *all the time* with tertiary characters)… but, what if we took a general (albeit kind of annoying) approach:

    Isn’t everyone in the book kind of related?

    I don’t mean to be glib. But I’ve been playing six-degrees-of-separation to tie everyone together, from Matty Pemulis to Kevin Bain, for about 900 pages and feel like if there’s not a way to connect two characters physically (ie, they’ve been in the same room before) there’s a way to do it emotionally (ie, they’ve shared the same experiences). While having incest be a node in this character network is really upsetting and maybe unnecessarily shocking, perhaps DFW’s trying to say something about how trauma connects us more than we’ll ever know.

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