yellow letters from a shoebox on a rainy pm

IMG_2254So many things left unmentioned:

  • David Foster Wallace’s skilled use of the French language: “Les Assassins des Fauteuils Rolants” (719) and hilarious translations from English to French:  demi-maison (730) and from French to English: see Marathe below.
  • The way Tavis is described: “His smallness resembles the smallness of something that’s farther away from you than it wants to be, plus is receding.” And Stice “shielding his eyes with his hand and assuming a horizon-scan expression whenever Tavis heaves into view, seeming to recede even as he bears down.” (519)
  • That “…the key to the successful administration of a top-level junior tennis academy lies in cultivating a kind of reverse-Buddhism, a state of Total Worry.” (451)
  • Infinite Jestisms: to eliminate someone’s map, to give someone the fantods (also used by MT in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (thanks to Steven!)), “many wonders”
  • Scenes we’ll never forget: Erdedy waiting for the pot (17-27), Orin in the shower with the roaches, the videophone situation (144-151), Poutrincourt on achieving goals (680-681)

H o w e v e r, what I would like to do in this last post of the series is to say a la prochaine to some of the lovable, quirky, and flawed-as-we-all-are characters of Infinite Jest, in their own words, in the words of other characters or in the words of the narrator.


“…our whole system is founded on your individual’s freedom to pursue his own individual desires…Sunsets over the Pacific. Shoes that don’t cut off circulation. Frozen yogurt. A tall lemonade on a squeak-free porch swing.” (423)


“…should he exit and roll like no person’s business…” (752)


“An oiled guru sits in yogic full lotus in Spandex and tank top. He’s maybe forty. He’s in full lotus on top of the towel dispenser just above the shoulder-pull station in the weight room…” (127)


“…at this precise time his telephone and his intercom to the front door’s buzzer sounded at the same time, both loud and tortured and so abrupt they sounded yanked through a very small hole into the great balloon of colored silence he sat in, waiting…” (27)

IMG_2089Kate Gompert:

“I don’t hate myself. I just wanted out. I didn’t want to play anymore.” (72)

“…and then it’s happening, too, the whole horrible time, it’s about to happen and also it’s happening, all at the same time.” (73)

IMG_2088Orin the punter:

“I miss commercials that were louder than the programs.” (599)

And referring to watching entertainment on disks, “But it’s not the same. The choice, see. It ruins it somehow. With television you were subjected to repetition.” (600)

IMG_2092the Moms:

“Avril made it clear that the very last thing she wanted was to have any of her children feel they had to justify or explain to her any sort of abruptly or even bizarrely sudden major decision they might happen to make…” (288)

And from Mario: “The Moms hangs up stuff like shirts and blazers neater and more wrinkle-free than anyone alive.” (768)


“I drink this, sometimes, when I’m not actively working, to help me accept the same painful things it’s now time for me to tell you, son.” (160)


“…cheerfully declining even to try to learn to really read, explaining he’d way rather listen and watch.” (188/189)

“Mario’d fallen in love with the first Madame Psychosis programs because he felt like he was listening to someone sad read out loud from yellow letters she’d taken out of a shoebox on a rainy P.M., stuff about heartbreak and people you loved dying and U.S. woe, stuff that was real. It is increasingly hard to find valid art that is about stuff that is real in this way.” (592)


“He took zero in the way of shit and was a cheery but implacable exponent of the Don’t-Get-Mad-Get-Even school.” (55)



“I am not just a boy who plays tennis. I have an intricate history. Experiences and feelings. I’m complex….” (11)

David Foster Wallace (1962-2008)

[final in a series of 5 posts on finishing IJ]

Bookmark and Share

8 thoughts on “yellow letters from a shoebox on a rainy pm

  1. I recognize the expression “the fantods” from Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” particularly Part 2, Chapter VI, when Huck discovers a man by the campfire on Jackson’s Island:

    “But by and by, sure enough, I catched a glimpse of fire away from the trees. I went for it, cautious and slow. By and by I was close enough to have a look, and there laid a man on the ground. It most give me the fantods. He had a blanket around his head, and his head was nearly in the fire.”

    It may be a common 19th century expression, or it may be a coinage of Twain’s, I don’t really know because I haven’t looked it up, however, it’s definitely derivative and not a Wallace original, despite his overuse of the phrase.


    • Steven, thank you so much. This is why comments are so great. I love learning things like this. I was not an English major, and I have so many holes in my reading. I appreciate when readers take the time to add to the conversation. I will annotate the post.

      And actually, I think knowing this little fact adds another little layer to Infinite Jest. I imagine that DFW was hoping some readers would read this phrase and remember it from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

      Thanks for your comment! I hope you’ll be back.


  2. “…should he exit and roll like no person’s business…”

    «Devrait-il partir et rouler comme si de rien n’était? »

    Ou encore:

    «Devrait-il quitter et partir puisque que cette affaire ne concerne que lui?»

    In my contry we will also said:

    «Y devrait-tu s’en aller pis flyer comme si y’étais au-dessus de ses affaires?»

    This novel look pretty interesting but hard to read for me. I am not god enough in English. But I enjoy your résumé and your quotes. I love when the writer play with the words. I understand Wallace’s is well know for his eccentricity with words.

    Thank you for this excellent chronicle.


Your turn...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.