These are some scenes and lines from Infinite Jest I couldn’t quite let go of without first highlighting:
(pg. 42) ‘Hey Hal?’
‘Don’t cry, Booboo. Remember the flag only halfway up the pole? Booboo, there are two ways to lower a flag to half-mast. Are you listening? Because no shit I really have to sleep here in a second. So listen—one way to lower the flag to half-mast is just to lower the flag. There’s another way though. You can also just raise the pole. You can raise the pole to like twice its original height. You get me? You understand what I mean, Mario?
‘She’s plenty sad, I bet.’
(pg. 80) Schtitt has the sort of creep wiriness of old men who still exercise vigorously.
(pg. 258) ‘The next sound you hear will be unpleasant,’ Hal said, holding the phone down right next to the foot, his expression terrifically intense.
(pg. 268) He’s one of these people who doesn’t need much, much less much more.
(pg. 347) …tossed to the side like some stuffed toy to lie for all time in the posture you land in…
(pg. 357) It’s all optional; do it or die.
(pg. 367) The worst punishment Gately’s seen inflicted on a Commitment speaker is when the host crowd get embarrassed for him. Speakers who are accustomed to figuring out what an audience wants to hear and then supplying it find out quickly that this particular audience does not want to be supplies with what someone else thinks it wants.
(pg. 389) ‘The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.’
(pg. 410) …whereas by late July everybody else’s attitude toward Clipperton resembled that kind of stiffly conspicuous nonrecognition that e.g. accompanies farts at formal functions.
(pg. 431) …some of them wonder whether Eric Clipperton will put down his psychic cuirass and take his unarmed competitive chances with the rest of them, now that he’s got what he’s surely been burning over and holding himself hostage for all along, a real and sanctioned #1…
(pg. 437) …all with an expression she probably thinks looks blandly deep but which really looks exactly the way a girl’s face looks when she’s dancing with you but would really rather be dancing with just about anyone else in the room.
(pg. 477) Soft-faced boys with backpacks and high hard hair and seamless foreheads. Totally lineless untroubled foreheads like cream cheese or ironed sheets.
The weird hopelessness at the heart of lust.
(pg. 557) Lenz’s own mother’s laugh had sounded like she was being eaten alive.
(pg. 584) …the high-kneed tiptoed skulk of a vaudeville fiend up to no good at all..
(pg. 610) …near unlimited shots with a speed-loader.
(pg. 612) Having no choice now not to fight and things simplify radically, divisions collapse. Gately’s just one part of something bigger he can’t control. His face in the left headlight had dropped into its fight-expression of ferocious good cheer.
(pg. 627) Stice, oblivious, bites into his sandwich like it’s the wrist of an assailant.
(pg. 636) Stice is one of those athletes whose body you know is an unearned divine gift because its conjunction with his face is so incongruous. He resembles a poorly spliced photo, some superhuman cardboard persona with a hole for your human face. A beautiful sports body, lithe and tapered and sleekly muscled, smooth—like a Polycleitos body, Hermes of Theseus before his trials—on whose graceful neck sits the face of a ravaged Winston Churchill, broad and slab-featured, swart, fleshy, large-pored, with a mottled forehead under the crew cut’s V-shaped hairline, and eye-pouches, and jowls that hang and whenever he moves suddenly or lithely make a sort of meaty staccato sound like a wet dog shaking itself dry.
(pg. 693) Objects become schemata. The world becomes a map of the world.
(pg. 694) His Moms Avril hears her own echoes inside him and thinks what she hears is him, and this makes Hal feel the one thing he feels to the limit, lately: he is lonely.
…that queerly persistent U.S. myth that cynicism and naivete are mutually exclusive. Hal, who’s empty but not dumb, theorizes privately that what passes for hip cynical transcendence of sentiment is really some kind of fear of being really human, since to be really human (at least as he conceptualizes it) is probably to be unavoidably sentimental and naive and goo-prone and generally pathetic, is to be in some basic interior way forever infantile, some sort of not-quite-right-looking infant dragging itself anaclitically around the map, with big wet eyes and froggy-soft skin, huge skull, gooey drool. One of the really American things about Hal, probably, is the way he despises what it is he’s really lonely for: this hideous internal self, incontinent of sentiment and need, that pulses and writhes just under the hip empty mask, anhedonia. [This one makes me sad because of what’s in the parentheses, and those little ‘probably’ qualifiers, that the narrator is detached from events in a way that so obviously illustrates Hal’s theory. I suspect this book is or was more a question than a thesis. I wrote a paper that was a question once. I got an A but was told my thesis was too broad. At least my questions were more specific than ‘Why?’ ‘What’s the point?’ ‘Which way out of the labyrinth?’ etc. Not that these aren’t all great theses. I wish he could have tried to write the book in a way that addresses the problem, though. He would have failed in some ways, but that’s at least part of the point, isn’t it? On second thought, maybe that is what he tried to do.]
(pg. 733) Close in, the expression that through the veil had appeared as glaring corrected itself: the expression was more truly that the man’s eyes had the vacant intensity of those who have violently died.
(pg. 744) …her syntax was so artless and fluid and imposing.
(pg. 762,3) ‘How was your own day, I want to hear.’
‘I determined years ago that my position need to be that I trust my children, and I’d never traffic in third-party hearsay when the line of communication with my children are as open and judgment-free as I’m fortunate they are.’
‘That seems like a really good position. Hey Moms?’
‘So I have no problem waiting to hear about Eschaton, teeth, and urine from your brother, who’ll come to me the moment it’s appropriate for him to come to me.’
‘I’m right here, Love-o.’
Tycoon is the term her commanding way of sitting suggests, grasping he chair, a pen clamped in her teeth like a businessman’s cigar. There were other carpet-prints in the heavy shag.
‘Can I ask you a thing?’
‘This is off,’ again indicating the silent apparatus on his head.
‘Is this a confidential thing, then?’
‘There isn’t any secret. My day was I was wondering about something. In my mind.’
‘I’m right here for you anytime day or night, Mario, as you are for me, as I am for Hal and we all are for each other.’ She gestures in a hard-to-describe way. ‘Right here.’
‘I am right here with my attention completely focused on you.’
‘How can you tell if somebody’s sad?’
A quick smile. ‘You mean whether someone’s sad.’
(pg. 767) The ghostly figure shrugged its thin shoulders and said But no, it was nothing of the sort, it was just a plain old wraith, one without any sort of grudge or agenda, just a generic garden-variety wraith.
(pg. 838) The boy, who did everything well and with a natural unslumped grace the wraith himself had always lacked, and whom the wraith had been so terribly eager to see and hear and let him (the son) know he was seen and heard, the son had become a steadily more and more hidden boy, toward the wraith’s life’s end; and no one else in the wraith and boy’s nuclear family would see or acknowledge this, the fact that the graceful and marvelous boy was disappearing right before their eyes. They looked but did not see his invisibility.
(pg. 847) …when she moves around out of the pulsing shadow to lean in close and press her inhuman body’s face right up intimately close to his, she removes the veil, and on top of this body to die for is the unveiled historical likeness of fucking Winston Churchill, complete with cigar and jowls and bulldog scowl…
(pg. 851) …he begins to cry in a way that hurts his chest, and asks Death to set him free and be his mother, and Joelle either shakes or nods her lovely unfocused head and says: Wait.
(pg. 854) ‘This is the disembodied voice of Hal Incandenza, whose body is not now able…’
‘This is Mike Pemulis’s answering machine’s answering machine; Mike Pemulis’s answering machine regrets being unavailable to take a first-order message for Mike Pemulis, but if you’ll leave a second order message at the sound of the clapping hand, Mike Pemulis’s answering machine will…’
(pg. 883) …the whirling wraith who said death was just everything outside you getting really slow.
(pg. 902) The horizontality piled up all around me. I was the meat in the room’s sandwich. I felt awakened to a basic dimension I’d neglected during years of upright movement, of standing and running and stopping and jumping, of walking endlessly upright from one side of the court to the other. I had understood myself for years as basically vertical, and odd forked stalk of stuff and blood. I felt denser now; I felt more solidly composed, now that I was horizontal. I was impossible to knock down.
(pg. 944) ‘What if it’s the mental buckling that’s raised his game?’ Coyle said. ‘Does it still count as buckling?’
(pg. 956) It was the most open I’d ever heard of Himself being with anybody, and it seemed terribly sad to me, somehow, that he’d wasted it on Orin. I’d never once had a conversation nearly that open or intimate with Himself.
(Note 34) [Extra-Linear Dynamics] A.k.a ‘E.L.D.,’ that still-green shoot off the pure branch of math that deals with systems and phenomena whose chaos is beyond even Mandelbrotian math’s Strange Equations and Random Attractants, a delimiting reaction against the Chaos Theories of fractal-happy meteorologists and systems analysts, E.L.D., whose post-Godelian theorems and nonexistence proofs amount to extremely lucid and elegant admissions of defeat in certain cases, hands thrown up w/complete deductive justification. Incandenza, whose frustrated interest in grand-scale failure was unflagging through four different careers, would have been all over Extra-Linear Dynamics like white on rice, had he survived.
(Note 70) …quiet tales sometimes go around the Boston AA community of certain incredibly advanced and hard-line recovering persons who have pared away potential escape after potential escape until finally, as the stories go, they end up sitting in a bare chair, nude, in an unfurnished room, not moving but also not sleeping or meditating or abstracting, too advanced to stomach the thought of the potential emotional escape of doing anything whatsoever, and just end up sitting there completely motion- and escape-less until a long time later all that’s found in the empty chair is a very fine dusting of off-white ashy stuff that you can wipe away completely with like one damp paper towel.
(Note 269) Why is this. Why do many parents who seem relentlessly bent on producing children who feel they are good persons deserving of love produce children who grow to feel they a hideous person not deserving of love who just happen to have lucked into having parents so marvelous that the parents love them even though they are hideous?
When Orin does his impression of Avril—…what he will do is assume an enormous warm and loving smile and move steadily toward you until he is in so close that his face is spread up flat against your own face and your breaths mingle. If you can get to experience it—the impression—which will seem worse to you: the smothering proximity, or the unimpeachable warmth and love with which it’s effected?
(Note 321) ‘In the dream the horror was that I wasn’t really singing “There’s NO Business Like Show Business.” I was really screaming for help. I was screaming like “Help! I’m screaming for help and everybody’s acting as if I’m singing Ethel Merman covers! It’s me! It’s me, screaming for help!”’
(Note 366a) (Which of course assumes there’s a point.)