Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘closure

Thursday Afternoon Links!

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* Mark Z. Danielewski has written a pilot for a potential House of Leaves TV series. It’s good! The question of adapting the novel wound up being a minor subtheme in our discussion of the book in my summer grad class last month, so I was gratified to actually get to see the script — and directly incorporating the novel into the storyworld of the TV series seems like an intriguing solution to the book’s basic unfilmability. I think I hope someone makes it!

* I haven’t had a chance to see Ant-Man and the Wasp yet, so I’m gratified someone went ahead and wrote my triennial rant about franchise fictions and narrative closure on my behalf.

* Texas Studies in Literature and Language has a special issue on Wes Anderson.

* CFP for the SFRA guaranteed panel at ASLE 19. ASLE 19 (in Davis, CA) is a week after the planned dates for SFRA 19 in Hawaii, so if you’re going to the West Coast anyway it could be almost like a two-for-one…

* The second issue of Fantastika Journal is now available.

* That the things that gave my life meaning growing up have all become vectors for recruitment to misogynistic and white nationalist hate groups is the bitterest surprise of my middle age. That and Trump. Two bitterest surprises.

Nominations Are Open for the 2018 Brittle Paper Awards.

Ken Liu Presents Broken Stars, A New Anthology of Chinese Short Speculative Fiction.

* The Fall of Wisconsin. How to win Wisconsin back.

* Shakespeare in the state parks.

* Specialized program for Marquette undergraduates with autism disorders gifted $450,000, set to launch fall 2019.

“In some ways, I now think that one of the primary functions of the university, for the ruling class, is precisely to train a generation in indebtedness, in a state of being in debt.”

The Self-Helpification of Academe: How feel-good nostrums cover up the university’s cruelty.

* Another piece on searching for work outside academia.

* Professor Faces Fraud Charges for False Job Offer. Reading the confession letter just makes me cringe.

His University Asked Him to Build an Emoji-Themed Parade Float. Then It Fired Him.

* Why Donald Trump Nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Brett Kavanaugh Will Mean Challenging Times For Environmental Laws. The Vice Report. The Coming Era of Forced Abortions. The end of net neutrality. The imperial presidency 2.0. Trump’s Supreme Court Pick Could Spell a Fresh Hell for Workers’ Rights. Brett Kavanaugh Ruled Against Workers When No One Else Did. The issue with Kavanaugh is that he seems completely reactionary, bouncing from one indefensible position to another, without applying any judgment whatsoever. Liberal media in full effect. The Liberal Case for Kavanaugh Is Complete Crap. He’s a very normal Republican pick — that’s the problem. Establishment Extremist. What’s coming. It’s bad y’all. Someone investigate precisely how this deal was made and what the terms were. And from the archives: The Three Alitos.

* The Supreme Court: still bad.

* Capitalism is ruining science. The Business Veto: The demise of social democracy shows the precariousness of any project of reform under capitalism.

* Here come the DIY guns.

Inside China’s Dystopian Dreams: A.I., Shame and Lots of Cameras.

Technoleviathan: China, Silicon Valley, and the rise of the global surveillance state. How Artificial Intelligence Will Reshape the Global Order.

Silicon Valley Is Bending Over Backward to Cater to the Far Right.

* How Silicon Valley Fuels an Informal Caste System. Rule-Making as Structural Violence: From a Taxi to Uber Economy in San Francisco.

* It’s amazing that US governmentality has finally crossed the threshold where its obvious illegitimacy can be spoken about in public.

Former Obama Officials Are Riding Out The Trump Years By Cashing In.

* The end of NATO. ‘They Will Die in Tallinn’: Estonia Girds for War With Russia.

* Trump is set to separate more than 200,000 U.S.-born children from their parents. Trump’s Office of Refugee Resettlement Is Budgeting for a Surge in Child Separations. ‘Don’t You Know That We Hate You People?’ ICE is lawless, racial profiling edition. Where Cities and Counties Are Detaining Immigrants. Pregnant Women Say They Miscarried In Immigration Detention And Didn’t Get The Care They Needed. Government Told Immigrant Parents to Pay for DNA Tests to Get Kids Back, Advocate Says. As Migrant Families Are Reunited, Some Children Don’t Recognize Their Mothers. Deported after Trump order, Central Americans grieve for lost children. ‘What if I lose her forever?’ Undocumented Grover Beach mother deported despite community rallying in her support. Facing a Tuesday deadline to reunite about 100 migrant toddlers with their parents, feds say they’ve reunited 2. Inside The Courts Where Some Immigrants Plead Guilty Without Knowing What’s Happening. Now they’re coming for grandmas.

* Woman arrested in assault of 91-year-old Mexican man who was told to ‘go back to your country.’

* Weird coincidence.

There’s been a spate of violent far-right extremism since the 2016 election.

* If you’re anti- antifa, that must mean…

* Andrew Cuomo and ICE.

It’s Not Civil Disobedience if You Ask for Permission.

Liberalism, legitimacy, and loving the Parkland kids.

Eleven Theses on Civility.

Why Marx’s Capital Still Matters.

* Nixon’s $7B carbon tax forms centerpiece of energy agenda.

* The Industrial Age May Have Actually Been Kind of a Bad Idea.

* An interview with Julia Salazar. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, In Her Own Words. Cynthia Nixon: I’m a democratic socialist. Meanwhile our old pal Joe Crowley looks like he’s trying to get away with something.

We Should Embrace the Ambiguity of the 14th Amendment.

* Sure, why not?

* Alan Dershowitz is ALL IN on Trump. But he’s not the only person with some truly around-the-bend ideas of what lawsuits can do.

* Weird science: Girls sometimes inherit almost two full sets of their dad’s genes, which seems to cause rare cancers.

The Art and Activism of the Anthropocene, Part III: A Conversation with Helen Phillips, Amitav Ghosh, and Nathan Kensinger.

An Arkansas man complained about police abuse. Then town officials ruined his life.

* Did… did Milwaukee write this?

Jeff Bezos Is Now $50 Billion Richer Than Anyone Else on Earth.

All 12 Thai Boys Successfully Rescued from Cave after Third Dangerous Mission. The only person unhappy is Elon.

WHO’s Language on Breastfeeding Really Is Flawed. This was our experience with breastfeeding  for sure; I’m sure it’s great for a lot of people but we needed formula as a supplement from the first night on. That said, the corporate forces that promote formula over breastfeeding are utterly gross.

* When the relationship status truly is complicated.

* Nabokov’s dreams.

* Scotland’s official plan if the Loch Ness Monster is found.

* Brexit: It’s bad!

* Being Bobcat Goldthwait.

* Billy Dee is back.

* Japan and the stay-at-home dad.

* Reality Winner and the espionage act.

* My Best Friend Lost His Life to the Gig Economy.

* When your child reveals sexual abuse from your parent.

The Socialist Case for School Integration.

* Factchecking David Brooks.

* Your town tomorrow: Kure residents cut off from outside world due to flooding.

* Nope, no thanks.

* I knew wearing a tie was making me stupid.

* Bad subtitling is a daily problem for deaf viewers.

* Melt Monument Ave.

How swimming pools became a flashpoint of racial tension in America.

* California brings emissions down below 1990 levels. But it’s not all good news.

Feminist Apparel CEO Fires Entire Staff After They Learn He’s An Admitted Sexual Abuser. RIP, Papa John.

There is too much uncertainty in sports; even if you bribe the officials, something unaccounted for could still cause the “wrong” result. It can be a bad idea to gather large crowds opposed to your team (and, by extension, your dictatorship). During Franco’s rule, Barcelona FC’s stadium was the only place the Catalans could wave their flag and sing their songs. Dictators are better off with tyranny and oppression. Football is for people who can accept a loss.

David Graeber’s new book argues that many of us are toiling in dummy jobs with no ostensible purpose. Any poll will show you he has a point. But his thesis is built on scant evidence and dubious claims of a ruling class conspiring to keep us busy. Bullshit jobs exist not due to orchestrated oppression but because of something altogether simpler: bad managers. 

* An even tougher review of a book that seems like a big step down from Debt.

* The SAT, constantly innovating new ways to make teenagers unhappy.

* “I sort of feel like I’m taking the bait on this, but: Can you imagine the copy they *rejected* for this Handmaid’s Tale pinot noir?”

Through such characters, Muluneh’s work explores the layered psychic realms of blackness and womanhood that the African-American science fiction writer Octavia Butler, whom she cites as a major influence, explored through her otherworldly prose. In the process, Muluneh’s work has helped reorient the way black women are perceived. “As women, especially as African women,” Muluneh said, “we forget—and the world forgets—our positioning in history and religion and culture.”

And amusing ourselves to death: 12 theme parks where the danger is real.

Written by gerrycanavan

July 12, 2018 at 1:34 pm

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Infinite Jest #10: On Endings

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This post ditches the official spoiler-line and talks about the ending of Infinite Jest. If it’s important to you not to read such a post, please do not read this post.

I decided to read through to the end of Infinite Jest this morning, which means (1) this is post is off the spoiler-line and consequently deals with the text as a whole and (2) this may or may not be my last Infinite Summer post. In light of (2) I’d like to say that it’s been truly great, and while I’m not able to participate in the Gravity’s Rainbow followup due to my pending exams I hope to pick up again with whatever Book #3 turns out to be.

I think it’s natural to end Infinite Jest in the spirit of of anticlimax nicely captured by Infinite Detox:

…as a reader, who’s poured 1,000 pages of emotional investment into this novel and its characters, this rings hollow and false. Frankly, I’m pissed off.

…Here’s the irony: One of Wallace’s big projects in Infinite Jest was to champion the notion of sincerity, right? Of forging connections and telling the truth and dropping the anhedonic mask and opening yourself up to the emotional gooiness that may result. From an intellectual standpoint, Wallace is very much pro-sincerity. And definitely ambivalent about “hip irony”, if not downright hostile toward it. Wallace can talk the talk about sincerity and directness and forging connections, but it’s like when it comes to the point of enacting that sincerity, dramatizing it and building it into the very fabric of Infinite Jest, he can’t (or doesn’t want to) bring himself to do it.

This tension between sincerity and irony—the impossible yearning for an open, unmediated authenticity of the sort we’re smart enough to know can never be achieved—is productive of the melancholic tone that has characterized most of my reading of Infinite Jest this summer. In some essential, baseline sense I think it’s what the book is All About.™ So IJ is most assuredly not a failure, exactly, so much as a very pointed and frustrating framing of a particularly intractable problem—which is to say IJ is a (mostly) successful book on the subject of universal human failure. We are left at the end of Infinite Jest with a story that hasn’t even happened yet, much less capable of directing us towards some personal epiphany—but if we’ve been reading carefully all along we should have known it could never be otherwise. (See, for example, the conversation between Remy Marathe and Kate Gompert from 774-782, in which Marathe’s story repeatedly resists the narrative closures an increasingly desperate Gompert is desperate to assign to it. How this book would end has always been right in front of our faces.)

Now, you can allow yourself to be seduced by the teasing but doomed impulse towards closure, the fantasy that answers to all the mysteries exist somewhere inside the book. Wallace himself even points to this in an interview:

(DFW) There is an ending as far as I’m concerned. Certain kind of parallel lines are supposed to start converging in such a way that an “end” can be projected by the reader somewhere beyond the right frame. If no such convergence or projection occured to you, then the book’s failed for you.

(Wallace is, I think, being coy here. Of course there’s hints about what happens after pg. 981, but they are completely incomplete and even contradictory, as he well knows, and in any event beside the point.)

Over the years Wallace fans has struggled admirably to puzzle out these supposedly converging lines with varying levels of success, and that work goes on in the Infinite Summer forums as we speak. For what it’s worth: I think the DMZ/mushrooms theory makes a lot of sense, and definitely explains some of Hal’s strange behavior in the middle of the novel, but I remain committed to the partial-viewing-of-the-Entertainment hypothesis, the heroic partial overcoming of which in evidence during the “Year of Glad” chapter I think better matches DFW’s existential themes. I think they must have really dug up Himself’s head, even if that seems to introduce precognitive dreams into the world of the novel alongside “wraiths,” and I suspect a microwave-destroyed copy of the master was inside. There is no anti-Entertainment. I don’t think the Entertainment ends the world, a la Dollhouse‘s “Epitaph One”; what it does is both less and more apocalyptic than that. Whether or not John Wayne was a spy he was “on Hal’s side” by the grave and whatever came later, and I guess he probably died somewhere along the way, somehow. I don’t know if I think Hal gets better. I think things get worse for Pemulis. I think O.N.A.N. dissolves.

But the impulse to make this sort of over-interpretive effort is itself a kind of misreading of the novel, which is, we must recognize, explicitly anticonfluential along the theories of Himself’s own films. The displeasure of this sort of text is laid out unmistakably for us within the novel itself:

It was only after Himself’s death that critics and theorists started to treat this question as potentially important. A woman at U. Cal-Irvine had earned tenure with an essay arguing that the reason-versus-no-reason debate about what was unentertaining in Himself’s work illuminated the central conundra of millennial après-garde film, most of which, in the teleputer age of home-only entertainment, involved the question why so much aesthetically ambitious film was so boring and why so much shitty reductive commercial entertainment was so much fun. (947)

The book—which, centered as it is around a mind-consuming MacGuffin called “the Entertainment” that destroys your ability to think, and therefore live, refuses to entertain us—is an object lesson in the fact that literature is about something other, and we can hope more, than mere pleasure. Infinite Jest is extremely fun at times and incredibly tedious at others—but in its mammoth scale, sprawling scope, and discontinuous presentation it could only ever leave us with a kind of unfulfilled, anti-entertained sense of disappointment at its end. To see the missing Year of Glad or to know X, Y, and Z about it would not change that inevitable anticlimax; in all likelihood it would only bring the discomforting divide between literature and Entertainment into even sharper relief while in the process sacrificing the calculated denial of easy pleasure that is at the core of the novel’s claims to aesthetic worth. To try to close a narrative like this one is a readerly impulse that is almost impossible to avoid—it was, I’ll admit, essentially the first thing I embarked on when I put down the book—but we should only attempt to do so with the understanding that we can’t, and knowing that if we were better readers of Wallace we wouldn’t even try. The ending was never and could never have been what Infinite Jest is about; that’s why it comes first.