my favorite Infinite Jest quotes

“The feeling is why I want to. The feeling is the reason I want to die. I’m here because I want to die. That’s why I’m in a room without windows and with cages over the lightbulbs and no lock on the toilet door. Why they took my shoelaces and my belt. But I notice they don’t take away the feeling do they.”

‘Well this–she gestured at herself–‘isn’t a state. This is a feeling. I feel it all over. In my arms and legs. (…) ‘All over. My head, throat, butt. In my stomach. It’s all over everywhere. I don’t know what I could call it. It’s like I can’t get enough outside it to call it anything. It’s like horror more than sadness. It’s more like horror. It’s like something horrible is about to happen, the most horrible thing you can imagine–no, worse than you can imagine because there’s the feeling that there’s something you have to do right away to stop it but you don’t know what it is you have to do, 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.’

“Mario is basically a born listener. One of the positives to being visibly damaged is that people can sometimes forget you’re there, even when they’re interfacing with you. You almost get to eavesdrop. It’s almost like they’re like: If nobody’s really in there, there’s nothing to be shy about. That’s why bullshit often tends to drop away around damaged listeners, deep beliefs revealed, diary-type private reveries indulged out loud (…)”

“A traditional aural-only conversation — utilizing a hand- held phone whose earpiece contained only 6 little pinholes but whose mouthpiece (rather significantly, it later seemed) contained (62) or 36 little pinholes — let you enter a kind of highway-hypnotic semi-attentive fugue: while conversing, you could look around the room, doodle, fine-groom, peel tiny bits of dead skin away from your cuticles, compose phone-pad haiku, stir things on the stove; you could even carry on a whole separate additional sign-language-and-exaggerated-facial-expression type of conversation with people right there in the room with you, all while seeming to be right there attending closely to the voice on the phone. (…) It was an illusion and the illusion was aural and aurally supported: the phone-line’s other end’s voice was dense, tightly compressed, and vectored right into your ear, enabling you to imagine that the voice’s owner’s attention was similarly compressed and focused . . . even though your own attention was not, was the thing. This bilateral illusion of unilateral attention was almost infantilely gratifying from an emotional standpoint: you got to believe you were receiving somebody’s complete attention without having to return it. Regarded with the objectivity of hindsight, the illusion appears arational, almost literally fantastic; it would be like being able to both lie and trust other people at the same time.”

“He knew what the Beats know and what the great tennis player knows, son: learn to do nothing, with your whole head and body, and everything will be done by what’s around you.”

“He liked that sort of dreamy, dreaming music that had the rhythm of long things swinging.”

“And Lo, for the Earth was empty of Form, and void.
And Darkness was all over the Face of the Deep.
And We said:
‘Look at that fucker Dance’.”

“Her voice seems low-depth familiar to Mario the way certain childhood smells will strike you as familiar and oddly sad. ‘All ye peronic or teratoidal. The phrenologically malformed. The sup-puratively lesioned. The endocrinologically malodorous of whatever ilk. Run don’t walk on down. The acervulus-nosed. The radically — ectomied. The morbidly diaphoretic with a hankie in every pocket. The chronically granulomatous. The ones it says here the ones the cruel call Two-Baggers — one bag for your head, one bag for the observer’s head in case your bag falls off. The hated and dateless and shunned, who keep to the shadows. Those who undress only in front of their pets. The quote aesthetically challenged. Leave your lazarettes and oubliettes, I’m reading this right here, your closets and cellars and TP Tableaux, find Nurturing and Support and the Inner Resources to face your own unblinking sight, is what this goes on to say, a bit overheatedly maybe. Is it our place to say. It says here Hugs Not Ughs. It says Come don the veil of the type and token. Come learn to love what’s hidden inside.”

“If, by the virtue of charity or the circumstance of desperation, you ever chance to spend a little time around a Substance-recovery halfway facility like Enfield MA’s state-funded Ennet House, you will acquire many exotic new facts (…) That certain persons simply will not like you no matter what you do. That sleeping can be a form of emotional escape and can with sustained effort be abused. That purposeful sleep-deprivation can also be an abusable escape. That you do not have to like a person in order to learn from him/her/it. That loneliness is not a function of solitude. That logical validity is not a guarantee of truth. That it takes effort to pay attention to any one stimulus for more than a few seconds. That boring activities become, perversely, much less boring if you concentrate intently on them. That if enough people in a silent room are drinking coffee it is possible to make out the sound of steam coming off the coffee. That sometimes human beings have to just sit in one place and, like, hurt. That you will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do. That there is such a thing as raw, unalloyed, agendaless kindness. That it is possible to fall asleep during an anxiety attack.
That concentrating intently on anything is very hard work.
That most Substance -addicted people are also addicted to thinking, meaning they have a compulsive and unhealthy relationship with their own thinking. That the cute Boston AA term for addictive -type thinking is: Analysis-Paralysis.
That 99% of compulsive thinkers’ thinking is about themselves; that 99% of this self-directed thinking consists of imagining and then getting ready for things that are going to happen to them; and then, weirdly, that if they stop to think about it, that 100% of the things they spend 99% of their time and energy imagining and trying to prepare for all the contingencies and consequences of are never good. Then that this connects interestingly with the early-sobriety urge to pray for the literal loss of one’s mind. In short that 99% of the head’s thinking activity consists of trying to scare the everliving shit out of itself. That it is possible to make rather tasty poached eggs in a microwave oven. That some people’s moms never taught them to cover up or turn away when they sneeze. That the people to be the most frightened of are the people who are the most frightened. That it takes great personal courage to let yourself appear weak. That no single, individual moment is in and of itself unendurable. That other people can often see things about you that you yourself cannot see, even if those people are stupid. That having a lot of money does not immunize people from suffering or fear. That trying to dance sober is a whole different kettle of fish. That different people have radically different ideas of basic personal hygiene. That, perversely, it is often more fun to want something than to have it. That if you do something nice for somebody in secret, anonymously, without letting the person you did it for know it was you or anybody else know what it was you did or in any way or form trying to get credit for it, it’s almost its own form of intoxicating buzz. That anonymous generosity, too, can be abused. That it is permissible to want. That everybody is identical in their unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else. That this isn’t necessarily perverse. That there might not be angels, but there are people who might as well be angels.”

“It is the cage that has entered her somehow. The ingenuity of the whole thing is beyond her. The Fun has long since dropped off the Too Much. She’s lost the ability to lie to herself about being able to quit, or even about enjoying it, still. It no longer delimits and fills the hole. It no longer delimits the hole.”

“She had hurtled on back home on the night’s final T and gone home and at least finally not turned her face away from the situation, the predicament that she didn’t love it anymore she hated it and wanted to stop and also couldn’t stop or imagine stopping or living without it.”

Se eu desaparecer de novo, podem culpar David Foster Wallace. Creepy mind reader.

“What metro Boston AAs are trite but correct about is that both destiny’s kisses and its dope-slaps illustrate an individual person’s basic personal powerlessness over the really meaningful events in their life: i.e almost nothing important that ever happens to you happens because you engineer it. Destiny has no beeper; destiny always leans trenchcoated out of an alley with some sort of Psst that you usually can’t even hear because you’re in such a rush to or from something important you’ve tried to engineer.”

“He said she had a face that’d break your heart and then also break the heart of whoever like rushed over to your aid as you pitched over sideways grabbing your chest.”

“–and then you’re in serious trouble, very serious trouble, and you know it, finally, deadly serious trouble, because this Substance you thought was your one true friend, that you gave up all for, gladly, that for so long gave you relief from the pain of the Losses your love of that relief caused, your mother and lover and god and compadre, has finally removed its smily-face mask to reveal centerless eyes and a ravening maw, and canines down to here, it’s the Face In The Floor, the grinning root-white face of your worst nightmares, and the face is your own face in the mirror, now, it’s you, the Substance has devoured or replaced and become you, and the puke-, drool- and Substance-crusted T-shirt you’ve both worn for weeks now gets torn off and you stand there looking and in the root-white chest where your heart (given away to It) should be beating, in its exposed chest’s center and centerless eyes is just a lightless hole, more teeth, and a beckoning taloned hand dangling something irresistible, and now you see you’ve been had, screwed royal, stripped and fucked and tossed to the side like some stuffed toy to lie for all time in the posture you land in. You see now that It’s your enemy and your worst personal nightmare and the trouble It’s gotten you into is undeniable and you still can’t stop. Doing the Substance now is like attending Black Mass but you still can’t stop, even though the Substance no longer gets you high. You are, as they say, Finished. You cannot get drunk and you cannot get sober; you cannot get high and you cannot get straight. You are behind bars; you are in a cage and can see only bars in every direction. You are in the kind of a hell of a mess that either ends lives or turns them around. You are at a fork in the road that Boston AA calls your Bottom, though the term is misleading, because everybody here agrees it’s more like someplace very high and unsupported: you’re on the edge of something tall and leaning way out forward.”

“The empty expanse they both faced off the shelf sucked all resonance, causing every sound to sound self-enclosed and every utterance to seem flatly soft and somehow overintimate, almost post-coital.”

Achei que nenhuma literatura alcançaria o nível de humor sarcástico como forma de contar a história de algo socialmente grandioso quanto o fez Joseph Heller e também as relações humanas dentro daquele contexto (no caso, a 1ª Guerra Mundial), e provavelmente eu estava certo, mas admito que David Foster Wallace chega bem perto desse sarcasmo com Infinite Jest (no caso, a redivisão da contagem do tempo, união forçada de Canada-México-EUA e, claro, o estilo de vida dos E.U.A. hipotético retratado no livro).

“…and it’s one historical reason why all accredited tennis academies have to have a Ph.D.-level counselor on full-time staff, to screen student athletes for their possibly lethal reactions to ever actually reaching the level they’ve been pointed at for years. E.T.A.’s staff counselor is the bird-of-prey-faced Dr. Dolores Rusk, M.S., Ph.D., and she’s regarded by the kids as whatever’s just slightly worse than useless. You go in there with an Issue and all she’ll do is make a cage of her hands and look abstractly over the cage at you and take the last dependent clause of whatever you say and repeat it back to you with an interrogative lilt — ‘Possible homosexual attraction to your doubles partner?’ ‘Whole sense of yourself as a purposive male athlete messed with?’ ‘Uncontrolled boner during semis at Cleveland?’ ‘Drives you bats when people just parrot you instead of responding?’ ‘Having trouble keeping from twisting my twittery head off like a game-hen’s?’ — 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.”

“He notes how he’s observed already that some Catholics and Fundamentalists now in AA had a childhood understanding of a Stern and Punishing–type God, and Gately’s heard them express incredible Gratitude that AA let them at long last let go and change over to an understanding of a Loving, Forgiving, Nurturing–type God. But at least these folks started out with some idea of Him/Her/It, whether fucked up or no. You might think it’d be easier if you Came In with 0 in the way of denominational background or preconceptions, you might think it’d be easier to sort of invent a Higher-Powerish God from scratch and then like erect an understanding, but Don Gately complains that this has not been his experience thus far. His sole experience so far is that he takes one of AA’s very rare specific suggestions and hits the knees in the A.M. and asks for Help and then hits the knees again at bedtime and says Thank You, whether he believes he’s talking to Anything/-body or not, and he somehow gets through that day clean. This, after ten months of ear-smoking concentration and reflection, is still all he feels like he ‘understands’ about the ‘God angle.’ Publicly, in front of a very tough and hard-ass-looking AA crowd, he sort of simultaneously confesses and complains that he feels like a rat that’s learned one route in the maze to the cheese and travels that route in a ratty-type fashion and whatnot. W/ the God thing being the cheese in the metaphor. Gately still feels like he has no access to the Big spiritual Picture. He feels about the ritualistic daily Please and Thank You prayers rather like like a hitter that’s on a hitting streak and doesn’t change his jock or socks or pre-game routine for as long as he’s on the streak. W/ sobriety being the hitting streak and whatnot, he explains. The whole church basement is literally blue with smoke. Gately says he feels like this is a pretty limp and lame understanding of a Higher Power: a cheese-easement or unwashed athletic supporter. He says but when he tries to go beyond the very basic rote automatic get-me-through-this-day-please stuff, when he kneels at other times and prays or meditates or tries to achieve a Big-Picture spiritual understanding of a God as he can understand Him, he feels Nothing — not nothing but Nothing, an edgeless blankness that somehow feels worse than the sort of unconsidered atheism he Came In with. He says he doesn’t know if any of this is coming through or making any sense or if it’s all just still symptomatic of a thoroughgoingly Diseased will and quote ‘spirit.’ He finds himself telling the Tough Shit But You Still Can’t Drink audience dark doubtful thoughts he wouldn’t have fucking ever dared tell Ferocious Francis man to man. He can’t even look at F.F. in the Crocodile’s row as he says that at this point the God-understanding stuff kind of makes him want to puke, from fear. Something you can’t see or hear or touch or smell: OK. All right. But something you can’t even feel? Because that’s what he feels when he tries to understand something to really sincerely pray to. Nothingness. He says when he tries to pray he gets this like image in his mind’s eye of the brainwaves or whatever of his prayers going out and out, with nothing to stop them, going, going, radiating out into like space and outliving him and still going and never hitting Anything out there, much less Something with an ear. Much much less Something with an ear that could possibly give a rat’s ass. He’s both pissed off and ashamed to be talking about this instead of how just completely good it is to just be getting through the day without ingesting a Substance, but there it is. This is what’s going on. He’s no closer to carrying out the suggestion of the 3rd Step than the day the Probie drove him over to his halfway house from Peabody Holding. The idea of this whole God thing makes him puke, still. And he is afraid.”

“They neglect to tell you that after the urge to get high magically vanishes and you’ve been Substanceless for maybe six or eight months, you’ll begin to start to ‘Get In Touch’ with why it was that you used Substances in the first place. You’ll start to feel why it was you got dependent on what was, when you get right down to it, an anesthetic. ‘Getting In Touch With Your Feelings’ is another quilted-sampler-type cliche that ends up masking something ghastly deep and real, it turns out. It starts to turn out that the vapider the AA cliche, the sharper the canines of the real truth it covers.”

“For Hal, the general deal with his maternal uncle is that Tavis is terribly shy around people and tries to hide it by being very open and expansive and wordy and bluff, and that it’s very excruciating to be around. Mario’s way of looking at it is that Tavis is very open and expansive and wordy, but so clearly uses these qualities as a kind of protective shield that it betrays a frightened vulnerability almost impossible not to feel for. Either way, the unsettling thing about Charles Tavis is that he’s possibly the openest man of all time. Orin and Marlon Bain’s view was always that C.T. was less like a person than like a sort of cross-section of a person. Even the Moms Hal could remember relating anecdotes about how as a teenager, when she’d taken the child C.T. or been around him at Québecois functions or gatherings involving other kids, the child C.T. had been too self-conscious and awkward to join right in with any group of the kids clustered around, talking or plotting or whatever, and so Avril said she’d watch him just kind of drift from cluster to cluster and lurk around creepily on the fringe, listening, but that he’d always say, loudly, in some lull in the group’s conversation, something like ‘I’m afraid I’m far too self-conscious really to join in here, so I’m just going to lurk creepily at the fringe and listen, if that’s all right, just so you know,’ and so on.”

“What people don’t get about being hideously or improbably deformed is that the urge to hide is offset by a gigantic sense of shame about your urge to hide. You’re at a graduate wine-tasting party and improbably deformed and you’re the object of stares people try to conceal because they’re ashamed of wanting to stare, and you want nothing more than to hide from the convert stares, to erase your difference, to crawl under the tablecloth or put your face under your arm, or you pray for a power failure and for this kind of utter liberating equalizing darkness to descend so you can be reduced to nothing but a voice among other voices, invisible, equal, no different, hidden.”
“But you’re still a human being, you still want to live, you crave connection and society, you know intellectually that you’re no less worthy of connection and society than anyone else simply because of how you appear, you know that hiding away out of fear of gazes is really giving into a shame that is not required and that will keep you from the kind of life you deserve as much as the next girl, you know that you can’t help how you look but that you are supposed to be able to help how much you care about how you look. You’re supposed to be strong enough to exert some control over how much you want to hide, and you’re so desperate to feel some kind of control that you settle for the apparence of control.”
“Your voice gets different when you talk about this shit.”
“What you do is you hide your deep need to hide, and you do this out of the need to appear to other people as if you have the strength not to care how you appear to others. You stick your hideous face right in there into the wine-tasting crowd’s visual meatgrinder, you smile so wide it hurts and put out your hand and are extra gregarious and outgoing and exert yourself to appear totally unaware of the facial struggles of people who are trying not to wince or stare or give away the fact that they can see that you’re hideously, improbably deformed. You feign acceptance of your deformity. You take your desre to hide and conceal it under a mask of acceptance.”
“Use less words”
“In other words you hide your hiding.”

“It’s of some interest that the lively arts of the millenial U.S.A. treat anhedonia and internal emptiness as hip and cool. It’s maybe the vestiges of the Romantic glorification of Weltschmerz, which means world-weariness or hip ennui. Maybe it’s the fact that most of the arts here are produced by world-weary and sophisticated older people and then consumed by younger people who not only consume art but study it for clues on how to be cool, hip – and keep in mind that, for kids and younger people, to be hip and cool is the same as to be admired and accepted and included and so Unalone. Forget so-called peer-pressure. It’s more like peer-hunger. No? We enter a spiritual puberty where we snap to the fact that the great transcendent horror is loneliness, excluded encagement in the self. Once we’ve hit this age, we will now give or take anything, wear any mask, to fit, be part-of, not be Alone, we young. The U.S. arts are our guide to inclusion. A how-to. We are shown how to fashion masks of ennui and jaded irony at a young age where the face is fictile enough to assume the shape of whatever it wears. And then it’s stuck there, the weary cynicism that saves us from gooey sentiment and unsophisticated naivete. Sentiment equals naïveté on this continent…

…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 pules and writhes just under the hip empty mask, anhedonia.”

“At first, on the brick sidewalks of the stretch of Mass. Ave. between Harvard and Central, Lenz had thought they might be following him — he’d been followed a great deal in his time, and like the well-read Geoffrey D. he knew only too well thank you that the most fearsome surveillance got carried out by unlikely-looking people that followed you by walking in front of you with small mirrors in their glasses’ temples or elaborate systems of cellular communicators for reporting to the Command Center — or else also by helicopters, also, that flew too high to see, hovering, the tiny chop of their rotors disguised as your own drumming heart. But after he’d had success at successfully shaking the Chinese women twice — the second time so successfully he’d had to tear-ass around through alleys and vault wooden fences to pick them up again a couple blocks north on Bishop Allen Dr., scuttling along, jabbering — he’d settled down in his conviction about who was trailing who, here. As in just who had the controlling discretion over the general situation right here. The ejection from the House, which the ejection had at first seemed like the kiss of a death sentence, had turned out to maybe be just the thing. He’d tried the Straight On Narrow and for his pains had been threatened and dismissively sent off; he’d given it his best, and for the most part impressively; and he had been sent Away, Alone, and at least now could openly hide. R. Lenz lived by his wits out here, deeply disguised, on the amonymous streets of N. Cambridge and Somerville, never sleeping, ever moving, hiding in bright-lit and public plain sight, the last place They would think to find him.”

“Marathe was prepared to die violently at any time, which rendered him free to choose among emotions.”

“I like the fans’ sound at night. Do you? It’s like somebody big far away goes like: it’sOKit’sOKit’sOKit’sOK, over and over. From very far away.”

“Todd, trust math. As in Matics, Math E. First-order predicate logic. Never fail you. Quantities and their relation. Rates of change. The vital statistics of God or equivalent. When all else fails. When the boulder’s slid all the way back to the bottom. When the headless are blaming. When you do not know your way about. You can fall back and regroup around math. Whose truth is deductive truth. Independent of sense or emotionality. The syllogism. The identity. Modus Tollens. Transitivity. Heaven’s theme song. The night light on life’s dark wall, late at night. Heaven’s recipe book. The hydrogen spiral. The methane, ammonia, H2O. Nucleic acids. A and G, T and C. The creeping inevibatility. Caius is mortal. Math is not mortal. What it is is: listen: it’s true.”

“On his own doubles partner Hal Incandenza: ‘by all appearances addicted to everything that is not tied down, cannot outrun him, and is fittable in the mouth.’.”

“This was why I couldn’t get off and stay off. Just as the cliche warns. I literally wasn’t keeping it in the day. I was adding the clean days up in my head.” She cocked her head at him. “Did you ever hear of this fellow Evel Knievel? This motorcycle-jumper?
“At St. Collie only the Crocodiles’d heard of him. My own Daddy’d followed him, cut out pictures, as a boy.” Gately can tell she’s smiling under there. “But what I used to do, I’d throw away the pipe and shake my fist at the sky and say As God is my fucking witness NEVER AGAIN, as of this minute right here I QUIT FOR ALL TIME.” She also has this habit of absently patting the top of her head when she talks, where little barrettes and spongy clamps hold the veil in place. “And I’d bunker up all white-knuckled and stay straight. And count the days. I was proud of each day I stayed off. Each day seemed evidence of something, and I counted them. I’d add them up. Line them up end to end. You know?” Gately knows very well but doesn’t nod, lets her do this on just her own steam. She says “And soon it would get… improbable. As if each day was a car Knievel had to clear. One car, two cars. By the time I’d get up to say like maybe about 14 cars, it would begin to seem like this staggering number. Jumping over 14 cars. And the rest of the year, looking ahead, hundreds of cars, me in the air trying to clear them.” She left her head alone and cocked it. “Who could do it? How did I ever think anyone could do it that way?”

“But the panic was there too, endocrinal, paralyzing, and with an overcognitive, bad-trip-like element that I didn’t recognize from the very visceral on-court attacks of fear. Something like a shadow flanked the vividness and lucidity of the world. The concentration of attention did something to it. What didn’t seem fresh and unfamiliar seemed suddenly old as stone. It all happened in the space of a few seconds. The familiarity of Academy routine took on a crushing cumulative aspect. The total number of times I’d schlepped up the rough cement steps of the stairwell, seen my faint red reflection in the paint of the fire door, walked the 56 steps down the hall to our room, opened the door and eased it gently back flush in the jamb to keep from waking Mario. I reexperienced the years’ total number of steps, movements, the breaths and pulses involved. Then the number of times I would have to repeat the same processes, day after day, in all kinds of light, until I graduated and moved away and then began the same exhausting process of exit and return in some dormitory at some tennis-power university somewhere. Maybe the worst part of the cognitions involved the incredible volume of food I was going to have to consume over the rest of my life. Meal after meal, plus snacks. Day after day after day. Experiencing this food in toto. Just the thought of the meat alone. One megagram? Two megagrams? I experienced, vividly, the image of a broad cool well-lit room piled floor to ceiling with nothing but the lightly breaded chicken fillets I was going to consume over the next sixty years. The number of fowl vivisected for a lifetime’s meat. The amount of hydrochloric acid and bilirubin and glucose and glycogen and gloconol produced and absorbed and produced in my body. And another, dimmer room, filled with the rising mass of the excrement I’d produce, the room’s double-locked steel door gradually bowing outward with the mounting pressure… . I had to put my hand out against the wall and stand there hunched until the worst of it passed. (…)
“It now lately sometimes seemed like a kind of black miracle to me that people could actually care deeply about a subject or pursuit, and could go on caring this way for years on end. Could dedicate their entire lives to it. It seemed admirable and at the same time pathetic. We are all dying to give our lives away to something, maybe. God or Satan, politics or grammar, topology or philately–the object seemed incidental to this will to give oneself away, utterly. To games or needles, to some other person. Something pathetic about it.
A flight-from in the form of a plunging-into. Flight from exactly what? These rooms blandly filled with excrement and meat? To what purpose?”


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