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Wow, after all that, I left out an important part: the second half of my argument. I said that the Eschaton section shows that the effort to separate one’s self from the world is doomed to fail, and gave as justification for that assertion the denouement of the scene. But that’s just plot interpretation; here’s how I back it up with the actual text.

The section starts out by distinguishing very carefully between map and territory. We get a couple pages specifying in great detail what real-world objects stand for what game-state concepts:

The black cotton E.T.A. armbands — for when God forbid there’s a death — designate the noncontemporary game-era’s atomic power plants, uranium-/plutonium-enrichment facilities, gaseous diffusion plants, breeder reactors, initiator factories, neutron-scattering-reflector labs, tritium-production reactor vessels, heavy-water plants, semiprivate shaped-charge concerns, linear accelerators, and the especially point-heavy Annular Fusion research laboratories in North Syracuse NNY and Presque Isle ME, Chyonskrg Kurgistan and Pliscu Romania, and possibly elsewhere. (323)

This section can be mildly tedious, since it feels like an extraneously obsessive level of detail on dry military simulation. (Personally, I find the almost compulsive thoroughness amusing.) But the point is to ground the map side of the game firmly in facts and details. It says, These are the real items (“[B]oys’ tennis socks or boys’ street-shoe socks or girls’ tennis socks with the little bunny-tail at the heel or girls’ tennis socks w/o the bunny-tail,” 324) on the real-world side of the game, and this is the algorithm that lets you interpret them in terms of the game. The focus on the symbolic relationship between real objects and their referents in the game underscores that those objects and their referents are not the same thing.

Then there’s about two pages told almost strictly from the territory. The development of the Triggering Situation is comical, and has kind of a plot line to it, but the text gives no way to know whether there are real-world analogues to the events described. Does “A single one-megaton SS10 evades antimissile missiles and detonates just over Provo UT, from which all communications abruptly cease” correspond to a child’s lobbing a tennis ball toward the AMNAT territory? The book doesn’t say. (I’m inclined to think not, mostly because in this section, we’d have been told so if it were so.) But the point is that this bit of the Eschaton section is heavily involved in expanding on the territory side of the game with (nearly) no reference to the map side; the two are highly differentiated.

Until the attacks start. If you read my previous post, you know that I leaned pretty heavily on an interpretation of Eschaton’s rules that characterizes attacks as the asymptote of the rules’ distinction between map and territory; beginning with the first explicit attack made by an Eschaton player, the text itself shows the breakdown of that distinction. What actually happens is that Evan Ingersoll is lobbing old tennis balls at socks placed on a particular part of the tennis court. What that represents is an alliance of Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Syria firing 5-megaton warheads at missile silos operated by the Soviet Union in the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. But what we’re told is, “IRLIBSYR’s Evan Ingersoll starts lobbing warheads at SOVWAR’s belt of Third-Wave reserve silos in the Kazakh” (327). Unless we read carefully, making sure to separate map references from territory references, it’s easy to miss the elision between the two. This kind of vacillating between map and territory within the same sentence occurs throughout the section—my favorite short example is “Lamont Chu is throwing up into the Indian Ocean” (341), but by far the best longer one is when Air Marshal Ann Kittenplan finally loses it:

Kittenplan shakes Chu’s arm loose and darts over and extracts a warhead from SOVWAR’s portable stockpile and shouts out that well OK then if players can be targets then in that case: and she fires a real screamer at Ingersoll’s head, which Ingersoll barely blocks with his Rossignol and shrieks that Kittenplan can’t launch anything at anything because she’s been vaporized by a 5-megaton contact-burst. Kittenplan tells Ingersoll to write his congressman about it. . . . (339)

Look at all that: Kittenplan (map/territory) extracts (map) a warhead (territory) from SOVWAR’s (territory) portable (map) stockpile (territory) and says if players (map/territory) can be targets (territory) then in that case: and she fires a real screamer (map) at Ingersoll’s head (map/territory), which Ingersoll blocks with his Rossignol (map/territory), saying she’s been vaporized by a 5-megaton contact-blast (territory). So she tells him to write his congressman (not map or territory, actually, but a map-context reference to the government structures that the players represent for the territory; even funnier).

The text consistently undercuts the distinction between map and territory, in exactly the way that gets Pemulis so worked up. And that’s the textual support for the argument I made (or intended to make) in my previous post: The section begins with a rigorous separation between them, but lapses into a narrative confusion of the two that mirrors the plot-level collapse, so that we have both plot and text illustrating the untenability of the distinction.

If I had a Luger pointed at me and were under compulsion to try to pick my favorite section of Infinite Jest, I’d choose the Eschaton game. I know it greatly annoys some readers, but I think it’s some of the funniest, most brutal, most skillfully written stuff in the book. That may sound incongruous, with AMNAT and SOVWAR and IRLIBSYR and SPASEX and SUFDDIR and so on, but then there’s this:

Uninitiated adults who might be parked in a nearby mint-green advertorial Ford sedan or might stroll casually past E.T.A.’s four easternmost tennis courts and see an atavistic global-nuclear-conflict game played by tanned and energetic little kids and so this might naturally expect to see fuzzless green warheads getting whacked indiscriminately skyward all over the place as everybody gets blackly drunk with thanatoptic fury in the crisp November air — these adults would more likely find an actual game of Eschaton strangely subdued, almost narcotized-looking. Your standard round of Eschaton moves at about the pace of chess between adepts. For these devotees become, on court, almost parodically adult — staid, sober, humane, and judicious twelve-year-old world leaders, trying their best not to let the awesome weight of their responsibilities — responsibilities to nation, globe, rationality, ideology, conscience and history, to both the living and the unborn — not to let the terrible agony they feel at the arrival of this day — this dark day the leaders’ve prayed would never come and have taken every conceivable measure rationally consistent with national strategic interest to avoid, to prevent — not to let the agonizing weight of responsibility compromise their resolve to do what they must to preserve their people’s way of life. So they play, logically, cautiously, so earnest and deliberate in their calculations they appear thoroughly and queerly adult, almost Talmudic, from a distance. A couple gulls fly overhead. (327)

That’s intelligent, empathetic, supple writing, with some birds practically borrowed from Elizabeth Bishop at the end (and “blackly drunk with thanatoptic fury in the crisp November air” is something special), and it’s just one sample. The rhythmic juxtaposition of long segments on Cold War geopolitical simulation and little punctuations of other business—including repeated reminders that these are, after all, children (“A couple ostensible world leaders run here and there in a rather unstatesmanlike fashion with their open mouths directed at the sky, trying to catch bits of the fall’s first snow”)—is powerfully effective. The plot of this section (for a clear breakdown, see infinitedetox’s “Eschaton in Bullet Points”), based as it is on a children’s game about nuclear apocalypse and (repeated phrase!) “the remorseless logic of game theory,” has an inexorability to it that is apparent from the beginning: 12-year-olds playing a game that can finish with massive nuclear exchange and global annihilation will always finish that way. The end is predetermined; the suspense, then, is in how that end comes. The extended technical passages and small interruptions increase this suspense by hanging the development of the plot over your head just a little longer, which in turn heightens the payoff when the situation devolves past the promised in-game conflagration to a vicious real-life brawl. (For me, the bottom of 335 is where events go irreversibly into motion: “Hal can almost visualize a dark lightbulb going on above Ingersoll’s head.”) Reading just for appreciation of craft, rather than for plot or metatext, I’m amazed by DFW’s adeptness at managing so many characters—and the characters they play in their game—and so much incident in such a finely constructed manner.

But let’s read for metatext! There were some great readings of this section when it came up on the Infinite Summer schedule: Gerry Canavan made an imposingly deep connection between Ingersoll and postmodernism (and exposed to me my own impatience with Baudrillard); infinitedetox keyed Eschaton to Yeats’s “The Second Coming” and looked at collapsing boundaries between reality and fiction; Chris Forster considered the merging of reality and that which represents reality (and speculated on the identity of IJ’s narrator); and Daryl Houston contemplated the blurring of referential frames generally. These are all insightful constructions of the text, and they catch on to the feeling that this section is about something, that it’s dramatizing some literary or philosophical argument. I want to build from Chris’s idea and suggest that the argument is over engagement with “reality,” the world—everything that is the case.

Eschaton is fundamentally a representational game. Everything about it is intended as abstraction from actual fact: The courts stand for a map (which represents the Earth), shoes symbolize subs, all-caps acronyms signify either nation-states and their alliances (whose leaders are impersonated by the players) or military equivocations (which encode more direct expressions of truth). We’re even told flat-out in the first graf that the game’s appeal comes from, among other factors, “a complete disassociation from the realities of the present.” It’s the breach of this abstraction that so enrages Pemulis:

Players themselves can’t be valid targets. Players aren’t inside the goddamn game. Players are part of the apparatus of the game. They’re part of the map. It’s snowing on the players but not on the territory. They’re part of the map, not the cluster-fucking territory. You can only launch against the territory. Not against the map. It’s like the one ground-rule boundary that keeps Eschaton from degenerating into chaos. Eschaton gentlemen is about logic and axiom and mathematical probity and discipline and verity and order.

. . . . .

[T]he reason players aren’t explicitly exempted in the ESCHAX.DIR is that their exemption is what makes Eschaton and its axioms fucking possible in the first place. . . . [B]ecause use your heads otherwise nonstrategic emotions would get aroused and Combatants would be whacking balls at each other’s physical persons all the time and Eschaton wouldn’t even be possible in its icily elegant game-theoretical form. . . . Players’ exemption from strikes goes without saying, Pemulis says; it’s like preaxiomatic. (338)

For Pemulis, Eschaton is a totalizing abstraction that rejects all of the messiness of real life (which, from what we know about his household, is an understandable longing) and replaces it with math.

(Tangent here that began as a mere parenthetical but blossomed. Remember that in n. 324, Pemulis gives Postal Weight a pep talk about how, when the loving father has failed you, math will always be there and will always be true. This is Pemulis’s consolation for a childhood that the narrator refuses, on 154, to even tell us about, but that we know of from Matty Pemulis’s memories starting on 682—no wonder he tells Postal Weight to “never trust the father you can see.” So that’s what Pemulis has riding on the permanence of Eschaton’s icy elegance and discipline and order: the belief that there is, after all, anything in the world that can be trusted. Of course he gets so upset to see that all melted. And now I’m terribly, terribly sad for him that that was taken, and mildly menaced by the specific form his abandonment of the Eschaton players “to let them all lie in their own bed” takes.)

And but so Pemulis sees Eschaton as a complete system of abstractions that permit play within their limits (like the lines of a tennis court, maybe, only more so). But I think his point about the players only being part of the map, not of the territory, is wrong. It gets confusing, because the representation seems to go in the wrong direction: The map in this case is real objects in a particular configuration, and the territory (the signified) represented by the map is fictional. But look at it this way: The map is a physical representation of the game state. (O. Lord, as God, spends some of his time “removing vaporized articles of clothing from sites of devastating hits and just woppsing them up or folding them over at the sites of near-hits and fizzle yields,” 328.) Changes to the map are only meaningful to the game state in terms of what already completed changes of the game state they reflect; changes made to the map cannot initiate changes of the game state. (This is why snow on the map wouldn’t matter to the territory.)

Except in the case of players attacking. That is the one time in the game (as it is explained) that changes of the game state—the territory—are effected by interaction with the map. In fact, interactions with map and with territory become united; it’s not a change to one reflecting a change to the other, but instead changing both in one action. It’s a special case that amounts to an inversion of the rules, which is my explanation for why it’s not mentioned in the rules at all. The way I read this setup, Eschaton is presented as a complete abstraction of physical engagement that is fundamentally dependent on (wait for it) physical engagement with the apparatus of the abstraction. At the heart of Eschaton’s icy elegance is the whacking of a ball, powered by the lived systems of highly trained athletic human bodies. The rules can’t take cognizance of this fact, because it negates them. To admit that the game’s abstraction is built on this physical effort is to reveal that abstraction as a sham.

So this rigid differentiation that infinitetasks sees as fiction from reality, Chris sees as representation from reality, and Daryl sees as one referential frame from another—it can’t be done. Taken as a symbol of this effort to differentiate the one from the other (which I think it is), Eschaton shows that the effort must fail. It can’t be accomplished in the first place (the rules can’t be complete), and the pretense that it can be accomplished will ultimately drop. That’s what we see when the game veers into mayhem that actually hospitalizes at least one child. [UPDATE: To see the argument that underpins this declaration, go here.] For me, the distinction that this scene argues can’t be made is that of the self from the world. I take the abstraction of Eschaton to stand for a withdrawal from the facts of the world—exactly the way Pemulis (the main spokesperson for Eschaton in the text) uses it. This understanding of the game puts it in a panoply of escapist and disengaging strategies in IJ: drug use, irony, compulsive sex, emotional detachment, entertainment consumption. (I could probably go on.) Like all of those strategies, this abstraction is unsustainable, and leads eventually to bad, bad trouble.

The solution? Exactly the same one the book offers over and over again, in various forms: Engage. Connect. Communicate. Deal with the facts of the world as they are, not as you wish them to be. Real life is messy and often unkind, but withdrawing from that mess and unkindness will not fix it. As Gately learns on 446, “the way it gets better and you get better is through pain. Not around pain, or in spite of it.”

I’ve had great fun with Infinite Summer. I mean, any time with Infinite Jest is well spent, as far as I’m concerned, but the IS community made it a new experience all over again, and added so much to my reading (and future rereadings) of the book. I think this whole project might actually have been something like the apotheosis of reading IJ, the ultimate Aufhebung (I’m treading deep water here, and may end up over my head) of the solitary experience of reading a novel so sincerely concerned that people only connect. The guides at IS brought various perspectives, the forums really opened things up, and the bloggers did some fantastic detailed work to enrich the reading; I particularly want to thank Daryl, Jeffrey, and Aaron for their dedication and insight.

What I’ve been less pleased with is my own participation here. My posts have, overall, been somewhat shallower and more disjointed than I was hoping for when I undertook to blog along with IS. Now that I don’t feel the constraint of the spoiler line, and won’t have the “news cycle” of the week’s reading schedule to write against, I want to rectify that. So I’m going to finish up my own Infinite Summer this fall with a few more posts on some things I didn’t get to. First up: Eschaton.

Wraiths, huh? Jeffrey at Infinite Tasks has expected a ghost for a while now, which goes to show that some people pay a lot more attention to things like Hamlet parallels than some other people. (In truth, the college course I first read this book for was organized around the theme of postmodern ghost stories [House of Leaves, The Body Artist, Infinite Jest, and Beloved—quite a quarter], and still I was surprised when J.O.I.’s wraith showed up. I got so involved in the book that I forgot that part.) But I don’t think any of us expected Lyle to have been a wraith the whole time, although it does explain how he could survive on sweat and Diet Coke alone. Wraith activity wraps up the riddle of why objects are mysteriously appearing around E.T.A. in odd places; the first one, if I remember correctly, was the cinematic tripod that the U.S.S. Millicent Kent found during “MARIO INCANDENZA’S FIRST AND ONLY EVEN REMOTELY ROMANTIC EXPERIENCE, THUS FAR.” When I say “why,” there, though, it’s only the “why” of causation (“Because they are being moved by at least one wraith”). The “why” of intention, the “for what reason?,” I haven’t reasoned out.

Is there any connection between the abbreviation “E.T.A.,” Johnette Foltz’s misreading of Hal’s “weird woolly-white jacket with A.T.E. in red up one sleeve and in gray up the other” (p. 786), and Gately’s dream of himself and Joelle “in a Southern motel whose restaurant’s authoritarian sign said simply EAT” (p. 846)? Probably not, I suppose. Just half the available permutations.

What are we to make, in that same dream, of Joelle’s inhumanly beautiful body topped with Winston Churchill’s head? We’ve seen that description before: It’s Ortho Stice on p. 636. It’s Stice who seems to be most affected by the wraith activity at E.T.A., and Joelle is strongly connected to J.O.I. Perhaps J.O.I. is attempting to get to Hal through tennis, using Stice as a tool, the same way he used Joelle to try to get to Hal through film. Hal’s near-loss to Stice (including some incredibly unlikely points for Stice that may have been shepherded by a wraith) seems to be one of the catalysts that leads to the changes in Hal through the second half of the book.

Why does the header on p. 851 include the “GAUDEAMUS IGITUR” that accompanied Interdependence Day headers 12 days before? Is it just because of the fund-raising gala that day? That seems a weak explanation for the presence of such a charged tag.

On that day, at what may be almost 5:00 a.m., Hal finds a bathroom window open (p. 864); who left it open? Was it the person he sees through the window, stretched out over three rows of the bleachers like deLint at the Hal/Stice exhibition match for Steeply (p. 867)? Who is that person, and why do they just lie there under deeper and deeper snow? For that matter, was the window left open by someone going out, or to allow someone in? And most vexing (in its incongruousness), why does the clock in the bathroom have the wrong date on it (p. 865)? The time seems probably correct—it says “EST0456,” and Hal tells us his dream woke him that morning “before 0500h.”—but the date is two days behind. Someone could have changed the date, obviously, but who, and for what purpose? It wouldn’t make sense as an A.F.R. tactic, since they plan to arrive that day in the stead of the Québecois kids. Puzzling.

We get a lot of emphasis in these November 20 sections on how Hal’s subjective experience of his emotions doesn’t match up with his external expressions, but we also learn that this mismatch appears to have begun on Thursday, November 19. (For Thursday, see n. 321: “Thursday, 12 November”; for November 19, see p. 899: “The woman behind the register at the Shell station last night had recoiled as I approached to present my card before pumping, as if she too had seen something in my expression I hadn’t known was there.” Incidentally, that’s two days after the horrible, excruciating Robert Bly–type meeting in Natick, “the most distant and obscure Tuesday P.M. Meeting” [p. 795].) Interestingly, Stice and Mario read sadness in Hal, while Kenkle and Coyle see great amusement; Hal professes neither. I think somebody slipped Hal some DMZ, but as far as I can tell, there’s no E.T.A. narration of November 19 to back me up or contradict me. My instinct is to strongly believe that it was Pemulis (we know he wants Hal to take the DMZ, and we know he’s not above drugging people without their knowledge), but again, there’s no direct evidence either way. Pemulis tries to talk to Hal about the DMZ on p. 908, and in an undated and context-free graf on p. 916 he finds his stash missing, which together may indicate that someone else has got their hands on the stuff.

We get about 75 pages of suspense about why Troeltsch is snoring in Axford’s room, until Coyle drops it on Hal that Troeltsch asked for a room switch. I figure that probably had to do with the bad blood that would necessarily arise between Troeltsch and his erstwhile roommate Michael Pemulis after Troeltsch ate “some enormous wedge of putrid deal-cutting cheese” (p. 1075) with regard to John Wayne’s drugging. (Also interesting—and pointed out at Infinite Summer and probably on numerous of the blogs—is that even when Wayne’s speech becomes a major plot point, he never speaks for himself “on camera.” We get reports of what he said, and in other places we get “interpretations” of things he has said, but we never hear him speak.) Any particular reason why Axford, though? Perhaps Troeltsch just wanted to switch away from Pemulis, and Axford was willing because he and Pemulis are close enough that Axford is the only person other than Pemulis and Hal in on the DMZ caper. Which does make him the only other person (excepting the Antitois) who knows that Pemulis has any DMZ, and where Pemulis might keep it. . . . (This may also be relevant to the fact that, as the Infinite Summer folks have worked out, Axford is probably the narrator of the very last E.T.A. section, beginning on p. 964.)

And I don’t know what to make of Gately’s dream about digging up J.O.I.’s head with Hal (p. 934). I’m not sure it can be squared with Hal’s brief mention on p. 17 of the actual digging up. I’m tempted to read Gately’s dream as nonliteral, particularly because of the appearance of Joelle “with wings and no underwear.” Even more, though, the whole mood of the thing doesn’t seem to work. In the dream, Gately and Hal are apparently working to avert a Continental Emergency by digging up J.O.I.’s head (and presumably locating the Master of the Entertainment), and then they find the head and are somehow too late. But if John Wayne (who is not mentioned in Gately’s dream) is forcing them to dig up the head, it must be in pursuit of the Master for the A.F.R., in which case timeliness could hardly avert a disaster; it would rather help perpetrate it. But if it’s a dream-logic dream, rather than a true-prediction dream, I don’t know what we’re supposed to get out of it.

I suspect Hal’s panic attack that starts on p. 896 is the reason for his first-ever trip to the emergency room (p. 16; note particularly that he mentions a “psychiatric stretcher”); the nearest emergency room to E.T.A. would be the same emergency room that’s nearest to Ennet House (St. Elizabeth’s), so it seems likely to me that Hal and Gately meet in the hospital.

So many questions. I don’t know whether the answers can all be worked out; infinitedetox thinks they can’t, and uses the Sierpinski gasket in a wonderful argument for why they aren’t presented that is nevertheless unconvincing on the matter of whether they are knowable. But I guess, to a certain extent, I’m OK either way. I enjoy trying to find the answers, particularly in the company of the Infinite Summer participants, but if it turns out that some of the plot questions are ultimately irresolvable—well, the plot isn’t one of the reasons that Infinite Jest is my number 1 book.

So here’s why I think the smiley-face-embossed cartridge cases Marathe sees in Pat Montesian’s cabinet at Ennet House (p. 750) contain the duplicable Master of the Entertainment. It’s less rigorous reasoning, I admit, than I usually go for (see the title of the post), but for now I’m comfortable with a preponderance-of-the-evidence situation here.

Counting the chain of custody backward link by link, we learn on p. 754 that Clenette Henderson brought the cartridges downhill from E.T.A. as donations. We know Clenette works at E.T.A. as “one of the nine-month temps from down the hill” (p. 527), and on 11/11/Y.D.A.U., at dinnertime, Hal sees Clenette on her way back down to Ennet House with “a bulging backpack on her back, as in bulging maybe with dumpster-pilferage” (pp. 633–4).

(Some quick and disappointing timeline work proves that that backpack can’t contain the cartridges in question—Pat says Clenette brought them down “this afternoon,” so the question becomes, On which day does Marathe try to check in to Ennet House? Unfortunately, on p. 776 he tells Kate Gompert he has spent all day trying to find Madame Psychosis; Kate, who has stumbled into the bar to recover from being slammed into a lamppost by Poor Tony Krause when he stole her handbag—on 14 November [p. 682]. So that’s a bummer, but it doesn’t rule out the possibility that donie-cartridges from E.T.A. are somewhat regular, as Pat’s casual mention of them may even hint. I’ll take that hint, anyway.)

But why to believe that a backpack bulging with dumpster-pilferage might contain cartridges? It turns out we’ve seen cartridges consigned to the trash at E.T.A. The Tunnel Club does it, the same day that Hal sees Clenette with her backpack, on p. 670:

One whole box on its side with its frayed strapping tape split has spilled part of a load of old TP-cartridges, old and mostly unlabelled, out onto the tunnel floor in a fannish pattern, and Gopnik and Peterson complain that the cartridge-cases’ sharp edges put holes in their Glad bags, and Blott is dispatched with three bags of cartridges and fruit rinds, each only about half full, back to the lit vestibule outside the Comm.-Ad. tunnel’s start, where a serious pile of bags is starting to pile fragrantly up.

In the impressionistic mode of criticism I’m about to adopt, the throwaway nature of this moment tags it for my attention. That is, the Tunnel Club scene builds to a comic anticlimax that I think is a misdirection. I think the Goonies lightheartedness Paul notes is designed to conceal an important plot-mechanical revelation.

I’m building here on Daryl’s idea that the Tunnel Club scene might somehow represent an underworld scene. There are certainly cues for that association—the punishment angle, the heat, the subterranean location—but like Daryl, I wouldn’t want to be forced to push it. Instead, it seems to me we’re meant more specifically to think of Himself’s grave.

Remember from note 234 that Himself was buried “in the Moms’s family plot. St. Quelquechose Quebec or something. . . . Heart of the Concavity. . . . Bad ecocycles, real machete-country” (p. 1041). And there’s a suggestion on p. 31 that an entertainment cartridge may be implanted in Himself’s head, which dovetails with p. 993′s note that the Master cartridge of Infinite Jest (V?) may be “vaulted sui testator.”

We’re reminded over and over again in this section of the Concavity, directly and indirectly. The direct references are easy: Kent Blott insists he’s seen a “Concavitated feral hamster” (p. 668), and there’s a whole catalog of the various horrors of the Concavity—mile-high toddlers, skull-deprived wraiths, marsh gas that melts your face off (p. 670). Then, innocently, in the next graf after this parade of horribles related to the Concavity, come the TP cartridges. The indirect reminders of the Concavity that I notice are on p. 667. In the same graf, we have the tunnels characterized as essentially overgrown (with trash) during the warm season (which sounds like the Moms’s family plot’s “bad ecocycles”) and we see wrappers for cans of Habitant pea soup, which we know is a favorite of Marathe and the Antitois, all Quebecois.

So there’s our Concavity angle. The death component is actually where the little scene peaks, with the smell of “a like decay-element” (p. 672) and some sub-14′s creative misquotation of the Bible (“This is Death. Woe unto those that gazeth on Death,” p. 673). Every time I read this scene, I actually expect the Tunnel Club to find J.O.I.’s head in that fridge, not just mayonnaise, orange juice, sandwich meat, and maggots.

The point I want to make is that these impressions all combine to suggest that the Master of the Entertainment may be among the cartridges the Tunnel Club hauls out for disposal. The text doesn’t make any definite statement on the matter; in fact, it doesn’t even explicitly raise the subject. But I’m arguing that it implicitly associates these trash cartridges with death and the Concavity so that when we make the speculative connection between them and the cartridges donated to Ennet House that bear the smiley-face symbol we’ve come to associate with the Entertainment, we can also connect them to the suspected disposition of the Entertainment’s Master.

So, y’know, Q.E.D.