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The Schtitto-Marathian Critique

July 1, 2009

Have you noticed the similarity between the arguments contra the American pursuit of personal happiness laid out by Schtitt on pgs. 79 ff. and by Marathe on pgs. 105 ff.? The parts where Schtitt calls the U.S. “a sort of sloppy intersection of desires and fears, where the only public consensus a boy must surrender to is the acknowledged primacy of straight-line pursuing this flat and short-sighted idea of personal happiness,” and Marathe says “In such an instance you are a fanatic of desire, a slave to your individual subjective narrow self’s sentiments; a citizen of nothing… You are by yourself and alone, kneeling to yourself” ?

The arguments put forth on these pages are, I think, the crux of Wallace’s critique of contemporary U.S. culture — the critique that’s at the very heart of Infinite Jest. Everything that happens in the rest of the book is in some way an exegesis  of this critique, or a refutation of it, or a limit-test on it, or an illustration of its implications; in other words, Infinite Jest is a 1000-page unpacking of this very argument and an exploration, in exhaustive detail, of what the argument means and what its consequences are.

Pay close attention.

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