Fun with Triangles
I’m just gonna throw this right out there. No idea, really, what the significance is.
- On p. 502 a young James Incandenza describes how he knocked over a lamp in his bedroom, which in turn sheared off his bedroom door’s knob, which “began then to roll around in a remarkable way, the sheared end of the hex bolt stationary and the round knob, rolling on its circumference, circling it in a spherical orbit, describing two perfectly spherical motions on two distinct axes.” In other words, “a circle was rolling around what was itself the circumference of a circle” (cf. the fitviavi mold used to synthesize DMZ, which itself only grows on other molds).It’s kind of hard to imagine this (and what’s with that totally useless diagram in the book? All I can say is WTF), so take a look at the photo below, which, if I’m reading correctly, shows a physical model of what Wallace is talking about. The wire arcs denote the path of a single point on the handle of Wallace’s doorknob as it rolls around the stationary end of the hex bolt. This totally cool image, btw, came from Cornell University.
The important thing to note here is that if you were to look straight down on the image from above, the wire arcs would look like a triangle. In other words, you’d be looking at a triangle within a circle.
- Triangle within a circle, eh? Where have we seen that before? Check p. 445, where Gately is describing biker Bob Death of water-joke fame: “the guy’s got a jailhouse tatt of AA’s weird little insignia of a triangle within a circle.” Hmmm.
- Finally, recall that Wallace said the book was loosely structured like a Sierpinski gasket, which is a fractal built out of an infinite number of triangles.
- UPDATE — Thanks, Matthew Morse! P. 476-477: “The giant distant CITGO sign’s like a triangular star to steer by… everyone says [it’s] hollow and you can get up inside there and stick your head out in a pulsing neon sea but nobody’s ever personally been up there.”
In all three four instances, you’ve got a big ol’ triangle smack in the center of these visual constructions. Like I said, I’m at a loss as to the significance, if any, of the connection. I’m particularly baffled re: what the rolling doorknob has to do with the development of JOI’s interest in “the possibilities of annulation,” other than the obvious fact of a circle rolling around on the circumference of another circle. There is a certain michevious irony in the fact that JOI, who eventually drinks himself to suicide, is launched on his career path by a geometric shape that’s an analog of the AA logo.