“One small bright point”
A few notes on the latest Steeply/Marathe section (pp. 507-508):
- Steeply describes his colleague who viewed the Entertainment as follows: “His eyed wobbl[ed] around like some drug-addicted newborn.” This is another direct thematic link between the Entertainment itself, (in which, recall, Joelle speaks “inclined over that auto-wobbled lens propped up in the plaid-sided pram” (230)) and drug addiction. This could be really interesting: if the visual wobble effect of the Entertainment somehow infects the viewer, so that if you watch the Entertainment you yourself become all wobble-eyed, could that mean that the implied subject of the Entertainment (ie, the subject from who’s perspective the plaid-sided pram scene is shot), does this implied subject somehow parasitically infect the actual subject, (ie the person who’s actually watching the movie)? In other words, is the film so compelling that the viewer actually becomes the infantile subject from who’s perspective the film is filmed? (In a recent post Daryl asked if I had any other thoughts on the continued wobbling in IJ. This is all I’ve got, dude.)
- Along similar lines, Steeply later says “His [the dude who watched the Entertainment] world’s as if it has collapsed into one small bright point. Inner world. Lost to us.” This brought me back again to that ’93 RCF interview. Wallace talks about “a real Book-of-Genesis type tragic fall. The loss of the whole external world” that Wittgenstein is obsessed with. The loss of the external world comes as a result of the extreme solipsism that the logic of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus eventually leads to. Wallace, if I’m reading him right, says that the Tractatus “treat[s] language as an infinitely small dense dot” (emphasis mine), which to me sounds a lot like a “small bright point.”
So: maybe we could say that watching the Entertainment turns you into a Tractatus-ized solipsistic subject. You’re “trapped in here, with the world out there, and never the twain shall meet” (Wallace again, in that RCF interview).
But! The “small bright point” bit also brings to mind what happens when you turn off an old-school analog-style TV*. So in a metaphorical sense the Entertainment turns you into a TV. And what is a TV? An empty, passive vessel for receiving various types of entertainment. But the Entertainment doesn’t just turn you into a TV, it turns you into a TV and then shuts your ass right down!
I realize this all may be a bit much. But I do think there is something going on here. What I’m not clear on is the role language plays in all of this. Any thoughts?
- Finally (and much simpler, I promise): The narrator of this section describes a few constellations, saying “Hercules’ head, this head was square.” I can think of another character in IJ , who the narrator is constantly reminding us that this character’s head is square. Interesting parallel.
* Like one of those big-ass console TVs that came in their own wooden hutches and that basically fell under the category of furniture. My grandma had one of these. The kind of TVs with dials that you rotated, and when you rotated the dial to “Off” you get that small dense dot effect.