this section in 4 parts
BS 1960 winter
place Tucson AZ
narrated as a monologue by the father of James Incandenza
This part features a 10-year-old James Incandenza [Jim] being lectured by his increasingly intoxicated father. He begins his lecture berating Jim for opening the garage door improperly. He blames Jim's mother and by turn Marlon Brando whom she reveres, having had a bit part in one of his films. He then goes on a tirade accusing the mother of misunderstanding Brando's 'animal grace' and hence passing to young Jim all manner of bad habits, eg the garage door. He then shifts to praising Jim's tennis potential, saying he will a great player, while he himself was only nearly great. He compares him to the 1956 Mercury Montclair in the garage. He tells him that the 'head is body' and that he is 'a machine a body an object' like the car. He's distracted from his monologue long enough to ask Jim to use his racquet to kill a 'nasty fat spider.' He announces that he's coming to the crux of what he's trying to impart to his son before actually getting out there to actuate his tennis potential. He says the tennis ball is the 'ultimate body. Perfectly round... but empty inside.' He cuts the ball open to show him. he shows him his gnarled thumb. He offers Jim a drink from his flask, and then tries to force it into his hands, telling him he'll first have to put down the 'Columbia Guide to Refractive Indices.' Jim drops the book, and his father scolds him and then scolds him further for being 'oversensitive.' He waxes poetic on the sounds his flask produces, and then on the sound of a well-hit tennis ball. He tells Jim that they're soon to move to California so he can give it the one last shot his waning [film] talent deserves. He says he's just giving him advance notice, because Jim had made it so clear that their previous move [to the mobile home in Tucson] had been traumatic. He invites Jim to go ahead and cry, but that it gets less effective each time, except with Jim's mother. He then launches into a story about his own father who had 'never once' come to see him play, even though he was winning trophies and excelling at tennis-- his father was 'a golf man' [contemptuous tone]. He notes that the flask is nearly empty and suggests that they rain-check the tennis lesson, and tell his mother that Jim's 'not feeling up to snuff.' He suggests postponing until the weekend, when they can rent the courts for $10 [for which he lays a guilt trip on Jim.] He returns to the story of his own father, who finally did come to a match, because he was playing against a client's son. Jim's father was 'handing the dandy his pampered ass' while his own father sat not in the shade of the palm [due to his 'healthy respect' for spiders] but right out in the 95 degree heat, and without sweating. As the game progresses, he's handily beating his opponent when by luck the opponent hits a 'lucky dribbler of a drop-shot' and instead of conceding the point he goes all out to try to hit the ball and ends up face down on the court, having permanently ruined his knees. But, he's careful to point out he had already fallen when he heard his father reply to the opponent's father's comment that Jim was a good player--'but he'll never be great.' He theorizes it may have been a spider or a palm frond that caused him to slip. His speech becomes more and more disjointed, presumably due to the contents of his flask. He admits to respecting his father, comparing the situation to his with Jim-- saying that Jim takes him for granted. He confesses his fear of dying without ever being really *seen* He wants Jim to understand that he was giving it his all that day, when he ruined his chances of ever being a great player and his opportunity to get parts in any of those beach movies. He says that he learned what it is to be a body. He compares being dragged off the court with being dragged home drunk, saying that 'both are dragged forward out of the arena like a boneless Christ, one man under each arm, feet dragging, eyes on the aether.'
YDAU  Nov 4
place ETA and environs
narrated in third person
Pemulis takes a circuitous route by public transportation [to throw off would be pursuers] to pickup the tow truck which is parked in an underground lot. He's wearing his white yachting hat, which Mario refers to as his Mr. Howell hat and which has a detachable lining in which Pemulis can store drugs. He's driving the tow truck back to Enfield after his transaction, and after ingesting '150 mg of very mild 'drines.' Pemulis has presumably just scored some DMZ which is an incredibly potent amphetamine but 'resembling chemically some miscegenation of a lysergic with a muscimoloid [footnote 56 compares it with 'fly agaric fungus's well-known muscimole]. It's effects differ from LSD, in that they're 'more like *temporally*-cerebral and almost ontological,' and the 'ingester perceives his relation to the ordinary flow of time as radically and euphorically...altered.' DMZ is synthesized from an obscure mold that grows on other molds and was discovered by the same Sandoz chemist who discovered LSD, who as a result of DMZ was sent into an 'early retirement and serious unblinking wall-watching.' It is known as the 'single grimmest thing ever conceived in a tube' and the hardest recreational drug to acquire. DMZ is sometimes referred to as 'Madame Psychosis' after an early morning cult radio personality. Pemulis has a policy of not selling drugs to Ennet House residents, since they have unscheduled urine tests, and since his tennis and math talents have helped him get away from just that sort of character. When Pemulis pulls up to ETA, Hal is reading 'Hamlet' in order to help Mario with a conceptual film on the subject,and has his phone ready for Pemulis's call, but still waits until the third ring. He asks Pemulis to 'please commit a crime'
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film narrated by Hal
Hal gives the narration to Mario's film 'Tennis and the the Feral Prodigy' which received honorable mention in the 'New Eyes, New Voices' young filmmakers' contest. The description implies that Mario was spuriously credited as writer, as Hal's narration is pretty clearly his own. He describes [presumably to an accompanying visual] virtually every aspect of his routine at ETA. 'Here's how to wrap your torn ankle so tightly in its flesh-tone Ace bandages your left leg feels like a a log.' He describes hitting serves to no one, how to call your racquet a stick, how to grip it, how to squeeze a tennis ball in your right hand at all times,except during meals. He describes drills, jogging, his father's expectations, his father's expectations of himself, and how surpassing them still left him unhappy. He describes escaping these thoughts by practicing until things run on autopilot. He describes 'justifying your seed' [reaching at least the round that you're supposed to at a tournament.] He describes playing fair and learning to let what is unfair teach you. He describes the use of lemon Pledge and muscle relaxants. He describes sitting through his father's art film openings. He says to expect rough dreams, and keep a flashlight by the bed. He says 'turn down dates' and shows how. he shows how to read the monthly ratings, and learn to care and not care-- never tell anyone where you are. This is also how not fear sleep or dreams. he says be a student of the game,and see yourself in your opponents. Accept that the game is about managed fear,that 'its object is to send from yourself what you hope will not return.'
YDAU  Nov 4 1300-1500h
place Ennet House, Boston
narrated in first person in 18 parts by different residents of EH
The all caps title of this part explains that it is transcripts from the drop-in office hours of the Ennet House director, Patricia Montesian, although she never speaks.
1.  A woman explains that another resident was drumming his fingers on the table at dinner. She likens the sound to what a girl hears in her head before she kills her family for taking the last of the peanut butter. She became rather homicidally agitated and 'sort of poked him' with her fork [it appears in reality that she stabbed him in the hand.] She says she's ready to own her part and wants to know if she can still go on her 'overnight' that Gene had previously approved.
2.  A man who identities himself as having been a personal-injury attorney for 16 years, is asking Patricia to define 'alcoholic.' He is claiming that he can hold his liquor--aside from a single incident at a Bar Association dinner, where he accused a judge of secretly masturbating in court. He admits to experiencing formication [sensation of insects crawling on the skin] during detox. He says that he is not in denial about anything 'empirical and objective' and states his lawyerly opinion that it's not denial unless 'the vocabulary of the contract is clear to all parties.'
3.  The victim of the knife incident gives his side. He says he's waiting for his meatloaf to cool and hears a 'sphincter-loosening shriek' and sees Nell leaping across the table [parallel to its surface] screaming about the sound of peanut butter. Gately and Diehl had to pull the fork out of his hand and the table. He says the pain was unbearable but he refused the Percocet at the emergency room. He expresses outrage that she will apologize *if he will* and suggests that she be kicked out. He says that the 'pathetic harassments of Minty and McDade are bad enough,' and pleads for the 'safe and nurturing environment' promised in the handbook.
3.  'Im awfully sorry to bother. I can come back. I was wondering if there's any sort of special Program prayer for when you want to hang yourself.'
4.  Alfonso speaks in broken English and acknowledges that he is a drug addict, and powerless.He fears that even so, he cannot stop. He asks if it's bad to hope for power.
5. 'Sorry to barge in, there, PM division called again about the thing with the vermin. The word was *ultimatum* that they said.'
6.  The person apologizes for bothering Pat about something not related to treatment, and describes try to do his [?] assigned Chore. There is something indescribable in the toilet of the mens room that won't flush
7.  The resident describes putting a pudding cup in the fridge and coming back for it later to find it gone. McDade offers to help look for it, but has pudding on his chin.
8.  The resident is clearly Bruce Green [p. 38-39]. He describes his harelipped [bad-speed/good-pot dealer] housemate who kept snakes, and gave Bruce and his girlfriend Mildred free pot in exchange for procurement of mice for the snakes. The harelip dealer wanted to have sex with Mildred and never washed his hair. Harriet makes Bruce leave after the dealer describes having sex with chickens. They move to a shelter where Harriet meets a guy in a hat who says he has a ranch in New Jersey., and off she goes taking their daughter Harriet with her. He says he was delivering ice to machines at gas stations, and 'who wouldn't have to get high just to stand it?'
9.  The resident balks at the idea that s/he is being asked to pray to treat an alleged disease, asking if s/he has been transported to another sociohistorical era.
10.  The resident says s/he's happy to be there and that the tooth-grinding and the 'thing with the eyelid' are just tics.
11.  The resident is objecting [inner city dialect] to getting kicked out, and claiming to be 'trying' to get a job. S/he cites Clenette and 'the Thrale girl' as witnesses. S/he asks where s/he's supposed to go.
12.  Resident objects to being on House Restriction for using mouthwash, which is 2% proof, and is spit out.
13.  'It's about somebody *else's* farting, why I'm here.'
14.  The lawyer says he's being asked to attest to facts he does not possess, which he calls 'duress.'
15.  'So my offense is what, misdemeanor gargling?'
16.  'I'll come back when you're free.'
17.  'It's back. For a second there I hoped. I had hope. Then there it was again.'
18.  'Fine just let me say one thing'
The Tucson episode is [for this reader] among the saddest in the book. Sections like this really set DFW apart from his postmodern predecessors, by my lights. It's also notable that the dread inflicted on young Jim seems to have been passed on to Hal [whether inadvertently or not] as evidenced in the pathos he injects into the documentary film when speaking of his father.
The Pemulis episode is dragging the ETA thread of the story closer and closer to the Ennet House thread even as he categorically refuses to get involved with those people. Likewise the Ennet House interviews tie together some of the loose ends, we've encountered [eg, Clenette and Bruce Green and Mildred Bonk], and presumably will encounter [it would be interesting to come back later and attempt to track each interview to it's source character.] The third interview was pretty chilling for this reader, for obvious reasons.