Alphabet Soup: I


I is for Ishmael, narrator of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, a story about whaling/wailing. Ishmael’s narrative is an attempt to transform his pain and loss into some kind of meaningful human connection–to try to measure the incomprehensible and to put the ineffable into words. He’s a lovable guy, something of an eccentric in his time, who makes good friends with his strange bedfellow Queequeg. Of course, the whole thing ends in disaster, a disaster that Ishmael alone bears witness to, like one of Job’s servants returning to the master.

Also, I think that the great white whale, Moby Dick, is like a symbol or something.


I is also for Incandenza, Hal, the would-be tennis prodigy, secret stoner, and eidetically gifted prescriptive grammarian who is–along with Don Gately (somehow unjustly skipped over in installments D and G)–the protagonist of David Foster Wallace’s mammoth novel Infinite Jest. Hal is a sensitive kid, the son of a mad scientist filmmaker/tennis academy founder, who kinda sorta haunts both the novel as well as the Enfield Tennis Academy. Writing this makes me wish for a free month (i.e. no grad school) to re-read IJ, just so that I could take another crack at why Hal comes down with the howling fantods. Plenty of theories here.


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