I'm looking for a certain quote in the first 300 pages of Infinite Jest.
March 1, 2010 6:11 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a quote in Infinite Jest which is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

The quote occurs probably in the first 250 pages or so. I seem to remember it being on the right hand page, although that could be my imagination.

The quote was about some of the younger recruits at the tennis academy and was along the lines of "They knew more about what they were doing then why they were doing it". It had to do with a lot of practice drills (It's not in the section that breaks down morning drills for Hal & Co, that's much later). Does this ring any bells? I go looking for it every so often and can never find it.
posted by GilloD to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Err, "than". Apologies to the ghost of Foster Wallace, Patron Saint of Grammar.
posted by GilloD at 6:14 AM on March 1, 2010

Have you tried using Amazon to search inside the book using variations of what you're looking for? http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0316066524/ref=sib_dp_ptu#reader-link
posted by Robot Johnny at 6:28 AM on March 1, 2010

Response by poster: Yeah, I've tried a bit. I can only remember the sentiment, not the wording. Le sigh.
posted by GilloD at 6:38 AM on March 1, 2010

There's a great passage (pages 117-118, Abacus paperback edition) on repetion and the "machine-language of the muscles" that has "Until you can do it without thinking about it, play." FWIW.
posted by The Mouthchew at 7:24 AM on March 1, 2010

Best answer: I believe this is what The Mouthchew is referring to:

'Boys, what it is is I'll tell you it's repetition. First last always. It's hearing the same motivational stuff over and over till sheer repetitive weight makes it sink down into the gut. It's making the same pivots and lunges and strokes over and over and over again, at you boys's age it's reps for their own sake, putting results on the back burner, why they never give anybody the boot for insufficient progress under fourteen, it's repetitive movements and motions for their own sake, over and over until the accretive weight of the reps sinks the movements themselves down under your like consciousness into the more nether regions, through repetition they sink and soak into the hardware, the C.P.S. The machine-language. The autonomical part that makes you breathe and sweat. It's no accident they say you Eat, Sleep, Breathe tennis here. These are autonomical. Accretive means accumulating, through sheer mindless repeated motions. The machine-language of the muscles. Until you can do it without thinking about it, play. At like fourteen, give and take, they figure here. Just do it. Forget about is there a point, of course there's no point. The point of repetition is there is no point. Wait until it soaks into the hardware and then see the way this frees up your head. A whole shitload of head-space you don't need for the mechanics anymore, after they've sunk in. Now the mechanics are wired in. Hardwired in. This frees the head in the remarkablest ways. Just wait. You start thinking a whole different way now, playing. The court might as well be inside you. The ball stops being a ball. The ball starts being something that you just know ought to be in the air, spinning. This is when they start getting on you about concentration. Right now of course you have to concentrate, there's no choice, it's not wired down into the language yet, you have to think about it every time you do it. But wait till fourteen or fifteen. Then they see you as being at one of the like crucial plateaus. Fifteen, tops. Then the concentration and character shit starts. Then they really come after you. This is the crucial plateau where character starts to matter. Focus, self-consciousness, the chattering head, the cackling voices, the choking-issue, fear versus whatever isn't fear, self-image, doubts, reluctances, little tight-lipped cold-footed men inside your mind, cackling about fear and doubt, chinks in the mental armor. Now these start to matter. Thirteen at the earliest. Staff looks at a range of thirteen to fifteen. Also the age of manhood-rituals in various cultures. Think about it. Until then, repetition. Until then you might as well be machines, here, is their view. You're just going through the motions. Think about the phrase: Going Through The Motions. Wiring them into the motherboard. You guys don't know how good you've got it right now.'

Not sure if that's what you're referring to though. I have an electronic copy I can send you that may make your search easier.
posted by trueluk at 7:37 AM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Is it this?

Like most North Americans of his generation, Hal tends to know way less about why he feels certain ways about the objects and pursuits he's devoted to than he does about the objects and pursuits themselves. (page 54)

The same point is made about attending AA meetings: Everybody was kneeling on these cheap but comfortable cushions, and it was weird because nobody seemed to have any clear idea why they were all on their knees, and there was like no tier-boss or sergeant-at-arms-type figure around coercing them into kneeling, and yet there was this sense of some compelling unspoken reason why they were all kneeling.
posted by mattbucher at 7:45 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm on page 120 and I don't recognize this quote. The sentiment fits in but I don't recognize it.
posted by chairface at 11:58 AM on March 1, 2010

Response by poster: Mattbucher wins the No Prize: "Hal tends to know way less about why he feels certain ways about the objects and pursuits he's devoted to than he does about the objects and pursuits themselves. (page 54)", although the 117-118 bit on repetition is a nice adjunct to that.

Many thanks!
posted by GilloD at 2:49 PM on March 1, 2010

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