A list of influences and inspirations.

By Paul McDonagh on 03/11/14 | Category - Comment

The subject of this week's Book Club is Don Gately, also known as the Big Indestructible Moron, who is my number one character in all of literature. He is featured in my favourite book, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. He is not the protagonist and is hardly mentioned in the first two hundred pages. He is just one of the many characters who appear in the first section of the book, which is apparently structured like a sierpinski gasket.

Gately is a recovering drug addict and a burglar. He becomes resident counsellor at the Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House. Towards the end of the book, his story takes over. He gets involved in a dispute involving residents at Ennet House. As a result, he gets shot and spends a lot of time lying in a hospital bed, hallucinating and dreaming. He has to deal with mind-bending sheets of pain. He is offered painkillers but he is determined not to take any drugs, wary of a relapse. Successions of visitors come into the ward. He doesn't want to listen to them but he is unable to talk.

Foster Wallace takes the risk of providing Gately's backstory at the end of the book. His astonishing prose conjures the psychic, physical pain of this man. The second-by-second torture of a man trapped in his head. He gradually emerges as the heartbeat of the book.


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