The “Hole Punch”

Someone asked last class what the deal is with that weird circle illustration that begins quite a few sections in the novel.

As of our reading due Tuesday, this “hole punch” (as referred to in class) will have appeared on pages 3,17, 27, 32, 33, 39, 49, 63, 66, 68, 87, 127, 135, 151, 157, 181, and 219. The full list can be found on this Infinite Summer forum post, in which the post’s author, tomcollins, elaborates on his own meanings for the circle.

Honestly, I’m at a loss. When I first wondered what the hole punch could mean, I assumed it had something to do with Himself’s creation of annular fusion. But that’s a very narrow, shallow interpretation.

The hole punch bolsters the novel’s recursive structure. Annulation, circles, cycles, and rings appear often in the novel, whether as literally as the words themselves or in the recurring theme of addiction. Tomcollins suggests that it is an annular eclipse, among other things, due to the right-side shading. There are way more connections to make than the ones I’ve listed, I’m sure, so I was hoping this post could open up some discussion around this image.

Some things to consider:

  • First, what is this image and why is it important?
  • Why is it spaced out between sections in the way that it is?
    • Is there an order to the particular pages it appears in, or is there some shared feature of each section that it shows up in?
  • What exactly do we call this image?
    • Trying to google “infinite jest hole punch” or “infinite jest annular ring image section heading” while my wifi has been spotty has left me no choice but to use the first few links that pop up on a basic search page. As a result, I haven’t been as thorough in researching this thing at all. Such as trying to find its proper name. My bad.
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3 Responses to The “Hole Punch”

  1. To further this discussion, though I am sadly blanking on where I’ve seen the “shaded white circle” or “shadowed white circle” discussed before (it’s a font available in Dingbats), it is probably important to note that there are 28 of these circles in the novel. Greg Carlisle uses these shadowed white circles to divide the novel into coherent chapters in his study of the novel, Elegant Complexity: A Study of David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest” (Los Angeles: Sideshow Media Group, 2007). We are also told three times in the novel that the O.N.A.N. subsidized calendar is a “lunar” calendar (pp. 33, 994n33, 1057n304) and it thus consists of 28 days that go by the cycles of the moon, rather than the solar calendar we currently have. On cycles and circularity in the novel see N. Katherine Hayles, “The Illusion of Autonomy and the Fact of Recursivity: Virtual Ecologies,
    Entertainment, and Infinite Jest,” in “Ecocriticism,” special issue, New Literary History 30, no. 3 (Summer 1999), 675-97; and David Hering, “Infinite Jest: Triangles, Cycles, Choices and Chases,” in Consider David Foster Wallace: Critical Essays, ed. David Hering (Los Angeles: Sideshow Media Group, 2010), 89-100, both of which I’ve included on CourseWeb.


  2. 1ady1azarus says:

    When I read that many people took the “hole punches” (as I seem to be stuck on calling them) as signifiers of a new chapter, I don’t know if I necessarily bought it. Of course Greg Carlisle is much more knowledgeable than I am on the subject of IJ, but something about that interpretation doesn’t seem intuitive to me. I think I hesitate to think of this book as a material object which is even capable of even being divided into chapters; chapters imply a set beginning and end, and I can’t seem to incorporate that concept into IJ at all. I may change my mind on this, of course, especially in light of the connection between the symbol and the O.N.A.N.’s lunar year, which I hadn’t considered.
    A quick observation, though: one twist in the hole punch symbol and it becomes an infinity sign. As to what we can concretely call this object, I just can’t be sure yet. Hole punch? Untwisted infinity symbol? Simply the letter “O?” Annular-fusion-reminder? All those things?

    Liked by 1 person

    • epiratequeen says:

      I’m not sure I agree with your assessment of IJ as being incapable of being divided into chapters. The inclusion or exclusion of chapters as a framing device don’t necessarily have any bearing on the content of a piece of literature. Sometimes chapters are used to isolate plot lines, which wouldn’t make sense in the context of Infinite Jest, but they also can be used to group together thematic subsections or emphasize important plot points. Some readers may even classify the frequent scene changes as chapters.

      Liked by 1 person

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