A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments

Written by: David Foster Wallace

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again:  Essays and Arguments Book Cover
In this exuberantly praised book - a collection of seven pieces on subjects ranging from television to tennis, from the Illinois State Fair to the films of David Lynch, from postmodern literary theory to the supposed fun of traveling aboard a Caribbean luxury cruiseliner - David Foster Wallace brings to nonfiction the same curiosity, hilarity, and exhilarating verbal facility that has delighted readers of his fiction, including the bestselling Infinite Jest.
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A Supposedly Fun Thing Ill Never Do Again Essays and Arguments Reviews

piperitapitta
Un senso di vuoto

È quello che provo nel leggere un saggio così tanto brillante e arguto e nel pensare che non ci saranno più altre parole.

(23/08/2010)
Finito dopo quasi due anni: intendiamoci, non è che siano necessari due anni per leggere questa raccolta di saggi di DFW, è solamente che sia che si parli di tornado (intesi come vortici d'aria e non come caccia bombardieri!) che di tennis, o di David Lynch, o di tv, oppure di critica letteraria, DFW costringe ad accendere tutti i neuroni e ad atti Un senso di vuoto

È quello che provo nel leggere un saggio così tanto brillante e arguto e nel pensare che non ci saranno più altre parole.

(23/08/2010)
Finito dopo quasi due anni: intendiamoci, non è che siano necessari due anni per leggere questa raccolta di saggi di DFW, è solamente che sia che si parli di tornado (intesi come vortici d'aria e non come caccia bombardieri!) che di tennis, o di David Lynch, o di tv, oppure di critica letteraria, DFW costringe ad accendere tutti i neuroni e ad attivare le sinapsi presenti nel nostro cervello.
E questo è un bene, naturalmente, ma non sempre si è disposti o si ha la voglia di farlo: il risultato, in ogni caso - a lettura ultimata - è quello di sentirsi di una sensibilità, di un'intelligenza e di una capacità critica e di osservazione, nonché di analisi, di un livello (facciamo finta che i livelli siano solamente due!) nettamente inferiore a quello dell'autore: non sempre si ha voglia di sentirsi così.
A questo punto sono stupita di aver impiegato solo due anni per finirlo!
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Hilarante crónica en la que el genio estadounidense, a bordo de un crucero en apariencia inofensivo, destripa sin contemplaciones la cara más amarga de la industria recreativa. En manos de Foster Wallace, lo familiar se transforma en hostil, lo asombroso en terrorífico y algo que a primera vista solo tiene la finalidad de entretenerte acaba poblando tus peores pesadillas. Impregnado de esa corrosiva sátira con la que suele amenizar sus escritos, Algo supuestamente divertido que nunca volveré a h Hilarante crónica en la que el genio estadounidense, a bordo de un crucero en apariencia inofensivo, destripa sin contemplaciones la cara más amarga de la industria recreativa. En manos de Foster Wallace, lo familiar se transforma en hostil, lo asombroso en terrorífico y algo que a primera vista solo tiene la finalidad de entretenerte acaba poblando tus peores pesadillas. Impregnado de esa corrosiva sátira con la que suele amenizar sus escritos, Algo supuestamente divertido que nunca volveré a hacer supone otra inapelable prueba del superdotado instinto analítico que hizo del fallecido escritor norteamericano todo un icono de su generación.
Helle
My brain is coming out of my ears from reading this book (or listening to it, which was no mean feat as I couldn’t just rewind all the time when he lost me, which, to be honest, happened on several occasions). When research indicates that people who have retired from their jobs need to keep their minds active in order not to deteriorate cerebrally, I will from now on suggest David Foster Wallace. Not only will your brain not deteriorate, it will – unless you’ve been reading this sort of thing al My brain is coming out of my ears from reading this book (or listening to it, which was no mean feat as I couldn’t just rewind all the time when he lost me, which, to be honest, happened on several occasions). When research indicates that people who have retired from their jobs need to keep their minds active in order not to deteriorate cerebrally, I will from now on suggest David Foster Wallace. Not only will your brain not deteriorate, it will – unless you’ve been reading this sort of thing all your life – surely take leaps and bounds and increase the rapidity of your brain’s processes. Unless of course the reading of it will give you a cerebral meltdown instead, and I dare you not to have at least a minor one of those when reading DFW.

My particular version of this essay collection seems to be a mix of A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again and Consider the Lobster. I have no idea why the publishers for the Danish market would mix them, but there it is.

1. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.

The title story of this collection and to my mind the best of the lot. It is a funny, crazy and intelligent account of DFW’s cruise trip from Hell, and the first evidence, to me, that DFW was neurotically observant. If I didn’t know it was non-fiction, I would have called it far-fetched. As it is, it comes off as a kind of comic-brainy travelogue by a man who cannot protect himself from the thousands of stimuli we are all bombarded with every day. DFW, of course, makes it appear as if he is not only able to take them all in and remember them but describe them in the minutest and craziest details, with sentences that are a mile long. I alternately chuckled and was appalled throughout this essay, and my own conclusion is that I’m never going on a cruise. I wonder what on Earth possessed him to sign up for this adventure in the first place – maybe to be able to write this outlandish but amazing essay? (When I read another essay in the collection, mentioned under number 4 below, I silently answered this rhetorical question in the affirmative. DFW may actually have invented a new kind of genre here: masochistic journalism).

2. The View from Mrs. Thompson

A strange, mostly unemotional account of his 9/11 experience as seen a long way away from New York, on TV, in Bloomingville. He depicts his attempt to find an American flag with which to adorn his house in the days following the attack because that was what people did with their grief and shock. They got behind each other and flaunted their patriotism.

3. E Unibus Pluram

A discussion of television and TV fiction in the United States. It is a critical view of both television and its critics. Some of it is outdated, some of it is a bit difficult to follow for someone on the outside of American TV culture, all of it is polemical, which seems to be DFW’s default position. I also learned from this that Americans watch an average of six hours of TV a day! How is that even possible? Does it still apply, I wonder?

4. Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All

This sounded like my worst kind of nightmare: a portrayal of an Illinois state fair with its share of carnival gimmickry, livestock, competitions, corndogs, pies, soft drinks galore, obese women with curlers in their hair, baton twirling contests and hundreds of other events and participants which are as far from my Scandinavian range of experience as they seemed to be from DFW’s temperament. As in the first essay, the descriptions first alienated me, then gradually became strangely compelling, even disgustingly fascinating through DFW’s usual hyper-sensitive and comical micro-observations. It was also a view into a subsection of American culture that in its very description appears utterly (perhaps even deliberately) American.

5. Federer Both Flesh and Not

A tennis connoisseur’s aesthetic analysis of Roger Federer’s playing style and persona, not wholly uninteresting because there’s always something to be said for a nerd’s love of a subject when his enthusiasm carries over into his depiction of it, but presumably someone with the tennis know-how would benefit more fully from this essay (though I have seen televised versions of some of Federer’s matches and can appreciate DFW’s admiration of him).

6. Up, Simba

Again an essay which appears to presume that the reader has more knowledge of a subject than I do, in this case American politics, more specifically John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign. DFW makes a convincing analysis of the man McCain, though, and manages to strike a balance between sound criticism and admiration of McCain but also expounds, at great length, on the whole machinery involved in this event as he rides McCain’s ‘tour bus’, writing his feature for Rolling Stones magazine.

7. Consider the Lobster

A review of the Maine Lobster Festival which, to me, was an essay of ethics rather than wit, and the one I enjoyed the least. It apparently generated some controversy among readers of gourmet magazines because DFW writes about the ethics of boiling lobsters alive in order to enhance the taste.

The entire essay collection made it clear to me that DFW could write about any topic and not only make it interesting but also make us aware of aspects of these topics we had only tentatively considered before. He was not only a highly intelligent man but also one of great depth and most importantly, to me, less cool (in the obnoxious, superficial sense of the word) and more caring than his post-humous fandom sometimes indicates.
How to Be Alone :: Epic: Stories of Survival from the World's Highest Peaks :: Sabbath's Theater :: Mirrors of the Unseen: Journeys in Iran :: The Renegades of Pern
Núria
Divertido, inteligente, mordaz, sutil, complejo, ameno, lúcido, así es DFW, siempre manteniendo una posición intermedia entre lo coloquial y lo elevado. No sabéis lo que os estáis perdiendo por no leerlo. Algunos de los ensayos que hay en este recopilatorio creo que son lo mejor que se ha escrito nunca. Más que nada me refiero al relato de las aventuras de DFW en un crucero de lujo. Imprescindible.
Donovan
Probably helps I listened to the audio book, but still. A very smart albeit neurotic exploration of being on a cruise. It really does sound mundane, but DFW is insane, so he makes it funny, quirky, and interesting.
Abril Camino
Divertido, muy bien escrito, pero... esperaba más
Nicole (Elbgängerin)
Fantastisch bösartig beobachtet, gedacht und geschrieben. Ich werde trotzdem mal irgendwann eine Kreuzfahrt machen. ;)
Sarah
Things about David Foster Wallace that I found endearing while reading these essays:

1. Deathly afraid of chickens.
2. Wore size 11 Keds.
3. Placed 3rd in a Men's Legs Competition on board a Caribbean Cruise.
4. Was excellent at ping-pong, but was beaten by a 9yr old at chess.
5. Used the word creepy too much.
6. Compared Andre Agassi to the devil.
7. His endnotes have endnotes.
8. Described himself as 'semi agoraphobic.'
9. Deathly afraid of amusement park rides. (These fears go on ad infinitum)
10. Pa Things about David Foster Wallace that I found endearing while reading these essays:

1. Deathly afraid of chickens.
2. Wore size 11 Keds.
3. Placed 3rd in a Men's Legs Competition on board a Caribbean Cruise.
4. Was excellent at ping-pong, but was beaten by a 9yr old at chess.
5. Used the word creepy too much.
6. Compared Andre Agassi to the devil.
7. His endnotes have endnotes.
8. Described himself as 'semi agoraphobic.'
9. Deathly afraid of amusement park rides. (These fears go on ad infinitum)
10. Paranoid about getting sucked into the same Caribbean Cruise's high suction toilet.

The only borderline unforgivable things were calling Kyle MacLachlan a potato-faced nerd and for that awful book review of a book I have never and will never read.
Christine Boyer
Too, too, too long! Each essay had potential, but was too detailed, too pedantic, and too long! I only liked one essay in this whole collection - his trip to the Illinois State Fair. However, I'm still interested in this author - very smart and had an unbelievable vocabulary, and I would definitely take a look at one of his fictional works. But I'll stick with David Sedaris for the humorous-satirical-essay genre.

BookishStitcher
Three strikes and you're out David Foster Wallace. This is my third attempt at reading this "famous literary" author, and I just don't care it some people will think I can't appreciate "quality" literature. There are plenty of other literary authors that I love so I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. The only story in here that didn't make me role my eyes was the part about it on a cruise ship that was a small portion of this, but it was pretty hilarious in parts so I will move my rating to Three strikes and you're out David Foster Wallace. This is my third attempt at reading this "famous literary" author, and I just don't care it some people will think I can't appreciate "quality" literature. There are plenty of other literary authors that I love so I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. The only story in here that didn't make me role my eyes was the part about it on a cruise ship that was a small portion of this, but it was pretty hilarious in parts so I will move my rating to a 2.5 stars, but I still won't ever be reading him again.
Daniel Calle
Foster Wallace demuestra su capacidad de ironía y de visualización. Es un ensayo que desemboca en una crítica al consumismo y a la sociedad americana en general. Quiero leer alguna novela de Foster Wallace, y ver qué tal es para contar historias
Judi
This may well be my favorite David Foster Wallace experience thus far. Hilarious, not so much. Just so spot on in his observations and his modest,sincere commentary. A writer whose brain connects directly with his pen. The footnotes are so appropriate, as one obsessed with detail. My favorite essays are Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley, Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All and A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. I have experienced and share his viseral reactions This may well be my favorite David Foster Wallace experience thus far. Hilarious, not so much. Just so spot on in his observations and his modest,sincere commentary. A writer whose brain connects directly with his pen. The footnotes are so appropriate, as one obsessed with detail. My favorite essays are Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley, Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All and A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. I have experienced and share his viseral reactions to life in Tornado Alley. I am a native Southern Californian who spent a single summer trying to emulate Lake Wobegon Days on a pig farm in rural Wisconsin. I camped that entire summer in the flooded farmhouse cellar cringing in terror at the daily tornado watches/warnings. Give me a California earthquake any day. (I likely just put a curse on myself with that statement and a major quake will follow shortly.)
"Getting Away . . .", the essay on the Illinois State Fair. My husband and I went to the LA County Fair this past fall. Recapture a bit of nostalgia. After an hour I was done. The sales pavillions were airconditioned, but packed with folks,overwhelming sales jibber. That brought on a panic attack. The rides. Just as David Foster Wallace described. All I could think was why??? We did purchase a couple of bars of lye soap from a rustically costumed vendor ensconced by the animal barns. Christmas gifts for our kiddies illustrating our intent to return to minimalism and frugality.
The final essay in the collection, "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again", is my favorite. As my travels thus far have been limited pretty much to road or rail trips in the United States the idea of a cruise has peaked my interest. This essay pretty much doused that. Wallace's candid description of "pampering" would indeed spark my parinoia. Assigned dining companions and formal evenings. No thanks. His comments on the ship library were depressing. I would very likely spend all of my time in my cabin,or jump overboard. Now, I may well reconsider the cruise option were David Foster Wallace assigned to my table.
Saif Saeed
Tentative opinion on DFW, I like his fiction more than his essays.

I feel like it would be disingenous to just write "Its a masterpiece" again but that's really what this review will end up sounding like if I went on.

Instead I will give tentative opinion on DFW having read one collection of essays and one fiction novel. I like his fiction better. The structure of an essay, I feel, limits where he can go sometimes with his writing. The entire world built in Infinite Jest was captivating. I feel li Tentative opinion on DFW, I like his fiction more than his essays.

I feel like it would be disingenous to just write "Its a masterpiece" again but that's really what this review will end up sounding like if I went on.

Instead I will give tentative opinion on DFW having read one collection of essays and one fiction novel. I like his fiction better. The structure of an essay, I feel, limits where he can go sometimes with his writing. The entire world built in Infinite Jest was captivating. I feel like although his essays are all essentially masterpieces, I still prefer his fiction because I like his style when it runs amok rather than when its structured and focused.

While this collection of essays dwarfs Infinite Jest, it was still a slog. Particularly the more academic essays felt like mental gymnastics. Enjoyable, but tough.

And I think that's the beauty of DFW's writing. A friend of mine asked me how much of IJ you could cut out without affecting the story and honest to god you could probably cut out 90% of it if you really wanted to but if I wanted a barebones story beautifully written I would read Hemingway. I am here for that 90% of godawful footnote ridden monstrosities.

Anyway, recommended if you like irony, tennis, cruises, social commentary, satire, weirdness, literature, and essays.
Jim
I picked up this book as a kind of "primer" for Infinite Jest, which I'll be reading later this year with a discussion group. I wanted to get a feel for who DFW was as a writer, and this excellent collection of "essays and arguments" delivered and then some.

The first piece about playing tennis in high school gives a great insider's view of what competition feels like for an adolescent male. He shares how he compensated for a lack of physical strength and limited 'talent' by using his sharply ana I picked up this book as a kind of "primer" for Infinite Jest, which I'll be reading later this year with a discussion group. I wanted to get a feel for who DFW was as a writer, and this excellent collection of "essays and arguments" delivered and then some.

The first piece about playing tennis in high school gives a great insider's view of what competition feels like for an adolescent male. He shares how he compensated for a lack of physical strength and limited 'talent' by using his sharply analytical mind to even the field, so to speak.

Next is an excellent critique of television and its victims called "E Unibus Pluram..." It's dated and pre-internet, but it identifies many truths about mass entertainment. It's a pity he's not around to write about social networks and wacky time wasting obsessions like "Farmville". I'm sure he would have much to say about friend collectors and internet advertising.

There are several more great pieces of work in this book covering lit-crit, David Lynch, and the title piece about his week on an NC7 cruise ship, which had me belly-laughing in a big way. Rather than telling you any more about it, just go ahead and read this book. It satisfies start-to-finish.
Jenny
This is a supposedly good author I'll never read again. Let's hope.

When DFW writes about something I find interesting (e.g. David Lynch), I find his style annoying because he isn't really writing about the interesting thing, but about himself. When he writes about something I find painfully boring (e.g. tennis), I want to hang myself out of boredom and frustration.

The trick then is to only read stories by DFW about things I am vaguely interested in (e.g. cruises), in which case I don't care if t This is a supposedly good author I'll never read again. Let's hope.

When DFW writes about something I find interesting (e.g. David Lynch), I find his style annoying because he isn't really writing about the interesting thing, but about himself. When he writes about something I find painfully boring (e.g. tennis), I want to hang myself out of boredom and frustration.

The trick then is to only read stories by DFW about things I am vaguely interested in (e.g. cruises), in which case I don't care if the story is about him.*

All in all, I like the subjects he covers and I like footnotes. How he was ever employable as a journalist for these topics I will never understand.**

And I skipped the tennis story in this book because my life is too short to read more than one tennis story, and I already read his tennis story in Consider the Lobster.

I find DFW's hatred of Balthazar Getty truly admirable, but mostly reading his books reminds me of the depressive english major we all dated in college.
*Unless a story mentions rural people or midwesterners, in which case DFW is sure to be a demeaning jackass.

**Not because he's bad, but because he doesn't write about the assignment, and his articles are ridiculously long.
Marina
(I've read all of them except for the one about David Lynch's film, because I wanna see it first.)

I have to say, I've really enjoyed reading this more than his fiction (granted, I've only read two short stories) and even when the subject matter was of no interest to me, I was so fascinated by his writing skills & so deeply amused by his observations that I couldn't stop reading.

Still, "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" was the funniest (truly hilarious) and "E Unibus Pluram: Tele (I've read all of them except for the one about David Lynch's film, because I wanna see it first.)

I have to say, I've really enjoyed reading this more than his fiction (granted, I've only read two short stories) and even when the subject matter was of no interest to me, I was so fascinated by his writing skills & so deeply amused by his observations that I couldn't stop reading.

Still, "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" was the funniest (truly hilarious) and "E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction" the most illuminating (I highlighted SO MANY passages in this one, loved it). I'm going to quote them forever.

The ones about tennis ("Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley" & "Tennis Player Michael Joyce's...") I found less engaging, and even though "Getting Away From Already Pretty Much Being Away From It All" was really funny and quite fascinating, it was so completely alien to me that I was also, sometimes, distracted--the American Midwest reads like sci-fi to me.
Jeff Jackson
Contents: Three staggeringly brillant, laugh out loud funny, and philosophically profound essays that easily justify the entire book. Subjects: The Indiana State Fair; Mid-Level Tennis Pro Michael Joyce; High-end luxury cruise. Essential.

Long piece on David Lynch's career and larger significance circa "Lost Highway" is also excellent if occasionally marred by overuse of the word "creepy." Personal reflection on midwestern tennis and wind vectors is much more fascinating than it sounds. Two slig Contents: Three staggeringly brillant, laugh out loud funny, and philosophically profound essays that easily justify the entire book. Subjects: The Indiana State Fair; Mid-Level Tennis Pro Michael Joyce; High-end luxury cruise. Essential.

Long piece on David Lynch's career and larger significance circa "Lost Highway" is also excellent if occasionally marred by overuse of the word "creepy." Personal reflection on midwestern tennis and wind vectors is much more fascinating than it sounds. Two slightly academic essays deconstructing the supposed Death of the Author and role of TV and rampant irony in fiction should be of interest to writers and hardcore lit fans, but might be skipped otherwise.

If you've had a hard time with Wallace's fiction, his voice here is engaging throughout - mixing common sensical tone, brilliantly stylized prose, and keen observations. I eagerly devoured even the footnotes.
Rachel
David Foster Wallace is one of those few writers that move me to almost a religious fanaticism. He is a witty and thoughtful observer, entirely engaged in whatever he happens to be doing -- visiting the Illinois state fair, taking a luxury cruise, attending a tennis open, etcetera. I was in an unfamiliar place on the day I finished reading this book, so I tried to do what I thought DFW must have done as he wrote the narrative essays within: I thought about everything I saw, everything I was doin David Foster Wallace is one of those few writers that move me to almost a religious fanaticism. He is a witty and thoughtful observer, entirely engaged in whatever he happens to be doing -- visiting the Illinois state fair, taking a luxury cruise, attending a tennis open, etcetera. I was in an unfamiliar place on the day I finished reading this book, so I tried to do what I thought DFW must have done as he wrote the narrative essays within: I thought about everything I saw, everything I was doing (suppressing no thought, no matter how trite), and I came out of the day with a much greater sense of the place I'd been visiting, mined of both its terrors and -- most especially -- its beauties. So now I try to stave off the auto-pilot as often as possible.

I've loved the words of so many authors, but few have actually altered my perspective. DFW has.
James
The eponymous essay is one of the funniest things I've ever read. I had it read to me for the first time while driving down the 95 in New Jersey. I literally had to pull off to the side because I was laughing so hard. He manages to be both critical and humane, existentially tortured (in a way I relate to) and culturally insightful (in a way I aspire to). My favorite line, after an exhaustive list of the various types of skin ailments and the like he has seen on the cruise: "In short, I have seen The eponymous essay is one of the funniest things I've ever read. I had it read to me for the first time while driving down the 95 in New Jersey. I literally had to pull off to the side because I was laughing so hard. He manages to be both critical and humane, existentially tortured (in a way I relate to) and culturally insightful (in a way I aspire to). My favorite line, after an exhaustive list of the various types of skin ailments and the like he has seen on the cruise: "In short, I have seen nearly naked many people whom I would have preferred not to see nearly naked."

Am I a slavish, pathetic DFW fanboy? Yeah, I guess so. But it's writing like this that makes me so.
RandomAnthony
The title essay is worth the price of admission alone. The other essays, esp. the ones on tennis and the Illinois State Fair, will make you feel as if cheated the bookseller by only paying the cover price. Smart and funny to the 10th degree.
Laura


As I've said at least once, reading David Foster Wallace is both exhilarating and heartbreaking -- exhilarating because he's so brilliant and heartbreaking because for all his brilliance, he couldn't go on. I hate using the word "brilliant" because it's become so overused -- amusing comic strips, for example, seem to get described that way about half the time -- but for DFW, the term is apt.

I admit to being a little disappointed when I learn that someone whose taste I generally admire doesn't li

As I've said at least once, reading David Foster Wallace is both exhilarating and heartbreaking -- exhilarating because he's so brilliant and heartbreaking because for all his brilliance, he couldn't go on. I hate using the word "brilliant" because it's become so overused -- amusing comic strips, for example, seem to get described that way about half the time -- but for DFW, the term is apt.

I admit to being a little disappointed when I learn that someone whose taste I generally admire doesn't like DFW, usually on the grounds that he's meandering or something like that. No arguing with that, of course -- he is meandering. But his wanderings aren't made simply in the service of pyrotechnics; they all seem completely organic, as though he's feeling his way into his subjects and once there, is so taken with thinking about them that he goes on tangents, unable to stop his thoughts from peeling off down every visible (and not so visible) road. And that's part of what makes it so heartbreaking to read his work: you can tell how much he wanted to be -- and in fact was -- connected to others. For example, this passage from the essay "Tennis Player Michael Joyce's Professional Artistry as a Paradigm of Certain Stuff About Choice, Freedom, Limitation, Joy, Grotesquerie, and Human Completeness" (yep, that's actually the name of the essay):

It turns out that what Michael Joyce says rarely has any kind of spin or slant on it; he mostly just reports what he sees, rather like a camera. You couldn't even call him sincere, because it's not like it seems ever to occur to him to try to be sincere or nonsincere. For a while I thought that Joyce's rather bland candor was a function of his not being very bright. This judgment was partly informed by the fact that Joyce didn't go to college and was only marginally involved in his high school academics (stuff I know because he told me it right away). What I discovered as the tournament wore on was that I can be kind of a snob and an asshole, and that Michael Joyce's affectless openness is a sign not of stupidity but of something else.
It makes me genuinely sad that we won't get to see any more of DFW's writing.

Taylor Church
After reading this masterful opus of essays and arguments by a man who no longer walks on the earth, I am convinced that I would enjoy Mr. Wallace’s description of walking around a dark room by himself for hours. I would gladly pay money to read a novel-sized work concerning his morning routine or his stopped-in-traffic musings. His language and meanderings are that interesting.

This specific collection had me entranced from the start. The first essay, originally titled Tennis, Trigonometry, Tor After reading this masterful opus of essays and arguments by a man who no longer walks on the earth, I am convinced that I would enjoy Mr. Wallace’s description of walking around a dark room by himself for hours. I would gladly pay money to read a novel-sized work concerning his morning routine or his stopped-in-traffic musings. His language and meanderings are that interesting.

This specific collection had me entranced from the start. The first essay, originally titled Tennis, Trigonometry, Tornadoes was probably my favorite due to its rare insight into Wallace’s upbringing in the twister infested midwest, an essay where Wallace talks about his natural predilection for mathematics and how that dovetailed into a great liking and understanding of tennis, what with its angles and geometry-ridden facets. At one point in the autobiographical sketch Wallace noted that “Calculus was literally child’s play.”

There’s something special and inspiring about precocity. And in reading about it we can’t help but feel some atavistic yearning to excel in one area or another in our own lives. Maybe its subtle motivational prose, or maybe I just read about brilliance and genius and aspire for the same things, no matter how actually impossible they might be. And this how I feel when I read DFW.

A few of the essays could be labeled less entertaining, but only because of the topics or the overwhelming erudition. The beauty and expertise can not once be in question, it’s just the reader must have an interest not solely based in being entertained. Information, education, wild introspection, these are elements the serious reader must account for in addition to simple, diurnal entertainment.

As most of his work does, this book gravitates toward themes of sadness and American banality and ennui. Rare is the journalist, or any writer for that matter, that can make you laugh, cringe, wince, weep, and run for the dictionary with glee like the venerable David Foster Wallace. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again was an enormously fun thing I would definitely do again.
Troy
Years ago I saw a funny, erudite, brilliant hip young writer at a Barnes and Nobel in Manhattan. I was pretty sure his name was David Sedaris. About a month later, I read one of his books and I was disappointed. This book wasn't erudite or brilliant, and although it was funny (and possibly hip, according to a certain standard of hipness that does not include my own standard of hipness). I decided that either a) I was mistaken about the brilliance of the writer, or b) he was a much better speaker Years ago I saw a funny, erudite, brilliant hip young writer at a Barnes and Nobel in Manhattan. I was pretty sure his name was David Sedaris. About a month later, I read one of his books and I was disappointed. This book wasn't erudite or brilliant, and although it was funny (and possibly hip, according to a certain standard of hipness that does not include my own standard of hipness). I decided that either a) I was mistaken about the brilliance of the writer, or b) he was a much better speaker than writer.

A few days ago, I finally picked up a book by David Foster Wallace. I mean, I had read oblivion, which was sent to me by an online friend and which was damn good and wildly experimental. A few days ago, I picked up this book by David Foster Wallace. The second essay was about his trip to a mid-west fair. And I felt deja vu. You know when you get that shock of recognition where you know exactly what's coming next? And you know that you know what's coming next because you've already read what you're reading right now. I had that. I knew the story about "Native Companion" and how she rode "The Zipper" and how the carnies stopped the car of "The Zipper" while Native Companion was upside down and how her dress flipped over her head so the carnies could stare at her underwear. And I remembered Native Companion telling him, "Fuck it. Enjoy the spin and ignore the assholes." And suddenly I realized that it wasn't David Sedaris who I saw those many moons ago in that Barnes and Nobel in Manhattan, but it was an altogether different hip and funny writer, David Foster Wallace. And his stuff was as funny, erudite and brilliant as I remember.
Dergrossest
I wish I could say that I enjoyed this book more than I did, but I didn’t. It’s not all the Author’s fault since a lot of the essays are very dated, but the reality is that most of the blame is his. While he was sometimes funny and insightful, things quickly bogged down as his writing is repetitive, unfocused and relentlessly replete with unnecessary and painfully boring demonstrations of his impressive intellect and vocabulary. Maybe this was unintentional and he simply needed a less-brilliant I wish I could say that I enjoyed this book more than I did, but I didn’t. It’s not all the Author’s fault since a lot of the essays are very dated, but the reality is that most of the blame is his. While he was sometimes funny and insightful, things quickly bogged down as his writing is repetitive, unfocused and relentlessly replete with unnecessary and painfully boring demonstrations of his impressive intellect and vocabulary. Maybe this was unintentional and he simply needed a less-brilliant editor to make him accessible to the masses (i.e., like Marx needed Engels and Lennon needed McCarthy), or maybe this was the Author’s way of flexing his mental pecs, much the same way that the infinitely annoying Dennis Miller would quickly wear out his welcome on every interminable MNF broadcast on which he appeared. Either way, the result was the same for me as I soon tired of his style and skipped whole paragraphs panning for the few nuggets of literary gold scattered therein. But I didn’t pay $11.95 to be his editor. Maybe his other works are better, but frankly, I can’t see how they could be much worse.
Jen Von Ghoul
Nobody writes like DFW. We would have been great friends if we were the same age growing up in the same town. We could have been both narcissistic and self deprecating (before it was cool) in our teenage years and have great conversations about sharks and both share our great interest in the great shark speech from Jaws. I never been on a cruise ship and never will, I always said the only way I would step foot on one is if I had a steady supply of chum so as to try and see if Great Whites would Nobody writes like DFW. We would have been great friends if we were the same age growing up in the same town. We could have been both narcissistic and self deprecating (before it was cool) in our teenage years and have great conversations about sharks and both share our great interest in the great shark speech from Jaws. I never been on a cruise ship and never will, I always said the only way I would step foot on one is if I had a steady supply of chum so as to try and see if Great Whites would come a finning.
We could have talked about irony and how I become obsessed with it after watching Reality Bites and still to this day when the word is brought up (alot by you.) I still hear Ethan Hawke in my mind talking about it with the cool hand luke vibe of chewing on a toothpick.

For now I am taking a break from your books since there are only a small amount and the thought of having no more to read is too much to bear atm.
Patricia Murphy
I admit up front to being ridiculous for not having read this book sooner. What was I doing in 1997, or in the subsequent 14 years? Many things of note, but I'll spare you the details. I'll say about this book that I didn't want this cruise to end. I wish someone with DFW's wit, knowledge, and bite would follow me around and whisper commentary in my ear for the rest of my life--now that would make everything 100% better. Some of my faves, "she was of the sort of female age that's always suffixed I admit up front to being ridiculous for not having read this book sooner. What was I doing in 1997, or in the subsequent 14 years? Many things of note, but I'll spare you the details. I'll say about this book that I didn't want this cruise to end. I wish someone with DFW's wit, knowledge, and bite would follow me around and whisper commentary in my ear for the rest of my life--now that would make everything 100% better. Some of my faves, "she was of the sort of female age that's always suffixed with -ish." "The number of lines . . . is both de- and impressive." "They're ogling her nethers, obviously." "The cows are shampooed and mild-eyed and lovely, incontinence not withstanding." "A scum of clouds has cut the heat, but I'm on my third shirt." "The sky looks like soap." "Temperatures were uterine." "Lonely people tend to be lonely because they decline to bear the psychic costs of being around other human beings."
Emily
DFW’s writing is most definitely 5-star stuff. Although it seems weird to combine in one volume essays written for Harper’s and Premiere magazine with ones written for literary journals, it’s quite a sampling of DFW’s range. I can’t honestly say I understood every word (the man had a vocabulary that could beat up mine and steal its lunch money). What I can say is that I greatly admire the author (I actually formed something of a crush on him while reading this book)and I wish he were still alive DFW’s writing is most definitely 5-star stuff. Although it seems weird to combine in one volume essays written for Harper’s and Premiere magazine with ones written for literary journals, it’s quite a sampling of DFW’s range. I can’t honestly say I understood every word (the man had a vocabulary that could beat up mine and steal its lunch money). What I can say is that I greatly admire the author (I actually formed something of a crush on him while reading this book)and I wish he were still alive and writing; his wit and perspective on such a variety of topics is impressive and a little intimidating. My favorite essay was the title essay, maybe because it was more personal. Plus, it had the most footnotes, and I dearly love his footnotes. But there’s a lot to love in this collection otherwise, and I have to agree with my brother-in-law who recommended it-DFW can make anything interesting.
Begoña
Si a alguien le apetece irse de crucero, le recomendaría que se leyera este mordaz y sarcástico ensayo de Wallace, seguramente se le pasarían las ganas. El escritor estadounidense se adentra en un crucero para retratarnos cómo es el día a día. Las críticas que realiza Foster Wallace son incisivas y se asientan en el humor ácido de sus palabras y en una prosa cercana, fresca y ágil. Resulta verdaderamente inquietante imaginarse dentro del "Nadir", donde absolutamente todo te lo dan hecho, comes s Si a alguien le apetece irse de crucero, le recomendaría que se leyera este mordaz y sarcástico ensayo de Wallace, seguramente se le pasarían las ganas. El escritor estadounidense se adentra en un crucero para retratarnos cómo es el día a día. Las críticas que realiza Foster Wallace son incisivas y se asientan en el humor ácido de sus palabras y en una prosa cercana, fresca y ágil. Resulta verdaderamente inquietante imaginarse dentro del "Nadir", donde absolutamente todo te lo dan hecho, comes siete u ocho veces al día, aunque, eso sí, la bebida no es gratis. Leyendo el ensayo de Wallace, a uno se le antoja un crucero como un mundo paralelo donde el tiempo no pasa y los encargados del barco se esfuerzan día a día en crear una realidad diferente, para satisfacer cualquier necesidad del cliente. Verdaderamente exasperante. David Foster Wallace da en la clave.
Adam
I've read this collection of essays enough times to know them all pretty much by heart, but I know I'll end up reading it again in a month or two. Just too damned funny, in that typically condescending, snobby, over-educated and under-experienced DFW way.

Picture, if you will:

1) Country boy-turned-Effete East Coaster returns prodigally to the State Fair where he was born!

2) Same effete East Coaster goes on a cruise with the morbidly obese, the morbidly stupid, and the morbidly American!

3) Effete I've read this collection of essays enough times to know them all pretty much by heart, but I know I'll end up reading it again in a month or two. Just too damned funny, in that typically condescending, snobby, over-educated and under-experienced DFW way.

Picture, if you will:

1) Country boy-turned-Effete East Coaster returns prodigally to the State Fair where he was born!

2) Same effete East Coaster goes on a cruise with the morbidly obese, the morbidly stupid, and the morbidly American!

3) Effete East Coaster studies, but is too scared to actually approach on set, the David Lynch filming process on Lost Highway!

I don't do nearly a good enough job selling this one. Get it today and read it!
VeganMedusa
I almost skipped the essay on the Illinois State Fair, because really, how interesting could a state fair be? But it was fascinating, and hilarious (clogging?!). And then I was tempted to skip the essay on tennis player Michael Joyce (tennis, boring) but it was fascinating! And hilarious!
Every essay was brilliant, but the last of course was the most brilliant. I doubt this book of essays would ever make it into the Zenith/Nadir's on-board library.
I'm so glad I read this before tackling Infinit I almost skipped the essay on the Illinois State Fair, because really, how interesting could a state fair be? But it was fascinating, and hilarious (clogging?!). And then I was tempted to skip the essay on tennis player Michael Joyce (tennis, boring) but it was fascinating! And hilarious!
Every essay was brilliant, but the last of course was the most brilliant. I doubt this book of essays would ever make it into the Zenith/Nadir's on-board library.
I'm so glad I read this before tackling Infinite Jest, because I've grown to like this author very much. I would have liked to have been neighbours with him - waving occasionally over the fence, every now and then coming out of our comfort zone to chat with each other, and then retreating into our respective safe zones again.
Joshua
This book is simply incredible. Wallace blends reporting with philosophy with anectdote and every essay manages to capture some quality that's near impossible to describe for me.

If the reader would like to read my reviews of two essays in this collection they can follow the link to my site White Tower Musings below:

https://jsjammersmith.wordpress.com/2...

https://jsjammersmith.wordpress.com/2...
John
Part of me is inclined to give this four stars because watching DFW on Charlie Rose is a peak experience, and ASFTINDA pretty much only contains adjectives and adverbs that I wasn't familiar with before audiobooking it. What's cooler than a mid-western intellectual? Nothing! Like me, he got teased for saying "supper".

But omigosh does he go on and on and on. To his credit he never loses you completely, but oh the interminable-ness. I would be wary of reading these essays in order (I don't think I Part of me is inclined to give this four stars because watching DFW on Charlie Rose is a peak experience, and ASFTINDA pretty much only contains adjectives and adverbs that I wasn't familiar with before audiobooking it. What's cooler than a mid-western intellectual? Nothing! Like me, he got teased for saying "supper".

But omigosh does he go on and on and on. To his credit he never loses you completely, but oh the interminable-ness. I would be wary of reading these essays in order (I don't think I could have ever actually read this) as I found 1-3 rough sledding and 5 & 6 to be the highlights.
Andrew
I have fallen in love with the way DFW thinks and could express himself. His observations are humorous, yet so honest and jarring. Finishing this book has left me fully eager to read anything/everything else by him. I'll always think about tennis, cruise ships, and how films are directed in light of DFW from the essays in this book.

I'm excited for the day that I hold Infinite Jest in my hands.
Carter
not everything in this is five star material, but the centerpiece essays are impressively prescient and relevant - the analysis of televisual culture as self-referential self-rnclosed totalitarian snow globe and its relationship to the American psyche is particularly strong and could be transplanted and adapted to many of the ways we relate to the internet today. title essay also standout. probably a 4/5 taking into account the weaker essays but the really good ones are enough to justify a 5
Melissa
This book was a supposedly fun thing I'll never do again.
Matt

phenomenal bunch of essays- detailed, personal, logical, decent, funny, probing.

So good.
Heather
Another provocative romp with DFW. Essay collections are a challenge to sum up since the reader relationship is as much with individual pieces as with the work as a whole. Here are a few moments that stand out to me as I reflect back:

- My continued amazement at how much I enjoy reading about math at the hands of DFW, a subject at which I am, quite frankly, not particularly apt. The closest I can get to describing this sensation is what I imagine it must be like to be someone who loves good food, Another provocative romp with DFW. Essay collections are a challenge to sum up since the reader relationship is as much with individual pieces as with the work as a whole. Here are a few moments that stand out to me as I reflect back:

- My continued amazement at how much I enjoy reading about math at the hands of DFW, a subject at which I am, quite frankly, not particularly apt. The closest I can get to describing this sensation is what I imagine it must be like to be someone who loves good food, appreciates cooking technique, and yet cannot themselves cook. The outcome seems so magical.

- A deep sense of discomfort at a description of a television viewer [ed. note: I mean "television" here to encompass the consumption of programming that once aired via broadcast, not strictly what comes into my home via the television set. Most of my current "tv" watching involves shows that come to me via the internet and may or may not currently be "on the air"] that increasingly privileges irony as a way to escape the profound icky-ness of being sold something. I think this irony-as-dominant-medium has only grown in prominence since DFW wrote his article (E Unibus Pluram: Television and US Fiction, http://jsomers.net/DFW_TV.pdf), to the point where I sort of cringe and avoid or dismiss anything that looks or feels heartfelt and genuine. It's easy to feel superior to sincerity, with its "messages" and emotional plea, since irony is such a sharp and clever little monster and doesn't rely on making you feel anything other than clever and "in on the joke." Anyway, I don't yet know what to do with this not-so-flattering insight into my own consumption patterns, but there it is.

- Uninhibited lol's while reading about skeet shooting on a cruise in the titular article. Seriously, comedy doesn't get a whole lot better than this.
Fabian
Dieses Buch wurde mir mit Enthusiasmus von Freund K. angetragen, der in diesen Fragen mein vollstes Vertrauen genießt. Allerdings war ich etwas erstaunt ob seiner Inhaltsangabe die sich ungefähr so anhörte: “Das ist so ein Typ der is Journalist oder sowas, der beobachtet so super, lies das mal das wird Dir gefallen. Der hat vom Harper Magazine so eine Luxus-Kreuzfahrt bezahlt bekommen die haben gesagt “Das was Du schreibst gefällt uns gut, mach da mal was wir zahlen die Reise”. Das Buch geht um Dieses Buch wurde mir mit Enthusiasmus von Freund K. angetragen, der in diesen Fragen mein vollstes Vertrauen genießt. Allerdings war ich etwas erstaunt ob seiner Inhaltsangabe die sich ungefähr so anhörte: “Das ist so ein Typ der is Journalist oder sowas, der beobachtet so super, lies das mal das wird Dir gefallen. Der hat vom Harper Magazine so eine Luxus-Kreuzfahrt bezahlt bekommen die haben gesagt “Das was Du schreibst gefällt uns gut, mach da mal was wir zahlen die Reise”. Das Buch geht um die Luxuskreuzfahrt”

Ich war ja skeptisch. Zunächsteinmal weil sich dies Werk eigenmächtig nach oben auf den Bücherstapel gedrängelt hatte. Und dann war ich mißtrauisch weil ich dachte “Wie leicht ist das denn, sich undercover auf so ‘nem Luxusliner einnisten, schön alles bezahlt bekommen und dann über die Menschheit herziehen.” Das dauerte ungefähr die ersten 50 Seiten an und wurde verstärkt durch Foster Wallace’s Marotte ungefähr die Hälfte des Textes in ellenlangen Fußnoten unterzubringen.

Aber dann hab ich die Selbstironie entdeckt, mit der das alles geschrieben ist. Und mußte mich beim Lesen im Bus zurückhalten um nicht allzu laut zu lachen. Wie dort die entmündigende Entspannungsoffensive der Kreuzfahrtgesellschaft beschrieben wird, das klinisch reine Schiff in strahlendem Weiß, die 5 Mahlzeiten pro Tag + Roomservice. Und trotz der Unbarmherzigkeit mit der die merkwürdigen Verhaltensweisen der Kreuzfahrer auf’s Korn genommen werden nie unter die Gürtellinie gehauen wird (naja, 1 – 2 mal, aber dann haben die Betroffenen das auch wirklich verdient (z.B. der Oberanimateur nebst Ehefrau, man stelle es sich vor)). Und zum Schluß hab ich ihm sogar die Fußnoten in den Fußnoten verziehen.

Ursprünglich hier geschrieben http://www.coderwelsh.de/blog/?p=4134
Sharon
It has been said that DFW writes better nonfiction than fiction, and after reading A Supposedly Fun Thing, I may have to agree. This is not to say that his fiction isn't great (it is), but he takes the article/essay to another dimension. Every piece in this book is a gem. Top prize goes to the title piece, a detail-obsessive journey of hilarity about his experiences on a luxury cruise, while "Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All," covering the Illinois State Fair, comes a It has been said that DFW writes better nonfiction than fiction, and after reading A Supposedly Fun Thing, I may have to agree. This is not to say that his fiction isn't great (it is), but he takes the article/essay to another dimension. Every piece in this book is a gem. Top prize goes to the title piece, a detail-obsessive journey of hilarity about his experiences on a luxury cruise, while "Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All," covering the Illinois State Fair, comes a close second. But the book shines with more than these two narratives alone. "Greatly Exaggerated" is a short book review of a philosophy text, a review which neatly and succinctly integrates exactly the kind of Deconstructionism for Dummies content I wish I'd had before grad school. "Television and U.S. Fiction" crafts a brilliant (though rather long-ish) analysis of what irony is, why it works and why it's such a part of the current cultural aesthetic. Though written in 1990, its thesis still resonates today. The David Lynch piece is another fabulous plunge into essay/journalism that actually makes sense of Lynch's work and motives--and if you've ever seen a Lynch film, you know this is no easy task. But I was most surprised by the two tennis-related memor-ish articles. I didn't care a whit about tennis before reading about Michael Joyce; however, Wallace actually convinced me that tennis could be "the most beautiful sport there is." He describes the mechanics and play of the sport so artfully that the reader is convinced of this assertion by Wallace's sheer passion and authority on the subject. Reading this book makes me even sadder about Wallace's sudden and tragic end. Like all brilliant writers, he was not simply a great craftsman, but one in possession of a sharply inquisitive and ever-fascinating mind. This collection is instructive in how to write, think and see.
Edward Watson
Insightful, funny and vividly descriptive. The Harper's Essays were my favourite (i.e. Getting Away From Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All and A Supposedly Fun Thing...). The latter particularly hits the nail on its head on the absurdity of cruising. A relatable essay, having experienced it as a kid. I imagine that cruise ship libraries do not stock DFW! I'm still debating whether to recommend this essay to family members who enjoy cruising as it would no doubt ruin their fun! Ironicall Insightful, funny and vividly descriptive. The Harper's Essays were my favourite (i.e. Getting Away From Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All and A Supposedly Fun Thing...). The latter particularly hits the nail on its head on the absurdity of cruising. A relatable essay, having experienced it as a kid. I imagine that cruise ship libraries do not stock DFW! I'm still debating whether to recommend this essay to family members who enjoy cruising as it would no doubt ruin their fun! Ironically, I first watched The Poseidon Adventure (well, the remake) on a boat and it enhanced the experience by offering a sense of adventure (what if we sank? would the crew still put guests first? surely the water isn't as cold as it's made out to be). Anyway, I give the collection 5* on merit of this essay alone, which points to a lot more than just the experience of cruising but of the self, of tourism and of service culture generally with regard to emotional labour.

In E Unibus Pluram he writes, 'Take jaded TV-critics ... who sneer at the numbing sameness of the television they sit still for. I always want to grab these unhappy guys by the lapels and ... ask them why the hell they keep watching'. But why does DFW keep reading and listening to these critics? Is he not guilty of continuing to consume numbing sameness? Regardless, TV seems to have gotten better, at least, what with original programming by Netflix and the success of quality series (think HBO, AMC's Breaking Bad) putting TV at the top of the food chain in attracting writing talent. But does it point beyond itself? (I don't watch enough TV, or at least good TV,to say so). I need to reread this one with Google in front of me to get the cultural references - it was written two years before I was born... M*A*S*H means nothing to me and I didn't know that MTV once had a trivia gameshow.
Chad
When a student asked me for book recommendations a few weeks ago, I shared the rule I generally use to determine what's worth reading: it should be interesting and challenging.

Basically all of DFW's work fits these criteria for me. Each page demands my full attention, insisting that I follow complex, page-long sentences (which are actually fewer than you might expect if you are familiar with some of DFW's other books) and looking up obscure words and phrases.

Sure, the prose is impressive, but p When a student asked me for book recommendations a few weeks ago, I shared the rule I generally use to determine what's worth reading: it should be interesting and challenging.

Basically all of DFW's work fits these criteria for me. Each page demands my full attention, insisting that I follow complex, page-long sentences (which are actually fewer than you might expect if you are familiar with some of DFW's other books) and looking up obscure words and phrases.

Sure, the prose is impressive, but plenty of writers can write "challenging" works that make readers cringe, scratch their heads, or fall asleep. What really impresses me about "A Supposedly Fun Thing" (and basically all of his nonfiction) is his ability to keep even the blandest subjects interesting. Even fun.

---

Here are a few thoughts on the essays themselves:
- As a whole, this is an excellent collection. DFW really takes on a whole range of issues and topics that keep each essay fresh.
- "Greatly Exaggerated" was definitely the most challenging piece in this collection. Of course, it's extremely difficult (impossible?) to make complex issues in literary criticism palatable for a general audience. All things considered, it's a valiant effort.
- Unfortunately, rather than really appreciating "Tennis Player...," I kept being reminded how much I prefer "Federer Both Flesh and Not" and "Democracy and Commerce at the U.S. Open" from the essay collection "Both Flesh and Not." Still, this essay is a great introduction to DFW's tennis writing.
- "A Supposedly..." is one of the most lively, hilarious, and insightful essays I've ever read. The other narrative-driven essay in this collection, "Getting Away...," is equally brilliant. Both of these are excellent places to readers new to Wallace's work.
Cyndi
This is my first David Foster Wallace book. I had previously read a few DFW essays, watched the End of the Tour (Jason Segel was spot-on), read and seen interviews (which solidified my impression of Jason Segel's performance), and attempted to read Infinite Jest in two separate and well-intentioned occasions. I consumed this book quickly, mainly due to the procrastination of my third and, hopefully, final attempt at Infinite Jest. Because of the respect that I have for DFW's admirers, I have rec This is my first David Foster Wallace book. I had previously read a few DFW essays, watched the End of the Tour (Jason Segel was spot-on), read and seen interviews (which solidified my impression of Jason Segel's performance), and attempted to read Infinite Jest in two separate and well-intentioned occasions. I consumed this book quickly, mainly due to the procrastination of my third and, hopefully, final attempt at Infinite Jest. Because of the respect that I have for DFW's admirers, I have recently consumed his belles-lettres in gleeful abandon.

David Foster Wallace is not what I expected and exactly the kind of writing that I normally adore in author's works (his contemporaries that imitate his style, which is so personal and nuanced that it is impossible to replicate but still easy to identify). He lingers on the minutiae, nakedly exudes his neuroses, and occasionally exhibits obtuse elitism that makes me, begrudgingly, understand why some scream PRETENTIOUS instead of just admitting that it's not their cup of tea.

I recommend this collection to my fellow cultural snobs, creative types that respect David Lynch's artistry and have a love/hate relationship with television, erudite tennis lovers or the knowledgeable sort that can tolerate/appreciate sports-writing when authored by a true geek, and, broadly, anyone who has read this review.
Christina
At last, the perfect book of essays! David Foster Wallace is funny, likeably self-deprecating, and extremely smart. I was even entertained when the subject matter wasn't particularly interesting to me (as in the essay about pro tennis) because his voice and style were so easy to enjoy. It was the perfect blend of intellectual stimulation and amusement. Btw, I also LOVE long titles, so there's another point right there for Mr. Wallace.
Most of all I liked his reminiscences and observations about At last, the perfect book of essays! David Foster Wallace is funny, likeably self-deprecating, and extremely smart. I was even entertained when the subject matter wasn't particularly interesting to me (as in the essay about pro tennis) because his voice and style were so easy to enjoy. It was the perfect blend of intellectual stimulation and amusement. Btw, I also LOVE long titles, so there's another point right there for Mr. Wallace.
Most of all I liked his reminiscences and observations about the Midwest, especially the essay about the 1993 Illinois State fair entitled: "Getting Away from Already Pretty Much Being Away from It All." I attended the North Dakota state fair that same year, and as I remember it was quite similar (though on a much smaller scale).
Here's a little excerpt that struck a chord with me and so made it into my book journal. It's about the discomfort of discovering one's identity as an American in an impoverished island nation while on a luxury Caribbean cruise:
"... I am an American Tourist, and am thus ex officio large, fleshy, red, loud, course, condescending, self-absorbed, spoiled, appearance-conscious, ashamed, despairing, and greedy: the world's only known species of bovine carnivore."

P.S. - Thanks, Andrea! :)
Kirby
The title essay of this book is probably the best piece of personal writing I've ever read. The essay on going to the Illinois State Fair was also pretty great. They both perfectly exhibit the detailed behaviors and (sorry) stupidity and general disappointingness of American white people. If you want to get a better idea of who voted for Donald Trump, then read both (on a semi-related note, I'm getting pretty sick of hearing people recommend reading Hillbilly Elegy to unlock the secrets re. why The title essay of this book is probably the best piece of personal writing I've ever read. The essay on going to the Illinois State Fair was also pretty great. They both perfectly exhibit the detailed behaviors and (sorry) stupidity and general disappointingness of American white people. If you want to get a better idea of who voted for Donald Trump, then read both (on a semi-related note, I'm getting pretty sick of hearing people recommend reading Hillbilly Elegy to unlock the secrets re. why we lost the election). Anyway, the TV essay was also excellent, and the David Lynch essay is very good but sort of makes no sense if you've never seen Lost Highway or haven't seen it recently enough to remember every painstaking detail about it. There are two tennis essays that I didn't really like-- in particular, the long one about Michael Joyce that includes the most boring descriptions of how tennis qualifiers and rankings work, among other yawn-inducing tennis explanations (but to be fair, I am biased against tennis, as I find it to be a real snooze). But this still gets 4 stars based on the sheer genius and power of the great pieces, which are so unique and truly stand the test of time.
Rebekah
This is not my favorite book of his but I'm giving it five stars anyway because I just want to give him five stars as a person. All the literary reviews I've read on DFW seem to focus on his cleverness and ingenuity, which are so totally beside the point. I love David Foster Wallace because I've never read anyone else who seemed to feel so much like me. And I don't think it's that he and I are so similar; it's that he expresses so well what it /really/ feels like to be a person. So many authors This is not my favorite book of his but I'm giving it five stars anyway because I just want to give him five stars as a person. All the literary reviews I've read on DFW seem to focus on his cleverness and ingenuity, which are so totally beside the point. I love David Foster Wallace because I've never read anyone else who seemed to feel so much like me. And I don't think it's that he and I are so similar; it's that he expresses so well what it /really/ feels like to be a person. So many authors (and people?) these days are so afraid or ashamed of being sentimental that they mask everything with cynicism and irony, which is why so many films and books these days (I'm thinking Tarantino and recent Coen Brothers and Dave Eggers and all his following) have such cool, edgy style, but ultimately feel so empty . David Foster Wallace was /so/ smart, but he was so warm, too.

Other reasons I love him:
1. his compassion reminds me that I love pretty much most people, too (sometimes I forget).
2. he is so passionately committed to evaluating and reevaluating everything including himself and the world and his place in it.
3. his grammar is impeccable without being at all boring or standard.
4. sometimes, when he's being really nerdy, he sounds like my mom.
Britt
Well....I bought this book several years ago with the full intention of reading it. But chaos ensued and I back-shelved it. Recently, in an attempt to purge my life of unneeded baggage I happened yet again across this book and thought I'd give it a glance, one more time, before sending it on its way. It is staying.

What a screamingly funny, articulate, writer DFW is, and a brilliant observer of life. Admittedly I must underline at least one word on almost every page which I must look up, but it Well....I bought this book several years ago with the full intention of reading it. But chaos ensued and I back-shelved it. Recently, in an attempt to purge my life of unneeded baggage I happened yet again across this book and thought I'd give it a glance, one more time, before sending it on its way. It is staying.

What a screamingly funny, articulate, writer DFW is, and a brilliant observer of life. Admittedly I must underline at least one word on almost every page which I must look up, but it doesn't deter. What he has to say about television is really not to be missed ...nor the visit to the fair. Truly amazing.

This book is a keeper.

Update: Finished the book and upon searching for more of his writing have discovered much to my dismay (to put it mildly)... ?despair, that DFW is no longer with us. Such a waste. A brilliantly glowing star that burned out much too soon, (if that doesn't sound to cliche). But then, how could anyone with a mind as sharp and observational skills so acute as his really stand it much longer in this mad world than he did. What a loss; but also a gain for all who read his work.
Pat
Ich kannte bisher nur seine wunderbare Rede Das hier ist Wasser und habe mit relativ hohen Erwartungen das Buch begonnen. Die Bewertungen hier auf GR sind ja doch recht positiv. Evtl. liegt es daran, dass in der deutschen Fassung wohl einige Kurzgeschichten fehlen, jedenfalls geht es hier nur um eine 7 Tage Luxuskreuzfahrt.
Der Stil erinnert mich an eine Mischung aus Kishon und Bill Bryson. Wobei ich beim kürzlichen reread festgestellt habe, dass Kishon (für mich) nicht mehr zeitgemäß ist und Bry Ich kannte bisher nur seine wunderbare Rede Das hier ist Wasser und habe mit relativ hohen Erwartungen das Buch begonnen. Die Bewertungen hier auf GR sind ja doch recht positiv. Evtl. liegt es daran, dass in der deutschen Fassung wohl einige Kurzgeschichten fehlen, jedenfalls geht es hier nur um eine 7 Tage Luxuskreuzfahrt.
Der Stil erinnert mich an eine Mischung aus Kishon und Bill Bryson. Wobei ich beim kürzlichen reread festgestellt habe, dass Kishon (für mich) nicht mehr zeitgemäß ist und Brysons Buch It's teatime, my dear!: Wieder reif für die Insel ziemlich furchtbar war.

Fazit: Kann man sich sparen.
Für 2x schmunzeln und die Bestätigung, dass Kreuzfahrten wohl wirklich nichts für mich sind (kurz mit dem Gedanken gespielt), gibt es 2 Sterne.
Rachel
So guess what: I still like David Foster Wallace. Funny, serious, attention to detail - what more could I want of creative non-fiction? I didn't even know I was interested in post-modernism and modern television, or why David Lynch films (which I've never seen) are creepy, or what cruises say about American culture.

On Lynch: "I submit that we also, as a audience, really like the idea of secret and scandalous immoralities unearthed and dragged into the light and exposed. We like this stuff becau So guess what: I still like David Foster Wallace. Funny, serious, attention to detail - what more could I want of creative non-fiction? I didn't even know I was interested in post-modernism and modern television, or why David Lynch films (which I've never seen) are creepy, or what cruises say about American culture.

On Lynch: "I submit that we also, as a audience, really like the idea of secret and scandalous immoralities unearthed and dragged into the light and exposed. We like this stuff because secrets' exposure in a movie creates in us impressions of epistemological privilege, of 'penetrating the civilized surface of everyday life to discover the strange, perverse passions beneath.'"

Anyway, I recommend ASFTINDA for its intelligent commentary on topics I otherwise might have scorned (country fairs, tennis tournaments, etc).

A note on the eponymous essay: there is free version floating around on the Internet from when it was published in a magazine. It is heavily edited, and not as good as the full version (I suspected as much when certain details were omitted).
Brian Fagan
so, here's the thing. For a long time there were authors i claimed to like because i felt that you had too. Reading this book and knowing all the hype about how Wallace was supposed to be a genius, i felt the same way I did when i read Faulkner in High school. I was supposed to like it and if I didn't, then it was because i was too stupid to get it.

Well, guess what...

I didn't these stories. I mean, i understood what I was reading, I just didn't get what the hell was so great about it. Like read so, here's the thing. For a long time there were authors i claimed to like because i felt that you had too. Reading this book and knowing all the hype about how Wallace was supposed to be a genius, i felt the same way I did when i read Faulkner in High school. I was supposed to like it and if I didn't, then it was because i was too stupid to get it.

Well, guess what...

I didn't these stories. I mean, i understood what I was reading, I just didn't get what the hell was so great about it. Like reading a cartoon in the New Yorker. Yeah, i get what the cartoon is, it's just not funny. Yeah, I get what Wallace is writing, but i just don't care. He's too clever for me I guess, because I was alienated from the writing.

So, i recommend this book and all others by him who are too insecure in themselves so they need to make themselves feel better by having Wallace's book on their shelf.
Joy
Oh- THAT'S what I've been missing out on. How many culture references have I missed by not having read this book? More importantly, Wallace is just a great writer- funny, subtle, graceful. All the essays are lovely, but the one on Television and U.S. fiction is amazing and, like, important (this is the one where he dissects what he calls the "tyranny of irony" in contemporary literary and televisual expression). Much like Murakami and the short story, it strikes me that Wallace is most at home i Oh- THAT'S what I've been missing out on. How many culture references have I missed by not having read this book? More importantly, Wallace is just a great writer- funny, subtle, graceful. All the essays are lovely, but the one on Television and U.S. fiction is amazing and, like, important (this is the one where he dissects what he calls the "tyranny of irony" in contemporary literary and televisual expression). Much like Murakami and the short story, it strikes me that Wallace is most at home in the form of the essay- I've tried to read his fiction on many occasions and just didn't get sucked in. Now however, I'm fascinated by his way of thinking and will probably revisit his fiction even if it seems to lack the grace of his essays. Don't avoid this just because it's trendy and you've seen a bunch of tight-pants-wearing boys conspicuously waving around copies of Infinite Jest on the train.
Mike Rot
Still unsure about Wallace's fiction writing, but huge fan of him as a journalist with a perpetual chip on his shoulder, and how exhaustive he gets with his descriptions of a luxury cruise, a state fair, a tennis tournament, how passionate he gets about the artistic merit of David Lynch or the tyranny of irony in U.S. television, his energy is infectious. There’s something about his cantankerous voice that speaks directly to me, that makes even banal subject matter come to life, and his arsenal Still unsure about Wallace's fiction writing, but huge fan of him as a journalist with a perpetual chip on his shoulder, and how exhaustive he gets with his descriptions of a luxury cruise, a state fair, a tennis tournament, how passionate he gets about the artistic merit of David Lynch or the tyranny of irony in U.S. television, his energy is infectious. There’s something about his cantankerous voice that speaks directly to me, that makes even banal subject matter come to life, and his arsenal of words alone, even if it sometimes plays pompous, indulgent, all the more infectious, he runs with language, the sentences seem incapable of keeping up with his mind, he often skips commas, lets adjectives collide into each other, the larger ideas exhaustively footnoted. It hardly feels like you are heading anywhere, the journey is ultimately the destination.
Marcus
I have heard that if you want to read David Foster Wallace the best order is: Articles, Essays and Novels. I think this is good advice. This is a stellar collection of articles and essays. The highlight is the famous "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" which is a surprisingly long article (100 pages or more.) Wallace has so much heart as he savages modern culture... yet retains an affection for citizens caught up in the tragic whirlwind. I always come away from his work with righteous i I have heard that if you want to read David Foster Wallace the best order is: Articles, Essays and Novels. I think this is good advice. This is a stellar collection of articles and essays. The highlight is the famous "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" which is a surprisingly long article (100 pages or more.) Wallace has so much heart as he savages modern culture... yet retains an affection for citizens caught up in the tragic whirlwind. I always come away from his work with righteous indignation at the system... not merely feeling better than "those people" he wrote about. This book is a great introduction to Wallace. Other highlights are his article on the Illinois State Fair, Tennis player Michael Joyce and his fantastic essay on the trouble with being a fiction writer in the land of TV culture.
Annk


A delightful introduction to David Foster Wallace, or continuation if you're already hooked. These essays have his usual combination of brutal honesty, simple insights that make you think "why didn't I think of that?", the usual share of TMI, and humor that characterizes his writing. E Pluribus Unum, on TV and our culture, made me shudder. I haven't been able to post a tweet without a self-conscious thought about why I write the way I do, and how much has to do with our TV culture (or reaction

A delightful introduction to David Foster Wallace, or continuation if you're already hooked. These essays have his usual combination of brutal honesty, simple insights that make you think "why didn't I think of that?", the usual share of TMI, and humor that characterizes his writing. E Pluribus Unum, on TV and our culture, made me shudder. I haven't been able to post a tweet without a self-conscious thought about why I write the way I do, and how much has to do with our TV culture (or reaction to it). I wish he were alive today to comment on social media! The David Lynch and cruise essays are also not-to-be-missed! I read this on a Kindle, which was very helpful b/c DFW is one of the few writers that sends me to a dictionary quite regularly (and he makes up words, so it's helpful to know, right on the spot, that a word I don't get is a DFW creation).
Chris
Entertainment Weekly recently published a hilarious (in my opinion) list of the 100 best books written between 1983 and 2008.

There are some funny juxtapositions throughout the list, but this one takes the cake:

66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)

There is more authenticity and humanity in one of DFW's footnotes than in the entirety of the book ranked below it.

I did find that a couple of the essays in this book were Entertainment Weekly recently published a hilarious (in my opinion) list of the 100 best books written between 1983 and 2008.

There are some funny juxtapositions throughout the list, but this one takes the cake:

66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)

There is more authenticity and humanity in one of DFW's footnotes than in the entirety of the book ranked below it.

I did find that a couple of the essays in this book were almost unreadable but the final three -- about David Lynch, professional tennis, and cruise ships -- are fantastic. I found myself wishing that the last essay, which is about 100 pages, had been a couple of hundred pages longer. Even if you only read that essay, you'll be glad you picked up this book.
Eric
To date, I have only read the first two essays -- the first on the author's experiences playing youth tennis in rural Illinois, and the second on the culture of television watching in America. In reading them, I was immediately struck by the author's brilliance. But brilliance and accessibility do not go hand-in-hand in this essay collection, as the essays were slow, difficult reads. I will echo my review of Maps and Legends by saying that "my only issue... is that his writing is occasionally ob To date, I have only read the first two essays -- the first on the author's experiences playing youth tennis in rural Illinois, and the second on the culture of television watching in America. In reading them, I was immediately struck by the author's brilliance. But brilliance and accessibility do not go hand-in-hand in this essay collection, as the essays were slow, difficult reads. I will echo my review of Maps and Legends by saying that "my only issue... is that his writing is occasionally obtuse, using unnecessarily complex language where simpler terms will do."
Tijana
Kao i druge knjige eseja ili pripovedaka pisanih u nekom dužem vremenskom periodu, i ovo treba malo razvući prilikom čitanja da ne bi došlo do zasićenja. A inače vrhunska zabava za ljubitelje raznih tema - tenisa, Dejvida Linča, užasa masovne zabave od televizije do krstarenja, Volasovog stila... e da, Volas. Istovremeno i osnovni razlog da se proguta pedesetak strana meditacija o prvorazrednim teniserima i glavni razlog da se knjiga ni ne uzme u ruke ako vas iritiraju njegov stil i njegova nara Kao i druge knjige eseja ili pripovedaka pisanih u nekom dužem vremenskom periodu, i ovo treba malo razvući prilikom čitanja da ne bi došlo do zasićenja. A inače vrhunska zabava za ljubitelje raznih tema - tenisa, Dejvida Linča, užasa masovne zabave od televizije do krstarenja, Volasovog stila... e da, Volas. Istovremeno i osnovni razlog da se proguta pedesetak strana meditacija o prvorazrednim teniserima i glavni razlog da se knjiga ni ne uzme u ruke ako vas iritiraju njegov stil i njegova naratorska persona. Mene (očevidno) ne iritiraju. Stil me fascinira kao mačku farovi na autoputu a personu nekako... prepoznajem, pa je volim i kad me izbezumljuje.
Da izdvojim: dva eseja, o tenisu i o krstarenju, stvarno su nešto najbolje što se u tom žanru uopšte može razumno očekivati.
David Markwell
A fantastic collection of essays by Wallace. I'll admit to being more than a fan of Wallace (for the purpose of full disclosure), but the essays here collected are certainly some of Wallace's best. Here DFW turns his ever observant eye towards tennis, U.S. Fiction, post-structuralism/deconstructionist philosophy, David Lynch movies, the Illinois State Fair, and managed fun on a cruise ship. Throughout Wallace's intelligent, probing, and deeply personal voice always rings through. In reading thes A fantastic collection of essays by Wallace. I'll admit to being more than a fan of Wallace (for the purpose of full disclosure), but the essays here collected are certainly some of Wallace's best. Here DFW turns his ever observant eye towards tennis, U.S. Fiction, post-structuralism/deconstructionist philosophy, David Lynch movies, the Illinois State Fair, and managed fun on a cruise ship. Throughout Wallace's intelligent, probing, and deeply personal voice always rings through. In reading these essays one gets more than just the sense of what Wallace thinks about these subjects, one gets a sense of the kind of man Wallace was. Highly recommended for anyone who wants a way in to DFW's fiction (or head for that matter).
Travis
These essays are so well-written and at times so mercilessly (and hilariously) scathing that I am too self-conscious to try to write a thorough review. I can imagine DFW grimacing as he reads my attempts to extol his work, and responding with an incisive essay as to why my review filled him with despair.

So I will just say that this book is a must-read. "Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All" and the eponymous essay "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" are essential These essays are so well-written and at times so mercilessly (and hilariously) scathing that I am too self-conscious to try to write a thorough review. I can imagine DFW grimacing as he reads my attempts to extol his work, and responding with an incisive essay as to why my review filled him with despair.

So I will just say that this book is a must-read. "Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All" and the eponymous essay "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" are essential for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider to the American Experience. DFW will articulate your cynicism brilliantly and will make you laugh (a lot) along the way with his mordant style of writing.
mark
I'm rereading, having started to re-watch "Twin Peaks" which I remembered Wallace wrote about in this collection of essays. Fascinating still.
Life Unfiltered. Wallace is not for everyone. This collection of essays and arguments is in some ways frightening. It is a look at various aspects of American culture w/o the mental gymnastics of psychological defense mechanisms, which serve a purpose. Of course it is DFW's interpretation & only for the open minded. His usual themes: Tennis, Entertainm I'm rereading, having started to re-watch "Twin Peaks" which I remembered Wallace wrote about in this collection of essays. Fascinating still.
Life Unfiltered. Wallace is not for everyone. This collection of essays and arguments is in some ways frightening. It is a look at various aspects of American culture w/o the mental gymnastics of psychological defense mechanisms, which serve a purpose. Of course it is DFW's interpretation & only for the open minded. His usual themes: Tennis, Entertainment, & addiction(s). Go to a midwestern state fair, go on the pro tennis tour, and take a luxury cruise; Think about TV, the movies, and writing fiction ... and then go a bar, I'm buying. A strong case for getting wasted or ...
Paul
This is the kind of writing that makes you CUOL (crack up out loud) super hard, so that like three sentences later you remember the part that made you CUOL three sentences ago and you start CUOLing again, but so much that you can't just go on, you have to go and read that part over again that made you CUOL in the first place and then you just hold your place with your thumb and let the book fall closed and you shut your eyes and let yourself just CUOL for however long you need.

Also you sort of This is the kind of writing that makes you CUOL (crack up out loud) super hard, so that like three sentences later you remember the part that made you CUOL three sentences ago and you start CUOLing again, but so much that you can't just go on, you have to go and read that part over again that made you CUOL in the first place and then you just hold your place with your thumb and let the book fall closed and you shut your eyes and let yourself just CUOL for however long you need.

Also you sort of want to rip the book into A Million Little Pieces and burn each piece and then piss on the pieces and then set them on fire again because you'll never write anything 1/10 as good as anything therein, and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it.
Helen Barr
So smart, so funny. This collection of essays is dense with thoughts, analysis, self-references/autobiography, footnotes (which are usually a little obscure) and references to other bits and pieces. Basically, reading this book felt like talking to a really smart friend (and he does make you feel like a friend). Although I felt a little weighed down trying to follow Wallace's thought processes, I also felt in good hands and wanted to listen to what he said. RIP David Foster Wallace and I hope yo So smart, so funny. This collection of essays is dense with thoughts, analysis, self-references/autobiography, footnotes (which are usually a little obscure) and references to other bits and pieces. Basically, reading this book felt like talking to a really smart friend (and he does make you feel like a friend). Although I felt a little weighed down trying to follow Wallace's thought processes, I also felt in good hands and wanted to listen to what he said. RIP David Foster Wallace and I hope you know wherever you are that people are listening and analysing themselves because of your charm and humour.
Maya Lang
I was both in awe of and incredibly annoyed by how ridiculously smart David Foster Wallace shows himself to be in these essays. One reviewer described him as using words the way a ninja uses throwing stars. I guess it's a thing of beauty to see someone so adept and skilled, but it can also be irritating to a bystander, watching the words whiz by. And to top it all off, he was a ranked Junior level national tennis player. Ugh! Anyway, his essay on the cruise trip he took (the title essay) was rid I was both in awe of and incredibly annoyed by how ridiculously smart David Foster Wallace shows himself to be in these essays. One reviewer described him as using words the way a ninja uses throwing stars. I guess it's a thing of beauty to see someone so adept and skilled, but it can also be irritating to a bystander, watching the words whiz by. And to top it all off, he was a ranked Junior level national tennis player. Ugh! Anyway, his essay on the cruise trip he took (the title essay) was ridiculously funny and more endearing; I thought some of the other ones were a little bit arrogant in tone, though if I were a ninja I might show off too.
David Fransen
Brilliant. I had tried to read his fiction before, but I never felt like I Got It enough to justify the effort required. After reading this collection, I officially Get It and am now going to (try to) plow through The Pale King and/or Infinite Jest immediately. The title essay and his writeup of the Illinois State Fair in this collection are 2 of my new favorite things ever. The famous essay about TV's cultural status as related to/affected by postmodernism - which any and every remotely highbro Brilliant. I had tried to read his fiction before, but I never felt like I Got It enough to justify the effort required. After reading this collection, I officially Get It and am now going to (try to) plow through The Pale King and/or Infinite Jest immediately. The title essay and his writeup of the Illinois State Fair in this collection are 2 of my new favorite things ever. The famous essay about TV's cultural status as related to/affected by postmodernism - which any and every remotely highbrow writing about pop culture seems to quote - lives up to its reputation as well. Can't say enough about this, so I'll just stop here.
Pattie
What a wonderful, wonderful read. I've always always avoided DFW because I thought his writing would be difficult, dense and pedantic, but instead he's incredibly funny and honest and smart and readable. The essays are humorous without being snarky or superior or removed.

Although it's probably a different experience reading him now, after his suicide, as I imagine today's reader is be much more aware of the small, buried remarks that now appear as indicators of his deep pain and depression.
Joe
I literally could not put this book down. It's so funny, interesting, and true that I found myself choosing to read it over every other recreational activity. The title essay, and the essay on the Illinois State fair, are must-reads for anyone alive today.

Although the book takes an observational pose, the conclusion is striking: we cannot avoid despair, and the farther we run from it, the more pervasive it grows. DFW finds it in cruise ship bathrooms, livestock shows, and tennis player rankings I literally could not put this book down. It's so funny, interesting, and true that I found myself choosing to read it over every other recreational activity. The title essay, and the essay on the Illinois State fair, are must-reads for anyone alive today.

Although the book takes an observational pose, the conclusion is striking: we cannot avoid despair, and the farther we run from it, the more pervasive it grows. DFW finds it in cruise ship bathrooms, livestock shows, and tennis player rankings; he finds it on TV, in books, and in our heads.
Caroline
Five stars for the eponymous travelogue that makes up the final 100 pages of the book. The rest is hit-or-miss and showing its age a bit.

No, make that six stars for the final section, four for the 1st & 3rd on childhood tennis and the state fair, three each for the David Lyncheroo and the television and literary theory bits, and two for the skimmable pro-tennis investigation. What does that make? Something wildly uneven, but at its best hysterically entertaining, painfully honest, and ultima Five stars for the eponymous travelogue that makes up the final 100 pages of the book. The rest is hit-or-miss and showing its age a bit.

No, make that six stars for the final section, four for the 1st & 3rd on childhood tennis and the state fair, three each for the David Lyncheroo and the television and literary theory bits, and two for the skimmable pro-tennis investigation. What does that make? Something wildly uneven, but at its best hysterically entertaining, painfully honest, and ultimately unforgettable.
Amy Neftzger
This book is a collection of essays written by David Foster Wallace on very different subjects. DFW has insight into human nature and he often reveals the idiosyncrasies of specific processes or groups. He was a keen observer of human behavior and writes about it in a funny -- but at the same time poignant -- manner. While this writing may not be for everyone, I can't help but respect it and be entertained by it. I'm definitely a fan.
Dianne
DFW has just been found dead, and I am profoundly sad. This is the first thing I read by him, and I taught the Michael Joyce tennis essay last year in Lang. I loved the essay on the Illinois State Fair (..."the fuck you think?" is one of my all-time favorite quotes--not one that can be hung from a banner in the English wing at NCP), the piece on the cruise ship, the creepiness of hearing what David Lynch is like in person.

No point in asking why; so sad that there won't be more.
Robin
Good overall. The essay about television feels a bit dated since it was written shortly before so-called "Reality Television" began creeping its way into American television. What does DFW think of reality tv, I wonder? And what about the recent spate of really intelligent television programs?
The other essays are really good, especially "Greatly Exaggerated" which both explains and mocks recent Critical Theory.
Nynke
I'm rewarding this 4 stars based on a specific DFW scale. I liked it better than Brief Interviews but overall less than Infinite Jest. There were a couple of essays I didn't get into as much as others, and it was of course also a matter of persisting until reaching the final, titular essay of the book. I'd read/heard excerpts of it before and it was as excellent as I'd hoped. So if it'd been any other book I'd have given it 5 stars.
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