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A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments Hardcover – February 1, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0316919890 ISBN-10: 0316919896 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1st edition (February 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316919896
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316919890
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (171 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #151,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

David Foster Wallace made quite a splash in 1996 with his massive novel, Infinite Jest. Now he's back with a collection of essays entitled A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. In addition to a razor-sharp writing style, Wallace has a mercurial mind that lights on many subjects. His seven essays travel from a state fair in Illinois to a cruise ship in the Caribbean, explore how television affects literature and what makes film auteur David Lynch tick, and deconstruct deconstructionism and find the intersection between tornadoes and tennis.

These eclectic interests are enhanced by an eye (and nose) for detail: "I have seen sucrose beaches and water a very bright blue. I have seen an all-red leisure suit with flared lapels. I have smelled what suntan lotion smells like spread over 21,000 pounds of hot flesh . . ." It's evident that Wallace revels in both the life of the mind and the peculiarities of his fellows; in A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again he celebrates both.

From Publishers Weekly

Like the tennis champs who fascinate him, novelist Wallace (Infinite Jest; The Broom of the System) makes what he does look effortless and yet inspired. His instinct for the colloquial puts his masters Pynchon and DeLillo to shame, and the humane sobriety that he brings to his subjects-fictional or factual-should serve as a model to anyone writing cultural comment, whether it takes the form of stories or of essays like these. Readers of Wallace's fiction will take special interest in this collection: critics have already mined "Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley" (Wallace's memoir of his tennis-playing days) for the biographical sources of Infinite Jest. The witty, insightful essays on David Lynch and TV are a reminder of how thoroughly Wallace has internalized the writing-and thinking-habits of Stanley Cavell, the plain-language philosopher at Harvard, Wallace's alma mater. The reportage (on the Illinois State Fair, the Canadian Open and a Caribbean Cruise) is perhaps best described as post-gonzo: funny, slight and self-conscious without Norman Mailer's or Hunter Thompson's braggadocio. Only in the more academic essays, on Dostoyevski and the scholar H.L. Hix, does Wallace's gee-whiz modesty get in the way of his arguments. Still, even these have their moments: at the end of the Dostoyevski essay, Wallace blurts out that he wants "passionately serious ideological contemporary fiction [that is] also ingenious and radiantly transcendent fiction." From most writers, that would be hot air; from one as honest, subtle and ambitious as Wallace, it has the sound of a promise.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

Not a fun read, but a very interesting read.
Harold Holcombe
Wallace's odd take on the world is something very unique, which you have to experience yourself.
This book collects essays he wrote for Harper's, Premier Magazine, and others.
Jon DuBois

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

84 of 97 people found the following review helpful By J.F. Quackenbush on September 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
David Foster Wallace is a gifted writer and always a joy to read. His fiction is groundbreaking, and as this book proves, his nonfiction may even be better.
"A supposedly fun thing" is a collection of essays that are ostensibly stabs at journalism, the big joke being that Wallace is no journalist. He comes off as an endearingly neurotic-bordering-on-pathologically-self-concious red headed step child of Hunter S. Thompson. In fact, it could even be stated that this book is a sort of postmodern inversion of "The Great Shark Hunt", where Thompson's diving in head first to live inside the events he reports is replaced by Wallace's endearing midwestern unwillingness to get in the way and fear of making a nuisance and/or humiliating spectacle of himself.
Mixed in with all that, though, are startling on point revelations about the state of American Culture, what it means to be an american, the nature of art, and the human condition, which one normally doesn't expect from works about TV, Tennis, State Fairs, or Carribean Pleasure Cruises(in the title essay).
While it may not be as great an accomplishment as Infinite Jest (and the comparison to that magnificent book is the only reason this is getting four stars instead of five), "Supposedly Fun Thing" is without a doubt an incredible read and well worth the price of entry.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
"A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" is a collection of seven essays originally published between 1992 and 1996. They range over a variety of topics and, while somewhat uneven in quality, demonstrate that David Foster Wallace is one of contemporary America's most intelligent and imaginative writers.
The best of the essays are two that were originally published in Harper's magazine, "Getting Away from Being Pretty Much Away from It All" and the title essay, "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again".
In "Getting Away from Being Pretty Much Away from It All", Wallace relates a visit to the Illinois State Fair in 1993 in a style that alternates between intellectual ponderousness and hilariously obsessive description and commentary on the minutest details of his experience. Approaching his task with the wonder of a child, Wallace, in a passage illustrative of his style (or at least one aspect of it), reflects: "One of the few things I still miss from my Midwest childhood was this weird, deluded but unshakable conviction that everything around me existed all and only For Me. Am I the only one who had this queer deep sense as a kid?-that everything exterior to me existed only insofar as it affected me somehow?-that all things were somehow, via some occult adult activity, specially arranged for my benefit? . . . The child leaves a room, and now everything in that room, once he's no longer there to see it, melts away into some void of potential or else (my personal childhood theory) is trundled away by occult adults and stored until the child's reentry into the room recalls it all back into animate service.
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70 of 83 people found the following review helpful By "jumpyclown" on January 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
I think David Foster Wallace is a brilliant writer, but can't really hit the target all the time. Either he is totally on top of something in describing it, or he writes himself into an intellectual loop that only he appreciates. When i read his stuff, i almost wonder if he is too intelligent for his audience, in that he tries to write about pop culture and similar themes that appeal to the average reader with such strength and knowhow that he seems like he's a genius stuck in a kid's mind and his descriptions of the kid's world can become too complicated for the kid to enjoy. That said, this book is well worth it, if not for the title essay on board a cruise ship which is hilarious then for the essay on amercian writing in the television age. There is a remark about irony in that essay which just blew my top off, it was great. The other notable essay is his "personal" review and account of a state fair, which is also equally funny. As for the others, i wasn't all that interested, in that i found them too wholly theoretical and dull. However, don't let this stop you, his writing is so original and fresh that its worth buying, not only for what it can give, but for what it exposes you to. Well worth it.
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79 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Bart King on September 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
David Foster Wallace is a profoundly gifted writer, particularly of nonfiction. Yet backtracking to this "early" anthology of his work was an experience that left me surprisingly disappointed. Admittedly, part of the problem is that his early-to-mid 1990's musings on television and pro tennis (which comprise a substantial portion of this book) are now simply out-of-date.

But additionally, Wallace lacked the focus needed to make his points clearly when he wrote these pieces. While I think it can be fascinating to watch a brilliant mind wander about on the page (Tom Wolfe's nonfiction comes to mind), Wallace is not wandering. He's willfully zigzagging, in the writer's equivalent of "Look Ma, no hands!"

And this obfuscatory style often undermines his own material. A funny line about how tennis pro Michael Chang has "as unhappy a face as I've ever seen outside a Graduate Writing Program" is hopelessly outnumbered by bits like "I was disabled because I was unable to accommodate the absence of disabilities to accommodate." Right. Wallace's word play and tangential trains of thought CAN be amusing and even delightful... but in A SUPPOSEDLY FUN THING..., they are more frequently just a chore to read.
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More About the Author

David Foster Wallace wrote the acclaimed novels Infinite Jest and The Broom of the System and the story collections Oblivion, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and Girl With Curious Hair. His nonfiction includes the essay collections Consider the Lobster and A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, and the full-length work Everything and More.  He died in 2008.

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