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A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments Paperback – February 2, 1998
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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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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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.Read more ›
"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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
He's another one of my pantheon of dearly departed heroes. I love it.Published 24 days ago by Amazon Customer
Many good stories in this collection. Some were more interesting than others, but I expected that. David Foster Wallace gives extreme attention to detail.Published 1 month ago by DawnYawn
A very good book. The title essay is a funny look at a trip aboard a cruise ship, as seen by a man who has no business being on such a trip, i.e. a smart sophisticated city guy. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Never Youmind
A great collection of essays and arguments. Admittedly, I found some of the arguments tedious but, the essays on the Illinois State Fair and the cruise line industry made up for... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
Some of it is an insightful, enjoyable read; some of it makes you feel like you're in an English class full of PhD candidates.Published 3 months ago by Bruce J Jones