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This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life Hardcover – April 14, 2009


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There are pivotal moments in the lives of all seekers when we realize that we’ve been traveling on our path of growth toward happiness and ful­fillment, but, simply put, we want to go faster.
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This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life + Consider the Lobster and Other Essays + A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (April 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316068225
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316068222
  • Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 0.8 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,974 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"David Foster Wallace's unbelievable graduation speech...will inspire you."—Daily Candy

"We read Wallace because he forces us to think. He makes us consider what's beneath us and around us--like water."—Alicia J. Rouverol, The Christian Science Monitor

"Think of it as The Last Lecture for intellectuals."—Time

"None of the cloudlessly sane and true things he had to say about life in 2005 are any less sane or true today...[This is Water] reminds us of [Wallace's] strength and goodness and decency--the parts of him the terrible master [the mind] could never defeat, and never will."—Tom Bissel, New York Times Book Review

"Striking...is [Wallace's] evocative insight and humor."—Mark Follman, Mother Jones

About the Author

David Foster Wallace was born in Ithaca, New York, in 1962 and raised in Illinois, where he was a regionally ranked junior tennis player. He received bachelor of arts degrees in philosophy and English from Amherst College and wrote what would become his first novel, The Broom of the System, as his senior English thesis. He received a masters of fine arts from University of Arizona in 1987 and briefly pursued graduate work in philosophy at Harvard University. His second novel, Infinite Jest, was published in 1996. Wallace taught creative writing at Emerson College, Illinois State University, and Pomona College, and published the story collections Girl with Curious Hair, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, Oblivion, the essay collections A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, and Consider the Lobster. He was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Award, and a Whiting Writers' Award, and was appointed to the Usage Panel for The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. He died in 2008. His last novel, The Pale King, was published in 2011.

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Customer Reviews

This book is very thought provoking.
Jennifer Read
If you're getting this because you really want a print version, then this will suffice although I would say there are better options.
ChibiNeko
I actually read the speech online before I had read any of his books (now I've read them all save for Everything and More).
Eric Allam

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

89 of 97 people found the following review helpful By olive on April 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Honestly, I couldn't disagree more with the negative posts. I think this brief, beautiful looking book is a wonderful tribute to David Foster Wallace's brilliant mind. This speech was spread throughout the internet, yes. But I, for one, think this is piece of writing is something worth collecting and pondering. And publishing it in a book form gives it the stature it deserves. That may sound old-fashioned, but even in the internet age, that's still the role of a book publisher. And I am happy to have this on my shelf to be able to hold onto it for years to come.
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83 of 94 people found the following review helpful By Stephen C. Ellis on April 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My initial reaction was the same as the other reviews, huge rip off. But what the editors have done changes for the better the experience of reading what I already thought was an amazing speech. Most of us read the speech on the internet , which because of the medium is always cursory. The book makes us slow down and reflect on the message, and it's not trite or trivial or obvious (except in the sense that any observation that is clearly true seems trite). It's ten bucks very well spent- I bought a bunch of copies for gifts.
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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Eric Allam on April 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Before buying this book I knew exactly what it was: David Foster Wallace's 2005 Kenyon Commencement speech. I actually read the speech online before I had read any of his books (now I've read them all save for Everything and More). and was hoping they would publish, which they did, and I think they did a very good job. I've recommended the speech to some of my friends and now I'll be able to do one better and give it to them as a gift. It seems silly to give this book a 1 star. Rate on content, not on something unknowable like the motivation of the publishers.
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52 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Jake D on July 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I'm pretty sure DFW, wherever he is, must really be regretting leaving control of his estate to whatever moron decided it would be a good idea to publish his speech one-line-at-a-time, as if it were the next installment of "Chicken Soup for the Soul". The layout substantially alters (for the worse) the impact of the speech, treating each sentence as if it were intended to be a precious little nugget of wisdom, divorced from overall context of the speech as a whole. I guess it's predictable that his heirs would want to cash in, but it's pretty unforgivable that they so brutally mangled his work in the process. Also: I seriously doubt the title is DFW's. "This is Water" is confusingly misquoted and sort of renders the initial anecdote meaningless, and the sub head is rife with the sort of hubris that DFW argues against in the speech itself.) The version that appeared in Best NonRequired Reading 2006 (edited by his friend Dave Eggers, who presumably titled it according to DFW's wishes) was simply "Kenyon Commencement Address" If you want the speech in book form, buy that book at least instead of this three legged baby.
The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2006 (The Best American Series) The actual speech is, by the way, brilliant and moving, which is what makes this edition all the more tragic. (5 *'s for the speech 1 * for the edition itself)
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Oddsfish VINE VOICE on October 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
My sister gave me this book about a month ago for my birthday. I had read it a long time ago on the internet, but I'd just scanned over it with mild interest and quickly had forgotten it.

I was a fool, of course, that time I read it. I'd done exactly what Wallace so eloquently warns against in "This is Water." I'd read it while entrapped within the prison of my self-concern. I had read it without full mindfulness, in a rush to move on to other things. And look what I had missed.

It's a beautiful book that reminds us of truths that float around us in many forms (he points out cliches) but that we somehow never seem fully to grasp. Wallace reminds us that if we live unconsciously, according to the default settings that focus on ourselves, we can end up living cynical and bitter lives. He instead urges awareness, so that we may experience even the most banal of experiences as "not only meaningful but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars -- compassion, love, the sub-surface unity of all things..."

Like I said, it's a beautiful book that I find worth reading over and over, just to remind myself, again, to pay attention.

One more note. I do very much appreciate the book form This is Water takes. The small volume is attractive. The speech is published with one sentence per page which serves to help the reader enact the skills that Wallace so urges in the book: awareness and thoughtfulness. It's a perfect example of form matching content, and even if This is Water is still available for free online, the book is well worth the cost.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A fellow with a keyboard on September 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The negative reviewers on this page are furious that the text has been "brutally mangled" in a one-line-per-page book. That ought to give you a sense of how sacred the text is to people, and how important it is to read.

The negative reviewers are right that this is a near-sacred piece of text, one deserving of your carefulest attention, but for the same reason, they are exactly wrong that the book does the text a disservice. For two reasons:

1. One line per page forces you to slow down, to consider the words more carefully. To pause. Think.

2. The mere fact that the text is in a book changes our approach to it--gives it more weight. Here's William Deresiewicz: "It's not that the text is any different on a screen than it is in a book. It's that we're different, because the medium tunes our nervous systems to a different pitch. We come to the screen to be entertained: we bring it our impatience. We come to the screen to shop: we bring it the expectation that we're going to be pandered to." _This Is Water_ does not pander.

Rather than doing a disservice to the text, this book is an attempt to rescue the text from the dross of the Internet. To prevent people from reading it alongside their microwaved burrito and their online radio. To prevent people from giving it a moment's thought, and then never considering it again.
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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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This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life
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