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A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: An Essay (Digital Original) Kindle Edition
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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 an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B0078XGRSG
- Publisher : Little, Brown and Company; 1st edition (April 1, 2012)
- Publication date : April 1, 2012
- Language : English
- File size : 705 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 368 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #422,190 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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However, this current version for sale is a ripoff; at best very misleading and at worst fraudulent. It was on sale for 1.99 and described as the full 360-something page full book by the same title. If you are looking for the full book of essays, do NOT buy this . . .
I'm very disappointed that what was advertised as a full book version was not. This is but a single essay.
Yet it's a big, fat target, right? In the competitive mega-cruise industry, they are selling luxury to middle-brow tastes for a lot of money. Wallace has only to sit back, like a skilled buffalo hunter of old, and pick off as many hapless victims as he could process. (The hunters had to skin and haul their product to buyers. Wallace has to manage a torrent of footnotes to meld his generally sarcastic and witty points into a long magazine article.) But wow, is he ever funny!
Why not Five Stars, then? Well, I just couldn't enjoy the essay as much as I wanted to, because there's what feels to me like a mean-spirited edge to his humor, at least in this piece. Ironically (to me), one of his insightful set pieces is an account of a hypnotist-entertainer who bewitches the audience with his ability to hypnotize and manipulate selected audience members. Wallace is careful to exclude himself from a participant pool that is selected based on evidence of suggestibility from simple tests; he knows he is susceptible and wants none of the potential horror, based on past experience. So fine, but then he comments upon and speculates about the hypnotist himself, whose "boredom and hostility are not only undisguised, they are incorporated kind of ingeniously into the entertainment itself." And there's something key here, Wallace speculates: "being entertained by someone who clearly dislikes you, and feeling that you deserve the dislike at the same time that you resent it."
I know what he means.
"A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" is his essay about his vacation on a Cruise Ship. But like everything else DFW writes, the story is only a milieu for him to reflect on the American condition, and something deeper- the very meaning of life. If you have read his commencement speech "This is Water," you will recognize the same fears, concerns, observations and style.
DFW writes sentences with such genius, and has such an extensive vocabulary, that reading him can be exhausting.1 I often read his longest sentences, looking for grammatical errors, and it is impossible! The only writer with a vocabulary like his is Nabakov.
But where DFW really soars is when he discusses the human condition. He can do it in a brutally descriptive way, showing his brilliance without being unlikable:
"I have seen fuchsia pantsuits and menstrual-pink sportcoats and maroon-and-purple warm-ups and white loafers worn without socks."
He is luring us in, thinking we are going on a Cruise with a clever joker, with pithy snark about our silly fellow passengers. This trip is going to be a lot of fun.
But this is only a trap he is setting for us. If all he wanted to do was write about how goofy people dress and act on a Cruise that would not even be worthy of his genius. No, he has bigger plans.
Instead, the central theme of this work is the depressing, predictable manner in which we will NEVER be satisfied by attaining more goods and services. This parallels his theme of Americans requiring constant entertainment, which he mines so deeply in "Infinite Jest." He writes:
"I mean, if pampering and radical kindness don't seem motivated by strong affection and thus don't somehow affirm one or help assure one that one is not, finally, a dork, of what final and significant value is all this indulgence and cleaning?"
He struggles viscerally with his preternatural intelligence, marveling at the doe-eyed patrons that are able to enjoy this faux affection delivered by the vapid staff. His genius is his burden.
But finally, he explains the perpetual dissatisfaction all Americans suffer from, as they attain material possessions and progress further with career, bigger houses, and more channels of s*** on television. Some call it adaption, or the luxury effect. This is the BIG IDEA of this essay:
"I am suffering from (...) this envy of another ship, and still it's painful. It's also representative of a psychological syndrome that I notice has gotten steadily worse as the Cruise wears on, a mental list of dissatisfactions and grievances that started picayune but has quickly become nearly despair-grade."
"...more precisely that ur-American part of me that craves and responds to pampering and passive pleasure: the Dissatisfied Infant part of me, the part that always and indiscriminately WANTS."
"...the promise to sate the part of me that always and only WANTS - is the central fantasy the (Cruise) brochure is selling."
"...the real fantasy here isn't that this promise will be kept, but that such a promise is keepable at all. This is a big one, this lie."
"But the Infantile part of me is insatiable. In response to any environment of extraordinary gratification and pampering, the Insatiable Infant part of me will simply adjust its desires upward until it once again levels out at its homeostasis of terrible dissatisfaction."
"...part of me realizes that I haven't washed a dish or tapped my foot in line behind somebody with multiple coupons at a supermarket checkout in a week; and yet instead of feeling refreshed and renewed I'm anticipating how stressful and demanding and unpleasurable regular landlocked adult life is going to be now that even just the premature removal of a towel by a sepulchral crewman seems like an assault on my basic rights..."
Mercifully, after making us painfully aware of the Insatiable Infant inside us, he ends the story on a slightly positive note:
"...subsequent reentry into the adult demands of landlocked real-world life wasn't nearly as bad as a week of Absolutely Nothing had led me to fear."
1Now, DFW does have a few "tics" or quirks that grate on some people:
1. He loves to use abbreviations constantly, such as w/r/t (With Respect To)
2. He overuses the word "like" in the beginning of sentences
3. His best sentences run a paragraph long
4. He likes to use obscure words, sometimes the same one often, which becomes distracting (lapis lazuli, in this case)
5. He constantly uses footnotes, in order to not break up the rhythm of the writing, but it does anyway because a curious reader will go back and look at the footnote before reading further. The footnotes have some of the best stuff. It's hard to imagine any editor having the balls or intellectual firepower to get in a discussion with him on the merits of simply including the material from the footnotes with the rest of the prose, but I sure wish one would have.
It was really light and entertaining and the way Wallace describes the details and adventures on a cruise ship is quite magical even though it is done in a very depressing manner lol. Though a bit cliche I guess. To say he is a fish out of water on this cruse... His writing and his style in this essay really is complex for the subject at hand of a week on a cruise ship.
I really enjoyed it. It is a fast read but worth it. I enjoyed it so much I bought Infinite Jest his more well known book I guess. I am really struggling with that as his level of prose in there is so a bit out of my league. But I am trying lol.
Top reviews from other countries
He was asked to go on a ship cruise and write an article. He did. And it's very funny indeed.
Having been on a cuise in the last five years I see that not much has changed about
the cruising experience since 1995 !! For anyone who's cruised it is fun to see the situations that Wallace
encountered. For anyone considering a cruise - a good introduction. And for all who enjoy a good laugh.
Well worth the purchase and time reading.