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A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments Paperback – Feb 2 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (Feb. 2 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316925284
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316925280
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 15.3 x 2.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #5,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. JEFFREY MCMAHON on Nov. 17 2002
Format: Paperback
The title essay, about a hundred pages, is a sort of spy mission where the author, a man who makes it clear that he loathes the philistinism of conspicuous consumerism, poses as a boat cruise passenger and chronicles the depression and uneasiness that results from a luxury boat cruise. Wallace's depression is our joy because he is extremely funny in the way he shows how the Pampering Industry, that is, the boat cruise staff, is in fact a bunch of bullies who force us to "have a good time" as we luxuriate on a cruiser, which Wallace envisions as a sort of huge, warm womb where consciousness is lost and where the tourists experience a sort of death. Funny, profound, disturbing, Wallace hits a home run in an essay that was originally published in Harper's magazine around 1995. I believe this version is slightly different, longer, but curiously, missing some juicy parts that I remember enjoying in the magazine version.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Reader and Writer on Aug. 2 2007
Format: Paperback
Wallace is a fun writer. He's amusing. He tries very hard to spin the ordinary with a barrage of sidebars, witticisms, and irony. How odd then that we expect so much more even as we enjoy the work. This is a tough question but one that his writing raises.

The first essay discusses his adolescent tennis playing and his lack of true talent (although in other places he drops other hints about his upbringing that seems to contradict what we read here. (I am unsure what I can really believe of his writing about his past.) Next follows an essay about television and fiction that relies heavily upon a number of studies. Most shocking is how he never discovered John Fiske whose work, Television Culture is one of the major works on the subject. Wallace discusses metafiction from the viewpoint of novelistic deconstruction and postmodernism yet his weaknesses of not having a visual studies background really shows. Thus he stumbles upon some "revelations" that have been pretty well documented by other writers. Eventually the lack of a clear structure in this essay undermines whatever point Wallace is attempting to make. Skip the David Lynch,(unless you are a David Lynch groupie)in which the writerly problems of structure and theme are completely lost.

The essay on tennis player Michael Joyce is packaged in a journalistic wrapping, but it's as though Wallace never really gets the feel of the person or the atmosphere. He bounces around with pen and pad taking down impressions that are superficial. For example, in covering the Montreal tournament he never questions what it is that makes tennis in Quebec so different from the US Open. We get a skimming essay, with the oh so expected Wallace ironical touch but without real digging.
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Format: Paperback
I find I can't look away from David Foster Wallace's writing, even though from this book onward, his work keeps playing out the same way.
If you want to understand Wallace, you can't do better than this book of essays. It's all here, from the sharp insight to the overcaffeinated but entertaining riffs on minutiae and big themes alike, to the terrific sense of order in his arguments, ebbing and flowing, delightfully departing from the pyramid structure/straw man tricks we've all seen eight billion times before.
And, vexingly, there's that Other Thing about DFW to be found all over these clever essays: a curious lack of feeling about the outer world and his inner life. It's kept him from making the leap throughout his career, and it's never been exposed more plainly than here.
You can see it in stark relief in his glimpses into sport. His essay on his own tennis playing doesn't carry the emotional freight he was gunning for, and it's no accident that the other tennis essay in this book, on the struggles of an obscure professional, is easily more evocative. Focusing on someone else, DFW is free to do what he does best (analyze) and escape from what he does the worst (feel).
You can see DFW's signature numbness undestandably coloring his looks at cruises and state fairs--activities that clearly aren't his bag. More interestingly, you can sense DFW's engine revving beneath the surface of the narrative in his homage to David Lynch. The admiration for Lynch ties back to DFW's own authorial frustrations. He can't arrange objects literally, magically, or expressionistically to conjure the responses that Lynch can; DFW doesn't have the feel for it and knows it.
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By F. T. Tebbe on March 6 2004
Format: Paperback
One of the most insightful collections of essays I've read in years, Wallace's A Supposedly Fun Thing explores contemporary life with fresh and vibrant language. Too many try to compare these non-fiction essays with his magnum opus, Infinite Jest; there's a directness, a desire to not beat around the bush, present in A Supposedly Fun Thing. I.J. is a massive metaphor for the issues and concerns discussed in A Supposedly Fun Thing and Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (another fine Wallace book). I'd love to read Wallace's take on the post-Sept. 11th America and the Bush Administration. If you're reading this, Dave, consider this a suggestion for more exceptional essays. Thanks for the great book.
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