The late David Foster Wallace was one of my favorite authors. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again is my favorite book he wrote. The title essay is my favorite piece of writing, with the wonderful essay Big Red Sun from Consider The Lobster coming in at a close second. Wallace’s writing polarizes people. They either see him as overly wordy and pretentious, a man in love with his own polymathic intellectual abilities, or they’re more like me and they love his writing to the point of taking a sick day on the day that they learned he had committed suicide.
Also, his books keep vanishing from our library. A mystery…
But as to this book and this essay–the title of the book comes from Wallace’s experience on a cruise ship. And surprise, surprise, he does not have a whole lot of fun during his voyage. Now, this might sound like an essay that would be better suited to someone like David Sedaris, and I’ve no doubt that he could work wonders with the material. But David Foster Wallace, while often humorous, doesn’t really write humor.
When he looks at something like a pleasure cruise, he’s looking at it through a brain big enough to have written a book about Infinity. He seems incapable of saying “Wow that music was lousy.” We’d be more likely to have him examine the history of cruise ship music, karaoke, and why top 40 hits are so often sung on these big boats. But sometimes he does just write simply, which is another of the things I enjoy about his work–I’m constantly off guard and I’m constantly running for my dictionary.
It’s a long essay, but it’s so good.
The other standouts in this collection, for me, are an essay about David Lynch’s work–fans of Twin Peaks will really be interested in learning some of Lynch’s thought processes during the final episodes of the show. Also, the essay about Wallace’s trip to the state fair made me laugh until I was in tears. Again, you’ve got a brilliant man taking a look at why pigs smell so bad or why Midwestern women can bake improbably delicious desserts.
His writing can be so ingenious that I feel like I’m cheapening it just by trying to describe it. Love it or hate it, I believe that everyone should give David Foster Wallace a try. Actually, try one fiction and one non-fiction book of his. Some people do seem to prefer him in one over the other. I love his non-fiction a lot more.
Any fans out there? Anyone been thwarted by these books before?
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