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A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments Tag - Author of Infinite Jest

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A new collection of stories from David Foster Wallace is occasion to celebrate. These stories -- which have been prominently serialized in Harper's, ... Show synopsis

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Reviews of A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments Tag - Author of Infinite Jest

Overall customer rating: 5.000
Derthorn

"Supposedly" is the keyword here.

by Derthorn on Jan 8, 2009

If, like me, the footnotes are part of the joy of reading DFW you'll love this book of seven essays. Don't miss the precise description of the Illinois State Fair or his unconventional review of David Lynch's 1997 "Lost Horizon". P.S. Bring your unabridged dictionary to the reading table for a chance to expand your vocabulary.

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riverrun

Laughter into the Void

by riverrun on Dec 7, 2008

David Foster Wallace?s A Supposedly Fun Thing I?ll Never Do Again, his 1997 collection of essays and arguments, is by turns hilarious, brilliant and disturbing. Ranging from idiosyncratic reportage on the Illinois state fair and a luxury ocean cruise to professional tennis and filmmaker David Lynch to poststructuralist criticism, Wallace is virtuosic in his prose style, his accumulation of detail staggering, and his memory bank of references vast and startling. A polymath, his seeming ease with mathematics and philosophy can be daunting. In ?Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley,? Wallace ascribes his ?near-great? tennis skills to an ability to calculate the ?differential complication of wind? and being ?comfortable inside straight lines.? In ?Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All,? the essayist poses as a protagonist in a screwball comedy, evading older women who mistake him for a Harper?s Bazaar food critic, and describing a pig as ?1/3 the size of a Volkswagen.? In the title essay, worth the price of admission alone, Wallace describes a mendacious passenger on the cruise ship with ?the tiny delicate pale unhappy face of a kind of corrupt doll.? This comes in one of the author?s frequent footnotes, which reflects a kind of Nabokovian mock-pedantry, but also a deliberate breaking-up, a discontinuity of narrative. In ?E Unibus Pluram,? Wallace argues persuasively that TV has absorbed and co-opted the ironic stance and irreverence, the ?marriage of High and Low Culture,? of metafictional American writers such as Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo. One way in which the author himself confronts this daunting challenge is by not denying the static of pop culture and media, scattering his prose with references to TV shows and product brands as well as to the ?1983 Vienna Boys Choir?s seminal recording of the medievally lugubrious Tenebrae Factae Sunt.? In fact, Wallace disavows the high literary style that descends from, say, Henry James to William Faulkner by interjecting conversational tics and mannerisms like ?like? and ?way? and ?good old? into an otherwise fluent prose. And though Wallace is fully capable of a withering irony and grotesquerie, one has the sense that the author does this not out of malice but rather from a foundation of essential humaneness and lived experience. Wallace grew up in a ?boxed township? of central Illinois, so he?s intimate with the Midwestern topography and its denizens. And it?s striking that, given the burden of Hemingwayesque hypermasculinity post-World War II male American writers have inherited, Wallace can freely admit his ?semi-agorophobia,? his social faux pas, his self-delusions.? In the end, the author is profound in his observations about the ?Near-Death Experiences? of state fair rides or the luxury cruise?s ?death-denial/-transcendence fantasies,? its natal pampering. There are moments when Wallace?s prose provokes a hysterical laughter in face of the Void.

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