A Supposedly Fun Thing Essay

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This collection of ''essays and arguments'' -- originally published in Harper's, Esquire and Premiere, among other magazines -- reveals Mr.

Wallace in ways that his fiction has of yet managed to dodge: as a writer struggling mightily to understand and capture his times, as a critic who cares deeply about ''serious'' art, and as a mensch. Wallace's two journalistic forays into Middle American culture: '' Getting Away From Already Being Pretty Much Away From It All,'' about a visit to the Illinois State Fair, and the title essay, in which Mr.

(Or seven.) Had “Shipping Out” been written by someone else – had it been written, actually, by anyone else – the result would probably have been a perfectly lovely magazine essay embodying the kind of rhetorical doubling that perfectly lovely magazine essays tend to strive for: on the one hand a travelogue with a transformative narrative arc and appropriately Dickensian details…and on the other a cultural critique of the m.v. And “Shipping Out,” despite its lyricism (“I have felt the full, clothy weight of a subtropical sky”), is an argument whose poetry and provocations orbit around a single point: “There’s something about a mass-market Luxury Cruise that’s unbearably sad.” A thesis Wallace will prove through taxonomic considerations of ship-borne sorrows, through vignettes conveying both humanity and the absence of it, through rhythmic repetitions of the word “despair,” through inventories of assorted atrocities that have, in the topsy-turvy moral terrain of the Seven-Night Caribbean Cruise, adopted the guise of Mandatory Fun.

, its curiosities, its context, and the various Global Phenomena it represents: economic entitlement, imperative leisure, people who use “cruise” as a verb. These indictments will all be incredibly un-subtle.

Wallace takes a seven-day luxury cruise to the Caribbean.

These vivid, hilarious essays attracted much attention when they were originally published, but they also made Mr.

MANY readers young and old (but especially the young and media-saturated) regarded David Foster Wallace's mammoth novel, '' Infinite Jest,'' with suspicion.

Jaded by too many middling writers heralded as the Next Big Thing, they wondered if, as its title intimated, this daunting tome wasn't just a big joke.

This manic observational faculty never seems to shut off; even while cooling his heels in a dreary waiting room with several hundred other cruise passengers, he's noting ''driven-looking corporate guys . This inclination to record his every impression doesn't bog down Mr.

Wallace's writing as often as you might think, but he is open to accusations that he lacks discipline.


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