Reading: A Supposedly fun thing I’ll never do again

A Supposedly fun thing I’ll never do again, essays and arguments; David Foster Wallace (1997)


Well, my attempt to read this book in it’s entirety on vacation was frankly, an epic fail. You see, while I dedicated a significant period of time on my vacation to reading, I am a painfully slow reader and as a result I read only about half the book, 3 of the 7 essays contained within it.

The reason for my slow reading is apparently something called subvocalization, basically I read the book to myself in my head, as a result I read only slightly quicker silently than I would do if I were reading out loud. This is something I am going to have to make a conscious effort to address if I am to really enjoy reading, but for now it is what I have to deal with.

With that being said, the book is a collection of seven essays & thus like a collection of short stories each essay is stand alone & not intertwined. This means that I can write a partial review of what I have read (and enjoyed) while it is still fresh in my mind (and in my notes), then I will come back & finish the review when I complete the book. I anticipate that may be a little while from now though as my “to-do” list is rather backlogged right now so finishing this book, which will require some research to fully enjoy the David Lynch essay, is going to take some time.

Essay 1; Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley

The subject of this essay was the author’s youth playing competitive high school tennis growing up in the mid-west, part of the infamous tornado alley that runs (roughly) diagonally from Texas to Illinois. I really enjoyed this essay, it was a window onto a youth foreign to me yet identifiable & somehow familiar. His recount of being hit by a twister while playing tennis was both fascinating & scary as an inhabitant of tornado alley.

Mostly I really enjoyed the authors use of words, his descriptive methods & comedically cynical view. This last thing I readily identify with, although I am (fortunately?) in recovery .


Essay 2: E Unibus Pluram – Television and US Fiction

In this essay published in 1990 David Foster Wallace looks at the influence of TV on US Fiction. Initially I was disinterested by its 23 year datedness, but was drawn into the piece as I noticed how the arguments were still both accurate & valid positions. It swiftly became a fascinating & transfixing read. Dealing with peoples hate of tv, yet unwillingness to stop watching (a problem present today in so much more than just tv). This is an observation that may never become untrue in western society.

I think in large part my enjoyment of DFW’s socio-analytical commentaries is that, in large part, we are kindred spirits. Obviously vastly separated by education levels, talent & his obesely expansive vocabulary. Yet at the core of his writings, I find notable thoughts that have been going on in my subconscious my whole life. It is through realizing this that I am discovering that I have actually been thinking the whole time, just not consciously acknowledging it. This is where my natural penchant for quick witted sarcasm, cynicism, ridicule & ironic humor has always found its material.

Maybe I’m such a naturally gifted deep thinker, that what seems like it should require effort, comes so naturally that it can be accomplished subconsciously. Or conversely, maybe I’m just an asshole with a wicked sense of humor. While to my mind, the 2nd is much more likely, it seems to me that it is not for me to judge.

I found the alarmingly accurate prediction of the future fascinating. It would be endlessly interesting to have a 2013, internet generation update to this essay. Alas….


Essay 7: A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

As you can see, I skipped to the end of the book. I did this as I realized that there was not way I was going to be able to complete this book on my vacation & for some perverse reason I really wanted to read the subject essay while I was on my cruise.  The essay, written in 1995, was a journalistic venture funded by Harper’s which sent David Foster Wallace on a 7 night Caribbean cruise. Why I chose to read something that the title indicated was about someone not enjoying a cruise, while on a cruise, is well, rather me. As part of my new found desire for conscious thought, I reasoned that reading someone’s objections to what I was currently experiencing might make me think more & consider different view points on what I was thinking. Did it? Yes & no, neither significantly (at least consciously – grr)  but I enjoyed the read regardless.

DFW’s cruise ship bears little similarity to the monster ship that I spent last week on, however it did have me fondly pining for the much smaller, and closer to his essay, ship that I first cruised on.

His paranoia over the cleaning of his cabin is both alarming & hilarious. The relate-ability for me adds so much to this read, giving excellent humor points. Similar to a comedian who’s shtick works better (so much better) when you have been in  that situation being described, or if you know someone who is similar to the person they are making fun of.

As the essay goes on, it seems to reveal, to me at least, more of Mr Wallace’s neurosis than it does a review of the ship per say. It does so in a highly entertaining way though it seems he is cathartically using his description of the ship & its facilities to unveil his own personal brokenness. Again, I can relate a little too well.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed DFW’s cruise experiment. I can’t help but think that if he got over himself & left the ship at port he would have enjoyed his venture more. However that is not the point I suppose, that point is to enjoy, laugh & think. I did all these in abundance.



To be continued …

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