Last night, I finished reading David Foster Wallace’s first collection of essays, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. While reading it, I often laughed aloud at his mordant descriptions, his perspicacious takedowns of consumer culture, his withering commentary on just about everything that hits any of his senses; and I often marveled at his numerous outrageous digressions, scathing self-scrutiny, daunting yet still paradoxically approachable erudition. Page after page, I couldn’t help feeling that Wallace had embodied Henry James’s admonishment “to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost.” (Actually, Wallace has a number of blind spots, but still far less than most us.) Rather than cherry-pick passages from the book, let me instead suggest you read these essays for yourselves, in the book itself or at the following links:
“Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley” (appeared as “Tennis, Trigonometry, Tornadoes: A Midwestern boyhood” in Harper’s, December 1991)
“E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction” (The Review of Contemporary Fiction, 1993).
“Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All” (appeared as “Ticket to the Fair” in Harper’s, July 1994)
“David Lynch Keeps His Head” (Premiere, Sept 1996)
“Tennis Player Michael Joyce’s Professional Artistry as a Paradigm of Certain Stuff about Choice, Freedom, Discipline, Joy, Grotesquerie, and Human Completeness (appeared as “The String Theory” in in Esquire, July 1996)
“A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” (appeared as “Shipping Out: On the (nearly lethal) comforts of a luxury cruise” in Harper’s, Jan 1996
And here is Wallace reading excerpts from “Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All” and “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.” Sandwiched between them is an interview snippet: