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This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life

4.53  ·  Rating Details  ·  12,414 Ratings  ·  1,016 Reviews
Only once did David Foster Wallace give a public talk on his views on life, during a commencement address given in 2005 at Kenyon College. The speech is reprinted for the first time in book form in THIS IS WATER. How does one keep from going through their comfortable, prosperous adult life unconsciously? How do we get ourselves out of the foreground of our thoughts and ach ...more
Hardcover, 138 pages
Published April 14th 2009 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 2009)
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Blood River by Tim Butcher1984 by George OrwellSiddhartha by Hermann HesseThe Man Without Qualities by Robert MusilAnimal Farm by George Orwell
Books that make you think.
83rd out of 795 books — 989 voters
Consider the Lobster and Other Essays by David Foster WallaceNaked by David SedarisSex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck KlostermanMe Talk Pretty One Day by David SedarisA Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace
Best Book of Essays
11th out of 122 books — 107 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Stephen M
David Foster Wallace was a beautiful fucking person who said a lot of beautiful fucking things.
Seemita
Jan 20, 2016 Seemita rated it it was amazing
‘This is Water’.

Water - Now I love that metaphor. I end up addressing many things and their traits and their progresses and their declines through this unbound source of immense satiation. But how does this fit into a speech delivered to students, facing a future that’s unknown and by that very virtue, intimidating?

Ah well, the thoughts weaved into this beautiful message says it all. For a text that I ended up highlighting half of, I would like to take this particular insight with me, forever.
...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Aug 13, 2012 Nathan "N.R." Gaddis rated it it was amazing
This is Water, like The Communist Manifesto, is an unfortunate document. Both are occasional pieces written for a narrowly prescribed purpose. Both appear to be distillates of a much broader, systematic force of thinking. Both are of a genre which have very tight constraints--the commencement speech and the manifesto--which dictate and limit the possibilities for both form and content. Both are widely read by those not familiar with that systematic thought. By not taking into account the genre o ...more
sweet jane
Jun 09, 2016 sweet jane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
[κριτική και που να το βρείτε δωρεάν]

"The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the “rat race” — the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing"

Πραγματικά καταπληκτική ομιλία. Μπορείτε να την βρείτε στα
...more
MJ Nicholls
Dec 04, 2012 MJ Nicholls rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, merkins
Better heard spoken for the full sting. A powerful speech but the message seems to be rather simple: don’t be a selfish asshat. Or is that a little reductive? Anyway—one star for the cash-in and four stars for the speech. Coming soon from Little, Brown in DVD & books: The Best Hesitant Pauses on KCRW’s Bookworm, The Ten Best Awkward Selfconscious Squirming Moments on Charlie Rose, and Half-Remembered Conversations Anyone Has Ever Had With DFW. Also available from the DFW Tacky Cash-in Empori ...more
Greg
Apr 12, 2009 Greg rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays, life-is-shit
This may come as a surprise to people who know me, but I never read this before it came out in book format. I knew it existed, but like most of the occasional and short pieces by DFW I held off on reading them. At the time his writing came out so infrequently, that I always wanted to have things of his to read at some point in the future, when I would really want something new of his. Of course that has changed to their being nothing new to release, except for unpublished things that might see t ...more
karen
Jul 24, 2015 karen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dfw
so. it gets five stars because of how terribly sad i still am. i read this online, of course, years and years ago, but i reread it in book form, just to see if anything had been added. it hasn't. just the fact of his death on the flap. i'd really rather have added material than that fact, wouldn't you? and i also would have liked this to have been delivered at my graduation (i mean, i had quincy jones, i can't complain too much, but still... despite all the good advice in this book, i am a compl ...more
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Jan 15, 2010 Joshua Nomen-Mutatio rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Liberal Arts Students; Everyone
FURTHER UPDATED REVIEW (consolidation of general remarks of mine from review comment threads for this book/speech):

Is This Speech Depressing?

I have to respectfully disagree and say that I found this to be uplifting in a really serious way--like my version of a Chicken Soup For The Soul sense of uplifting (er, uh, something)--which is a feeling of redemption via facing messy truths and feeling my own thoughts to be extremely validated by his beautiful ideas and phrasings. I'd read it many times o
...more
Jason
Mar 31, 2014 Jason rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-kindle, reviewed, 2014
This Is Water is kind of like a modern version of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. With the exception, of course, that This Is Water is not a collection of letters, does not discuss poetry or writing, and is not addressed to a single individual but to a college’s entire student body. Other than that, though, they’re pretty much the same thing.

What I mean is that there’s something very inspirational (for lack of a better word) in these texts whose words seem to have been composed on-
...more
rahul
Jul 09, 2015 rahul rated it it was amazing
This is water.
And I have to learn to breath in it.
This is water.
Jenny
Jun 09, 2016 Jenny rated it really liked it
Ωραία ομιλία!Ο Wallace δεν λέει κάτι πρωτότυπο-αλλά οι γνωστές αυτές αλήθειες ξεχνιούνται εύκολα,και μας τις θυμίζει με όμορφο τρόπο.Το κείμενο κυλάει γρήγορα κι εύκολα!

"A huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is,
it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. Here's one example of the utter
wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: Everything in
my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the
absolute center of the universe, the re
...more
Vale
Jul 19, 2013 Vale rated it it was amazing
People get used to the sadness of everyday life. Then they find a goal that then becomes the anchor they cling to in order to survive.
People live without awareness like the Lotus-eaters in The Odyssey: they live only to live; in and of itself.
People I know, above all in the city, are unhappy. They think that the system framed them. Sometimes it happens to me as well.
You wonder why you are doing things that you wouldn't normally do. I like my life and I am a positive person: after a good walk all
...more
Foteini Daila
Jul 13, 2016 Foteini Daila rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ευχαριστώ τον Wallace που διάβασα ό,τι ακριβώς έπρεπε να διαβάσω. Χωρίς να το παίζει αυθεντία, έπιασε την ουσία : εμείς επιλέγουμε πως θα δούμε τα πράγματα, εμείς επιλέγουμε τι είναι σημαντικό ανάλογα με τις εμπειρίες μας. Ας μην είμαστε στενόμυαλοι και δογματικοί. Και να μην είμαστε εγωκεντρικοί, αλλά να έχουμε στο μυαλό μας και "τους άλλους".
Τελικά, τι είναι νερό; Απλή η ερώτηση, δύσκολη (και διαφορετική για τον καθένα) η απάντηση. Ό,τι και να είναι, θα μάθω να αναπνέω σε αυτό.
Franco  Santos
Erase dos peces jóvenes que nadaban juntos cuando de repente se toparon con un pez viejo, que los saludó y les dijo, "Buenos días, muchachos. ¿Cómo está el agua?" Los dos peces jóvenes siguieron nadando un rato, hasta que eventualmente uno de ellos miró al otro y le preguntó, "¿Qué demonios es el agua?"
Simplemente brillante. El último discurso que dio David Foster Wallace antes de su muerte.

Pocos libros me llegaron tanto como este. Es muy corto pero transmite muchísimo. Si tienen diez minutos
...more
Vasileios
Jan 22, 2016 Vasileios rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
http://dreamersandco.com/2016/01/%CE%...

Το Αυτό εδώ είναι νερό (εκδόσεις Κριτική, 2015), του Ντέιβιντ Φόστερ Γουάλας επιτέλους κυκλοφόρησε στα ελληνικά. Είναι ένας συγγραφέας που είχαν εκδοθεί δύο μόνο μυθιστορήματά του πριν από αυτό, τα οποία ίσως είχαν περάσει απαρατήρητα (στο περισσότερο κοινό). Τα τελευταία χρόνια όμως ο συγγραφέας έχει αποκτήσει ακόμη μεγαλύτερη φήμη παγκοσμίως (ίσως και μετά την αυτοκτονία του). Ελπίζω το Αυτό εδώ είναι νερό να είναι η αρχή για να εκδοθούν σταδιακά όλα τα
...more
Jess ❈Harbinger of Blood-Soaked Rainbows❈

Read a self-improvement book.

This is a short little book that my dad gave me to read after receiving it from a friend of his. I have several friends who have read DFW's other works and really loved his writing. I have never read anything of his though I know he words have been known to cause ideas of gargantuan proportions inside individuals who love him. I also know that he suffered from major depression and anxiety and ultimately took his life in 2008.

Basically this little book is the dictatio
...more
Oscar
Jan 09, 2016 Oscar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
En 2005, en la Universidad de Kenyon, David Foster Wallace dio un discurso en la ceremonia de graduación titulado ‘Esto es agua’ (This Is Water). El discurso es un alegato a favor de la educación y la compasión. Más que enseñar a pensar, Wallace aboga por saber en qué pensar, y resalta la importancia de comprender nuestro entorno, de intentar empatizar con aquello y aquellos que nos rodean. Es un texto corto pero profundo que hace reflexionar.
Milly Cohen
Ufffffffffffffffffffff
Cada estrella vale mil, o sea que lo califico con 5 mil!
¿qué les pasa? ¿por qué no me lo habían recomendado antes?

Se ha convertido en mi texto favorito, compraré todos para regalarlos, lo compartiré con mis alumnos que se gradúan, con mis hijos que ya se titularon, con los que aún no, y un día, con mis nietos, con la única esperanza de que no olviden que son ellos, y sólo ellos, quiénes deciden y eligen QUÉ PENSAR.
Chris_P
Jun 10, 2016 Chris_P rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
What's amazing about This Is Water isn't the truths Wallace tried to convey to his listeners. Of course, they are spot-on and totally useful but nothing others haven't said before. What's amazing is the way he did it. Usually, when reading a wise-ass book (or article for that matter) about self-improvement and advice on how to live, I (and, I assume, the same goes for everyone) can't help but hear this calm, smiling, disgusting know-all voice in my head which makes me want to puke and then end m ...more
Danny
Jul 28, 2009 Danny rated it really liked it
As I came here to post my review of this book, I stumbled onto reviews posted by others. The general perception seemed to be a sense of sadness. Perhaps it's because of what Wallace did ultimately. But I read this speech differently.

I read it as a generous gift delivered by a deeply troubled and pained person of unusual intelligence. And while this is an address to graduates, it seems to me that he speaks, in a way, to try to convince himself too. He says,

"...there are all different kinds of fre
...more
Carla
Mar 24, 2015 Carla rated it it was amazing
Shelves: e-books-kobo, 2015
Simplesmente brilhante!

“The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the “rat race” — the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.” (P.7/8)
Steven
Jul 26, 2016 Steven rated it it was amazing
"I know that this stuff probably doesn’t sound fun or breezy or grandly inspirational the way a commencement speech's central stuff should sound. What it is, so far as I can see, is the truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical bullshit pared away." (124-125)

[I'll add more to this review tomorrow; it's late and I very much need to sleep.]
GeorgeD
Apr 13, 2016 GeorgeD rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Πολύ ωραίο κείμενο, επ' ουδενί όμως δεν είναι βιβλίο. 20 σελίδες αραιογραμμένες με μοναδικό σκοπό να βγάλουν λεφτά οι εκδοτικοί οίκοι και εδώ και έξω εκμεταλλεύομενοι το όνομα του ομιλητή (γιατί περί ομιλίας σε πανεπιστήμιο πρόκειται). Υπάρχει μεγάλη πιθανότητα να το βρείτε στο διαδίκτυο. Διαβάστε το, κάτι καλό θα σας μείνει. Μην το πληρώσετε όμως, μη στηρίζετε τέτοιες ανήθικες αρπαχτές. Εγώ "την πάτησα" γιατί στη περιγραφή του e-book, δηλωνόταν το 140 ως αριθμός σελίδων...
Sentimental Surrealist
My basic problem with This is Water is how it's contributed to the Cult of DFW, who (don't get me wrong for a second) was a terrific writer who deserves a place in any sort of canon you can imagine. I'd still put him as my favorite writer and still put Infinite Jest as my favorite book if I was pressed, but the more I learn about him as a person, the more I realize he was in many ways a dick, and the more I realize his dickish tendencies contributed to what's so good about his fiction. That is t ...more
Mateo
Jul 17, 2015 Mateo rated it really liked it
Aviso de utilidad pública

This Is Water es sin duda alguna una pequeña muestra de la capacidad genuina que David Foster Wallace tiene para escribir. Un discurso que no les tomará tiempo de leer, 15 minutos quizás. Un discurso que cuando lo cierras, te das cuenta que a veces, lo más difícil, lo más complicado, es tratar de explicar lo ordinario y obvio.
Léanlo, quizás a muchos de ustedes no les guste. Y que no les guste, está bien. Pero léanlo. Por favor.

P.S: Hace unas semanas me compré Infinite J
...more
Adam Floridia
Feb 09, 2013 Adam Floridia rated it it was amazing
This is the "transcript" of DFW's graduation speech at Kenyon College. It's a speech that I'm sure any DFW fan has seen/heard/read on the internet. It's nothing new. It'll take you 15 minutes to read, and it's tough to justify shelling out $15 for something that's totally free on the web.

And but so it is a 5-star book because the content of the speech really is...touching...moving...or some similar adjective and because having the speech written out--literally one sentence per page--and being ab
...more
Tiffany Reisz
May 20, 2016 Tiffany Reisz rated it it was amazing
A-ha. Here we go. This is what I've been waiting to read:

“Because here's something else that's weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship—be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviol
...more
Victoria Mars
Esos momentos gloriosos cuando Goodreads hace bien su trabajo y encuentras joyas como Esto es agua entre tus update feeds.

Gracias, de verdad.

Shawn (ThatOneEnglishGradStudent)
I've had this essay recommended to me a couple of times, and when I stumbled across a second-hand copy the day after graduating with my MA in English, it seemed like perfect timing.

And it really was.

I think I would have loved reading this regardless of the circumstances, but it does seem especially poetic to have read it right around this point of starting a new chapter. I won't try to summarize his points here. Just know that it's brilliant, and if you're looking for something to sort of reassu
...more
Nick Craske
Feb 19, 2013 Nick Craske rated it it was amazing
Brave, honest and sincere. DFW's compassionate and heartfelt commencement address. Small in word count huge in heart.

[ This Is Water: short film adaptation: http://bit.ly/YSEa47 ]
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Madison Mega-Mara...: #68 This is Water 1 1 Sep 30, 2015 09:27AM  
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David Foster Wallace worked surprising turns on nearly everything: novels, journalism, vacation. His life was an information hunt, collecting hows and whys. "I received 500,000 discrete bits of information today," he once said, "of which maybe 25 are important. My job is to make some sense of it." He wanted to write "stuff about what it feels like to live. Instead of being a relief from what it fe ...more
More about David Foster Wallace...

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“The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.” 1512 likes
“Because here's something else that's weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship—be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles—is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It's been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.” 738 likes
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