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A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments

4.29 of 5 stars 4.29  ·  rating details  ·  20,327 ratings  ·  1,623 reviews
In this exuberantly praised book - a collection of seven pieces on subjects ranging from television to tennis, from the Illinois State Fair to the films of David Lynch, from postmodern literary theory to the supposed fun of traveling aboard a Caribbean luxury cruiseliner - David Foster Wallace brings to nonfiction the same curiosity, hilarity, and exhilarating verbal facil ...more
Paperback, 353 pages
Published February 2nd 1998 by Back Bay Books (first published 1996)
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Best Non-Fiction (non biography)
110th out of 3,493 books — 5,416 voters
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Best/Favorite Books of Essays
9th out of 380 books — 147 voters

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Community Reviews

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Oh David. I miss you with a plangency that belies the fact that I never met you, never would have. You were and are and will always be such a serious force in my life.

I've read this two or three times, and a few weeks after DFW died I picked it up again, almost on a whim. I'd been having trouble finding something to sink my teeth into—I rejected Anna Kavan, William Vollmann, and Fellipe Alfau in short order—and I kind of pulled this book without thinking about the timing, refusing to consider m
mark monday
he picked up a book. he read the book. it was him all over. the best version of himself! and the worst.


what is postmodernism, really? is it a way to understand the world, to define the world, to separate yourself from the world... when you are actually a part of that world? a part of the so-called problem? you want to put a layer between you and the world. you are so much apart from it, right? an unwilling participant in all of those repulsive patriarchal and terminally corny signs and signifie
this book made me wet myself. twice. i wish to god i was exxagerating. or elderly. but poor dfw on a cruise ship... no one has ever paired genius with social awkwardness more charmingly.
Books Ring Mah Bell
This summer I got this book from the library. I started on the cruise ship story and soon realized I would want my very own copy to dogear, underline, and do other dirty booknerd things to.

David Foster Wallace, you are (were) genius! I think I may be in love with you! I love your footnotes- footnotes that range from a simple "duh!" or "!" to 2 page long footnotes that have footnotes themselves. Not a lot of authors could get away with that, but you, my love, can.

As I stated
This, my first experience reading David Foster Wallace, disabused me of a few prejudices that in retrospect seem shamefully naive, one of which being that objects of the American Media Hype Machine are necessarily mediocre. I believed that there had to be something vapid or cheap or sensationalist about things or persons that become loci of the intellectual-creative “next-voice-of-our-generation” ballyhoo. It’s tough not to be cynical. The whole zeitgeist of our times is cynicism, aloofness, a d ...more
Stephen M
A Definitely Awesome Thing that I’ll Most Certainly Read Again

Full disclosure: I felt the smallest twinge of disappointment as I read these essays; (not because of the quality therein—there’s hardly any disappointment to be had there—but because it dawned on me that Infinite Jest, a book that I had spent the better part of February and March, slaving over and worshipping, was not in fact some work of genius that grew out of the side of DFW’s head and broke off one night in a fit of divinely insp
One of my more obsessive habits on Goodreads involves comparing books with others. If you're one of my friends, chances are I've clicked the little button on your homepage an average of three times, sometimes more if you have a particularly large library (looking at you, Hadrian/Kris/& co.) Throughout my nearly two weeks of reading this book, the prim and peppy 'currently-reading' would show up next to a record number of gleaming five stars, up near the tippy top if listed in order of rating ...more

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again is a brilliant collection of "essays and arguments". This collection was published in 1997 exactly one year after Infinite Jest and is comprised of articles previously published from 1990 to 1996 in several different publications. His topics are tennis, television, a state fair, literary theory, David Lynch, and a luxury cruise. It doesn't matter if you are especially interested in these things or not, because you will be!

1. Derivative Sport in Tornado
David Foster Wallace is one awesomely smart guy. This is both his greatest strength and his potential Achilles heel as a writer. Personally, I will read anything this man writes, because I think he is a true genius with a rare sense of compassion, and a hilarious sense of humor. Even when his writing falls victim to its own cleverness, I still find it worthwhile - perhaps because one senses that the writer is a true mensch (not something I feel when being dazzled by the cleverness of a Dave Egge ...more
MJ Nicholls
Goodness gracious. As much as I revere Wallace’s fiction—his attempt to rescue American culture from the despairing morass of self-aware ironical knowingness—his nonfiction is in another league. The sheer cinematic exuberance, the “floating eye” quality of these pieces is breathtaking and wonderful, bringing the reader as deep into each experience as is textually possible, and as close to Wallace as we can be on the page.

His fiction has a ‘surgical’ quality, much like J.G. Ballard or Will Self (
For some strange reason back in junior high school we were allowed a brief recess after lunch. The problem here is that there was very little to do during this recess. Here are the three activity choices that I remember:

1. Mill around on the concrete like inmates always do in "the yard" on those prison television shows.
2. Play a game that one of my fellow scholars evidentally invented that involved a mob of guys bouncing a tennis ball off of a wall and trying to nail each other in the testicles
Judging from the traffic tie-ups you see, I’m not the only one who slows down to gape at a car crash. The temptation would be even greater somewhere like Beverly Hills with a Ferrari involved. I suppose reading this book would fall under a similar rubric: gawking at a star betided by tragedy.

By nearly all accounts, mine and the MacArthur’s included, DFW was a genius. This is all the more obvious given the essay format—-a good way to highlight his gift.* He saw big pictures, as his social comment
David Foster Wallace é um GÉNIO!
Tudo o que escreve é revelador de uma Inteligência e Imaginação Ilimitadas.
É assombrosa a sua capacidade de observação, análise e exposição de situações e temas que passariam despercebidas ao comum dos mortais.

Este volume contém oito ensaios - alguns baseados na sua própria experiência como repórter contratado por revistas americanas - e o único discurso que fez para finalistas de um colégio.
É uma experiência única - umas vezes triste, outras divertida - "ouvi-l
My woefully late introduction to David Foster Wallace came earlier this year when I noshed greedily on “The Broom of the System,” which humbled and fascinated and tickled and impressed the ever-loving shit out of me to the point where I only gave it four stars because the guy wrote it when he was younger than I am now and I have it on good faith that his later works are even better.

Reading this made me feel a lot of things -- the way it eased my unshakable sense of being lonely in a totally cli
I’d like to add a new category to GR called ‘read enough’ – for those books that leave you staggering to your feet wiping the blood from your mouth conceding defeat. You know the gap between to-read and read. Amazingly enough I actually finished this book but only because the final 100 pages were footnotes followed by footnotes to his footnotes. Are you kidding me?

This is a collection of essays covering everything from playing tennis in the tornado belt to television and its relationship to U.S.
Mar 03, 2010 Ellen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone - but don't skip the fine print
Shelves: essays

"a Kilroyishly surreal quality"

...I fell for DFW in the footnotes.

How was I to know? I don't read footnotes. When I edited a couple of books, I told the contributors, in draconian terms, that if the information wasn't important enough to include in their main text, delete the footnote; if it was, incorporate it into the main text.

Wallace puts many of his best lines, and a lot of himself, in his footnotes. They form a sort of counter-essay, hunkering below and complicating the essay above. When
Moira Russell
Started rereading the titular (va-voom) essay to cheer myself up in migraine malaise. Dear God it's so fucking funny. Quite possibly the best essay ever. The spousal overunit moved into another room with his laptop to do homework because when I tried to read out sentence-paragraphs in acquiescence to the demand of 'What's so funny' I couldn't finish for giggling.
This collection of essays contains the two pieces that David Foster Wallace is probably best known for: "Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All," his observations on attending the Illinois State Fair, and "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," his musings on a week-long Caribbean cruise. Both pieces are truly fantastic reading, entertaining, educational and brilliant all in the same breath.

Since I've often suspected that a mass market cruise would mirror my own pers

Recommended for: DFW naysayers.

This is gourmet meal with all the essential DFW ingredients: sparkling wit,a wicked & self-deprecatory humour,"self-consciously unself-conscious" irony,probing details but as is typical of pricey meals-- in healthy,small portions,easily digestible!
It is also very lovingly prepared in that the essays & opinion pieces here are heartfelt & personal,thus easily relatable.
I open the first chapter-'Derivative Sport in Tornado Valley' & am stumped! Tennis
Adam Floridia
Consistently laugh out loud inducing, heartwarming, thoughtful and sincere, relateable, and difficult to put down. Holistically much better than "Consider the Lobster."

As with “Lobster,” the title essay in this collection was probably my favorite. Since reading while traveling prevented me from writing brief reflections on each piece upon completion, I will use my two hour lay-over in Minneapolis to consider the “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” essay.

First of all, I loved it and repe
I'm bewitched by this glorious magenta cover with yellow starfish and the peculiarly flattened and shaped white font. I don't know why it is, but whenever I purchase the British edition of a book, inevitably I aesthetically prefer its differing cover artwork, layout, colour scheme, blurb text—the whole canoodle is just presented to this set of timeworn eyes in a more attractive package than what is offered from North American publishing houses. Not to mention that they generally even smell bette ...more
Franco  Santos
Tengo treinta y tres años y la impresión de que ha pasado mucho tiempo y que cada vez pasa más deprisa. Cada día tengo que llevar a cabo más elecciones acerca de qué es bueno, importante o divertido, y luego tengo que vivir con la pérdida de todas las demás opciones que esas elecciones descartan. Y empiezo a entender cómo, a medida que el tiempo se acelera, mis opciones disminuyen y las descartadas se multiplican exponencialmente hasta que llego a un punto en la enorme complejidad de ramificac
This is a review not of the book, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again”, but the essay itself, which is contained in the book and accompanies a few other essays which I have not read.

This, hands down, the most powerful essay I have ever read. By that I mean that it resonated powerfully within me, and totally upended my conception of what first-person journalism could be. I’d already been profoundly wowed reading the account of eating lobster in his essay “Consider the Lobster” , but this,
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
A piece which critically engages with DFW's essay, "E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction," an essay which I think is central to understanding DFW and yet each time I've read it, most recently in its Both Flesh And Not incarnation, leaves me wondering if many of us DFWites have actually gotten around to understanding what he's saying there. So but this piece which I'll link to shortly, by Daniel Green and published over there at thereadingexperience, is the kind of critical engagement whi ...more
Ned Rifle
I feel a strange nervousness writing this review, not because of the fear of castigation (that, I must admit, thrills me), but because I now join the ranks of those who say things like: "over intellectualized diatribe" (this is out of context but still) "He's too clever for me I guess, because I was alienated from the writing." (this is somewhat jaded and sarcastic but still) " I found his writing a bit pretentious, and I just don't get the feeling he's being honest in the essays" (no qualifier ...more
Paulo Hora
O discurso de David Foster Wallace é de uma clareza límpida como a água das Caraíbas, a sua linguagem é extremamente eloquente e dotada de um humor verdadeiramente sagaz.

De todos os escritores que já li, talvez seja ele que consegue conjugar estas 3 características da melhor forma: clareza do raciocínio, eloquência e humor.

A obra apresenta ensaios que invocam temas tão diversos como: os Cruzeiros de Luxo, o festival de lagosta de Maine, Roger Federer, Ficção e TV americana, David Lynch, 11 de se
Divertido, inteligente, mordaz, sutil, complejo, ameno, lúcido, así es DFW, siempre manteniendo una posición intermedia entre lo coloquial y lo elevado. No sabéis lo que os estáis perdiendo por no leerlo. Algunos de los ensayos que hay en este recopilatorio creo que son lo mejor que se ha escrito nunca. Más que nada me refiero al relato de las aventuras de DFW en un crucero de lujo. Imprescindible.
Florencia Brino
Like most unbearably sad things, it seems incredibly elusive and complex in its causes and simple in its effect: on board the Nadir—especially at night, when all the ship’s structured fun and reassurances and gaiety-noise ceased—I felt despair. The word’s overused and banalified now, despair, but it’s a serious word, and I’m using it seriously. For me it denotes a simple admixture—a weird yearning for death combined with a crushing sense of my own smallness and futility that presents as a fear
Tracy Reilly
I am in awe of the fact that I wouldn't have been as charitable about the experience DFW had on this "fun thing". I KNOW I would have hated it, and made use of the vomitorium for quite different reasons than overeating. This essay convinced me that people who consider David on the spectrum…(btw, I have this urge to call him "David" or even "Dave" if that's okay….just because I feel like he's my age, one of the guys who grew up in my neighborhood in Illinois, and rolled his eyes with me up in the ...more
Patrick O'Neil
Somewhere I’ve heard it said that a good writer can write about anything and make it interesting. David Foster Wallace is such a writer, a good writer, and he does, at times, seem to write about anything. Although sometimes he seems to endlessly write about anything and then at the same time about everything else but the subject that he is supposedly writing about.

However, if I may be so bold as to make a small analogy here, most of the time he appears to be flogging a live horse until it is de
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  • At Large and at Small: Familiar Essays
  • Farther Away
  • Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews
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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...
Infinite Jest Consider the Lobster and Other Essays Brief Interviews with Hideous Men This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life The Broom of the System

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“Lonely people tend, rather, to be lonely because they decline to bear the psychic costs of being around other humans. They are allergic to people. People affect them too strongly.” 281 likes
“I have filled 3 Mead notebooks trying to figure out whether it was Them or Just Me.” 169 likes
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