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

4.28 of 5 stars 4.28  ·  rating details  ·  17,479 ratings  ·  1,471 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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The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonFreakonomics by Steven D. LevittIn Cold Blood by Truman CapoteA Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Non-Fiction (non biography)
108th out of 2,846 books — 4,858 voters
Walden by Henry David ThoreauA Room of One's Own by Virginia WoolfA Collection of Essays by George OrwellThe Complete Essays by Michel de MontaigneEssays and Lectures by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Best/Favorite Books of Essays
7th out of 366 books — 128 voters


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Community Reviews

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oriana
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...more
mark monday
he picked up a book. he read the book. it was him all over. the best version of himself! and the worst.

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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...more
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.
Could.
Did.
Whatever.

As I stated...more
karen
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.
Geoff
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...more
Aubrey
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
B0nnie

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...more
Louisa
Jun 19, 2014 Louisa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
Whenever I read DFW, I soar to great heights of cerebral intelligence. But when that book comes to an end; I come crashing down with a dull thud. DFW I fucking love you and your hilarious/unique way of looking at life. You made me cackle, snort, yearn to reach for my David Lynch collection, and stay away from cruises. A big thank you from the bottom of my heart.
David
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
Matt
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...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 (...more
Steve
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...more
Madeleine
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...more
Ellen
Mar 03, 2010 Ellen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone - but don't skip the fine print
Shelves: essays
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"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...more
Lena
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...more
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.
Mala

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...more
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...more
Szplug
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
Janet
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....more
René
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,...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
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
Núria
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
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
...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...more
Nick Black
Hysterical and insightful, but somehow lacking....it's not voyeuristic, it's not belletristic, it's....too self-aware, I think, too conscious of just how good it is. Then again, it was very, very good...The opening piece, "derivative sport in tornado alley", is the earliest (1990) and clearly an immature Wallace, but still more resonant and striking than most of what I've come across in the form of personal essays. The grotesque adjective "amphetaminic" or even more substantially obstreperous "m...more
Corey
My first formal introduction to the Wallace non-fiction collections.

Prior to reading this book, I'd been told quite a few times by friends and Goodreaders alike that David Foster Wallace's essays are better than his fiction.

I was skeptical at first. I consider the "Brief Interviews" stories to be some of the best short fiction ever written, and all 2.5 of his novels are nothing short of superb. His fiction is smart, it's hysterically funny, and perhaps more importantly, it's moving. Wallace may...more
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
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Goodreads Librari...: A Supposedly Fun Thing... editions 4 40 Oct 13, 2013 01:18PM  
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4339
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.” 193 likes
“I have filled 3 Mead notebooks trying to figure out whether it was Them or Just Me.” 163 likes
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