written with a golf reader, this book feels like John Daly talking to you - completely in his voice. It reads like a memory book with chronological pro...morewritten with a golf reader, this book feels like John Daly talking to you - completely in his voice. It reads like a memory book with chronological progression and his side of everything that happened in his very interesting life - if HST were a southern redneck golfer, maybe.(less)
The best place to start with DFW. It’s warm, brilliant, funny, kind: the essays here are endlessly charming—they’re the best friend you could ever have, noticing everything, whispering jokes, sweeping you past what’s irritating or boring or awful in humane style. The best piece is the title essay, about a week David spent on a cruise ship; for me, it’s the single most fun piece of writing in the last 15 years. (When David’s editor at Harper’s received the piece, he said, “It was very clear to us that we had pure cocaine on our hands.” The writing is that irresistible.) The collection shows every kind of strength: a lot of the pieces are what David calls “experiential postcards,” but what they also demonstrate is what in tennis is called a complete game. Every type of stroke, every kind of wit, every sort of follow-through. Aside from the title story, I’d recommend the piece actually about tennis (“Tennis Player Michael Joyce…”), the piece about filmmaker David Lynch (“David Lynch Keeps His Head”; great film crew personnel line, “the sort of sloppily pretty tech-savvy young woman you can just tell smokes pot and owns a dog”), and, especially, the piece about attending the Illinois State Fair (“Getting Away From Already Pretty Much Being Away From It All”). The last one is funny about hazardous baton-twirling (“a dad standing up near the stands’ top takes a tomahawking baton directly to the groin and falls forward onto somebody eating a Funnel Cake”), cows, and has the best list of t-shirts I’ve ever read. (“Some presume a weird kind of aggressive relation between the shirt’s wearer and its reader—‘We’d Get Along Better…If You Were A Beer.”) If you’re new to Wallace, these four essays are an ideal handshake.
Extra Credit Point 2: David described these pieces as a chance to ride along inside his head. “It’s basically, you know, welcome to my mind for twenty pages. See through my eyes, here’s pretty much all the French curls and crazy circles. And the trick about that stuff is to have it be honest, but also have it be a lot more interesting. I mean most of our thoughts aren’t all that interesting. They’re mostly just confused.”
David’s second essay collection. Experiential postcards about politics (his John McCain piece, “Up, Simba,” won a National Magazine award; it’s not so much about the Senator as about how politics works, how reporting on politics works, and ends with a great invitation: “try to stay awake”), sports, 9/11, talk radio. So good throughout it’s hard to pick favorites: it’s like rubbing your chin over a very long pastry cart. “Consider the Lobster,” about a Maine culinary festival, is brilliant, funny, and could de-shell fish you forever. “Big Red Son” is about the awards ceremony for the pornography industry, and is incredibly sharp. (The fans’ “expressions tend to be those of junior-high boys at a peephole, an expression that looks pretty surreal on a face with jowls and no hairline”; and the oddity of seeing video performers faces, strangers’ faces, in sex, “that most unguarded and purely neural of expressions, the one so vulnerable that for centuries you basically had to marry a person to get to see it.”) There’s no non-fiction that gives a better idea of where the country is, what it’s like to live in it now, than this. Unless it’s A Supposedly Fun Thing.
Extra Credit Point 3: Consider also includes, in the great essay on spoken English “Authority and American Usage,” a wonderful description of how hard it can be successfully end a talk. “Suppose you and I are acquaintances,” David writes, “and we’re in my apartment having a conversation, and that at some point I want to terminate the conversation and not have you be in my apartment anymore. Very delicate social moment. Think of all the different ways I can try to handle it: ‘Wow, look at the time’; ‘Could we finish this up later?’; ‘Could you please leave now?’; ‘Go’; ‘Get out’; ‘Get the hell out of here’; ‘Didn’t you say you had to be someplace?’; ‘Time for you to hit the dusty trail, my friend’; ‘Off you go then, love’; or that sly old telephone-conversation-ender, ‘Well, I’m going to let you go now’…in real life, I always seem to have a hard time winding up a conversation or asking somebody to leave, and sometimes the moment becomes so delicate and fraught with social complexity that I’ll get overwhelmed…and will just sort of blank out and do it totally straight—‘I want to terminate the conversation and have you not be in my apartment anymore’—which evidentially makes me look either as if I’m very rude and abrupt or as if I’m semi-autistic…I’ve actually lost friends this way.” It’s stuff like this—impossible to forget, memory graffiti—that makes David’s work feel so warm and aware.