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)
Unbelievable. Wouldn't have made it through without the help of InfiniteSummer.org book club project, but I'm really glad I did. It's one of those cha...moreUnbelievable. Wouldn't have made it through without the help of InfiniteSummer.org book club project, but I'm really glad I did. It's one of those change-the-way you think/read/live books and truly epic enough that it lives up to the hype. First DFW fiction I've read and I haven't looked back.
An extraordinary book, his second novel. When it came out in 1996, it was like a readers’ micro-climate; every conversation about books took place a little under it, everywhere you went, people brought up the book. It is, of course, a commitment; it’s a first date you marry on. If you’d like to date it for a little while first, you could start on p. 809 (Kindle and iPad users, the first line is “The ceiling was breathing”), and read the heroic section about Don Gately in the hospital, then follow it through a wonderfully funny and harrowing underworld story all the way to the end. You’d be cheating yourself of what is an amazing reading experience, but it might make it easier to then go back and start the whole thing. If anyone is interested, you could email me through Librarything, and I could send a summary that would let you read those last 170 pps while staying up-to-date on what’s happened in the book. The section is a wonderful introduction to what makes this novel so extraordinary; a nearly unimaginably full book. When it came out, the Walter Kirn said, “The competition has been obliterated. It's as though Paul Bunyan had joined the NFL, or Wittgenstein had gone on Jeopardy! The novel is that colossally disruptive. And that spectacularly good.”
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.
Wow, I loved this. No footnotes, half the size of Infinite Jest and more relatable (and finished) than The Pale King, this is the DFW novel you need t...moreWow, I loved this. No footnotes, half the size of Infinite Jest and more relatable (and finished) than The Pale King, this is the DFW novel you need to read. It's funny (I'd laugh out loud), creative (the characters, plot, and even just the names alone), compelling (I'd want to know what would happen next, not always a DFW strength), and smart (oh DFW has fun with you and language and writing in general). It's an english-major's dream and thus it was mine. It's wacky and weird and worth it.
DFW’s first novel, written his last year in college, published when he was 24. David had his own doubts about it. He said it “showed some talent” but was in lots of ways not a project he felt entirely comfortable with. “The philosophy thesis I was gonna do looked really hard and I was really scared about it, and I thought I would do this jaunty thing. Kind of like a side—I figured it would be like a hundred- page thing. And Broom of the System, the first draft was seven-hundred pages long. It was written in like five months.”
His last published fiction. Dark, sad and brilliant. Many people love the short, shocking story “Incarnations of Burned Children.” It’ll test your reader’s fortitude. For me, the best stories are: “Another Pioneer,” which is beautiful and eerie—about a kind of Amazon child messiah; you can hear the palm fronds and ambient bugs, feel the great disquiet of encountering something huge; and “The Suffering Channel,” about the length of a novella. Exceptionally funny and sharp, a comic piece about journalism (about which he’s mostly dead on), potential new revenue streams for cable-TV, in-office exercise gear. It’s just amazingly perceptive and funny, with a wonderful restaurant lunch in the middle. My favorite story is “Good Old Neon.” It’s the best story about being a person I know, the pluses and minuses. It’s a sort of update to Tolstoy’s famous story “The Death of Ivan Ilych.” It is unforgettable and something you should read right now.
I love Lipsky's review and there's not much for me to add besides how much I loved each story as different and difficult as each reads. Take your time with each story- look up some words, let them seep in, and consider each line before moving on to the next one. There's brilliance in these sentences. You feel connected to the same collective brain of humanity if you do it right. It's worth it. (less)
I'm still processing it, but like Infinite Jest there are incredible flashes and sections of unparalleled brilliance. Unlike IJ, this novel is a littl...moreI'm still processing it, but like Infinite Jest there are incredible flashes and sections of unparalleled brilliance. Unlike IJ, this novel is a little shorter, without so many notes, and a more streamlined plot (whereas IJ stays fragmented for so long) that mostly revolves around what you've heard already: boredom, sacrifice, isolation, interaction, and DFW's always running inner monologue. But man, can he tell stories! And create characters! It's unlike anyone else I read and I promise you, if you're a DFW fan of any kind, you'll want to have read this regardless. (less)