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Both Flesh and Not: Essays

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  4,067 Ratings  ·  477 Reviews
Beloved for his epic agony, brilliantly discerning eye, and hilarious and constantly self-questioning tone, David Foster Wallace was heralded by both critics and fans as the voice of a generation. BOTH FLESH AND NOT gathers 15 essays never published in book form, including "Federer Both Flesh and Not," considered by many to be his nonfiction masterpiece; "The (As it Were) ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published November 6th 2012 by Little, Brown and Company (first published October 24th 2012)
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Pouting Always
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another collection of essays that reminded me of After Henry by Joan Didion which I recently read as well. This collection of essays was also really well written yet I found some of it boring, especially the two on tennis. I honestly hate watching sports except maybe soccer and regardless of that eloquent essay about the beauty of the human body and tennis or the commercialization at the US open I still had to drag myself through those two. I however did enjoy the essays about writing much more, ...more
Nov 06, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
Consider the B-sides

As often with posthumous collections, Both Flesh and Not suffers slightly from the fact that these essays were bound together for the simple reason of producing another book to fill the shelves and minds of DFW’s perfervid fans and readers. It was only fitting to release another collection of essays riding on the heels of D.T. Max’s biography of Wallace, and with his other posthumous work, The Pale King, having been nominated for the Pulitzer. While all of these essays are av
Oct 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Most of these essays are online. Some of the titles have been changed. Remember - too much reading on a computer leads to this sort of breakfast! Read the book.

Federer Both Flesh and Not

Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young

The Empty Plenum: David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress

Mr. Cogito (view spoiler)
Jacob J.

I have a confession. Although of course* I didn’t want (or expect) to dislike this book, at all, I did want to be able to say something that proves I could be brusque with/critical of DFW just as easily as I could gush over/laud him. I wanted to be able to establish my Howling fandom by accentuating my knowledge of his prior collections, and concluding that this one doesn’t quite stack up. But alas, I cannot. Foster Wallace is as sublime as ever (realizing that these essays span many years of hi
MJ Nicholls
Feb 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, merkins
Not quite up there with ASFTINDA or CTL in terms of sheer stuck-to-the-chair-then-flung-off-the-same-chair-in-squeeing-delight pleasure factor, but BFAN is arguably a more eclectic collection than either, treating us to one courtside tennis feature, one neurotic backstage tennis featurette, an unsurpassable academic-and-not reading of Wittgenstein’s Mistress, a deliciously snotty horn-tooting “we’ve arrived, ma!” for his then-emerging fiction contemps, something vague and unappetising about AIDS ...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis

[update: Howling Fantods has removed many links from their Uncollected DFW page, at the request of Karen and Little Brown. Those removed links are not limited to what is included in this collection.]

Distracted and Dystematic (as it were) Reviewerish Thoughts

We have here a partial collection of pieces by DFW yet uncollected and unbound. Unfortunate it is that a greater effort was not undertaken to assemble all or nearly all the unassembled essays and reviews, letters to editors, etc., because any
Sep 16, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, nonfiction
First, thanks to B0nnie, who has collected all of these essays in one convenient location. So get to it.

Nathan has already remarked on the incomplete and only too short nature of this collection, and its appeal to DFW Fans. To Newbies: buy the others first, then get this one.

Of course, since I already have the others, I'll probably buy this anyway. Damn.

Some of these pieces are just fantastic (Wittgenstein's Mistress, the word definitions, F/X Porn), some are too short, but mildly interesting, a
Jul 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not DFW best non-fiction collection, but neither is it superfluous nor is it inferior.

There is quite a lot of literary criticism and non-fiction geared towards readers who arguably would be writers and therefore interested in these subjects. These pieces are:

Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young: on the effect of TV on young writers in the 80's. Young writers get divided into camps that now seem rather obvious and even dated as some no longer really exist: Workshop manufactured,
M. Sarki
Mar 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Though obviously not the exciting essay collections of Consider the Lobster, or A Supposedly Fun Thing I Will Never Do Again, this collection suffices to satisfy my jones for more David Foster Wallace and relaxes my need for any more based on these basic retreads of pieces obviously not up to making the grade in his previous works. The two sport pieces, one on Federer and one about the U.S. Open, were both engaging to their core whether you happen to like
Sep 07, 2012 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-read-soon
just seeing the cover of a new DFW book turns me into an all-id slavering animal child—gimme gimme gimme gimme gimme gimme!!
Paul Gleason
Jun 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
It didn't take me very long to get through DFW's posthumous collection because I'd read most of its essays before. But what's surprising is that I didn't need to reread the essays because I'd internalized them so much. This internalization speaks to the power of DFW's writing - for this reader, at least. I've said it before, and I'll probably say it again many times before I shake loose my mortal coil, but DFW's writing seems to be hardwired in my brain.

On to the collection . . .

Which is, as to
Sep 17, 2012 rated it liked it
As might be expected from a posthumous essay collection, this is a bit uneven. The title piece on Roger Federer is amazing, and several other pieces are quite good. But a couple of long pieces from the '80s and '90s were passed over for inclusion in prior collections, and it's apparent why. The one on Conspicuously Young writers rambles, is a kind of stiff, and its discussion of TV's influence on his generation is better fleshed out in "E Unibus Plurum." And his Tennis Magazine piece on commerce ...more
Franco  Santos
Tiene ensayos muy pesados e insustanciales para mis intereses, pero hay otros que me encantaron de principio a fin. En general, me gustaron. Luego escribo algo más.
Leo Robertson
Oct 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
There’s this awesome book shop in central Oslo- one of a chain called Ark. They have the best collection of books in English I’ve seen in a long time, even having traipsed through so many of various size, including that massive Waterstone’s in London… every time I go in somewhere, I’m never able to browse like I’d want. More often than not, if it’s on the shelves, I don’t wanna read it. This is admittedly an unknowable combo both of (1) my tastes just not aligning to what majorly sells and (2) m ...more
Paolo Latini
Mar 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americans
Cercasi Erede Wallace Disperatamente

Ricordo ancora gli interminabili mesi vuoti che passavano tra una stagione di Lost e l’altra, e ancora sperimento quelli un po’ meno vuoti ma non meno interminabili che passano tra le stagioni di Dexter. Ricordo ancora, e ormai con il sollievo di averli passati indenne e la voglia di fargli una sonora pernacchia, gli infernali mesi che sono seguiti al giorno della mia laurea, e in quelli mi sentivo un po’ come Fantozzi che tornava al lavoro anche da pensionat
Edward S. Portman
Era il 2008 quando David Foster Wallace decise di togliersi la vita. Nel 2013 sembra essere esplosa la mania di celebrare l’anniversario dei cinque anni di quel triste evento. In rapida successione sono usciti in Italia la biografica a cura di T. D. Max, la raccolta di Minimum Fax Un antidoto contro la solitudine, e questo Di carne e di nulla pubblicato da Einaudi e che fa da contraltare saggistico alla raccolta di racconti di qualche anno fa, sempre di Einaudi, Questa è l’acqua. Chiudendo magar ...more
Sentimental Surrealist
There's nothing particularly wrong with the essays here themselves. Yes, the early ones sometimes take a know-it-all tone, but on a whole, they're well-written and make compelling arguments. So why only three stars? Because I just don't get the feeling that DFW would've had many of these published if he had lived a little longer. While each of these essays pulls a respectable showing, he only gets the magic working with the reverent, breathless "Federer Both Flesh and Not" (Wallace pole A) and t ...more
Oct 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Reading this posthumously published collection of David Foster Wallace's previously-unpublished-in-book-form-essays stirred up a lot of emotion in me. Having loved his previous collections so much, I was thrilled to have another chance to spend time with him. And I had barely begun his first piece about tennis player Roger Federer's near mystical form before I was happily rewarded with his amazing ability to pull me into a subject I knew nothing about, infect me with his own fascination and wond ...more
Nick Black
Feb 10, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-nyc
my first checkout from the new york public library (*); i went semi-nuts in the fiction section, wondering how the hell i'd missed a DFW publication event, then got home and read it and was totally let down. about halfway through i grew suspicious, and checked the original publication venues for these essays. indeed, the majority are tiny genre rags, and one gets the feeling the David Foster Literary Trust selected titles for inclusion by minimizing copyright fees. the few gems originated in lar ...more

Cada nuevo libro de DFW que llega a mis estanterías no hace más que confirmar la absoluta, ferviente, devota e incondicional admiración que siento hacia el fallecido escritor estadounidense. No solo por los temas (a veces escabrosos, a veces aparentemente intrascendentes) de los que habla, su excepcional capacidad de exposición y argumentación, la precisión patológicamente clínica que demuestra a la hora de abordar la sintaxis o el descacharrante sentido del humor que destilan sus escritos, s
I’ve never read anything by David Foster Wallace, so I was quite pleased when Penguin sent me a collection of his essays entitled Both Flesh and Not. Wallace is the cult author of Infinite Jest (listed in 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die) and also an unfinished novel called The Pale King.

Of course, I was never going to read an essay about Terminator 2 (which is a film I’ve never seen) or the one about Roger Federer (who plays tennis) or about the US Open.

But impressed by this author’s re
Benoit Lelièvre
So, I have reached the existential twilight zone where I define my relationship to David Foster Wallace's writing against the relationship of the people who define themselves by their relationship to his writing, even if they visibly don't understand much. In short, I'm trying to make abstraction of who David Foster Wallace is when reading him, although it's very difficult because he has a distinctive style and I usually have a blast reading him.

BOTH FLESH AND NOT has some of his most accessible
Feb 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
I loved and appreciated this book more than the four stars might suggest. I loved the way it was formated. I loved revisiting essays I had read previously in New York TImes, Salon, the Atlantic, BAE 2007. I loved the ability to again be surprised by DFW's wit, charm, intelligence, and in the last couple essays anger. Having recently lost a loved one in a rather dramatic fashion, I was also taken back those ordurous emotions I felt on September 12/13, 2008 when I heard that DFW killed himself. In ...more
Alan Chen
Aug 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, favorites
I'm a DFWphile therefore my rating may be biased. While I don't believe this isn't his strongest work there are quite a few gems. The section where he discusses word usage is both practical and engaging. It definitely shows he is the son of his grammarian mother and passion for words. Each chapter begins with his personal list of words and definitions. While some words may seem pretty common, DFW highlights the less common uses for the words. His 2 page section on the many ways to say someone is ...more
Nick Craske
Reading David Foster Wallace's 'literary nonfiction' always energises, reinvogrates and stimulates me on mutiple levels. This collection of writing is excellent. From grammatical pedantry to book reviews and a commisioned aftewards for an essay collection, DFW's writing voice is so sincere and has so much depth of character.

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again is my favourite of DFW's literay nonfiction. I didn't feel as rewarded reading any of the Both Flesh and Not's writing as I did th
Joseph Michael Owens
This will potentially be the cure for my recent bout of severe ADD!!
Webster Bull
Oct 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
UPDATED REVIEW, now that I've finished:

We write about what we know, and we know that about which we care. To judge by the essays gathered posthumously in this presumably final collection of nonfiction by David Foster Wallace (1962–2008), the author of "Infinite Jest" cared about the following, and not necessarily in this order:

1. Tennis, especially tennis
2. Grammar
3. Philosophy, in particular that of Ludwig Wittgenstein
4. Contemporary (at the time) fiction
5. Movies, especially pop hits like “Ter
Mar 30, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
In some ways, publishing this wasn't fair. Wallace's other non-fiction collections were meticulously curated and show him working at a delirious, fevered intellectual pitch; they also tended to be pieces he had written over the course of a few years in the early 90's or early 2000's. The real problem with Both Flesh and Not is that it extends that chronology all the way back to the 1980's through 2007 with work that, while engaging and funny and often quite insightful, often lacks the really fl ...more
Oliver Twist & Shout

A pesar que no deja de ser una especie de recopilación de restos (o, dicho con finura, caras B) es un libro mucho más interesante y satisfactorio de lo esperado.

Eso sí, hay que perdonarle ciertas digresiones teletubbiescas, que parecen dirigidas a lectores murakamos. Me refiero a sus frases candorosas sobre hot-dogs o sus alucinadas apreciaciones sobre el juego de Federer y demás. Da la impresión que sólo las pone para resultar muy, muy, muy simpático y amigable. Leyendo alguno de esos pasajes
Apr 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was simply too good to be true.
Absolutely seductive.
Weird as hell sometimes, but felt like such creative foreplay I had to stop and catch my breath (or cross my legs) more often than not.

Not ALL these essays caught my fancy, mind you. But those that stood out (apart from the spritely page dividers of new words/quick definitions to improve my lexicon) were DFW talking about writing/writers, particularly his intro from the America's Best Essays 2007 and the essay Twenty Four Word Notes where
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The Aspiring Poly...: Both Flesh and Not 2 27 Apr 09, 2013 02:43AM  
  • Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace
  • The Legacy of David Foster Wallace
  • Farther Away
  • Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace
  • Life Sentences: Literary Judgments and Accounts
  • The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions, Etc.
  • Understanding David Foster Wallace
  • Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays
  • Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews
  • Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation
  • The Fun Stuff: And Other Essays
  • How Beautiful It Is and How Easily It Can Be Broken
  • Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles, and Speeches, 1998-2003
  • Living, Thinking, Looking: Essays
  • Elegant Complexity: A Study of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest
  • The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000
  • Pulphead
  • The Braindead Megaphone
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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“I claim that the fact that we are strongly encouraged to identify with characters for whom death is not a significant creative possibly has real costs. We the audience, and individual you over there and me right here, lose any sense of eschatology, thus of teleology, and live in a moment that is, paradoxically, both emptied of intrinsic meaning or end and quite literally ETERNAL. If we're the only animals who know in advance we're going to die, we're also probably the only animals who would submit so cheerfully to the sustained denial of this undeniable and very important truth. The danger is that, as entertainment's denials of the truth get even more effective and pervasive and seductive, we will eventually forget what they're denials OF. This is scary. Because it seems transparent to me that, if we forget how to die, we're going to forget how to live.” 16 likes
“For reasons that are not well understood, war's codes are safer for most of us than love's.” 9 likes
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