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

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  35,832 ratings  ·  2,649 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 February 12th 1997)
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Adrian Fingleton Personally I'd read it one essay at a time but there is a continuity to the writing so I think if one read another book in between you would lose the …morePersonally I'd read it one essay at a time but there is a continuity to the writing so I think if one read another book in between you would lose the thread of this one...(less)

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 ·  35,832 ratings  ·  2,649 reviews

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Mar 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: phenomenal, read-2008
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
Apr 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
this book made me wet myself. twice. i wish to god i was exaggerating. or elderly. but poor dfw on a cruise ship... no one has ever paired genius with social awkwardness more charmingly.

come to my blog!
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 signi
Aug 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Tom Quinn
Nov 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I used to think I was pretty smart. I did the "gifted" program in elementary school, took advanced classes in high school, went to college, graduated with honors. Watched critically acclaimed films, read critically acclaimed novels, even took in the occasional play. Smart stuff. But mere months after graduation, I was plagued with worry and self-doubt. If I was really so smart, why wasn't I going places? Why did I feel so lost, so aimless, so adrift in adulthood? Why was I just "getting by" and ...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.

As I stated
Stephen M
Jun 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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 (
Roy Lotz
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
I have felt as bleak as I’ve felt since puberty, and have filled almost three Mead notebooks trying to figure out whether it was Them or Just Me.

By far my favorite review of this book—and one of my favorite reviews on this site—is Geoff’s energetic paean. So I find it somewhat ironic that, setting out to write my own review, I am forced to begin with the opposite moral: do not trust the American-hype machine. This is not because everything popular is bad, nor because of any Orwellian or Ador
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.

Oct 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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.
Nov 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing

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
Jul 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 fea
Feb 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Melki by: BOnnie
Shelves: essays
I've read one DFW book - The Broom of the System - and I didn't much care for it. (Though I recently read that the author himself didn't like that one, so - vindication!) Imagine my amazement at how much I enjoyed this collection of essays. There's some clever and insightful commentary here. Wallace even managed to make a subject I have zero interest in - tennis - fascinating. (Well, truthfully, by the second article on the sport, my fascination was dwindling.)

Amid the forced joviality of a crui
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 cl
Jun 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing

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 again!
Aug 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars, but I’m rounding up due to DFW’s description of his bout of overly-efficient-room-cleaning-induced paranoia, which was featured in an essay on the in(s)anity of travelling aboard a luxury cruise ship. I’ve had nearly the same suspicions myself at hotels in the past, though I do tend to thrive on low-grade paranoia as a general rule. At any rate, it was good to know I’m not the only one who has been unnerved by this sinister phenomenon. I definitely find Mr. Wallace more relatable than ...more
Sep 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
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
Moira Russell
May 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone.
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. ...more
Dec 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: essays
By the end of this book, I had the same feeling that David Foster Wallace had about cruise ships in the title essay “A Supposedly Fun Thing, I’ll Never Do Again.” On the surface, AMAZING, but by the end, just wanted to get out.

Wallace writes dazzling, brilliant sentences, paragraphs, pages. Yet I had the same problem with all of these essays. I started each one being hugely impressed, but as I continued, felt clobbered, smothered, exhausted by the over-the-top excess of his verbiage. And then I
Feb 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Apr 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The title story is about--what else?--taking a Caribbean cruise. Shortly after reading the story, I took a cruise of my own (it was a family thing, not my choice), and guess what? David Foster Wallace absolutely nailed the sheer weirdness of the experience. Highly recommended.
A collection of seven non-fiction essays on diverse, but traditionally Wallacian subjects:

1. Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley - Wallace reminisces about his childhood playing tennis in tornado alley. A short, fairly unremarkable essay, except in its structure, which culminates short-story style in fulfillment of its earlier themes, in something resembling a literary epiphany. Wallace considered himself a fiction rather than non-fiction writer, and this piece is a good example of how his natura
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
Jan 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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,
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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

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