Monday, January 14, 2013

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again - book review

my rating: 5/5

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, this –

One always expects a journalist to be critical. He or she are our eyes and ears in the field, there to ask the tough questions and scratch at official answers and accepted truths. David Foster Wallace here goes much, much further. Written as a memoir of a cruise vacation in the Caribbean, Wallace is as critical of himself as he is of his surroundings, and readily accepts that the surroundings themselves: the luxury, the ease, the service (oh my, the service!), the trimmings, all work terribly well in the first sense at providing an scarcely imaginable level of comfort to the people who go on these cruises. And they work on Wallace, and he graciously accepts his own weakness and malleability. But then he goes further, and shines an unforgiving light on what is being conveyed by the opulence of the ship: the subtext, that which is being picked up by his subconscious and making him sadder every day that he spends in his cabin on the Nadir and at all the myriad activities proposed for the fun and amusement of the passengers.

It’s an exploration of the self as much as the world of cruises, his self as an American tourist (that he tries unsuccessfully to escape from), his self as a self-proclaimed semi-agoraphobe, his self as a man of letters with pretensions of self-discipline incapable of foregoing cabin service…

An incredible read.

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