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A Supposedly Fun Thing Essay Summary Writing

Summary

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 facility that has delighted readers of his fiction, including the bestselling Infinite Jest .


Author Notes

Writer David Foster Wallace was born in Ithaca, New York on February 21, 1962. He received a B.A. from Amherst College in Massachusetts. He was working on his master's degree in creative writing at the University of Arizona when he published his debut novel The Broom of the System (1987).

Wallace published his second novel Infinite Jest (1996) which introduced a cast of characters that included recovering alcoholics, foreign statesmen, residents of a halfway house, and high-school tennis stars. He spent four years researching and writing this novel. His first collection of short stories was Girl with Curious Hair (1989). He also published a nonfiction work titled Signifying Rappers: Rap and Race in the Urban Present. He committed suicide on September 12, 2008 at the age of 46 after suffering with bouts of depression for 20 years.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Booklist Review

Celebrated Illinoisan writer Wallace's meganovel, Infinite Jest (1996), was megasuccessful, and these intelligent, funny essays are outstanding. In "Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley," Wallace presents himself as a young Midwest tennis star with an unathletic, intuitive, yet winning style of play. But Wallace writes about far more than the sum of his self, widening his field of vision to embrace wind, earth, and mathematics, creating a virtual cyclone with his highly idiosyncratic perceptions, perfectly correct cadence, and casually hip lexicon. He applies this arsenal of literary power tools to even greater effect in one of the most original, comprehensive analyses yet of television and the pervasive "culture of watching," discussing such fine points as the tyranny of television's institutionalized, self-referential irony and its tremendous influence on American fiction. Wallace has also written in his edgy way about David Lynch, a state fair, and, in the masterful title piece, his addling experiences on a seven-night Caribbean cruise during which he endured hours of despair interrupted by moments of stunned amazement. --Donna Seaman


Publisher's Weekly Review

Like the tennis champs who fascinate him, novelist Wallace (Infinite Jest; The Broom of the System) makes what he does look effortless and yet inspired. His instinct for the colloquial puts his masters Pynchon and DeLillo to shame, and the humane sobriety that he brings to his subjects-fictional or factual-should serve as a model to anyone writing cultural comment, whether it takes the form of stories or of essays like these. Readers of Wallace's fiction will take special interest in this collection: critics have already mined "Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley" (Wallace's memoir of his tennis-playing days) for the biographical sources of Infinite Jest. The witty, insightful essays on David Lynch and TV are a reminder of how thoroughly Wallace has internalized the writing-and thinking-habits of Stanley Cavell, the plain-language philosopher at Harvard, Wallace's alma mater. The reportage (on the Illinois State Fair, the Canadian Open and a Caribbean Cruise) is perhaps best described as post-gonzo: funny, slight and self-conscious without Norman Mailer's or Hunter Thompson's braggadocio. Only in the more academic essays, on Dostoyevski and the scholar H.L. Hix, does Wallace's gee-whiz modesty get in the way of his arguments. Still, even these have their moments: at the end of the Dostoyevski essay, Wallace blurts out that he wants "passionately serious ideological contemporary fiction [that is] also ingenious and radiantly transcendent fiction." From most writers, that would be hot air; from one as honest, subtle and ambitious as Wallace, it has the sound of a promise. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

The painfully hip Wallace toured state fairs, relaxed on a cruise ship, and now tells us what it's like. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments by David Foster Wallace.

This book is a collection of essays by David Foster Wallace written between 1992 and 1996. These essays cover a wide range of topics from tennis to film and literature and even a luxury cruise in the lengthy titular essay.

The first essay details Wallace's career as a junior tennis player. Wallace explains that he was a very good tennis player when he was young because he could take advantage of the geometry of the court and the strange irregularities of playing in Illinois. Wallace plays well by simply returning his opponent's volleys until the opponent makes a mistake or has an emotional breakdown on the court. Wallace finds this method of play successful until his opponents develop much faster than him physically and are able to simply overpower him.

The second essay is a criticism of contemporary television and postmodern fiction. Wallace believes that television is not inherently bad, but people watch it too much, and it is too self-referential. Wallace relates television self-referential quality to the meta-fiction on the 1960s. Wallace argues that television relies heavily on an irony that forces viewers to watch continuously so they can always be in on the joke instead of the butt of it. It is nearly impossible to attack this irony because it can simply insult the attacker. Wallace thinks that the only way to unseat this irony is for artists to be willing to risk authentic feelings.

In the third essay, Wallace is commissioned to attend the Illinois State Fair and write about the experience. Wallace argues that people in rural areas like Illinois take vacations to be with other people while people in cities vacation to get away from people. Thus the fair is about the state as a kind of large community. However, Wallace discovers that the fair itself is divided into different sorts of communities such as the as the agriculture professionals and people who come for the carnival rides. Wallace further argues that ultimately the fair is all about food at some level or another, which is fitting for Illinois as its economy is based around agriculture.

In the fourth essay, Wallace discusses the literary criticism of H. L. Hix, who tries to save the notion of the author from poststructuralist critics.

The fifth essay previews David Lynch's new film "Lost Highway" and contextualizes it with Lynch's other work. Wallace summarizes "Lost Highway's" convoluted plot and describes the few scenes he saw being filmed. Wallace explains that what makes a work "Lynchian" is the constant presence of the macabre in the mundane. Wallace argues that Lynch's films are so emotionally effective because they implicate the audience in the evil that they witness on screen.

The sixth essay is a biographical piece on professional tennis player Michael Joyce. Wallace goes to watch Joyce at the Canadian Open and is overwhelmed by how much better all the professionals are than he had imagined. Joyce himself plays a "power-baseline" style of tennis in the tradition of Andre Agassi. Wallace argues that like many other professional athletes, Joyce has forsaken all other paths in life to play a game that he loves. In many ways that choice was made long ago and it may have never been Joyce's choice at all.

The last essay details Wallace's experience on a seven day luxury Caribbean cruise. Although the cruise is meant to be a form of relaxation, Wallace discovers that it fills him with despair. Wallace analogizes the pampering given to cruise passengers to the care given by a mother to her infant, so in many ways a cruise is a way for adults to revert to the status of children. Wallace also quickly grows accustomed to the level of luxury of the ship and finds that he only desires more because there is no way to satisfy the childish impulse to want everything. Wallace concludes that people go on cruises but do not feel that they deserve such treatment and so in some way resent the people who give it to them.

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