Saturday, January 7, 2012

2011 Top 10: A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again

Second in a series of reviews of my 10 favorite books read in 2011, presented in alphabetical order.

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace, ©1997

A collection of seven essays about the popular culture, written and previously published in the early-to-mid-‘90s in Harper’s, Esquire, and scholarly journals.

Some are entertainingly observational, some are densely erudite, all are brilliant. Most include DFW’s signature styles of verbosity, footnotes and textual shorthand. There’s analysis of rural life via people gathering at a state fair; of pampered life via guests on a luxury cruise ship; of athletic (and mathematical) excellence, specifically in tennis. And of film, television and literature, for example “Greatly Exaggerated,” which turned out to be literary criticism on authorial context, a topic on my to-pursue list. (I read the essay twice, at first nearly laughing at its over-the-top density and assuming it must be satire. But it’s not, and I’m drawn to explore it elsewhere to figure it out.)

The essays are about pop culture but the setting is clearly DFW’s mind. Maybe he manipulates the reader’s attention toward it, but honestly, it feels gravitational. I have everything else of his still to read, yet I despair because eventually there will be no more.

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