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1. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never
2. Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay
3. Oblivion: Stories
4. Consider the Lobster and Other
5. This Is Water: Some Thoughts,
6. Everything and More: A Compact
7. Brief Interviews with Hideous
8. The Pale King
9. Infinite Jest
10. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never
11. The Broom of the System: A Novel
12. Girl With Curious Hair
13. Although Of Course You End Up
14. Understanding David Foster Wallace
15. McCain's Promise: Aboard the Straight
16. Consider David Foster Wallace:
17. Elegant Complexity: A Study of
18. David Foster Wallace's Infinite
19. The Best American Essays 2007
20. The Iron Bars of Freedom. David

1. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments
by David Foster Wallace
Paperback: 368 Pages (1998-02-02)
list price: US$14.99 -- used & new: US$8.65
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316925284
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
This exuberantly praised--and uproariously funny--first collection of nonfiction pieces by one of the most acclaimed and adventurous writers of our time--the author of "Infinite Jest"--"reconfirms Mr. Wallace's stature as one of his generation's preeminent talents" ("New York Times") 5-city author tour. Print ads .Amazon.com Review
David Foster Wallace made quite a splash in 1996 with hismassive novel, InfiniteJest. Now he's back with a collection of essays entitled ASupposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. In addition to arazor-sharp writing style, Wallace has a mercurial mind thatlights on many subjects. His seven essays travel from a state fair inIllinois to a cruise ship in the Caribbean, explore how televisionaffects literature and what makes film auteur David Lynch tick, anddeconstruct deconstructionism and find the intersection betweentornadoes and tennis.

These eclectic interests are enhanced by aneye (and nose) for detail: "I have seen sucrose beaches and water avery bright blue.I have seen an all-red leisure suit with flaredlapels. I have smelled what suntan lotion smells like spread over21,000 pounds of hot flesh . . ." It's evident that Wallace revels inboth the life of the mind and the peculiarities of his fellows; inA Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again he celebrates both. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (103)

2-0 out of 5 stars A Supposedly Good Writer I'll Never Read Again
This is my second try at reading this author, and frankly I don't see what the fuss is about him. I thought I would like him because I like dense prose, I like essays, I even like footnotes, but this guy takes everything to a twisted extreme and pushes the reader away with his cramped jargon and endless, endless footnotes. It feels like he's trying to prove that he's a great writer.

He comes across as contemptuous and spoiled. He makes up his own jargon and sprinkles it throughout each essay to the point where I sometimes wondered if I was reading a computer technical manual rather than an essay. His scorn for humanity is apparent, and it didn't come across as humorous to me, if that's what he wished for. I couldn't even get through the whole book, skipped the David Lynch chapter, and was barely able to choke down the extremely long and pointless cruise ship essay.

After reading the cruise ship essay and the first essay about tennis, all I could think was, "I hate this guy!" I will happily skip the rest of his oeuvre.

4-0 out of 5 stars Art & Alienation
A Supposedly Fun Book That Is Occasionally Fun (for select audiences):

"Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley": DFW has the kind of self-effacing charm that allows him to forge an instant bond with readers. When he discusses relatable things like athletic ability, being a late bloomer, and the strange connection he feels (and then does not feel) toward his natural environs, the reader is instantly hooked. The fact that DFW resents nature for not endowing him with more physical strength & beauty is plenty interesting, but DFW also has another quality that is just the opposite of self-effacing and not nearly as charming, and that's his excessive brainyness. DFW often ruins perfectly good essays with excessive brainyness (apparently his revenge for not having enough brawn or beauty). The math babble threaded throughout the essay just reads like intellectual showboating. Luckily, in this essay, the brainyness doesn't spoil whats good, but in other essays it sometimes does. Some readers seem attracted to the brainyness, the learned references, the intellectual display (which becomes a kind of replacement sport for the tennis that he so loves), but to me those are not the qualities that make him worth reading.

"E Unibas Pluram: Television and US Fiction": If you are interested in answering the question of whether DFW was a postmodernist or not, this is an essential essay. This 60+ page essay is a ramble about alienation and irony. DFW admits that like many writers of fiction he is a compulsive watcher/observer and that this habit makes him feel alienated. TV, he says, seems to offer a release from alienation and so many alienated writers are tv addicts, but he decides that tv does nothing to alleviate the problem. He also contends that writers of his generation (the ones he mentions are all postmodernists) incorporate tv (and other pop references) into their work because its part of modern/postmodern life, but that this replicating of modern/postmodern life in fiction still offers no relief from the alienation that it explores/configures. DFW claims that irony/ironic detachment was a favorite writerly device/attitude for the early postmodern writers (a group that he sees as his forebears) but that irony which is also a favorite device/attitude of his generation of writers also offers no relief from alienation. Although he does make a Marx joke (in the State Fair essay), which may or may not indicate that he sees alienation as a universal condition, it would seem that his own alienation is due more to a personal than a sociological pathology. Reading between the lines (as well as the other essays in this collection), one gets the feeling that DFW is not particularly interested in connecting to any of the communities that he describes, nor that he is particularly interested in connecting to other alienated artists. Quite the contrary. It seems that DFW is rather fond of his alienated status as its the subject of virtually everything that he writes, and his trademark. Even though the essay eventually morphs into a call for a new kind of art that would deliver writers & presumably readers from their alienation, one wonders if relief from alienation (the very thing that provides the impetus for his writing) is really what he seeks. So is he a postmodernist? I think the answer is yes. Even though he often voices nostalgia for a time before the postmodern, this nostalgia is itself a key component of postmodern consciousness/writing. DFW is very good at mapping the impasse where postmodern writing leads, but the reason that he knows this impasse so well is because it is his own.

"Getting Away from Being Pretty Much Away from It All": Another extremely long 60+ page essay that is more consistently enjoyable than the previous essay, but so full of filler (endless descriptive passages of cows & horses & pigs) that one finds oneself wondering whether DFW ever cuts or deletes anything. This along with the cruise ship essay are the author at his most accessible, and his funniest. DFW is a reluctant traveler (some of the funniest bits are about his own discomfort) but he is very entertaining when summing up human types.

"Greatly Exaggerated": As in 'the rumors of my death have been...'. Despite that title, this is a humorless synopsis/review of H.L Hix's Morte d' Author: An Autopsy. The book & the book review summarize and assess the long battle over whether authorship as a concept is alive or dead. Hix is not on either side of the fence really, and believes that the argument revolves around a misuse of the word "author." Authors, Hix argues and DFW echoes, are not completely autonomous agents (no one ever really thought they were), but are influenced by culture, language, and even tv. So, as Hix explains it, there's no real side to be on. Ok, I went to grad school a few years ago and remain somewhat interested in this kind of grad school inquiry, but like many (not all) academic exercises/arguments this essay takes a very long time to say very little and certainly nothing new and most readers will do well to simply skip this one.

"David Lynch Keeps His Head": Premiere magazine asked DFW to visit the set of Lost Highway and although the author never says one word to David Lynch, he writes nearly 70 pages about him. Instead of talking to the director, DFW analyzes each and every one of his films. The interesting thing here is not the film criticism which is not particularly insightful but watching one alienated artist watch another albeit from a distance. DFW admires the work, but he is suspicious of the man behind the work who he describes as creepy. But what makes Lynch "creepy" is the same thing that makes many artists "creepy"--the strange distance they keep.
Accompany this essay with the earlier one about TV & US Fiction and you have two very interesting meditations on alienation. Again, I would say that this is DFW's main theme. Even in the travel pieces, its the author's alienation from his subject that gives the work its unique charm (we all love someone who feels even more alienated than we do) and force.

"Tennis Player Michael Joyce's Professional Artistry...": Tennis reportage that is really a meditation on the price paid for being obscenely good at one thing. Although DFW admires their art, he decides that Joyce and pros like him are "grotesques" ie., freakishly one-dimensional creatures.

"A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again": This near-100 page essay deserves its reputation as a masterpiece of travel literature, and is the reason most people buy this book. If these essays prove anything its that DFW is a masterful and witty observer of humans at their most absurd (I only wish that DFW had a sense of humor about some of the topics that he treats seriously because when he's funny he is sublime and when he's serious he sounds just like any other academic/critic). If you've never been on a cruise ship this will make you book a cruise just to see whether DFW is exaggerating or not. All of these essay will appeal to the DFW fan, but this is the only "must read" for the general reader.

5-0 out of 5 stars (Insert clever title here)
I agree with the critic who said that we shouldn't let the revisionists have the day, Wallace's finest work is Infinite Jest. However, these non-fiction essays, though some are a little dated, will stand the test of time. Excellent work from top to bottom. And, yes, I like some essays more than others, obviously the title essay, the state fair essay, and the one about math and tennis. The essays that didn't resonate as much with me didn't strike me as gratuitously boring, rather, just things like David Lynch that I'm not as interested in. However, to expect every essay to include grand themes of life is to somewhat miss the point of modern life. We have so many things to choose from, Wallace's gift is in being a guide to a few of them. The sort of guide you always wished you had on one those lame Disney raft rides.

5-0 out of 5 stars Just great writing
This is some of the best writing I've ever encountered, fiction or nonfiction, on any topic.I can't recommend it highly enough.

5-0 out of 5 stars Life, the Universe, and Tennis
A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again is a collection of seven non-fiction pieces written by David Foster Wallace that appeared in various magazines and journals in the early '90s, presented in this book in their "uncut" forms. Just to give you an idea of how different some of these are from their previously published versions: at a reading of the Illinois State Fair piece, Wallace says that the piece originally appeared in Harper's in "extremely attenuated form".

While the ostensible subjects of the essays are Wallace's early years in the Midwest, the effects of television on fiction in the U.S., a visit to the Illinois State Fair, a book on literary criticism discussing the "death of the author",the career of a world-class but not yet superstar tennis player, David Lynch's work and what it was like to be on the set of Lost Highway, and a seven night cruise in the Caribbean, these essays are filled with wonderful observations and digressions that cover much more than the original subjects.

For example, in the cruise essay a main theme of excess and insatiable indulgence quickly develops, and there are digressions on artistic advertisements, ingenuous communication, and self-conscious behavior. In addressing the effects of television on literature in the U.S., Wallace also addresses how television pervasively affects life in general. In the Michael Joyce essay: feelings of self-worth when confronting the best of the best, choice and desire, the beauty of tennis. The David Lynch essay: the general audience's desire for dichotomy (especially good vs. evil) in stories, how Blue Velvet affected Wallace and some of his peers. Just to name a few.

And there are, as you've probably read or heard, numerous humorous (often hilarious) digressions and observations throughout. I don't want to overshadow the serious and profound parts of Wallace's work with them in this review, but I will say that there are many laughs to be had, and I felt that there was a nice balance of humor and cogitation.

Although the essays cover a wide range of subjects, they are not entirely unconnected; there are certain themes present throughout. American experience and how it is shaped and affected by consumerism and media is a big one. Self-consciousness is pretty pervasive, whether Wallace is discussing self-conscious art, his own self-conscious behavior, or even writing in a self-conscious manner about how the very text he is writing may be cut out by editors later on. Ironic/cynical behavior is huge in E Unibus Pluram and makes a few appearances in the other essays, art and its function is discussed a few times, and so on.

The upshot of all this is that the book as a whole addresses some of the most relevant and important issues of our time. I really enjoyed it. I know I will read it again. Knowing that different people can read the same book and come up with wildly different interpretations of it, I obviously can't guarantee that everyone will enjoy this book, but I would still recommend that they at least try to read it. Let me rephrase that so that my caution doesn't detract from your idea of how highly I regard this book: I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone. ... Read more

2. Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will
by David Foster Wallace
Paperback: 240 Pages (2010-11-05)
list price: US$19.95 -- used & new: US$13.46
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Asin: 0231151578
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Long before he probed the workings of time, human choice, and human frailty inInfinite Jest, David Foster Wallace wrote a brilliant philosophical critique of Richard Taylor's argument for fatalism. In 1962, Taylor used six commonly accepted presuppositions to imply that humans have no control over the future. Not only did Wallace take issue with Taylor's method, which, according to him, scrambled the relations of logic, language, and the physical world, but he also called out a semantic trick at the heart of Taylor's argument.

Wallace was a great skeptic of abstract thinking made to function as a negation of something more genuine and real. He was especially suspicious of certain paradigms of thought-the cerebral aestheticism of modernism, the clever gimmickry of postmodernism-that abandoned "the very old traditional human verities that have to do with spirituality and emotion and community." As Wallace rises to meet the challenge to free will presented by Taylor (and a number of other philosophical heavyweights), we experience the developing perspective of this major novelist, along with the beginning of his lifelong struggle to establish solid logical ground for his soaring convictions. This volume reproduces Taylor's original article and other works on fatalism cited by Wallace in his critique. James Ryerson, an editor at theNew York Times Magazine, draws parallels in his introduction between Wallace's early work in philosophy and the themes and explorations of his fiction.

A companion website, www.davidfosterwallace-fate-time-language.net, established by Maureen Eckert, will feature interviews with philosophers and avid Wallace fans on the import of his arguments.

... Read more

3. Oblivion: Stories
by David Foster Wallace
Paperback: 336 Pages (2005-08-30)
list price: US$14.99 -- used & new: US$8.56
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Asin: 0316010766
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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In the stories that make up Oblivion, David Foster Wallace joins the rawest, most naked humanity with the infinite involutions of self-consciousness--a combination that is dazzlingly, uniquely his. These are worlds undreamt-of by any other mind.Only David Foster Wallace could convey a father's desperate loneliness by way of his son's daydreaming through a teacher's homicidal breakdown ("The Soul Is Not a Smithy").Or could explore the deepest and most hilarious aspects of creativity by delineating the office politics surrounding a magazine profile of an artist who produces miniature sculptures in an anatomically inconceivable way ("The Suffering Channel").Or capture the ache of love's breakdown in the painfully polite apologies of a man who believes his wife is hallucinating the sound of his snoring ("Oblivion").Each of these stories is a complete world, as fully imagined as most entire novels, at once preposterously surreal and painfully immediate.Oblivion is an arresting and hilarious creation from a writer "whose best work challenges and reinvents the art of fiction" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution).
... Read more

Customer Reviews (32)

5-0 out of 5 stars Beautiful
I was turned on to DFW after hearing an interview on Bookworm (podcast) and after reading Infinite Jest I decided to read all of his other books in publication order.I was worried about Oblivion because I had heard it was a very sad collection.But I fell in love with it.I think it is his best work, which makes his death that much sadder. He had his best work yet to do.

The stories are beautiful and absurd and more accessible

Scanning other customer reviews I saw much reference to DFW's self-indulgence.To be fair he is that, but that's what books are.To avoid self-indulgence, you need to not write.And would you rather have covert or overt self-indulgence?I want overt, because it is honest, and whatever faults he has, DFW was as honest a writer as one can ask for.

2-0 out of 5 stars Read this to study for the GRE, but not to be entertained
This is fiction of a style I would label A.D.D. prose: there is very little action yet we spend pages reading about dribbly insignificant details. It is easy to lose focus while reading this book. Wallace writes sublimely detailed sketches of the characters, but it is only a still life; there is no action, no dimension. The one redeeming quality is the English of this book; extremely erudite, it is like reading a dictionary.

3-0 out of 5 stars Please enter a title for your review
*contains spoilers?*
where the vast majority of "literary fiction" writers say to themselves "i need some detail to add color to this scene, what's a generic characteristic that would be apparent and what's the best way to allude to it possessing overlooked significance?", Wallace finds and focusses on the details that are actually interesting and thus only needs to describe them in an objective rather than poetic way demonstrating the irrelevance of poetic descriptions when you have enough of a sense of reality to find the facts that define the nature of a situation and let them speak for themselves.
i felt like most of the writing in the first half of this book consistently paid off with a new idea that built on the previous ones every second or third sentence. i was too engaged by the minor immediate payoffs to even be anticpating an ultimate ending crescendo. i struggled to find any ideas that could hook me in the second half though, which is the same experience i had with Infinite Jest. all the faults of that previous novel are equally apparent here, the progressively increasing reliance on suspense to hold reader attention and excluding or vaguely implying the most relevant information.
the title story Oblivion is a non-linear minefield of half-ideas with a conclusion seemingly consisting (although i could be completely wrong) of the "...and it was all a dream" twilight zone ending. the cryptic style is perhaps designed to represent a dream, but since all his writing has included an element of surrealism it isn't different enough from his other stories for the intention to be apparent even retrospectively.
The Suffering Channel is alternating boring and frustrasting, spending all of it's 90 pages raising question after question that are never answered and dragging out the suspense with the kind of banal detail that can only be called padding, something DFW clearly knows better than to use. the minor philisophical ideas never go beyond surface level kneejerk reactions, something that, again, DFW clearly knows better than to use.
just like Infinite Jest half of it blew me away but i couldn't see how the same writer could take any pride in the lesser half.

5-0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
The best collection of short fiction from the best living writer in the English language.It demands patience and attention, but the rewards for the effort are incredible.The best story in the collection is Good Old Neon, which is bifercated (by use of footnotes), such that there are two distinct endings, both of which would qualify the story as probably the best I have read this year.
These stories coil and bend, and the sentences are often labyrinthine; casual reading really won't suffice. If you do put forth the effort, I think you'll find that they engage the mind and that other thing, whatever it may be, that makes us what we call "human."Truly an outstanding collection.

4-0 out of 5 stars I go back to it fairly frequently
Pissed off at the mindnumbing aspects of television, I found this collection of stories to be a breath of fresh air showing me the power and scope of what fiction writing can be when someone courageous enough will put in the work.You can trust Wallace to know what the heck he's writing about, just don't think too hard about it - like television - enjoy it and the words and ideas in each story will, in the end, make you glad you did, unlike television.I especially enjoy 'Good Old Neon' and 'Another Pioneer'. ... Read more

4. Consider the Lobster and Other Essays
by David Foster Wallace
Paperback: 343 Pages (2007-07-02)
list price: US$14.99 -- used & new: US$8.17
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Asin: 0316013323
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Do lobsters feel pain? Did Franz Kafka have a funny bone? What is John Updike's deal, anyway? And what happens when adult video starlets meet their fans in person? David Foster Wallace answers these questions and more in essays that are also enthralling narrative adventures. Whether covering the three-ring circus of a vicious presidential race, plunging into the wars between dictionary writers, or confronting the World's Largest Lobster Cooker at the annual Maine Lobster Festival, Wallace projects a quality of thought that is uniquely his and a voice as powerful and distinct as any in American letters. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (64)

4-0 out of 5 stars A Great Place to Start with David Foster Wallace
Consider the Lobster, and Other Essaysis a non-fiction book by the late, acclaimed journalist and novelist David Foster Wallace. I first heard of DFW on a recent NPR interview, and, like many NPR stories, I found his life fascinating. Then a good friend of mine was talking about him and it reminded me of the interview, and soon after he loaned me a few DFW books. Wallace was a highly intelligent man with an enormous vocabulary and an unusual-but-enthralling writing style. He is widely renown for his command of language and syntax, and it's nearly impossible to read his writing without a dictionary. This is the first book of his I've read. The essays are reviewed in the order in which I read them.

"Consider the Lobster" was written for Gourmet magazine in 2004. Wallace took a trip up to the Maine Lobster Festival and was hired to write about his experiences there. He goes in to great detail about lobster cooking, how there's a huge boiler that can cook a hundred lobsters at a time. He talks about how smelly the MLF is, how hot the weather was, and how long the lines were. Then he discusses lobster biology in great detail and eventually delves into the heart of the article: do lobsters feel pain when they're being boiled alive? The piece was quite interesting, both objectively and subjectively. Wallace articulates the arguments for and against in his normal style, but he throws in his genuine confusion about the subject as well. He explains that he has certain animals he likes to eat and that he just prefers not to think about what they have to go through in order for us to eat them, to which he then muses on our minds ignoring these ugly truths. By the end of the article, Wallace has made no clear choice about lobsters and whether or not they feel, and neither had I. I just wonder how Gourmet felt about this piece?

In "Up, Simba," Wallace was hired as a pencil for the famously liberal Rolling Stone to write about one of the 2000 Presidential candidates. Wallace was put with Sen. John McCain. The piece is long (nearly 80 pages) and sometimes trying, but the overall quality of the essay was excellent. If you've ever wondered what it's like to be on the campaign trail, not the Hollywood-style glitzy trail, but the Real-World-lots-of-downtime-bored-out-of-your-mind-extremely-hectic trail, then you'll love "Up, Simba." The piece doesn't really get deep into politics, but instead muses on the authenticity of McCain and various other politicians. Wallace is constantly torn between whether or not McCain is genuine in his concern, or, letting his cynic take over, the man is just putting out an image. The article was revealing and interesting and slightly boring all at the same time, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. By the end, as with "Consider the Lobster," Wallace has made no choice on McCain's genuineness. For me, the cynic was silent and I dared to believe.

"How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart" is a short review of tennis star Tracy Austin's autobiography. It was written for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Wallace played competitive juniors tennis when he was younger and he decided to read and review the famous starlet's book. He basically said it was rubbish, horribly written, badly edited, and offered little-to-no real insight on Austin. He then goes on to muse on our [American people's, not mine:] fascination with celebrities and why we want to read about their lives, especially athletes. This piece was quite thought-provoking, and its brevity makes it much easier to read in one sitting.

"Big Red Son," written for Premiere magazine, is Wallace's account of the AVN Awards, which is basically like the Academy Awards for adult videos. Reading this piece was kind of like staring at a train wreck. I was repulsed a few times, but equally intrigued. Largely, while Wallace does cover the adult video industry, he goes into inane details about certain performers or directors/producers lives outside the screen, and this is possibly even more terrifying than the sex. The lack of humanity in many of the people is frightening. The vain "look at me and laud me" attitudes was loathsome. And the apathetic views of some directors (e.g. Max Hardcore), not caring how humiliating a situation will be for a "starlet," was downright sickening. Wallace talks about the awkwardness of the situation, standing in the bathroom between two male performers, silently obeying male-urinal etiquette. He muses how odd it is to be behind a woman in the buffet line that he's seen up close and personal. He talks about how cheap and foreign everything is, from the awards show itself to the people there. By the end of "Big Red Son," it's easy to see Wallace's disgust with the business and I shared his sentiments. It's just mind blowing how crude some people can be. Still, this essay is worth the read, if only to somewhat try and understand a group of people you'll never be able to really understand.

"Authority and American Usage" is a massive, exhausting book review of Garner's A Dictionary of Modern American Usage. I read about a third of this piece before I abandoned it. I just really didn't care much about the finer points of American usage, and there were way too many words I didn't understand. Hardcore English fans may enjoy this, but I couldn't do it.

"The View from Mrs. Thompson's" recounts Wallace's experience with 9/11 and the following days. I really liked this piece a lot, the way he mused and questioned the Horror. Possibly my favorite short essay in the collection.

"Joseph Frank's Dostoevsky" was particularly interesting because I like Dostoevsky (though as of writing this I've not read any of his books) and I wanted to read Wallace's thoughts of the man. This piece is actually a review of Joseph Frank's books on Dostoevsky, arguing that Frank's works are unique and great. Throughout this piece Wallace inserts random philosophical musings, asking deep questions that at times make you stop and think seriously about things. I enjoyed this essay quite a bit, and recommend it if only for the philosophy.

The three remaining essays I did not read. I had no interest in the odd way "Host" was arranged on the page, nor did I care about the subject. Similarly, I never liked Kafka and had no desire to read Wallace's views on him, and the same goes for the review of John Updike work.

All in all, Consider the Lobster was a great read. It falls into a genre I never read, and the break from the norm was fun. I felt like I was slowly learning a bit about Wallace's life with each piece I read. Wallace's cynicism gets heavy throughout some works, and it's really no surprise to learn that the man eventually killed himself. Still, his writing is top-notch, his essays are enjoyable, and his musings mix humor with seriousness. Everyone should read a few DFW essays in their life, and Consider the Lobster is a great place to start.

5-0 out of 5 stars this dude is no joke
This is a great book of essays as an intro to David Foster Wallace's work, his essays being much more accessible than his fiction. The collection has a lot of variety in terms of topics (which include the porn industry, John McCain, talk radio, Maine lobster festival), and he somehow packs each essay full of information and ideas without being boring or unnatural, and then he always takes you in a different surprising direction so that reading his stuff is also exciting and fun.

He's funny! I laugh a lot at his descriptions and observations. He laughs at himself a lot; his personality always comes out in each essay. In addition he's a crazy genius whose brain is always on a million different levels and compelled to be painfully conscious of every aspect of everything, hence his footnotes and nested parentheses as he dissects the most random topics.

I love the essay on Tracy Austin's sports memoir (start with this one or the title essay), which manages to be a summary of both tennis and Tracy Austin's dramatic, glorious, tragic career, and also kind of a brutal critique of her memoir and possibly her thoughts as presented through the memoir. And yet DFW manages to tear her apart while holding her skills and accomplishments in total reverence so that you feel simultaneously sorrow and awe for her. He then goes to the question of why this memoir is so disappointing to him: because he's hoping they'll reveal what it is that makes top athletes gods among men, and then he forms his own theory on [paraphrasing] "what keeps us on our respective sides of the tv screen". I don't even care or know anything about tennis (or anything about the topics of most of his other essays), but his ideas and observations are so interesting that, while following his ideas can be disorienting, you feel safe being led by the hand of an amazing writer.

The day DFW hanged himself I was shocked: I felt it was the first time someone I knew had died, which is erroneous because 1) I don't know him, and 2) people who I did technically know have died before (I feel I owe them an apology somehow for having this reaction to DFW). I had just assumed he'd be one of the great living writers of my time, that he would age as I aged, that he would continue writing stuff for me to read for the rest of my life. But suddenly this wasn't true anymore, suddenly these books were all the books he'd ever write, and I couldn't just cherry-pick his stuff anymore and one day I'd have to finally finish infinite jest, etc. And it wasn't because of some kind of car accident or something- he'd done this to himself and on purpose, and all of this was just such a shock that I stopped eating meat. It's embarrassing to confess that part of why I stopped eating meat is to somehow preserve his memory (read Consider the Lobster, which he wrote for gourmet magazine). I know that sounds stupid and weird but that's how much I liked his work and how much of an apocalypse his suicide was in some ways.

2-0 out of 5 stars Great Reading For The Insomniac
Not since listening to Jimmy Carter's "Living Faith" has any book put me to sleep so easily.I used to bring his tapes on flights with me to lull me to sleep.I now have a wonderful replacement in this book.

I love reading essays so when I read the glowing blurbs and the high praise on Amazon I thought I could not miss.But every time I started to read - I think I started on the essay involving his observations on going to the video porn convention - I just not keep my mind from wandering.It was just so boring.So incredibly dull.Unbelievably awfully hard to read.I kept thinking - where is the funny?Where is the wit?The interest?The keen observation?Then - I thought why is that man putting unwrapped cookies in his pocket?I wonder if the water in the lav is potable.Does this seat back go back any further and will I disturb the woman's cocktail on her tray table if I go back?Yep.MIND WANDERS while reading this.But soon I found that - say - I could read about being on the trail with the 2000 McCain campaign and suddenly fall into a deep sleep only to be revived by touchdown at MIA.I could consider the lobster right through page two.Next thing I knew JFK was directly below.

So - If you need a sleeping... draft... you should consider the lobster and his other essays.If you want to spend some time on some entertaining essays - consider the collection in "In Fact".Or for some humor on CD how about some Davis Sedaris.Contemplative?How about Thoreau's "Walking"?

But for sleeping - "Consider the Lobster and Other Essays" is peerless.

5-0 out of 5 stars hard to put down
I sailed through this marvelous book of essays. It's a small victory for Wallace that he can keep someone as ADD as me engaged through essays on everything from literary theory to lobster festivals.

3-0 out of 5 stars A true Talent
Consider the Lobster is a collection of muscular essays from the late David Foster Wallace on an absurdly wide range of topics. Each of them was commissioned by a particular magazine with a particular topic, hence Wallace's tendency to direct his voice at his readers like a canon. However, Wallace can never be contained by the banalities of his topic here. His work on the AVA's is a particularly damning portrait of the pornography industry, in all its unimaginable insanity and sadness. I particularly like the piece on the American Usage Wars, which involves an impressive demonstration of Wallace's knowledge regarding the history of English grammar debates over the course of the last several decades. Not all of the pieces here are great-the one on McCain in particular is repetitive and mundane. And DFW's tendency to use lengthy footnotes to 'fragment the linearity' of his text is a mere affectation. Still, this represents the work of a great mind, whose creativity and intellect will sorely be missed. ... Read more

5. This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life
by David Foster Wallace
Hardcover: 144 Pages (2009-04-14)
list price: US$14.99 -- used & new: US$8.46
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316068225
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Only once did David Foster Wallace give a public talk on his views on life, during a commencement address given in 2005 at Kenyon College. The speech is reprinted for the first time in book form in THIS IS WATER. How does one keep from going through their comfortable, prosperous adult life unconsciously? How do we get ourselves out of the foreground of our thoughts and achieve compassion? The speech captures Wallace's electric intellect as well as his grace in attention to others. After his death, it became a treasured piece of writing reprinted in The Wall Street Journal and the London Times, commented on endlessly in blogs, and emailed from friend to friend.

Writing with his one-of-a-kind blend of causal humor, exacting intellect, and practical philosophy, David Foster Wallace probes the challenges of daily living and offers advice that renews us with every reading. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (28)

1-0 out of 5 stars Underwhelming
Wow, I was really surprised at how underwhelming this little book was. I had heard an interview with the author and it sounded interesting, but the thoughts expressed by Wallace are nothing new, groundbreaking, or even that interesting. He basically expounds on living a life where one chooses the way in which one thinks, and thinking about other people instead of only oneself. Not being so "self" centered.

I was hoping for some kind of profound insight into living based on what I had heard, but this just sounds like a lot of eastern-religion-based philosophy with a large dose of common sense. Maybe I am too old and jaded by now to be enlightened by these words, I don't know. Also, knowing that the writer killed himself basically renders these words moot. I guess I shouldn't expect too much from a commencement speech.

This was my first book by this author, and I'm sorry I picked this one. I am still willing to try some other works by him, though, and hopefully I'll like one of those better.

1-0 out of 5 stars Shameful recasting of a beautiful thing. Do not buy.
This is a horrible rendition of a wonderful speech. The layout misrepresents his words as aphorism-sized bites, and nothing could be further from the real piece. How can these sentences stand alone on a page?:

p 61

That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense.

p 122

That is being taught how to think.

There are piles of these stand-alone sentences that should have never stood alone. But even reading it in order, first page to last, leaves the sense of the thing messed with terribly. The cadence is as college students reading poetry in their coffee-house meetings. Why format the book in the way it's formatted? For sense? To pre-chew the speech and let me know what to think about it by breaking it up into parts that make an editor's points, not the speechmaker's? It's formatted this way so that it is stretched out to almost 140 pages that can bring in >$10.

This isn't even getting into the censorship of his original speech.

This is a shameful recasting of a fantastic speech. Shameful. For shame!

The most terrible thing is that we see a hint that, in death perhaps as in life, the people who were close to DWF clearly don't get it.

Do not buy this.

5-0 out of 5 stars Worth Keeping in Your Back Pocket
My sister gave me this book about a month ago for my birthday. I had read it a long time ago on the internet, but I'd just scanned over it with mild interest and quickly had forgotten it.

I was a fool, of course, that time I read it. I'd done exactly what Wallace so eloquently warns against in "This is Water." I'd read it while entrapped within the prison of my self-concern. I had read it without full mindfulness, in a rush to move on to other things. And look what I had missed.

It's a beautiful book that reminds us of truths that float around us in many forms (he points out cliches) but that we somehow never seem fully to grasp. Wallace reminds us that if we live unconsciously, according to the default settings that focus on ourselves, we can end up living cynical and bitter lives. He instead urges awareness, so that we may experience even the most banal of experiences as "not only meaningful but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars -- compassion, love, the sub-surface unity of all things..."

Like I said, it's a beautiful book that I find worth reading over and over, just to remind myself, again, to pay attention.

One more note. I do very much appreciate the book form This is Water takes. The small volume is attractive. The speech is published with one sentence per page which serves to help the reader enact the skills that Wallace so urges in the book: awareness and thoughtfulness. It's a perfect example of form matching content, and even if This is Water is still available for free online, the book is well worth the cost.

1-0 out of 5 stars Save your Money and buy the BANRR 2005!!!
This speech (as well as a lot of other awesome stories, articles, essays, quotes, first-lines, jokes) is included in the 2005 Best American Non-Required reading, which was edited by Dave Eggers.


Spend less money, and get a lot more out of it!

By the way, the speech is a great speech. You really should check it out.

5-0 out of 5 stars Audio Version
First of all, this commencement address, in whatever form, is worth the price. I have the book form, or at least, did. Evidently my 18 year old took it with him to college.

Now, the audio form. From Audible. It is read by Wallace's sister, Amy, which I find distracting because:

(1) Wallace was not a woman and this is a first person address which should be read by a man. And don't give me any sexist equality nonsense on this. This speech is delivered from a man's POV, not a woman's. It's not something that is gender specific, but in my view, it is not something expressed in a way that a woman would express it.

Actually, since there is, as I understand it, an actually video of DFW reading it himself, there's no reason that the audio, however poor, should not have been stripped, enhanced, and sold instead of Amy's reading;

and (2) Amy "reads" it rather than "delivers" it. You can tell the difference. This reading requires an actor, or at least an actress, not a reader.

But still. This is the commencement speech your child should hear or read BEFORE going off to college. And after. And every year thereafter.

You, too.
... Read more

6. Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity
by David Foster Wallace
Paperback: 344 Pages (2010-10-04)
list price: US$15.95 -- used & new: US$7.39
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0393339289
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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"A gripping guide to the modern taming of the infinite."—The New York Times. With a new introduction by Neal Stephenson.Is infinity a valid mathematical property or a meaningless abstraction? David Foster Wallace brings his intellectual ambition and characteristic bravura style to the story of how mathematicians have struggled to understand the infinite, from the ancient Greeks to the nineteenth-century mathematical genius Georg Cantor's counterintuitive discovery that there was more than one kind of infinity. Smart, challenging, and thoroughly rewarding, Wallace's tour de force brings immediate and high-profile recognition to the bizarre and fascinating world of higher mathematics.Amazon.com Review
Before discussing the merits of David Foster Wallace's Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity, it is essential to define what the book is not. This volume in the "Great Discoveries" series is not a history of the personalities and social conditions that led to the "discovery" of infinity. Nor is it a narrative fixated on the cultish fear of--and obsession with--the infinite that has seemingly driven mathematicians insane over the centuries. Rather, Everything and More is a surprisingly rigorous march through the 2000 plus years of mathematical research that began with Aristotle; continued through Galileo, Isaac Newton, G.W. Leibniz, Karl Weierstrass, and J.W.R. Dedekind; and culminated in Georg Cantor and his Set Theory. The task Wallace (author of the bestseller Infinite Jest and other fiction) has set himself is enormously challenging: without radically compromising the complexity of the philosophy, metaphysics, or mathematics that underlies the evolving concept of infinity, present the material to a lay audience in a manner that is entertaining. To propel his narrative, Wallace even develops a style that mirrors the mathematical language he probes. One difficulty in his focus on concepts and not a strict human chronology, though, is that his structure is dependent on frequent digressions (especially early on). Patience is required. Wallace demands that his reader walk through the equations, study the graphs and charts, and relearn college-level concepts to follow along on the exploration. Indeed, after one wrenching dip into Zeno’s paradoxes, Wallace spouts at his imagined complaining audience: "Deal." But the book should be deemed a success. If one grants him the attention he requires, Wallace has made the trip richly rewarding. --Patrick O’Kelley ... Read more

Customer Reviews (50)

2-0 out of 5 stars Unreadable
Wallace's obsessively detailed and digressive style makes this book unreadable. His work in general to me has the tone of an obsessive-compulsive Richard Linklater.I suspect he did not choose his style (which is common to the few things of his I've read) as much as it chose him. Looking back on Wallace's work after his suicide, it is tempting to see his style as a symptom of a troubled mind, though that is pure speculation. In any event, this book obscures its topic rather than revealing it. RIP.

5-0 out of 5 stars I slobber some when I talk
this book makes crazy on my face.very nice and getting good product of clean with no faults.No, really, I'm quite happy with the purchase , the author, the seller, your site, my life, my head space and most of all: you, reading this.

5-0 out of 5 stars Infinite Wallace
David Foster Wallace's "Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity" is a rare achievement. He has written a compelling and entertaining popular math book that illuminates a difficult subject. The important concepts, no matter how difficult, are explained in a fashion that is understandable by even those without advanced degrees in mathematics.

For thoughtful, engaged readers Wallace elevates and enlightens. I thoroughly recommend this book to all.

4-0 out of 5 stars So long and thanks for all the footnotes...
Since DFW has committed suicide, we will not see an edition revised by him. In re-reading the reviews, it appears that style means a lot. I personally found the book witty. It was a little slow sometimes because of the convolutions he introduced in style, but mostly I kept plowing (and chuckling) through. The librarian who sent back the book did a disservice to some readers. Not everyone likes to learn in the same way. With that kind of attitude, many years ago I would have had Rudin's books removed as too concise to be useful. Of course, there are many mathematicians who love those books for just that reason, and I would have done them a disservice.

I am a physicist with a math minor. To me, the best part of this book was his explanation of why mathematicians insist on the epsilon-deltas of mathematical rigor. No one ever did that before. If I could have read this in high school, I probably would have finished my math major as well as my physics major. Instead, the whole epsilon-delta thing seemed ad-hoc and inexplicable in purpose. I could never accept the need for rigor demanded in advanced analysis.(a drunken prof and Rudin's book didn't help either) DFW showed how a crisis in dealing with the infinite and with infinitesmals led to the development of the what we call the foundations of analysis. Just excellent.

I envied him his high school math teacher, who seems responsible for much of the really good parts of this book. No, DFW wasn't a mathematician and he (in spite of what some reviewers seem to think) knew it. He made clear that he wouldn't be able to do justice to Godel. But incompleteness is moderate difficult. DFW didn't know much about Fourier series, but did know they were important enough to mention.
For some students, that's the way to get them interested, just mention something and let them go dig (so much easier now with the internet).

Remember the subtitle -- a compact history of infinity. So it is more history oriented than a mathematical tome. I had recently read Lillian R. Lieber's Infinity (which I see has been reprinted) and it has her sparse, but excellent development of the concepts. It doesn't have much historical detail though. So everything and more was a pleasure.

1-0 out of 5 stars Worst-written book I have ever read.
I was expecting an exciting book.
I was disappointed.
This book has no chapters, lots of text message abbreviations, and many phrases ending in a period.

Three-quarters of this book is background information.

When the payoff comes, actually talking about infinities,
the reationship among alelf null, cardinality c, and alef 1
is left as a "problem for the reader" for 20 pages! ... Read more

7. Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
by David Foster Wallace
Paperback: 336 Pages (2000-04-01)
list price: US$14.99 -- used & new: US$7.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316925195
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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An exuberantly acclaimed collectiontwenty-two stories that com-- bine hilarity and an escalating disquiet as they expand our ideas of the pleasures fiction can afford. Wallace was recently selected by Time as one of the four outstanding young American writers. The hardcover was a bestselleron the Independent, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, and the San Francisco Chronicle bestseller lists.Amazon.com Review
Amid the screams of adulation for bandanna-clad wunderkind David FosterWallace, you might hear a small peep. It is the cry for some restraint. Onoccasion the reader is left in the dust wondering where the story went, asthe author, literary turbochargers on full-blast, suddenly accelerates intothe wild-blue-footnoted yonder in pursuit of some obscure metafictionalfancy. Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, Wallace's latestcollection, is at least in part a response to the distress signal put outby the many readers who want to ride along with him, if he'd onlyslow down for a second.

The intellectual gymnastics and ceaseless rumination endure (if you don'thave a tolerance for that kind of thing, your nose doesn't belong in thisbook), but they are for the most part couched in simpler, less frenziednarratives. The book's four-piece namesake takes the form of interviewtranscripts, in which the conniving horror that is the male gender isrevealed in all of its licentious glory. In the short, two-part "The DevilIs a Busy Man," Wallace strolls through the Hall of Mirrors that is humanmotivation. (Is it possible to completely rid an act of generosity of anyself-serving benefits? And why is it easier to sell a couch for fivedollars than it is to give it away for free?) The even shorter glimpse intomodern-day social ritual, "A Radically Condensed History of PostindustrialLife," stretches the seams of its total of seven lines with scathingeconomy: "She laughed extremely hard, hoping to be liked. Then each drovehome alone, staring straight ahead, with the very same twist to theirfaces." Wallace also imbues his extreme observational skills with ahaunting poetic sensibility. Witness what he does to a diving board and thetwo darkened patches at the end of it in "Forever Overhead":

It's going to send you someplace which its ownlength keeps you from seeing, which seems wrong to submit to withouteventhinking.... They are skin abraded from feet by the violence of the disappearance ofpeople with real weight.
Of course, not every piece is an absolute winner. "The Depressed Person"slips from purposefully clinical to unintentionally boring. "Tri-Stan: ISold Sissee Nar to Ecko" reimagines an Arthurian tale in MTV terms andholds your attention for about as long as you'd imagine from such adescription. Ultimately, however, even these failed experiments are atestament to Mr. Wallace's endless if unbridled talent. Once he gets thereins completely around that sucker, it's going to be quite a ride.--Bob Michaels ... Read more

Customer Reviews (80)

3-0 out of 5 stars Some nice passages but also forced and voyeuristic
David Foster Wallace treats us to fictious interviews with several men. All these have typical male, mostly sexual, flaws, which are distorted beyond all usual bounds.
The stories are written brilliantly, in a laconic male voice, slightly defensive and agressive in their defensiveness, as might be the interview of a criminal offender with a psychologist or journalist.
As mentioned, the stories are mostly sexual in nature, relating to a warped perception of reality. The author, to my understanding, tries to explain the self justifications of sexual predators and offenders. Of males who defend their sexual urges, who might not be actual sexual offenders but who have it within them to be such offenders.
This, is a strange and dark way, is interesting to read, it is the same feeling which one new as an adolescent when one snooped around in the forbidden corners of the newsstand.
Yet we are no adolescents anymore and do not need to play peeping Tom. Therefore the whole book has a sneaky, uncouth, voyeuristic quality to it. Yes, it is is well written, yes, one feels privy to the authors sexual urges, and yet, finally, it leaves only an empty and hollow feeling, the same feeling one had as an adolescent after visiting this newsstands forbidden corner. Interesting, voyeuristic, self indulgent but finally nothing more. Nothing new, just a grotesque shadow of things we knew before.

1-0 out of 5 stars Painful To Read!
This starts off with two amazing short stories, which I felt were more like long poems, each a few pages long.Both were beautifully written, and made me excited about the rest of the book.Unfortunately what followed after that point was some of the most confusing, intentionally awful series of words I have ever struggled through.I felt as though Wallace wrote this book in this manner as some kind of sick joke to all of us dupes who were tricked into buying it.A good example is "Octet, Pop Quiz #6" where in Wallace replaced the two main character's names with simple "X" and "Y."Awful.And, his use of rediculously long runon sentences were very aggrvating, as well as the enormous footnotes on several stories that were longer than the actual stories they were in.

I get it.It was all probably intentional and meant to be funny.But, it wasn't.It was annoying.I felt as though Wallace knows his audience is of higher intelligence, and wrote this book as an attempt to intentionally confuse the heck out of them because he thought it was funny.He failed miserably.

The odd thing, is that I just watched the movie.It was beautifully written.If the book had been written as the screenplay was, I would have loved the book.It's as if Krasinski painfully sorted through all the unnecessary drivel and pulled out the meat of the story.He crafted a mess of abook into a wonderful movie.I recommend that you skip the torture of the book, and just go straight to the movie.

5-0 out of 5 stars Don't deny yourself the experience of reading this book
Before I read this book, I thought that post-modernism and metafiction was for the most part just novelty. But DFW uses post-modern and metafictional tricks to enhance his characters and comment on common human experiences, rather than to hide the story from the reader with gimmickry and flash.
Some may fault DFW for being too personal at times and too abstract at others, but these qualities allow the stories in Brief Interviews to achieve a kind of self-executing immursion that allows the reader to get more out of each one. By lifting the vail of "The Author", he is less self-concious than authors of more traditional fiction, not more so. If the purpose of storytelling is to tell the truth through fiction, then this collection hits the nail on the head. Read this book. Even if it isn't doesn't suit your taste, I guarantee you won't forget it.

2-0 out of 5 stars someone wake me and 'splain me.
I'm not a literary genius as clearly some of the author's fans are but, I'm bright enough to know this was really self indulgent and asked a whole lot of the reader without giving much back.I did enjoy some of the interviews that revealed the "hideous men" (and a few women as well). And, I found some of what seemed to be total stream of consciousness to be interesting for a bit. But, the gibberish went on forever, the pages and pages of footnotes were annoying, not funny, and the fact that DW felt absolutely no obligation to gift the readers with any kind of resolve to any of it, ever, is a statement in and of itself.If you put 100 avid readers in a room with this book you would have 18 people smiling with their face buried in the pages, 10 people sound asleep, and 72 others intermittently looking around to see if anyone else was as bewildered and bored as they are.Abstract and uppity isn't necessarily genius.

5-0 out of 5 stars Read This Book Now!
Funny, funny, funny. And defiantly one of DFW's most accessible. . . good for after a breakup or anytime the men in your life are being giant dicks! Bonus: after you're finished there's an OK movie version to compare it to! ... Read more

8. The Pale King
by David Foster Wallace
Hardcover: 496 Pages (2011-04-15)
list price: US$27.99 -- used & new: US$18.47
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316074233
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The agents at the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, IL, appear ordinary enough to newly arrived trainee David Foster Wallace. But as he immerses himself in a routine so tedious and repetitive that new employees receive boredom-survival training, he learns of the extraordinary variety of personalities drawn to this strange calling. And he has arrived at a moment when forces within the IRS are plotting to eliminate even what little humanity and dignity the work still has.

THE PALE KING remained unfinished at the time of David Foster Wallace's death, but it is a deeply intriguing and satisfying novel, hilarious and fearless and as original as anything Wallace ever undertook. It grapples directly with ultimate questions--questions of life's meaning and of the ultimate value of work and family--through characters imagined with the interior force and generosity that were Wallace's unique gifts. Along the way it suggests a new idea of heroism and commands infinite respect for a writer who dared to take on the most daunting subjects the human spirit can imagine. ... Read more

9. Infinite Jest
by David Foster Wallace
Paperback: 1104 Pages (2006-11-13)
list price: US$17.99 -- used & new: US$10.40
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316066524
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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A gargantuan, mind-altering comedy about the Pursuit of Happiness in America Set in an addicts' halfway house and a tennis academy, and featuring the most endearingly screwed-up family to come along in recent fiction, Infinite Jest explores essential questions about what entertainment is and why it has come to so dominate our lives; about how our desire for entertainment affects our need to connect with other people; and about what the pleasures we choose say about who we are. Equal parts philosophical quest and screwball comedy, Infinite Jest bends every rule of fiction without sacrificing for a moment its own entertainment value. It is an exuberant, uniquely American exploration of the passions that make us human - and one of those rare books that renew the idea of what a novel can do.Amazon.com Review
In a sprawling, wild, super-hyped magnum opus, David FosterWallace fulfills the promise of his precocious novel TheBroom of the System.Equal parts philosophical quest andscrewball comedy, Infinite Jest bends every rule of fiction,features a huge cast and multilevel narrative, and questions essentialelements of American culture - our entertainments, our addictions, ourrelationships, our pleasures, our abilities to define ourselves. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (419)

5-0 out of 5 stars Entertaining as hell
On the off chance that someone sees this review, which I doubt anyone ever will, I'll say this: it took me three weeks to read this book, and I enjoyed the hell out of it every one of those 21 days.I got up in the morning and read it for an hour before work, I read it at the gym,I read it at night when I had time.I was fully immersed in the world the writer created.I worried about the characters, or admired them. I relfected on my life and how it related to the story.I saw deep insight into what it's like to be alive today, to have relationships, to have grace, to fall from grace, the whole kit and kaboodle of great writing.I really didn't like it when I finished.Not because, like so many other readers, I couldn't hack the ending.No, I found the way it ended to be exhilirating. I was just sad there wasn't more to read after I'd finished.

1-0 out of 5 stars A Perfectly Pretentious Book for the Literary Elite
If you have a graduate degree in English but you've recently realized that you will never be a famous author, then read this book and tell everybody that it's the "Best Book You've Ever Read."Maybe then will you be accepted as the genius you always knew you were. Otherwise, skip it.It's tedious as hell.

5-0 out of 5 stars Ideal for the Kindle
I won't say anything about the book itself (alright, I will: it's very good, but in keeping with the perverse way it's written you have to read it twice for it to make much sense), because that's been ably handled by other reviewers, but I will say this: it's ideal for reading on the Kindle. The book's a brick. A doorstop. It puts many small cities' phone books to shame in terms of size and weight. All of which makes it a bitch to read, especially considering the footnotes. Weight plus lots of skipping back and forth, dealing with two progressing bookmarks or dog-ears: blech. The Kindle version solves all this. It makes reading the book a physical breeze. I'm reading it for the second time now, which I suspect is the way it was supposed to be read, considering the answers to later questions scattered about the first half, something I wouldn't be doing had it not been for the Kindle edition.

5-0 out of 5 stars Amazing
It's an incredible book, with some eye-popping set pieces and an overall scheme I'm going to spend lots of time trying to absorb.I can't believe I took me so long to get to read such a brilliant book.

2-0 out of 5 stars Don't believe the hype

I decided to try this book based on several good reviews and the fact that Time magazine had rated it as one of the 100 best books of the 20th century. I read over 400 pages of it before I gave up. If you enjoy 50 page descriptions of such obscure subject matter as competitive youth tennis or if you want to explore, ad nauseum and in more than vivid detail the world of overwhelming addiction, then this just might be the book for you. And if you are able to connect the youth tennis angle to the addiction angle, more power to you. I just couldn't do it. I was able to accept from the first few pages that this was a "weird" book that would require a lot of effort, but I could not keep up the effort for 1000+ pages. This is not a good book, despite the hype and the critical reviews. It might be an OK distraction if you have weeks and/or months to spend, but trust me there are much better ways, and better books on which, to spend your time. If you like quirky depressing fiction, try Chuck Palahniuk. His stuff is more in your face and brutal, but at least it doesn't waste your time. Or check out Lionel Shriver or Sam Lipscomb for more subtle offerings. This book is literally and figuratively a boat anchor. Stay away.
... Read more

10. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again
by David Foster Wallace
Paperback: 368 Pages (1998-02-05)
list price: US$16.50 -- used & new: US$10.21
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0349110018
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A collection of insightful and uproariously funny non-fiction by the bestselling author of INFINITE JEST - one of the most acclaimed and adventurous writers of our time. A SUPPOSEDLY FUN THING...brings together Wallace's musings on a wide range of topics, from his early days as a nationally ranked tennis player to his trip on a commercial cruiseliner. In each of these essays, Wallace's observations are as keen as they are funny. Filled with hilarious details and invigorating analyses, these essays brilliantly expose the fault line in American culture - and once again reveal David Foster Wallace's extraordinary talent and gargantuan intellect. ... Read more

11. The Broom of the System: A Novel (Penguin Ink) (The Penguin Ink Series)
by David Foster Wallace
Paperback: 480 Pages (2010-06-29)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$8.88
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0143116932
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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The "dazzling, exhilarating" (San Francisco Chronicle) debut novel from one of this century's most groundbreaking writers, The Broom of the System is an outlandishly funny and fiercely intelligent exploration of the paradoxes of language, storytelling, and reality. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (55)

1-0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your time
About 3/4 of the way through this book, I asked myself, "Do you really want to continue" and I decided I needed to see the way through as there were some interesting thoughts.The last 1/4 of the book took me weeks to read.I wanted to finish it so I could start another book, but kept not reading it because it was so convoluted.I'm going to throw it away rather than resell it, as I do not want to contribute to the time drain this book has turned out to be.Easily the worst book I have read in decades.

3-0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and addictive
A programme promising to indicate which famous writer you most write like, at any rate in a specific text, stated that my style resembled that of David Foster Wallace. I had previously never heard of this writer, but after reading this book I can tell you that the said statement was wildly inaccurate. David Foster Wallace is a highly gifted writer, exceedingly articulate and cerebral
I didn't get all the allusions in the book (and it didn't help that I'm not an American), and sometimes I couldn't remember who was who, but it proved to be zany and entertaining, though I never laughed out loud like some readers claimed to do.

The story revolves around a young woman called Lenore, various members of her family, including her eccentric and intellectual great-grandmother of the same name, her crazy boyfriend Rick Vigorous and her just as wacky therapist. Wallace exaggerates to the point of Rabelaisian absurdity (though he's not as crude as Rabelais), one of the highlights of the story being the tale of how Lenore's brother lost part of his leg at the moment of forcibly being ejected from his mother's womb. Another impressive "personage" is Leonore's cockatoo, Vlad the Impaler, who ends by becoming the star of a popular evangelist TV show.

The book contains many other farcical scenarios, themes and sub-themes. In short, Wallace seems to be taking the mickey out of American society.

The book becomes addictive and is thus quickly read, and I've now begun on Wallace's 1,000 page second novel, Infinite Jest. Though entertaining, the book under review is not one I would absolutely recommend as a must read.

4-0 out of 5 stars Great Novelistic First
This is David Foster Wallace's first stab at a novel. I have heard him in various interviews say he did not care much for this work, said it was immature and just didn't seem to gel well, like a very smart 14 year old had written it. While that may be what he thought, if this is his immature work, then I can hardly wait to read his more mature work.

I intentionally read this novel by DFW first, knowing it was his first. If I can, I always like to read the first novel of a writer, a testing of the waters, so to speak. I also knew before picking up the book, that DFW was known for experimental fiction. This certainly helped me when I began reading "The Broom of the System." The narrative is scattered throughout, so the reader has to pay attention to the various intervals between one scene (or chapter, as is the case at times) and another. DFW used several scenes as a type of introduction to another which would soon unfold, intertwining the two, leaving nice surprises for the reader. He also used a ton of word play and other literary devices throughout the novel. Some I got, and laughed my ass off, and others I just didn't get (they may have been over my head, or perhaps just not that great). There were some hilarious scenes where I let out gut wrenching laughs, and others that droned and I labored to get through them. However, I loved his use of stories within stories, this kept my interest.

Where the book failed for me was in the massive details, the quick changes between scenes, some chapters were so abrupt in change, it was difficult for me to know what was "suddenly" going on (I guess this would be a lack of good transitioning, or perhaps good reading on my part). I also thought there were too many sub-stories. In fact, there are so many sub-stories, if the reader does not pay attention to them all, the reader can get a little lost (this happened to me several times, and I had to go back and re-read things.)

Over-all, the ideas in this work are brilliant. How he presents them left a little to be desired. Nonetheless, despite the work I had to perform to read this novel, the dividends were worth it. I look forward to reading his other novels, and I do recommend this one. Just be prepared to work a little when you read it.

4-0 out of 5 stars First DFW and I enjoyed it
After reading through the reviews here, it sounded like "Broom" was a good starting place for reading David Foster Wallace. If that's true, then I'd say we're off to a good start. Really enjoyed it and will be digging into more of his work.

This wasn't nearly as challenging of a read as some have previously noted. We do get glimpses of conversations that don't make sense until later in the book, so I suppose that could throw some readers off track. It was challenging to me to slog through some of the long Rick stories, but I think that was obviously intentional. I enjoyed the change of pace of transcripts, observation logs, etc. sprinkled throughout the book.

Personal note:For some reason, I kept picturing Rick as Ignatius J. Reilly. So that was fun.

4-0 out of 5 stars If you've read Infinite Jest and you're thinking of reading this...
I got into DFW through Infinite Jest, and I wanted to see what his other novel was like.

I thought it was pretty good, a good story, well written, with lots of interesting intertwined ideas. It's much easier to read than IJ. Again the chapters jump around in time a bit but at least at the start it's focused on the main character, so it's easier to work out what's happening and how the chapter fits into the story.

It has all the awesome "almost-sci fi" elements that DFW is so good at.

In a way it was nice that although the story arcs weren't completely spelled out, you get a pretty good idea of the conclusion. Unlike Infinite Jest which seems a bit too open by the end. ... Read more

12. Girl With Curious Hair
by David Foster Wallace
Paperback: 384 Pages (1996-02-17)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$8.27
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Asin: 0393313964
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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This collection could possibly represent the first flowering of post-postmoderism: visions of the world that re-imagine reality as more realistic than we can imagine. A compelling presence of a holograph and the up-to-the-second feeling of the most advanced art. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (29)

4-0 out of 5 stars I cursed Leonard's pipe, and his wife with a face like the rind of a ham
There will be many people who just don't get what David Foster Wallace is about, and I often think I am one of them. Depending what I am reading (Interviews With Hideous Men, A supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again and Infinite Jest, yes I do totally get it; The Broom of the System, and this one, Girl With Curious Hair, which includes a novella called Westward The Course of Empire Takes Its Way, well - I am undecided that I even want to get it).

DFW is sometimes very hard work and even more difficult when the stories, as here, are hardwired into American culture. One, My Appearance, is all about a middling-famous actor going on a David Letterman show. Not having ever seen a Letterman show, I am only vaguely aware that the actor, having an ear-piece inserted in her ear so that her husband and his friend can help her make a good impression on the audience, is funny. Nevertheless, it seemed to me the lamest exercise in flabby satire. Sorry, but there is an enormous ocean between the BBC and American TV.

Another offering, Here and There, was a dialogue between a man and his girlfriend in which the man got to explain his ennui and nihilism and the girl got to talk about make-up and love. Though my heart wasn't in it, I found it restlessly, urgently, readable. The rest of the collection is equally patchy but does include a glorious sub-Faulknerian pastiche and the marvellous Lyndon, about Lyndon B Johnson, Lady Bird and love. This hits all the right buttons and is surprisingly sympathetic.

Readers have to work hard with DFW, and the pay-off is sometimes bafflement, but often the shattering genius of the man gets through - and even in the least loveable of offerings, the light shines down on us heedless, struggling mortals.

2-0 out of 5 stars Just Not What I'm Looking For
True to form, D F W offers some very "literary" story, some po-mo fireworks, and caps it off with a silly sitcom feel. But I kept asking myself through the read, "Is this worth it?" Some stories, like "Little Expressionless Animals" yes, others like "John Billy" one has to ask, what's the point?

I agree with the earlier reviewers, Pynchon infiltrates this text, making these stories about rock stars, tv celebrities, and politicians seem less, well, unique. And while Pynchon steps back on the narrative and sort of accepts the absurdity of his premises (like in Vineland), Wallace also wants this sort of authenticity, this emotional punch, which at times seems contrived.

So, he is essentially writing for two (or three, including himself) audiences, the lit critics and the fans, and unfortunately he cannot hit both, so he settles on m.o.r. fare that's vaguely insulting to his characters. I mean, his characters, like Boyd in "Lyndon" come off as caricatures, silly stand-ins for the BIG POINT he wants to get across to the grad school audience.

I think D F W was talented and had a great deal to say, but I also think that he is best simply telling a story, instead of having to add literary value, because let's face it, there's only so much to the joke of a bunch of conservative "punkrockers" in "Girl with the Curious Hair."

My recommendation, pick this up, but do not feel beholden to finishing any one story.

4-0 out of 5 stars another great fusion of ideas despite some of DFW's oddities
DFW is obviously brilliant. The last story had me in rapture, the story about David Letterman was perfectly written, and the first story left long lasting traces on me. That being said, DFW has no idea how to end a story and often, doesn't know when to stop writing. But his characters are memorable and he knows how to change voices with the best of them. Damn shame to lose a great writer.

1-0 out of 5 stars Terrible writer and book
David Foster Wallace is one of those really bad writers who decided, long ago, that he would hide his lack of talent, acumen, and skill behind a blizzard of words, then laugh at anyone unwilling to engage them as not understanding his genius. This is a symptom of what is known as Postmodernism. The fact is, though, that PoMo has been passé for nearly twenty years. It was in its last throes when he first got going, in the late 1980s. It's always bizarre to read -ismic devotees who are waiting at railyards that no longer are served, and this is what DFW is, in spades. Basically, if you want to be PoMo you must lack humor, love clichés, be rapt by stilted conversations and stereotyped caricatures, and be able to type on a word processor as quickly as you can for as long as you can and then hope someone with an even more horrid life than yours will sort through your genius. In 1996, this method resulted in a reputed three thousand plus piece of lard first draft that DFW turned into an editor, as he was apparently oblivious to what was good or bad within, which was eventually trimmed to about two thousand in a penultimate draft, which was then cut to about twelve hundred pages, and this became his infamous novel, Infinite Jest- a work that has already made the lists of some of the worst books ever published, even as others decry it, what else?, genius. That book, however, is not the subject of this review.
The tale Luckily The Account Representative Knew CPR is a tale with potential to be passable, due to a few nice descriptions, and shows that at least DFW possessed some potential, unlike Dave Eggers. But, then self-conscious posing does it in....Here is the excerpt:

That night Gimlet and Tit fellated me, and Boltpin did as well. Gimlet and Tit made me happy but Boltpin did not, therefore I am not a bisexual. Gimlet allowed me to burn her slightly and I felt that she was an outstanding person. Big acquired a puppy from the alley behind their house in east Los Angeles and he soaked it with gasoline and they allowed me to set it on fire in the basement studio of their rented home, and we all stood back to give it room as it ran around the house several time.

While this is immature self-conscious writing, it also gives no insight to its cartoonish speaker and comments in no way on the action. And this sort of masturbation is the sum of the story times a hundred. It is just masturbation, pure and simple. And so go the rest of the tales in the book, and the last one- a novella called Westward The Course Of Empire Takes Its Way, combines all the flaws of the prior tales into one ridiculous piece whose self-consciousness doesn't even succeed in self-parody, with such subtitles as Foreground That Intrudes But's Really Too Tiny To Even See: Propositions About A Lover. I won't even get into the supposed narrative of the tale since that's not the point of the writing- it's really a comment on non-narrative cast as narrative about nothing- got it? Its only real points are to seem cool, and woo gullible coeds. DFW rocks, dude!
Please, do not even think of trying the old dodge of claiming I've quoted DFW's crap out of context, because PoMo negates context! And when I say what something's about, in his work, I really mean that in a vague sense, as PoMo is never really `about' a thing. Thus, his work lacks connections to the outer world, despite the name dropping, and is suffused with detailed minutiae that serves no purpose, and is so ill-written, that even were there a sense of purpose under the lard, no one would care to extract it. In short, self-indulgent writing is merely self-indulgent writing, not daring, much less innovative, and to even call this writing trash is to demean the hardy biosphere of vermin. Fluff is the heart of his work, and solipsistic nihility its soul. DFW is, at best, `potentially mediocre', and that might be attained in twenty or thirty years, if he gets cracking now. Of course, history shows that in about fifty or so years this sort of crap will be openly seen as the long practical joke it is. Good, and especially great, writing forces connections upon a reader by bringing things up from the depths to the pellicle of its engagement, and allowing the reader to pop the bubbles or not. PoMo and DFW have no such aspiration, and therefore no bubbles surface in their anaerobic cesspool. Now, breathe out, slowly....

5-0 out of 5 stars "John Billy" levitates !
Worth buying the book for this story alone ." John Billy " deserves to be read aloud in the streets by performers dressed in character , and or but at least read aloud . The hallucinatory "okie" language Wallace has invented is daring , maybe a little challenging , but he pulls it off . Part of my love of his best work is due to the way he , like Pynchon , demands something from the reader . ( comparisons , btw stop there ) . Mindful ( open ) readers with a bit of patience will find themselves inclined to discourse in "john Billy" long after finishing the story. Nearly as addictive as the " infinite jest " . A roller coaster drop into the surreal . Like Tom Robbins turned up to 11 . Just let go, and but hold on ! ... Read more

13. Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace
by David Lipsky
Paperback: 352 Pages (2010-04-13)
list price: US$16.99 -- used & new: US$9.29
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Asin: 030759243X
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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"If you can think of times in your life that you’ve treated people with extraordinary decency and love, and pure uninterested concern, just because they were valuable as human beings. The ability to do that with ourselves.  To treat ourselves the way we would treat a really good, precious friend. Or a tiny child of ours that we absolutely loved more than life itself.  And I think it’s probably possible to achieve that.  I think part of the job we’re here for is to learn how to do it.  I know that sounds a little pious."
-- David Foster Wallace
An indelible portrait of David Foster Wallace, by turns funny and inspiring, based on a five-day trip with award-winning writer David Lipsky during Wallace’s Infinite Jest tour
In David Lipsky’s view, David Foster Wallace was the best young writer in America. Wallace’s pieces for Harper’s magazine in the ’90s were, according to Lipsky, “like hearing for the first time the brain voice of everybody I knew: Here was how we all talked, experienced, thought. It was like smelling the damp in the air, seeing the first flash from a storm a mile away. You knew something gigantic was coming.”

Then Rolling Stone sent Lipsky to join Wallace on the last leg of his book tour for Infinite Jest, the novel that made him internationally famous. They lose to each other at chess. They get iced-in at an airport. They dash to Chicago to catch a make-up flight. They endure a terrible reader’s escort in Minneapolis. Wallace does a reading, a signing, an NPR appearance. Wallace gives in and imbibes titanic amounts of hotel television (what he calls an “orgy of spectation”). They fly back to Illinois, drive home, walk Wallace’s dogs. Amid these everyday events, Wallace tells Lipsky remarkable things—everything he can about his life, how he feels, what he thinks, what terrifies and fascinates and confounds him—in the writing voice Lipsky had come to love. Lipsky took notes, stopped envying him, and came to feel about him—that grateful, awake feeling—the same way he felt about Infinite Jest. Then Lipsky heads to the airport, and Wallace goes to a dance at a Baptist church.

A biography in five days, Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself is David Foster Wallace as few experienced this great American writer. Told in his own words, here is Wallace’s own story, and his astonishing, humane, alert way of looking at the world; here are stories of being a young writer—of being young generally—trying to knit together your ideas of who you should be and who other people expect you to be, and of being young in March of 1996. And of what it was like to be with and—as he tells it—what it was like to become David Foster Wallace.

David Lipsky is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone magazine.  His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New YorkerHarper's Magazine, The Best American Short StoriesThe Best American Magazine WritingThe New York TimesThe New York Times Book Review, and many other publications. He contributes as an essayist to NPR's All Things Considered, and is the recipient of a Lambert Fellowship, a Media Award from GLAAD, and a National Magazine Award.  He's the author of the novel The Art Fair, a collection of stories, Three Thousand Dollars, and the bestselling nonfiction book Absolutely American, which was a Time magazine Best Book of the Year.
  ... Read more

Customer Reviews (42)

3-0 out of 5 stars Watching DFW Become the Entertainment
Watching DFW Become the Entertainment:
A Review of "Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace" by David Lipsky

Sept 19,2010 6:56am BGKY CMT
by Gerardo Arnaez. with help from friends who ask to remain nameless.
email: garnaez(AT)gmail(DOT)com
link is j.mp/9oXyvl for up to the minute corrections

A friend of mine once wondered why anyone was surprised--not saddened mind you, but surprised--that his depression killed him. Given Infinite Jest and all his other writings on depression, she asked why so many people had been blind to the one thing he repeatedly put right in our faces; something we didn't even see coming until it happened. I normally will read a book, especially by a youngish author, and assume a lot of biographic grist is being milled so why didn't alarm bells go off when reading say, "The Depressed Person"? There is a sense of guilt about reading his stuff and enjoying, but being oblivious (willfully so?) to what you are actually reading. It's possible he encouraged this by not discussing it, by making Depression so damn Entertaining that we swallowed whole without munching on it's meaning, tasting something foul. So now we have the first byproduct of his death on sale.

This is ostensibly a review of "Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace." Most reviews about AOYEUBY:ARTwDFW note that the introduction, preface and afterword that relate his suicide are all immediately at the beginning of the book in order to let us get it over and done with and not be reminded that we know how it all turns out. Instead, the book ends with DFW talking about dancing and going to church which leaves you with warm feelings for him but never really tells you anything about him and left me me feeling like I had even less of a handle on this guy than I thought. Like many people, I thought I kind of knew or at least "got" DFW, because his writing voice was so 'on', so there in my head that it felt like he was physically present and you soon developed your own personal relationship with DFW.

This book has a difficult task. The author knows we want DFW alive again, but the transcriptions are totally at odds with the whole book's premise which is to give us DFW again. In this itfails miserably. It fails because speech, when transcribed, doesn't read very much at all like what we think people talk like. Whereas, when something is written with forethought, everything planned and meticulous, it sounds natural and real to our ears. We do our own mental copy-editing when we hear people. But with DWF, as alive a writer on paper as any of us of a certain age will ever know, not only did you not have to copy-edit or filter the stream to your brain, but it was like DFW had a main-line to your nervous system which he could directly access and know exactly how you were going to react to his writing to make you keep reading.Not only would he work hard to make you understand what he was saying but he probably worked even harder on how you understood what he was saying. I wonder now just how much he put out there, yet beguiling us into thinking it couldn't possible be DFW's actual experience.

Which brings us to the second task. DFW tells the author, right at the preface, that he is extremely uncomfortable that his words are completely in the author's hands. I don't know about you but I get unsettled when I read this in a book that only exists because of his death. But I keep reading it because I really want to read his words and hear his true voice (his written one) and but so, I run up against all sorts of very interesting emotions, because despite wanting all that, he simply isn't here anymore. What sort of literary necrophilia am I engaging in?

But if you are new to DFW, I wouldn't start with this book. I would start with his New York Times tennis essay about Roger Federer and then if you enjoyed that, read his Esquire essay on Micheal Joyce, and if you still want more, pick up his Harper's essay "Shipping Out" on Cruise lines. By then, I will not need to explain to you why so many of us read him and wound up buying this book. If you don't like what you've read, I won't be able to explain a thing about DFW to you.

For the rest of us, this book generates a strange feeling of familiarity. Every now and then, you'll pick up on something familiar and soon this book will feel like his greatest hits before they become well known. But the problem is that we now have DFW being recycled and it feels wrong to me. DFW would not have wanted this book to be published and would have let us know how much damage we are doing (to whom?) by buying this book. Inevitably, the audio cassettes will be released as "Excerpts," then a few years later we will get "The Unexpurgated Tapes," and sometime in YDAU, we'll be trafficking in bootleg DFW and eventually, if this doesn't stop, we will have our own CGI'd DFW speaking to us in HiDef,[1]infinitely looping.

[1] Look at the Computer-Generated image of a young Jeff Bridges in the Tron2 trailer to see how creepy our future is going to be.

4-0 out of 5 stars Never confuse the artist with his art
I purchased "Although of Course....." in my constant effort to try and understnad IJ better.The book is a labor of love to read, but it is a labor nonetheless.Lipsky and Wallace are very comfortable together.There is a certain sense that their recorded conversations are unassuming and relaxed, as their time together isn't truly mercinary.It seems, at times, that Lipsky wants to have Wallace accept that he is truly an artist of this century and that IJ demands artistic distinction from the author himself. Wallace, on the other hand, is not som quick to picj up that mantle.He is quick to tell you that the writing of IJ was a long and intense one.He explains how the idea of the unique "index" came to be.He mentions a great deal of the genius of the book as if it were an idea that just worked out.Lipsky pays speical attention to the artist conception of art.

He also takes time for a post modernists look celebrity.It's revealing, humbling, and confusing.Wallace shows his troubled depressive side at times.He is also to show great ambition and determination to become a highly successful writer. However, I was quickly drawn to like him even more by his wrestling with the up coming success, as this is recorded during the final leg of the promotional book toour for IJ in 1996, and his true humilty.Wallace notes that some of the press that was so immediate to laud his booka s a masterpiece came to quickly.He is aware of the size and scope of the tome.He knows that it takes a long time to read, and he questions if indeed some credits read the entire thing.He is also keenly aware that the question out there in the near distant future is "what's next?".

I read IJ at least once a week.I have it by my bed, and I will read a few pages weekly, even though I have completed it. Lipsky's conversations with Wallace are very helpful in analysis of IJ.What I would suggest to anyone interested in Wallce would be to subscribe to "Harper's".This will give you access to archival issues of Wallace's pieces written before IJ.Phenom.Simply phenom.

5-0 out of 5 stars great read
If you're interested in DFW the person and DFW the writer, I'd highly recommend this.

3-0 out of 5 stars Good insight into a gifted, tortured writer, but hard to follow at times
I remember coming across David Foster Wallace's writing for the first time with "The Broom of the System" in the late 1980s, before "Infinite Jest" or his other works.I was captivated by the experimental fiction, the stories within the story, and the somewhat plotless novel that was still compulsively readable."Infinite Jest" seemed like it would be awesome, but to be honest, while I could sense its genius, I didn't get more than 200 pages into it.

"Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself" is a road trip memoir with Wallace, but to me, it was more like "Infinite Jest" than "Broom of the System," which is to say that I feel like I should have enjoyed it more than I did.

5-0 out of 5 stars Enlightenting for reader/interviewee/interviewer
This book was my introduction to David Foster Wallace which I find funny because it's just a big conversation between him and David Lipsky. One would think that I would have stared with "Broom" or that I would of tired to tackle "Infinite Jest" right off the bat. Then I thought, "what better way to get to know the man then to read a 310Pg. interview?" "Although of Course You End Up Becoming yourself" is an excellent attempt by David Lipsky to peal back and expose the many layers of Wallace's persona. At the beginning of the book you can tell that Wallace is doing this best to be a good interview but his shyness keeps getting in the way. As the interview progress, Wallace comes out of this shell and he and Lipsky begin talking like old childhood friends. Wallace talks in depth about his awkward relationship with fame and success, his opinions about writers from his and past generations, favorite movies and cartoons from the 70's. It's enjoyable to see how Wallace periodically turns the tables on Lipsky and becomes the interviewer instead of the interviewed. After awhile Wallace and Lipsky let their guards down and you get the sense that the experience was more enjoyable and more enlightening then either of them expected. When I finished the book I left with the impression what Foster Wallace was a man with profound intellect and insight but was also very human in the way that success and living up to the "genius writer" hyper troubled him. He also seemed like a kind person who found humor in everything, but maybe it was his way of covering up what had it's claws in him. I highly recommend this book you're a Foster Wallace fan or just discovering him like me. This book is a rare chance to see a great writer being candid with his audience and honest with himself. ... Read more

14. Understanding David Foster Wallace (Southern Classics Series)
by Marshall Boswell
Paperback: 248 Pages (2009-08-31)
list price: US$21.95 -- used & new: US$19.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1570038872
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Understanding David Foster Wallace guides readers through thoughtful examinations of Wallace’s novels The Broom of the System and Infinite Jest and first two short story collections, Girl with Curious Hair and Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. In his readings of these works, Marshall Boswell affirms that Wallace (1962–2008), in his fiction, compels our attention for the singular excellence of his work and his groundbreaking effort to chart a fruitful and affirmative new direction for literary fiction.

In addition to providing self-contained readings of each text, Boswell places Wallace within a trajectory of literary innovation that begins with James Joyce and continues through John Barth and Thomas Pynchon. Boswell contends that in charting a new course for literary practice, Wallace did not seek merely to overturn postmodernism or simply to return to modernism. Instead he moved resolutely forward with his fiction hoisting the baggage of modernism and postmodernism heavily, but respectfully, on its back. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Worth the Price
Though priced for flush university libraries rather than for skint individuals, this is an intelligent critique of DFW's work to date. Following an introduction, there are separate chapters on each of the 4 fiction books (the essays are discussed only in passing), illuminating the philosophical and aesthetic concerns of each book in a clear style with minimal academic jargon. Even longtime Wallace fans will find the book enlightening, and first-time readers couldn't hope for a better introduction to one of the most important American writers of our time. Highly recommended. ... Read more

15. McCain's Promise: Aboard the Straight Talk Express with John McCain and a Whole Bunch of Actual Reporters, Thinking About Hope
by David Foster Wallace
Paperback: 124 Pages (2008-06-01)
list price: US$9.99 -- used & new: US$2.86
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Asin: 0316040533
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Is John McCain "For Real?"

That's the question David Foster Wallace set out to explore when he first climbed aboard Senator McCain's campaign caravan in February 2000. It was a moment when Mccain was increasingly perceived as a harbinger of change, the anticandidate whose goal was "to inspire young Americans to devote themselves to causes greater than their own self-interest." And many young Americans were beginning to take notice.

To get at "something riveting and unspinnable and true" about John Mccain, Wallace finds he must pierce the smoke screen of spin doctors and media manipulators. And he succeeds-in a characteristically potent blast of journalistic brio that not only captures the lunatic rough-and-tumble of a presidential campaign but also delivers a compelling inquiry into John McCain himself: the senator, the POW, the campaign finance reformer, the candidate, the man. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

4-0 out of 5 stars Insightful in the light of the '08 campaign
If you're a fan of David Foster Wallace's nonfiction, I think this is probably a must-read. It faces squarely off against his fascinations with issues of ethics and authenticity, and shows him in a troubled frame of mind. I can't say how much editing was done recently, but this is technically the last book he published before his death so it's also got that grim recommendation.

By turns it's uncomfortably funny and fascinating, and it paints a portrait of McCain that's remarkably insightful in the light of the recent campaign. It's DFW at the top of his nonfiction game.

2-0 out of 5 stars not timely after '08
...this essay, wonderful as it is, is a little outdated and, now, some of the things that DFW has written about mccain are patently false (eg: being locked in a box in the hanoi hilton for 4 years. yes, he was there, but he was not kept "in a box" every single day, as dfw says.) it's interesting, too, that this was written on assignment for rolling stone back in '99. contrast this with Mat Taibbi's RS article of this year, "mccain: the fake maverick."

that said, i love, love, love DFW's writing, and am so sad he is gone. purchase "consider the lobster" to get a more fully-rounded DFW experience. this essay is included there.

2-0 out of 5 stars Originally from Consider the Lobster
So if you have any interest in his other essays, read that book instead of this one.While this is not a bad essay, note the timing of its re-release during a year when McCain is running for the Presidency of the US.Note also that Wallace, recently deceased, had changed his opinion of McCain, as per an interview he gave in May 2008: [...]

3-0 out of 5 stars i didn't read the book
but author david foster wallace committed suicide two days ago. not sure what that says about the current state of presidential politics, if anything.rest in peace, david.a huge loss.

4-0 out of 5 stars Important to know the context of this book was 2000, not 2008
Given DFW's recent tragic death (and the election timing of this re-release), I'd imagine alot of folks may now discover this book. What Wallace wanted current readers understand about the context, he told the Wall Street Journal in an interview from June 2008. Here's the excerpt:

"The essay quite specifically concerns a couple weeks in February, 2000, and the situation of both McCain [and] national politics in those couple weeks. It is heavily context-dependent. And that context now seems a long, long, long time ago. McCain himself has obviously changed; his flipperoos and weaselings on Roe v. Wade, campaign finance, the toxicity of lobbyists, Iraq timetables, etc. are just some of what make him a less interesting, more depressing political figure now--for me, at least. It's all understandable, of course--he's the GOP nominee now, not an insurgent maverick. Understandable, but depressing. As part of the essay talks about, there's an enormous difference between running an insurgent Hail-Mary-type longshot campaign and being a viable candidate (it was right around New Hampshire in 2000 that McCain began to change from the former to the latter), and there are some deep, really rather troubling questions about whether serious honor and candor and principle remain possible for someone who wants to really maybe win. I wouldn't take back anything that got said in that essay, but I'd want a reader to keep the time and context very much in mind on every page." ... Read more

16. Consider David Foster Wallace: Critical Essays
by David Hering
Paperback: 244 Pages (2010-08-30)
list price: US$18.99 -- used & new: US$18.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0976146576
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Editorial Review

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From Tristram Shandy to Fredric Jameson, Consider David Foster Wallace blazes a trail into the new territory of David Foster Wallace studies. Greg Carlisle, author of the landmark Wallace study Elegant Complexity, provides an introduction that sets the scene and speculates on the future of Wallace studies. Editor David Hering provides a provocative look at the triangular symbols in Infinite Jest. Adam Kelly explores the intriguing question of why Wallace is considered to be at the forefront of a new sincerity in American fiction. Thomas Tracey discusses trauma in Oblivion. Gregory Phipps examines Infinite Jest's John "No Relation" Wayne and the concept of the ideal athlete. Daniel Turnbull compares Wallace's Kenyon College commencement address to the ethics of Iris Murdoch.These 17 essays stem from the first ever academic conference devoted the work of David Foster Wallace. Held in Liverpool, England, in 2009, the conference sparked a worldwide discussion of the place of Wallace's work in academia and popular culture. Essential for all Wallace scholars, fans of Wallace's fiction and nonfiction will also find the collection full of insights that span Wallace's career. Yes, there are footnotes. ... Read more

17. Elegant Complexity: A Study of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest
by Greg Carlisle
Paperback: 524 Pages (2007-11-30)
list price: US$24.95 -- used & new: US$24.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0976146533
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

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Elegant Complexity is the first critical work to provide detailed and thorough commentary on each of the 192 sections of David Foster Wallace's masterful Infinite Jest. No other commentary on Infinite Jest recognizes that Wallace clearly divided the book into 28 chapters that are thematically unified. A chronology at the end of the study reorders each section of the novel into a sequential timeline that orients the reader and that could be used to support a chronological reading of the novel. Other helpful reference materials include a thematic outline, more chronologies, a map of one the novel's settings, lists of characters grouped by association, and an indexed list of references.Elegant Complexity orients the reader at the beginning of each section and keeps commentary separate for those readers who only want orientation. The researcher looking for specific characters or themes is provided a key at the beginning of each commentary. Carlisle explains the novel's complex plot threads (and discrepancies) with expert insight and clear commentary. The book is 99% spoiler-free for first-time readers of Infinite Jest. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

3-0 out of 5 stars Don't buy the Kindle edition
I am sure this is a great guide, but do not buy it for Kindle.This is a reference, so you want to be able to page back and forth.

5-0 out of 5 stars It's All Interconnected, Elegantly
Elegant Complexity is a tremendous, tremendous help to this first-time Infinite Jest reader. Sure, the chapter summaries and commentaries are useful, but the strengths of the study really are that it helps orient readers in time, and that it constantly refers readers back to previous sections of the novel to help illustrate the interconnectedness of themes, characters and plot - which, in my mind, is the true genius of the novel. This was especially valuable in the later stages of the novel, as connections were made to an event or comment or dream from 700 pages ago. It was wonderful to be able to flip back to the exact page and re-read and get that "good reader" feeling of "I get it!"

Also, breaking the novel into its sections and chapters was helpful because it makes it easier to understand, as Carlisle points out frequently, what DFW is trying (and succeeding, in my opinion!) to accomplish structurally. Rising actions, missing "Gately-sized" pieces, completing cycles, etc...

The one weakness of the book in my view is that Carlisle often, and almost gleefully, points out inconsistencies or "errors" - almost like a Star Trek fan boy. There's no explanation given for these discrepancies, other than the basic misspellings that Carlisle explains are corrected in subsequent versions. Are these "errors" simply oversights? Or is there a method to DFW's madness? They're just pointed out and left alone.

Overall, though, I can't recommend this study more highly. It's helped me gain an understanding of and appreciation for Infinite Jest that would've been nearly impossible otherwise.

4-0 out of 5 stars Helpful, thoughtful, bland
Mr. Carlisle's Elegant Complexity is a helpful scaffolding system for an understanding of the late David Foster Wallace's Magnum opus. Elegant Complexity structures the chapters, sections, and subsections of Wallace's Infinite Jest into an organized whole. However, it is bland. But this is a good thing.It does not force an interpretation down your throat, it merely states what is what, and offers the minimalist of hints as to further exploration of meaning and interpretation.In this regard Elegant Complexity is a success.

4-0 out of 5 stars Deconstructing The Jest.
The surest way to ruin a joke is to explain it. It seems that elegance functions similarly. This book - exhaustive on its chosen subject - lacks any praiseworthy style in writing.

To call it a study is misleading. It is only a guide, though it _is_ a commendable guide.

What it comes down to is a very explicit and formulaic cliffsnotes: summarize a passage, extract the themes, explain them ad. naus. While I don't think most of the people who read "Jest" in its entirety in the first place will need guidance with everything "complexity" offers, I think it does offer points "Jest" scholars will enjoy exploring further.

"Elegant Complexity" is neither, but this only serves to provide a little insight in less than a few thousand pages. It's good for what it is - an explicit guide.Make sure that it's what you want.

5-0 out of 5 stars THANK YOU, GREG CARLISLE!
I just recieved, "Elegant Complexity: A Study Of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest" and I salute you, Mr. Carlisle! I have read, "Infinite Jest" TWICE - and David Foster Wallace is a genius! You left NO stone unturned. You answered one of the most perplexing chapters of, "Infinite Jest" (listed on chapter 22 of your book) "Triggering Situation". I am not a mathematic person, and I could NOT understand what the game, "Eschaton" was ABOUT. I am an intelligent woman, and I thought maybe I could figure it out, but it has always remained a mystery. THANK YOU SO MUCH. A MUST for any David Foster Wallace fan. FANTASTIC! ... Read more

18. David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest: A Reader's Guide (Continuum Contemporaries)
by Stephen J. Burn
Paperback: 96 Pages (2003-05-20)
list price: US$12.95 -- used & new: US$8.08
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 082641477X
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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This is part of a new series of guides to contemporary novels. The aim of the series is to give readers accessible and informative introductions to some of the most popular, most acclaimed and most influential novels of recent years – from ‘The Remains of the Day’ to ‘White Teeth’. A team of contemporary fiction scholars from both sides of the Atlantic has been assembled to provide a thorough and readable analysis of each of the novels in question. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

2-0 out of 5 stars Good but too short
The quality of the analysis is very good and well described by other reviewers, but I was a bit disappointed with the quantity.The book is only 5 inches by 7 inches, the font is fairly large, and it is listed as having 96 pages.That would already be a very small amount of analysis for the money, but here is what those 96 pages consists of:

1-9: Title page, acknowledgments, dedication, table of contents
10-22: Description of Wallace's overall point of view- interesting, but doesn't get in to the meat of Infinite Jest
23-65: Analysis of the book- good quality; this is essentially what I wanted, just not enough of it
66-71: An overview of what book critics said about Infinite Jest when it came out.Not useful to me.
71-76: "The Novel's Performance"- a subjective discussion of whether Infinite Jest is a good book.Not useful to me.
77-79: Further reading and suggested essay topics
80-92: Chronology of the plot- useful as a reference, but lacking any analysis
93-96: Bibliography

So in the end, there are only 55 small pages of large font analysis, and only 42 of those pages are actually about the book itself.Counting the words on a random page and multiplying out, there are approximately 12,000 words in the section that discusses the book.According to some internet sites, that's less than 10% the length of an average novel (or 2% the length of IJ itself).I believe this would be better off as a magazine article or web posting than an actual book.I haven't read any of the competing guides to Infinite Jest, but I don't believe this one is worth the money.

5-0 out of 5 stars A post-reading guide
This is a wonderful guide to Infinite Jest.
It contains, in just a few pages, a valid summary of the book; a short biography of DFW and lots of hints to start a conversation about the great writer's masterpiece.
Nonetheless, IJ is such a broad subject that a short guide could never be sufficient to really master the text without reading it with patience and attention, maybe a couple of times.
Id est, you cannot take an exam on IJ without reading the book thoroughly before. This guide will re-create timelines, happenings, connections that might have been unclear to the reader, but the reader must well know what Mr.Burn is talking about.
I consider myself quite an attentive reader; however, Burn's guide made me realize that, amid the 1079 pages of the book, there were links between the sub-plots that had skipped my surveillance.
A Must-Read for those who have loved this book and want to know some new perspective.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Window Into Weirdness
Infinite Jest is one of those once in a lifetime reads that was simultaneously painfully aggravating and indescribably delicious.It took so much effort and concentration to read certain parts that I could feel the sweat popping out on my brow.To make matters worse, I could only figure out portions of the book, even after a couple of reads.
This study guide goes a long way toward answering lots of questions I had about the story, the plot, the characters, and how they interrelated.This was such a big help to me that immediately after finishing the study guide I started reading Infinite Jest yet again, only this time a lot more of it clicked, and made it so much more enjoyable.I only wish the guide had revealed more, but I suppose there's something sort of magical about not being able to figure the whole book out.It would be lots of fun to have more of these guides for great works of fiction!

5-0 out of 5 stars Read this after Infinite Jest
This book is excellent for reviewing the overall meaning of infinite jest.It lays out a comprehensive chronology of every event, delves into several topics concerning David Foster Wallace and Infinite Jest, and, most importantly, is a good read.If you've made it through the 1000-some pages of Infinite Jest, add these 96 pages to the top and get a much-needed recap of this great book.

4-0 out of 5 stars mostly [...]
As a great fan of Infinite Jest, I picked up this book over a year ago. It is disappointing. Burn spends a lot of time picking on one or two hobbyhorses; more insightful interpretations have appeared elsewhere, in particular on the web in communities like wallace-l, and prior to Burn's (very slim) volume.

Burn also feels the need to rack up the wordometer with a very academicish approach to the subject that won't endear him to the readers who presumably come in already familiar with many of the issues that Burn rehashes at the level of a freshman seminar.

If you are curious and have the cash, by all means pick up a copy; I do, and I don't regret the purchase. But there are far more valuable sources of information and intepretation of Wallace's book out there online, and they are not hard to find. ... Read more

19. The Best American Essays 2007
Paperback: 336 Pages (2007-10-10)
list price: US$18.95 -- used & new: US$2.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0618709274
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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The twenty-two essays in this powerful collection -- perhaps the most diverse in the entire series -- come from a wide variety of periodicals, ranging from n + 1 and PMS to the New Republic and The New Yorker, and showcase a remarkable range of forms. Read on for narrative -- in first and third person -- opinion, memoir, argument, the essay-review, confession, reportage, even a dispatch from Iraq. The philosopher Peter Singer makes a case for philanthropy; the poet Molly Peacock constructs a mosaic tribute to a little-known but remarkable eighteenth-century woman artist; the novelist Marilynne Robinson explores what has happened to holiness in contemporary Christianity; the essayist Richard Rodriguez wonders if California has anything left to say to America; and the Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson attempts to find common ground with the evangelical community.

In his introduction, David Foster Wallace makes the spirited case that “many of these essays are valuable simply as exhibits of what a first-rate artistic mind can make of particular fact-sets -- whether these involve the 17-kHz ring tones of some kids’ cell phones, the language of movement as parsed by dogs, the near-infinity of ways to experience and describe an earthquake, the existential synecdoche of stagefright, or the revelation that most of what you’ve believed and revered turns out to be self-indulgent crap.”
... Read more

Customer Reviews (14)

1-0 out of 5 stars This was one of my required summer reading novels
This book, though it can give you a different view on certain opinions and topics, was very boring and hard to follow. This is not a book i would recomend to anyone unless you love reading confusing essays that dont make sense nor mean anything. As i told my friends, if these are the BEST american essays, i'd love to read the WORST...because in my opinion nothing worse can exist. Don't waste your money on this book that i promise you wouldn't enjoy anyway.

3-0 out of 5 stars Among the Ancients
To be honest the choice of this book was that of the instructor of one of my adult education classes and the essays it contains vary in form from short stories to exposition; they all are aimed at education as opposed to amusement regardless of form.
I think they are an interesting slice of current American opinion and attitude toward the human condition, generally well written and certainly the source of considerable discussion in the class which is largely of that slice of society best described as the well off, elderly comfortably retired members of society and is not friendly to change.

3-0 out of 5 stars The good, the bad and the dreadful... not the BEST
If this is really the BEST collection of American Essays, then American literature is lost in the wilderness and in dire need of a map and compass.

Firstly, change the title! What is the 'best'? What are the parameters for electing such an ambiguous adjective? The 'best' does not and cannot ever exist, neither in Art nor in Literature; not in any realm that deals with self-expression and subjectivity. By choosing such a vague adjective, the publishers are setting themselves up for a fall, and the readers for a state of confusion, wondering if this is REALLY the 'best', which of course it is not.

Secondly, define 'American'. Given the title, it would seem appropriate to assume that these essays were penned by Americans, that somehow this series was trying to promote great AMERICAN writing, not merely works that by whatever convoluted and devious associations and friendships found themselves in print, in America and thereby eligible for inclusion in this series.

That brings us to the third point. With the publishing/editing world as exclusionary, and egotistical as it is, in trying to set a defining 'standard' for the year, to record for posterity what was really the best of a year's offerings, wouldn't it be appropriate to also try to champion new writers, not just the established names or those with publishing deals? Assuming that to be a reasonable argument, it would then seem appropriate to have a better selection process whereby REAL people could also submit essays. if that occurred, it would surely result in a bigger catch-net and ultimately widen the scope of this quite myopic anthology.

Next, ESSAYS - not short stories... there is a whole other book dedicated to the best American short stories, it is cyan with gold trim and this is not it. In the foreword, series editor Atwan tries to pin-down and define just what an 'essay' is... yes you read that correctly! he tries to define an essay...? One might interject at this point a suggestion that he might not be the best person to be overseeing such a volume... So after defining his terms, what happens? Foster Wallice ignores them and puts a SHORT STORY as the lead 'essay'! Essay #1 (Werner) is not an essay, it is a short work of fiction, as is #12 (Shakers). In amongst this collection are various memoirs which I too would exclude from a volume dedicated to the essay; because, by their inclusion they somehow lead the reader astray and ultimately detract from what should be great ESSAY writing.

Thus far I have been rather critical, but I did give it three stars (an average, 'C' grade), so to that point I shall move. In this bag of fish-eyes, there are indeed some remarkable pearls of great writing, and that is what is always what is ultimately going to sustain such a volume as this; the chance of coming across greatness, the Picasso tucked away in your garage or the Lalique vase found in a box at a flea market.
In no particular order I would cite the following as being worth the purchase and henceforth the three stars:

i) Werner (despite it not being a bone-fide essay per se.)
vi) What the dog saw (for content rather than style)
viii) Operation Gomorrah (more of a memoir than an essay, but still stunning)
x) Petrified
xii) Shakers (again, despite it not being a bone-fide essay per se.)
xvii) In the Mosque of Iman Ali
ixx) Disappointment
xx) Rules of Engagement (perhaps the 'best' actual essay in the entire collection)
xxi) A Carnevor's Credo (another excellent example of what an essay is)

Following that selection I would add these as being of interest, but not outstanding in any way:

iv) Fathead's Hard Times
ix) Loaded
xi) Name That Tone
xxii) Apocalypse Now

And ultimately the rotten eggs. These were actually shockingly poor in every sense: literary style, content, idea and originality, and should have never made the printed page in anything other than an aircraft carrier's complementary magazine:

vii) Afternoon of the Sex Children
xiii) Out of Xanadu
xvi) Onward Christian Liberals
xx)What a Billionaire Should Give (the only unreadable essay in the whole book)

All-in-all, I have to say I feel glad I purchased this collection and will (have) continued to purchase others. Anyone with a keen mind and an interest in Literature should enjoy the opportunity to read the bad as well as the good, because it helps define and clarify what good really is - unless of course, it is essay #20, which was just so poor that it was simply not worth pursuing.

5-0 out of 5 stars Absolutely terrific
Absolutely terrific!Only DFW could have picked such excellent essays.And, his introduction, on its own, is worth the price of this book.Even when I disagreed with a premise or conclusion of an article, it didn't matter at all, as each is so well-written and creative.You can't go wrong here if you are an avid reader and appreciate creative writing.

2-0 out of 5 stars Flawed collection does not represent the best essays of the year
I normally thoroughly enjoy the annual volume of the "Best American Essays" series.This year, however, guest editor David Foster Wallace (he correctly calls himself "the Decider", since he makes the final decision as to which essays are included) does not choose the 25 or so best American essays.Instead, he chooses two essays with major flaws, and devotes far too high a percentage of the available pages to essays which expound the far-left "blame America first" viewpoint of the Iraq war.

The most flawed essay is one of those anti-Bush, anti-U.S. military diatribes, Elaine Scarry's "Rules of Engagement".Scarry first excuses all violations of international laws by terrorists fighting the U.S. (such as flying civilian-loaded hijacked planes into civilian office buildings) by blaming the U.S.'s overwhelming military power for forcing the terrorists to use non-conventional means to attack us.She then applies old international laws which apply to conventional warfare to the U.S.'s anti-terrorist activities, demonstrating nothing more than the fact that these laws are hopelessly outdated and new laws are needed for fighting terrorists who hide among civilian populations and use non-traditional weapons.She at times descends into hysterics, as when she states that, because the U.S. military does things which (perhaps) a majority of the U.S. population does not agree with, they are guilty of flying a false flag (the U.S. flag).She goes far off the deep end when she confesses her fear that President Bush (not the terrorists or Iran) would use nuclear weapons.With the benefit of hindsight (I am writing this days before Bush leaves office) this fear of Scarry's has been proven misguided, but I feel it was also terribly misguided when she wrote it in 2006.The only thing this essay proves is that there is a very good reason why we don't entrust Harvard professors to defend our country, as we're much better off leaving that important responsibility to the Marines and other branches of the military.

The other highly flawed essay is David Greif's "Afternoon of the Sex Children".This is Greif's second appearance in the "Best American Essays" series;I found his 2005 contribution entitled "Against Exercise" to be equally flawed and infuriating.Greif has a highly trained intellect, but he is a prime example of someone who can use eloquent words to twist logic to support his own pretty bizarre views of the world, which he is anxious to get the rest of us to adopt.Unlike "Against Exercise", in which he states in the title the behavioral modification he wants the rest of us to adopt, in "Afternoon..." he waits until the very end, when he tries to rally his followers to prefer a "sophisticated and depraved sexuality" of old people, with "wrinkles" and "prolific flesh" (which was no doubt achieved by following the advice in his 2005 essay).Greif can put words to paper with the best of them, which is almost certainly why his essays keep finding their way into the "Best American Essays" volumes, but eloquence is not to be confused with truth.

So, which essays did I enjoy?Louis Menand's "Name That Tone" packed several interesting observations on life and aging into just a few pages;Marione Ingram's "Operation Gomorrah" is a harrowing picture of what a child experienced during a World War II firebombing of a city in Germany;and Cynthia Ozick's "Out From Xanadu" describes the transformation of her thinking and views on life as she matures.Unfortunately, David Foster Wallace does not include enough of these fine examples of the craft of the essay.
... Read more

20. The Iron Bars of Freedom. David Foster Wallace and the Postmodern Self
by Stefan Hirt
Paperback: 166 Pages (2008-11-03)
list price: US$38.95 -- used & new: US$29.93
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 3898219542
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Editorial Review

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David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest is one of the most ambitious American novels of the last decade. Its huge scope, its immense array of characters, and Wallace's artful mastery of language make it a complex and sometimes difficult text that has frequently been compared with other works of magnitude such as Ulysses and Gravity's Rainbow. This study is an attempt to provide the reader of Wallace's novel with one (of many) possible threads which might lead him through the textual labyrinth of Infinite Jest. It is concerned with the issues of narcissism, addiction, depression, and despair and interprets the novel within an Existentialist framework drawn from the philosophical works of Jean-Paul Sartre and Søren Kierkegaard. It analyzes Wallace's portrayal of contemporary existence inside a society that, paradoxically, entraps the individual self exactly by exposing it to an unprecedented state of freedom. Furthermore, this study discusses the counter-proposals which Wallace weighs against postmodern culture. Infinite Jest is thus set in relation to Postmodern literature, and the similarities as well as the differences between this literary period and Infinite Jest are illuminated. ... Read more

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