Unfinished Books: The David Foster Wallace Reader


I've always ignored David Foster Wallace. He wrote massive messes like Infinite Jest and since I didn't find him when I was into artsy messes, I just wasn't interested. Even after watching an excellent YouTube video of his water speech (not this video---the one I saw was animated, but alas I canna find it). But the water video, seen years ago, supplemented by the biopic trailer seen in a theater, meant that when I saw this 963pp READER on the library's NEW shelves, I picked it up. I first looked for "This Is Water" but it was MIA so I skimmed the nonfiction for something short. Found such a thing, but while turning there bumped into "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again"---a phrase I did not know was Wallace's. I started that instead, not knowing it was essentially a small book of itself.

I loved it. Besides being human and funny and sharp and well written &c, it captured everything I assume must be true about cruises and exactly why I don't ever want to go on one. Thank you very much, Mr Wallace. Now when someone invites me, I can just send them to you.

Then I did read some of the shorter works and yes they were nice. But my favorite pieces from the book where the longer essays---add to "A Supposedly Fun Thing" those about television and the Illinois State Fair. The only piece of fiction I made it through was a work from his undergrad days, a punchy drag about depression and other fun crimes our minds commit.

I've renewed the book twice which means when it's due in three days from this writing [ed. note: this time has now passed], I will have had it nine weeks. Most of those weeks consist of days I didn't touch the book, but realizing our end was drawing nigh, I've spent the last couple days downing as many pages as possible.

Among this cramming were pages I dogeared (don't tell!) because I want to steal them for pedagogical reasons. Specifically, elements of his own syllabi written for classes he taught. I would like to immediately implement many of his strategies, but here's a fact: what works for twelve students a semester is not practical nor practicable when one is responsible for 107 (this semester's count, divided over three classes). Le sigh.

Anyway, the point is maybe I should just buy myself a copy. Perhaps someday I'll even trust him enough to consider reading Infinite Jest. I rather doubt it, but maybe someday I'll get therapy and perhaps explain to myself how I changed from eager participant in the madness to strict apostate.

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