A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments is a 1997 collection of nonfiction writing by David Foster Wallace.
In the title essay, originally published in Harper's as "Shipping Out", Wallace describes the excesses of his one-week trip in the Caribbean aboard the cruise shipMV Zenith, which he rechristens the Nadir. He is ironically displeased with the professional hospitality industry and the "fun" he should be having and explains how the indulgences of the cruise turn him into a spoiled brat, leading to overwhelming internal despair.
Wallace uses footnotes extensively throughout the piece for various asides. Another essay in the same volume takes up the vulgarities and excesses of the Illinois State Fair.
This collection also includes Wallace's influential essay "E Unibus Pluram" on television's impact on contemporary literature and the use of irony in American culture.
Essays collected in the book:
- "Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley" (Harper's, December 1991, under the title "Tennis, Trigonometry, Tornadoes")
- An autobiographical essay about Wallace's youth in the Midwest, his involvement in competitive tennis, and his interest in mathematics.
- "E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction" (The Review of Contemporary Fiction, 1993)
- "Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All" (Harper's, 1994, under the title "Ticket to the Fair")
- Wallace's experiences and opinions on the 1993 Illinois State Fair, ranging from a report on competitive baton twirling to speculation on how the Illinois State Fair is representative of Midwestern culture and its subsets. Rather than take the easy, dismissive route, Wallace focuses on the joy this seminal midwestern experience brings those involved.
- "Greatly Exaggerated" (Harvard Book Review, 1992)
- A review of Morte d'Author: An Autopsy by H. L. Hix, including Wallace's personal opinions on the role of the author in literary critical theory.
- "David Lynch Keeps His Head" (Premiere, 1996)
- Wallace's experiences and opinions from visiting the set for Lost Highway and his thoughts about Lynch's oeuvre.
- "Tennis Player Michael Joyce's Professional Artistry as a Paradigm of Certain Stuff about Choice, Freedom, Discipline, Joy, Grotesquerie, and Human Completeness" (Esquire, 1996, under the title "The String Theory")
- Wallace's reporting of the qualifying rounds for the 1995 Canadian Open and the Open itself, with the author's thoughts on the nature of tennis and professional athletics.
- "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" (Harper's, 1996, under the title "Shipping Out")
- Wallace's experiences and opinions on a seven-night luxury Caribbean cruise.
In popular culture
In his 2011 book That Is All, John Hodgman titles a chapter about taking a cruise "A Totally Fun Thing I Would Do Again as Soon as Possible." The name of the 2012 Simpsons episode "A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again" also references the title essay. Tina Fey's 2011 memoir Bossypants also includes a chapter on her own cruise experience, entitled My Honeymoon: Or, A Supposedly Fun Thing That I’ll Never Do Again Either, in which she jokingly suggests that those who've heard of Wallace's book should consider themselves members of the "cultural elite", who hate their country and flag.
- Wallace, D. F. (1997). A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-92528-4
- Wallace, D. F. (1996). "Shipping Out", Harper's Magazine, January 1996 (292:1748)
- "Shipping Out: On the (nearly lethal) comforts of a luxury cruise", Harpers Magazine. Also known as "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again".
- "Ticket to the Fair", Harper's Magazine. Also known as "Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All".
- "The String Theory", Esquire. Also known as "Tennis Player Michael Joyce's Professional Artistry as a Paradigm of Certain Stuff about Choice, Freedom, Discipline, Joy, Grotesquerie, and Human Completeness".
- "E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction", The Review of Contemporary Fiction.
- "David Lynch Keeps His Head" Premiere, 1996
- "Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley", Harper's Magazine. Originally under the title "Tennis, Trigonometry, Tornadoes"
In this exuberantly praised book - a collection of seven pieces on subjects ranging from television to tennis, from the Illinois State Fair to the films of David Lynch, from postmodern literary theory to the supposed fun of traveling aboard a Caribbean luxury cruiseliner - David Foster Wallace brings to nonfiction the same curiosity, hilarity, and exhilarating verbal facility that has delighted readers of his fiction, including the bestselling Infinite Jest .
Writer David Foster Wallace was born in Ithaca, New York on February 21, 1962. He received a B.A. from Amherst College in Massachusetts. He was working on his master's degree in creative writing at the University of Arizona when he published his debut novel The Broom of the System (1987).
Wallace published his second novel Infinite Jest (1996) which introduced a cast of characters that included recovering alcoholics, foreign statesmen, residents of a halfway house, and high-school tennis stars. He spent four years researching and writing this novel. His first collection of short stories was Girl with Curious Hair (1989). He also published a nonfiction work titled Signifying Rappers: Rap and Race in the Urban Present. He committed suicide on September 12, 2008 at the age of 46 after suffering with bouts of depression for 20 years.
(Bowker Author Biography)
Celebrated Illinoisan writer Wallace's meganovel, Infinite Jest (1996), was megasuccessful, and these intelligent, funny essays are outstanding. In "Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley," Wallace presents himself as a young Midwest tennis star with an unathletic, intuitive, yet winning style of play. But Wallace writes about far more than the sum of his self, widening his field of vision to embrace wind, earth, and mathematics, creating a virtual cyclone with his highly idiosyncratic perceptions, perfectly correct cadence, and casually hip lexicon. He applies this arsenal of literary power tools to even greater effect in one of the most original, comprehensive analyses yet of television and the pervasive "culture of watching," discussing such fine points as the tyranny of television's institutionalized, self-referential irony and its tremendous influence on American fiction. Wallace has also written in his edgy way about David Lynch, a state fair, and, in the masterful title piece, his addling experiences on a seven-night Caribbean cruise during which he endured hours of despair interrupted by moments of stunned amazement. --Donna Seaman
Publisher's Weekly Review
Like the tennis champs who fascinate him, novelist Wallace (Infinite Jest; The Broom of the System) makes what he does look effortless and yet inspired. His instinct for the colloquial puts his masters Pynchon and DeLillo to shame, and the humane sobriety that he brings to his subjects-fictional or factual-should serve as a model to anyone writing cultural comment, whether it takes the form of stories or of essays like these. Readers of Wallace's fiction will take special interest in this collection: critics have already mined "Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley" (Wallace's memoir of his tennis-playing days) for the biographical sources of Infinite Jest. The witty, insightful essays on David Lynch and TV are a reminder of how thoroughly Wallace has internalized the writing-and thinking-habits of Stanley Cavell, the plain-language philosopher at Harvard, Wallace's alma mater. The reportage (on the Illinois State Fair, the Canadian Open and a Caribbean Cruise) is perhaps best described as post-gonzo: funny, slight and self-conscious without Norman Mailer's or Hunter Thompson's braggadocio. Only in the more academic essays, on Dostoyevski and the scholar H.L. Hix, does Wallace's gee-whiz modesty get in the way of his arguments. Still, even these have their moments: at the end of the Dostoyevski essay, Wallace blurts out that he wants "passionately serious ideological contemporary fiction [that is] also ingenious and radiantly transcendent fiction." From most writers, that would be hot air; from one as honest, subtle and ambitious as Wallace, it has the sound of a promise. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal Review
The painfully hip Wallace toured state fairs, relaxed on a cruise ship, and now tells us what it's like. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.