A collection of essays from the man who wrote Infinite Jest, also known as the 20th century’s best 21st century book. Each one is near-to-completely brilliant and worthy of more thought than a one-line in an inconsequential blog post, but that won’t stop me:
- Big red son is the one where he attends the AVN awards as a magazine correspondent. The more absurd things become, the more encyclopedic he gets. Yes it’s funny, but also existentialist and sad as only pornography can be.
- Certainly the end of something or other, one would have to thing is long title to a short-ish review of a supposedly science fiction book by John Updike. He didn’t like it.
- Some remarks on Kafka’s funnies from which probably not enough has been removed is exactly what it says it is. Having only high-school literature class-level acquaintance with Kafka, I can’t comment.
- Authority and American usage is a review of a dictionary but also the 20th century’s (written in 1999) best 21st century essay, covering issues of political correctness, identity politics, race, alienation, and a brief history of the battle between prescriptivism and descriptivism for the hearts and minds of I don’t know who exactly, but what an exciting battle it is.
- The view from Mrs. Thompson’s is about where he was on 9/11 (spoiler alert: he was at Mrs. Thompson’s).
- How Tracey Austin broke my heart is the reason I’m even sadder than I should be about DFW not still being around, because an essay about the Federer-Đoković-Nadal tennis trio in general and the mental gymnastics going on in Novak Đoković’s head in particular would have been spectacular to read (although there has been a fairly successful attempt). Oh, and it’s also a review of a reasonably bad autobiography of the titular Ms. Austin, who is also a tennis player.
- Up, Simba is DFW following McCaine’s failed 2000 attempt in the Republican primaries, wherein he shows just how walled away from the “real” world candidates were back then, how big of a gatekeeper the media world, and just why Twitter could have made all the difference.
- Consider the lobster is where a travel essay for a cooking magazine from a food festival in Maine turns into an existential crisis and a call for veganism. It’s good
- Host is so messed up by its formatting of footnotes (fortunately there is now a web version which more than makes up for it, and the original article published in The Atlantic was also easier to read, apparently, say people who were able to find it, and yes this should also have been a footnote) that it’s hard at first to appreciate how good of a story interspersed with thoughts on infotainment and talk radio it really is, and even though it was written more than a decade ago you can sort of see what it’s protagonist will eventually become in these troubling times.
Written by David Foster Wallace, 2007