David Foster Wallace has been the recipient of so much praise since his death in 2008 that perhaps it’s best to contribute a gripe. Wallace is a disquieting read. Not just because of the acid insights or creeping melancholy, but because his mastery of language and powers of observation so dwarf our own. This 1997 collection of essays features some of the writer’s best, including a dispatch from the set of a David Lynch movie (where Wallace never gets closer to Lynch than a glimpse of his subject peeing), a piece from the Illinois State Fair (“the air like wet wool”), the title meditation on the existential sadness of luxury cruises (maid service complete with “a creeping guilt, a deep accretive uneasiness, a discomfort that presents … a weird kind of pampering-paranoia”) and a profile of middling tennis pro Michael Joyce that eclipses his better-known essay on tour ace Roger Federer. This is Wallace at the top of his game.
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