I don't know if the late David Foster Wallace was the best writer of his generation (such proclamations are never very helpful or accurate), but he was perhaps the most brilliant of any of his peers in terms of sheer intellect. Though his magnum opus "Infinite Jest, made his reputation, it's a novel where his brilliance (so many footnotes and digressions) often gets in the way of his storytelling. It's exhausting for the reader and you feel it must have been exhausting for him to write. I think he was a stronger essayist than novel because the form forced him to reign in some of his more indulgent tendencies, even if there is an essay the runs about 100 pages in this collection. Wallace brings his formidable intelligence, wit, and powers of observation (and vocabulary) to subjects like tennis, post-modern literature, David Lynch, a Midwest carnival, and a cruise, which is the title essay. He loses me with the tennis stuff, but the Lynch, carnival, and post-modern essay are three of his best, which means they're three of the best essays of the past two decades. "Consider the Lobster" is his other major book of essays. He left us too soon.
The finest essayist in English of his generation, bar none.
To my knowledge, there is no more sincere a voice than Wallace's in contemporary literature. He manages to combine his keen powers of observation with a disarmingly magnanimous wit. Like his other collections of essays ("Consider the Lobster" is every bit as great), this title is challenging but incredibly rewarding.
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