Thursday, May 3, 2012

This is Water by David Foster Wallace

This is WaterThis is Water by David Foster Wallace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This tiny book was on a display of "What will you do with your life" books at the main library where I work. It is the text of the commencement speech David Foster Wallace gave at Kenyon College in 2005.

It is impossible to read this without his tragic end in my head, and I wish I could. His specific mentions of suicide are completely cringeworthy. The whole point that he makes is that if you have the right perspective, life is manageable, even good. I'm really sorry he had such a struggle, and our lives are worse off now that he is gone.

Despite that, I still believe the words he says. Is this optimism or idiocy? Who can tell. Maybe mind over matter is just simply not enough all the time.

"But if you've really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell-type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars - compassion, love, the subsurface unity of all things."


  1. Interesting. I wasn't aware of this "book".

    I have to say I'm not really liking Infinite Jest as much as I anticipated. I can certainly understand why some people like it so much, but I think it's kind of a mess and I'm having difficulty caring about any of the characters. I've noted several errors that show a lack of research or care on DFW's part, and the writing is in a brain dump style that would be fine in smaller does, but IJ is a very large dose. Chapters just go on seemingly interminably. I've heard that editing IJ was a Herculean task, but I think it needed another pass or two.

    1. I have it on my shelf but have a friend who insists that I must read books X, Y, and Z first to fully 'get' it - and I'm afraid that list seems to be unending.

      Another friend pointed out that it is a lot easier to read as an ebook, since you can look DFW's many obscure words directly from the text. I'm considering swapping it out.

      Are you reading it along with a group?


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