In 1995, Harper’s magazine sent David Foster Wallace on an all-expense-paid cruise in exchange for a piece to use in a future issue. Thus was borne “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” (originally titled “Shipping Out”). Anyone who has ever read Wallace or even knows of him can easily deduct that a cruise isn’t exactly up his alley, with the cheesy games and forced merriment and all. As you probably also guessed, dear reader, I was constantly laughing at Wallace’s take on what many people enjoy. (Full disclosure: I have been on a few cruises, and I must say that Disney cruises are awesome when you’re eight). I’m also sure that you’re wondering, why the heck is she writing about an essay that was published 20 years ago? Because it’s summer, and Wallace is hilarious. I think anyone who has ever been on a cruise, wants to go on one, or thinks they’re idiotic should read this essay. (Basically, if you’re apathetic toward cruises, then this isn’t the essay for you.) Also, "A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again" is an essay. It takes little time to read, so in the words of the ever-so-wise Shia LaBeouf, “DO IT! *FLEX* JUST DO IT!”
Wallace does not just talk about the various activities like ping pong tournaments and skeet shooting contests, but he also discusses things that should be boring in an impressively amusing way, like the wait to get on the ship. Whereas I would be bored in real life, Wallace points out the odd and funny things one can see during an annoyingly long wait. He also irrationally becomes a victim of ship envy. The way Wallace saw the funny and ridiculous in the world is refreshing, and if more people looked at it in a similar way, it would be an exponentially cooler place.
My favorite part of "A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again" is an experience in the ship’s game room. After noticing him playing alone, a nine-year-old girl challenges Wallace to a game of chess:
“Today, however, is the day I am mated in 23 moves by a nine-year-old girl…Deirdre seems like an OK type, though—I’ve played precocious kids before, and at least Deirdre doesn’t hoot or smirk. If anything, she seems a little sad that I don’t turn out to be more of a stretch for her.”
He recalls the game move by move and analyzes his own failure. What I love most about this particular situation is the fact that he is thwarted in the only truly Wallace-friendly activity on the ship.
And yes, I’m aware that this isn’t really a book review since I’m just suggesting one essay for you to read…And it isn’t really a review at all since the essay is so old. I guess all I really have to say is read it, it’s awesome, especially if you identify with Wallace’s point of view. So go look it up. There isn’t much summer left.
Leslie Michaels is currently a Level 4 improv student at the DCH Training Center. She spends her spare time riding her bicycle, playing Ultimate Frisbee, or hanging out with her boyfriend, Netflix. She still questions whether she’s a dog person or a cat person.