Quotes from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments

David Foster Wallace ·  353 pages

Rating: (28.5K votes)


“Lonely people tend, rather, to be lonely because they decline to bear the psychic costs of being around other humans. They are allergic to people. People affect them too strongly.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“I have filled 3 Mead notebooks trying to figure out whether it was Them or Just Me.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“Quentin Tarantino is interested in watching somebody's ear getting cut off; David Lynch is interested in the ear.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“I am now 33 years old, and it feels like much time has passed and is passing faster and faster every day. Day to day I have to make all sorts of choices about what is good and important and fun, and then I have to live with the forfeiture of all the other options those choices foreclose. And I'm starting to see how as time gains momentum my choices will narrow and their foreclosures multiply exponentially until I arrive at some point on some branch of all life's sumptuous branching complexity at which I am finally locked in and stuck on one path and time speeds me through stages of stasis and atrophy and decay until I go down for the third time, all struggle for naught, drowned by time. It is dreadful. But since it's my own choices that'll lock me in, it seems unavoidable--if I want to be any kind of grownup, I have to make choices and regret foreclosures and try to live with them.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“How can even the idea of rebellion against corporate culture stay meaningful when Chrysler Inc. advertises trucks by invoking “The Dodge Rebellion”? How is one to be bona fide iconoclast when Burger King sells onion rings with “Sometimes You Gotta Break the Rules”? How can an Image-Fiction writer hope to make people more critical of televisual culture by parodying television as a self-serving commercial enterprise when Pepsi and Subaru and FedEx parodies of self-serving commercials are already doing big business? It’s almost a history lesson: I’m starting to see just why turn-of-the-century Americans’ biggest fear was of anarchist and anarchy. For if anarchy actually wins, if rulelessness become the rule, then protest and change become not just impossible but incoherent. It’d be like casting a ballot for Stalin: you are voting for an end to all voting.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“I have now seen sucrose beaches and water a very bright blue. I have seen an all-red leisure suit with flared lapels. I have smelled suntan lotion spread over 2,100 pounds of hot flesh. I have been addressed as "Mon" in three different nations. I have seen 500 upscale Americans dance the Electric Slide. I have seen sunsets that looked computer-enhanced. I have (very briefly) joined a conga line.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“I think the world divides neatly into those who are excited by the managed induction of terror and those who are not. I do not find terror exciting. I find it terrifying. One of my basic goals is to subject my nervous system to as little total terror as possible. The cruel paradox of course is that this kind of makeup usually goes hand in hand with a delicate nervous system that's extremely easy to terrify.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“If Realism called it like it saw it, Metafiction simply called it as it saw itself seeing itself see it.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“I have felt as bleak as I've felt since puberty, and have filled almost three Mead notebooks trying to figure out whether it was Them or Just Me.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“Real rebels, as far as I can see, risk disapproval. The old postmodern insurgents risked the gasp and squeal: shock, disgust, outrage, censorship, accusations of socialism, anarchism, nihilism. Today’s risks are different. The new rebels might be artists willing to risk the yawn, the rolled eyes, the cool smile, the nudged ribs, the parody of gifted ironists, the “Oh how banal.” To risk accusations of sentimentality, melodrama. Of overcredulity. Of softness. Of willingness to be suckered by a world of lurkers and starers who fear gaze and ridicule above imprisonment without law. Who knows.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“Can you "choose" something when you are forcefully and enthusiastically immersed in it at an age when the resources and information necessary for choosing are not yet yours?”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“In school I ended up writing three different papers on "The Castaway" section of Moby-Dick, the chapter where the cabin boy Pip falls overboard and is driven mad by the empty immensity of what he finds himself floating in. And when I teach school now I always teach Crane's horrific "The Open Boat," and get all bent out of shape when the kids find the story dull or jaunty-adventurish: I want them to feel the same marrow-level dread of the oceanic I've always felt, the intuition of the sea as primordial nada, bottomless, depths inhabited by cackling tooth-studded things rising toward you at the rate a feather falls.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“From the line, watching, three things are striking: (a) what on TV is a brisk crack is here a whooming roar that apparently is what a shotgun really sounds like; (b) trapshooting looks comparatively easy, because now the stocky older guy who's replaced the trim bearded guy at the rail is also blowing these little fluorescent plates away one after the other, so that a steady rain of lumpy orange crud is falling into the Nadir's wake; (c) a clay pigeon, when shot, undergoes a frighteningly familiar-looking midflight peripeteia -- erupting material, changing vector, and plummeting seaward in a corkscrewy way that all eerily recalls footage of the 1986 Challenger disaster.

All the shooters who precede me seem to fire with a kind of casual scorn, and all get eight out of ten or above. But it turns out that, of these six guys, three have military-combat backgrounds, another two are L. L. Bean-model-type brothers who spend weeks every year hunting various fast-flying species with their "Papa" in southern Canada, and the last has got not only his own earmuffs, plus his own shotgun in a special crushed-velvet-lined case, but also his own trapshooting range in his backyard (31) in North Carolina. When it's finally my turn, the earmuffs they give me have somebody else's ear-oil on them and don't fit my head very well. The gun itself is shockingly heavy and stinks of what I'm told is cordite, small pubic spirals of which are still exiting the barrel from the Korea-vet who preceded me and is tied for first with 10/10. The two brothers are the only entrants even near my age; both got scores of 9/10 and are now appraising me coolly from identical prep-school-slouch positions against the starboard rail. The Greek NCOs seem extremely bored. I am handed the heavy gun and told to "be bracing a hip" against the aft rail and then to place the stock of the weapon against, no, not the shoulder of my hold-the-gun arm but the shoulder of my pull-the-trigger arm. (My initial error in this latter regard results in a severely distorted aim that makes the Greek by the catapult do a rather neat drop-and-roll.)

Let's not spend a lot of time drawing this whole incident out. Let me simply say that, yes, my own trapshooting score was noticeably lower than the other entrants' scores, then simply make a few disinterested observations for the benefit of any novice contemplating trapshooting from a 7NC Megaship, and then we'll move on: (1) A certain level of displayed ineptitude with a firearm will cause everyone who knows anything about firearms to converge on you all at the same time with cautions and advice and handy tips. (2) A lot of the advice in (1) boils down to exhortations to "lead" the launched pigeon, but nobody explains whether this means that the gun's barrel should move across the sky with the pigeon or should instead sort of lie in static ambush along some point in the pigeon's projected path. (3) Whatever a "hair trigger" is, a shotgun does not have one. (4) If you've never fired a gun before, the urge to close your eyes at the precise moment of concussion is, for all practical purposes, irresistible. (5) The well-known "kick" of a fired shotgun is no misnomer; it knocks you back several steps with your arms pinwheeling wildly for balance, which when you're holding a still-loaded gun results in mass screaming and ducking and then on the next shot a conspicuous thinning of the crowd in the 9-Aft gallery above. Finally, (6), know that an unshot discus's movement against the vast lapis lazuli dome of the open ocean's sky is sun-like -- i.e., orange and parabolic and right-to-left -- and that its disappearance into the sea is edge-first and splashless and sad.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“Footnote: 79) The anchor is gigantic and must weigh a hundred tons, and -- delightfully -- it really is anchor-shaped, i.e. the same shape as anchors in tattoos.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“I have pointed rhythmically at the ceiling to the two-four beat of the same disco music I hated pointing at the ceiling to in 1977.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“As each person's sandal hits the pier, a sociolinguistic transformation from cruiser to tourist is effected.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“AN ACADEMIC DEFINITION of Lynchian might be that the term "refers to a particular kind of irony where the very macabre and the very mundane combine in such a way as to reveal the former's perpetual containment within the latter." But like postmodern or pornographic, Lynchian is one of those Porter Stewart-type words that's ultimately definable only ostensively-i.e., we know it when we see it. Ted Bundy wasn't particularly Lynchian, but good old Jeffrey Dahmer, with his victims' various anatomies neatly separated and stored in his fridge alongside his chocolate milk and Shedd Spread, was thoroughgoingly Lynchian. A recent homicide in Boston, in which the deacon of a South Shore church reportedly gave chase to a vehicle that bad cut him off, forced the car off the road, and shot the driver with a highpowered crossbow, was borderline Lynchian. A Rotary luncheon where everybody's got a comb-over and a polyester sport coat and is eating bland Rotarian chicken and exchanging Republican platitudes with heartfelt sincerity and yet all are either amputees or neurologically damaged or both would be more Lynchian than not.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“....basically the sort of guy who looks entirely at home in sockless white loafers and a mint-green knit shirt from Lacoste.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“Real rebels, as far as I can see, risk disapproval.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“Part of the reason I actually preferred Twin Peaks's second season to its first was the fascinating spectacle of watching a narrative structure disintegrate and a narrative artist freeze up and try to shuck and jive when the plot reached a point where his own weaknesses as an artist were going to be exposed (just imagine the fear: this disintegration was happening on national TV).”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“I submit that the real reason we criticized and disliked Lynch's Laura's muddy bothness is that it required of us an empathetic confrontation with the exact same muddy bothness in ourselves and our intimates that makes the real world of moral selves so tense and uncomfortable, a bothness we go to the movies to get a couple hours' fucking relief from.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“There is something about a mass-market Luxury Cruise that's unbearably sad. Like most unbearably sad things, it seems incredibly elusive and complex in its causes and simple in its effect: on board the Nadir—especially at night—I felt despair. The wor's overused and banalified now, despair, but it's a serious word, and I'm using it seriously.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“One of the few things I still miss from my Midwest childhood was this weird, deluded but unshakable conviction that everything around me existed all and only For Me. Am I the only one who had this queer deep sense as a kid? -- that everything exterior to me existed only insofar as it affected me somehow? -- that all things were somehow, via some occult adult activity, specially arranged for my benefit?”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“shall I spend much of your time pointing out the degree to which televisual values influence the contemporary mood of jaded weltschmerz, self-mocking materialism, blank indifference, and the delusion that cynicism and naïveté are mutually exclusive?”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“Because of the way human beings relate to narrative, we tend to identify with those characters we find appealing. We try to see ourselves in them. The same I.D.-relation, however, also means that we try to see them in ourselves. When everybody we seek to identify with for six hours a day is pretty, it naturally becomes more important to us to be pretty, to be viewed as pretty. Because prettiness becomes a priority for us, the pretty people on TV become all the more attractive, a cycle which is obviously great for TV. But it’s less great for us civilians, who tend to own mirrors, and who also tend not to be anywhere near as pretty as the TV-images we want to identify with. Not only does this cause some angst personally, but the angst increases because, nationally, everybody else is absorbing six-hour doses and identifying with pretty people and valuing prettiness more, too. This very personal anxiety about our prettiness has become a national phenomenon with national consequences.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“Organized shuffleboard has always filled me with dread. Everything about it suggests infirm senescence and death: it's a game played on the skin of a void, and the rasp of the sliding puck is the sound of that skin getting abraded away bit by bit.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“I think the world divides neatly into those who are excited by the managed induction of terror and those who are not. I do not find terror exciting. I find it terrifying.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“something is malignantly addictive if (1) it causes real problems for the addict, and (2) it offers itself as a relief from the very problems it causes.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


“American human beings are a slippery and protean bunch in real life, hard as hell to get any kind of universal handle on.”
― David Foster Wallace, quote from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


About the author

David Foster Wallace
Born place: in Ithaca, New York, The United States
Born date February 21, 1962
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