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Both Flesh & Not Paperback – 29 Nov 2012


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Both Flesh & Not + Consider The Lobster: Essays and Arguments + A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again
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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Penguin (29 Nov. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241145546
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241145548
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 2.5 x 23.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,495,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Foster Wallace wrote the acclaimed novels Infinite Jest and The Broom of the System and the story collections Oblivion, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and Girl With Curious Hair. His nonfiction includes the essay collections Consider the Lobster and A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, and the full-length work Everything and More. He died in 2008.

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About the Author

David Foster Wallace, who died in 2008, was the author of the acclaimed novels Infinite Jest and The Broom of the System. His final novel, The Pale King, was published posthumously in 2011. He is also the author of the short-story collections Oblivion, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and Girl with Curious Hair, and his non-fiction includes several essay collections and the full-length work Everything and More. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Metropolitan Critic on 23 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Perhaps the most striking fact about David Foster Wallace (1962-2008), apart from his stratospheric intelligence, was the range of his interests. How many writers capable of writing a history of the mathematics of infinity would also find it worthwhile to produce an 160 page work on rap music? Who else with the ability to provide a summary of Wittgenstein's private language argument could also analyse the market for hardcore pornography?

During his lifetime, Wallace published two collections of essays, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again (1997) and Consider The Lobster (2005). It is difficult to convey the flavour of these books, but if you wanted a preview I'd suggest having a look at one of the videos of the author reading his work on YouTube (for example, the 28 minute video 'Another Random Bit'.)

Wallace was certainly an uneven writer, and some of his work is infected by the pretentious diction of Academic English. Nor was he a particularly successful critic: his least interesting essays are those dealing with other writers.

But his best work (for example, the pieces on the Illinois State Fair and cruise liners in A Supposedly Fun Thing) is truly remarkable, as good as anything that Orwell wrote.

Both Flesh and Not (2012) collects fifteen essays which appeared in various American periodicals between 1988 and 2007. The range of topics is characteristically diverse - tennis, fiction, cinema, Wittgenstein, mathematics - although the average standard is perhaps lower than in the first two collections. In a sense, this is not surprising: the essays in Both Flesh and Not are (for the most part) those that were not selected for inclusion in the earlier collections. As such, they are, in a sense, the Second Team.

Still, they are well worth reading. Wallace is one of the few recent writers of whom one seriously wonders if he was a genius.
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By Shirin on 18 Dec. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Brilliant. Worth buying just for the essay on Federer. DFW has unique insights into just about everything.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By TomCat on 15 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover
'Both Flesh and Not' is the first of what I assume will be several posthumous bringing-togethers of David Foster Wallace's shorter non-fiction. This collection offers a somewhat disparate array of brilliant and not-so-brilliant essays plonked in concert with seemingly little concern for chronology, consistency of subject matter or overall theme. As such, I've decided to structure my review accordingly:

"Both Flesh and Not" - The compilers hit the ground running with what is arguably DFW's most well-known essay; a long and performative piece about Roger Federer's tennis genius which acts as a way-in for DFW to examine the state of modern tennis in general. Possibly the best example of his tripartite prose style, Both Flesh and Not melds hyperbolic and lyrical writing with high-level technical language and a penchant for multi-page, off-tangent footnotes. The overly long and microscopic focus on, for example, a particular ground-stroke of Federer's, or the ballet of his backhand, is equal parts tedious and hypnotic, but plough through the jargon long enough, and you'll eventually be rewarded with such gems as:

"The truth is that TV tennis is to live tennis pretty much as video porn is to the felt reality of human love."
-----

"Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young" - In which DFW successfully equates the 1980's rise of utilitarian, adjective-hating, snarky prose with "the aesthetic norms of mass entertainment". The idea that "Television's greatest appeal is that it is engaging without being at all demanding" would later become a significant and oft-repeated part of his critical ideology.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J on 12 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover
I am quite a big fan of DFW, especially the less long stuff. So I am very much in the target market for this book. It's entertaining enough. Well, actually not really enough. A lot of it is pedestrian, at least by Dave's exalted standards, as others have already pointed out.

I should give an example. There's an essay - I suppose you'd call it - on "Terminator 2" and its cultural import. This is something anyone with a vaguely lively mind can rabbit on about more or less engagingly for a few minutes. And that's all Wallace does. I just felt I could have had at least as much fun (and I stress, at least as much) on that theme chatting with a pal at coffee break. Of course it might just be that my pals are exceptionally smart. But my point is that neither the form nor the content is really worth preserving in book form, which is not at all the case with his better work.

Also there's a little running error which really niggles coming from a guy (or possibly the editors of a guy?) who sets so much store by getting things right and generally being pretty book-smart: dozens of times he uses the abbreviation "q.v." where he should use "cf." or just "see". Someone should have fixed that, and if it's his own mistake, it's a weird lapse since generally - like, say, Henry Miller and unlike, say, Will Self - he seems to use his fancy words properly. You could forgive this in many writers - in fact, when Will Self does it it's part of his style, though if it's deliberate it's very well hidden, but it goes with his easy-going bigmouth show-off not-too-serious persona - but in a book by David Foster Wallace it's embarrassing, as it undermines his whole polymathic persona.

Still worth three of anybody's stars, though. In Amazon code, of course, that means "It's OK", and OK is just what it is.
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