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Both Flesh And Not Hardcover – 29 Nov 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton (29 Nov. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241144825
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241144824
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.1 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 693,911 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Praise for Both Flesh and Not

On David Foster Wallace:

"The Best Mind of His Generation"-- New York Times "A.O. Scott "

"Scarily astute. . . . Published originally between 1988 and 2007, these essays demonstrate Wallace's interdisciplinary approach to both pop culture and abstruse academic discourse...For Wallace devotees, these essays are required reading." "Booklist""

"The Best Mind of His Generation" A.O. Scott, "New York Times""

"A prose magician, Mr. Wallace was capable of writing...about subjects from tennis to politics to lobsters, from the horrors of drug withdrawal to the small terrors of life aboard a luxury cruise ship, with humor and fervor and verve. At his best he could write funny, write sad, write sardonic and write serious. He could map the infinite and infinitesimal, the mythic and mundane. He could conjure up an absurd future...while conveying the inroads the absurd has already made in a country where old television shows are a national touchstone and asinine advertisements wallpaper our lives." Michiko Kakutani, "New York Times""

"One of the most influential writers of his generation." Timothy Williams, "New York Times""

"A novelist with the industrial-strength intellectual chops to theorize even our resolutely anti-intellectual age....Wallace's ear for dialogue was unmatched in contemporary fiction." Lev Grossman, "Time"" --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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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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Format: Hardcover
David Foster Wallace suffered from depression for most of his adult life. By the summer of 2007 he had serious concerns about the side-effects of his medication and, at his doctor’s suggestion, terminated his phenelzine prescription. His depression returned with the tenacity that prompted his eighteenth century predecessor, Dr Johnson, to characterise the condition as “the black dog”. Despite alternative prescriptions, hospitalisation, electroconvulsive therapy, and a return to phenelzine, Wallace was unable to silence the dog’s bark. On the 12th September 2008, he left a neat pile of papers which included a two-page suicide note and an unfinished novel, and hung himself. His wife found his body when she returned home that evening. Wallace was forty-six years old and at the peak of his literary career. He was an intellectual polymath, who moved effortlessly between literature and analytic philosophy, and a multi-talented writer, who was equally at ease with long novels (his most critically acclaimed – Infinite Jest – is over a thousand pages), short stories, journalism, and literary criticism. Both Flesh and Not consists of fifteen previously published essays, reviews, and reports, charting his non-fiction from 1988 – a year after the publication of his first novel, The Broom of the System – to 2007.

The title takes its name from one of Wallace’s best-known essays, “Federer Both Flesh and Not”, first published in the New York Times in 2006 under the more prosaic title of “Federer as Religious Experience”. It is difficult to do justice to the work, which opens the anthology, in a paraphrase and this resistance to paraphrase is merely one of several literary qualities. Another is the way in which Wallace operates on so many levels at once, complementary as well as juxtaposed.
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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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