Beloved for his epic agony, brilliantly discerning eye, and hilarious and constantly self-questioning tone, David Foster Wallace was heralded by both critics and fans as the voice of a generation. Both Flesh and Not gathers 15 essays never published in book form, including "Federer Both Flesh and Not", considered by many to be his nonfiction masterpiece; "The (As it Were) Seminal Importance of Terminator 2", which deftly dissects James Cameron's blockbuster; and "Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young", an examination of television's effect on a new generation of writers.
A sweeping, exhilarating collection of the author's most emotionally immediate work, Both Flesh and Not spans almost 20 years of Wallace's career and reminds us why A.O. Scott called him "The Best Mind of His Generation" (The New York Times).
©2012 David Foster Wallace (P)2012 Hachette Audio
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
I loved and appreciated this book more than the four stars might suggest. I loved the way it was formated. I loved revisiting essays I had read previously in New York TImes, Salon, the Atlantic, BAE 2007. I loved the ability to again be surprised by DFW's wit, charm, inteligence, and in the last couple essays anger. Having recently lost a loved one in a rather dramatic fashion, I was also taken back those ordurous emotions I felt on September 12/13, 2008 when I heard that DFW killed himself. In the middle of this enormous banking/economic collapse, losing DFW (to others) might have seemed small. But almost 4.5 years later my 401(k) has recovered but I have yet to get over DFW killing himself. A tad dramatic? I'm sure. Anyway, back to my review of Both Flesh and Not. Part of what I loved about this series of essays was how the publisher used his definitions and usage notes as paragraph breaks. It was brilliant and insightful and actually VERY intimate.
Both Robert Petkoff and Katherine Kellgren^1 did a fantastic job with narration.
1. It does make me wonder how Katherine will put this on her resume. Does she say she was a narrator for Both Flesh and Not or a footnote narrator? Anyway, the narration worked well and showed how Hachette could have addressed the narration debacle that was Infinite Jest.
This is the first posthumous collection of David Foster Wallace's nonfiction work. It is hard to say whether or not the pieces here are of any value to non-fans of Wallace, but as someone who thoroughly enjoys both his fiction and non-fiction alike, this is a collection most definitely worth the read. The collected pieces were all previously published elsewhere, so there is nothing here that has never been seen before.
The titular piece on Federer is a great one and has been referred to by many as a masterpiece. Tennis has always been a major writing point of Wallace's with the subject featuring prominently in Infinite Jest as well as pieces focusing on the sport in "Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley" in the Supposedly Fun Thing... collection and a review of Tracy Austin's autobiography in Consider the Lobster. As a gifted writer, powerful observer and tennis aficionado (he tinkered around in the junior rankings as a teenager), Wallace make's the sport of tennis, oft not considered a major one in here in the U.S., come to life; adding beauty and grace in a manner that transfers his enthusiasm and understanding to his audience with ease.
Fictive futures may very well seem dated at first glance as it discusses authors and a sense of things from the point of view of 1987 when it was written, but carries with many universal and still true points. Wallace discusses creative writing programs, teachers, students, the role of pop culture and the roll of how said culture and entertainment is delivered. He discusses film and television and fitting true to his nature, poses insightful questions and perceptions about where the culture is and where it is going in various respects made all the more interesting by the fact that it is now a quarter century later and we now have the benefit of hindsight and comparison.
Without doing a piece by piece review, I will simply say that this is a very approachable collection with familiar and understandable topics. I will not say that is collection is easy however, as the thing I enjoy most about Wallace's subjects and style is the challenge of his writing and the topics he writes about. They are often things I would not investigate on my own, but items none the less that are much appreciated and enjoyed through David Foster Wallace's looking glass.
I have nothing to offer anyone except my own confusion.
I wouldn't necessarily have left all of the essays included in the book. It's piecemeal of his material for various magazines over the year and, while insightful and certainly entertaining at spots, it's overall just *ok* and I certainly don't believe Wallace would have chosen these specific essays for a collection of his material (for the most part these essays were available for him to have chosen from previously and he clearly opted not to do so).
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