Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Late Microbe Monday -- Shipping Out, or, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again

We're all very into books here, but Microbe Monday is more about the blurb. The article. The short story. The haiku.

So over the weekend, I'll seek out a new literary magazine or open a collection to a random poem or just pick a story I remember from my past and riff on it. Briefly! I don't expect this to turn into a meme, but feel free to gank my little graphic and do it yourself too!

Microbe Monday


his week, in honor of Infinite Summer, I read another well-known David Foster Wallace article, "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again", originally published as "Shipping Out" in Harper's some time in 1996.

In it, Wallace documents his experience on a week-long Caribbean cruise liner with a discerning eye for amusing details and uncomfortable truths. He talks about the unsettling cleanliness, impeccable yet invisible service, strange characters, and cringe-worthy entertainment and how eventually the expectation of perfection borne of a week of doing nothing for himself caused him to fall into a fit of despair at going back to normal life.

The article is especially amusing if you've ever actually been on a Caribbean cruise. I have, and my experience was much like Wallace's: I felt uncomfortable with the amount of attention I was paid by invisible foreign service professionals, alienated from my fellow passengers (none of whom came from my demographic), derisive of the lame entertainment and organized fun, and overall wretching at the classless classy with which the whole experience dripped. In turn, I spent a lot of the trip holed up in my cabin with Zadie Smith and the at-sea TV stations.

Anyway, the article is both observant and hilarious, in Wallace's signature style (look out for footnotes). Here's a link to the .pdf format of the original through the Harper's website.

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