A Supposedly Fun Thing Essay Summary Writing

“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, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments


A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments by David Foster Wallace.

This book is a collection of essays by David Foster Wallace written between 1992 and 1996. These essays cover a wide range of topics from tennis to film and literature and even a luxury cruise in the lengthy titular essay.

The first essay details Wallace's career as a junior tennis player. Wallace explains that he was a very good tennis player when he was young because he could take advantage of the geometry of the court and the strange irregularities of playing in Illinois. Wallace plays well by simply returning his opponent's volleys until the opponent makes a mistake or has an emotional breakdown on the court. Wallace finds this method of play successful until his opponents develop much faster than him physically and are able to simply overpower him.

The second essay is a criticism of contemporary television and postmodern fiction. Wallace believes that television is not inherently bad, but people watch it too much, and it is too self-referential. Wallace relates television self-referential quality to the meta-fiction on the 1960s. Wallace argues that television relies heavily on an irony that forces viewers to watch continuously so they can always be in on the joke instead of the butt of it. It is nearly impossible to attack this irony because it can simply insult the attacker. Wallace thinks that the only way to unseat this irony is for artists to be willing to risk authentic feelings.

In the third essay, Wallace is commissioned to attend the Illinois State Fair and write about the experience. Wallace argues that people in rural areas like Illinois take vacations to be with other people while people in cities vacation to get away from people. Thus the fair is about the state as a kind of large community. However, Wallace discovers that the fair itself is divided into different sorts of communities such as the as the agriculture professionals and people who come for the carnival rides. Wallace further argues that ultimately the fair is all about food at some level or another, which is fitting for Illinois as its economy is based around agriculture.

In the fourth essay, Wallace discusses the literary criticism of H. L. Hix, who tries to save the notion of the author from poststructuralist critics.

The fifth essay previews David Lynch's new film "Lost Highway" and contextualizes it with Lynch's other work. Wallace summarizes "Lost Highway's" convoluted plot and describes the few scenes he saw being filmed. Wallace explains that what makes a work "Lynchian" is the constant presence of the macabre in the mundane. Wallace argues that Lynch's films are so emotionally effective because they implicate the audience in the evil that they witness on screen.

The sixth essay is a biographical piece on professional tennis player Michael Joyce. Wallace goes to watch Joyce at the Canadian Open and is overwhelmed by how much better all the professionals are than he had imagined. Joyce himself plays a "power-baseline" style of tennis in the tradition of Andre Agassi. Wallace argues that like many other professional athletes, Joyce has forsaken all other paths in life to play a game that he loves. In many ways that choice was made long ago and it may have never been Joyce's choice at all.

The last essay details Wallace's experience on a seven day luxury Caribbean cruise. Although the cruise is meant to be a form of relaxation, Wallace discovers that it fills him with despair. Wallace analogizes the pampering given to cruise passengers to the care given by a mother to her infant, so in many ways a cruise is a way for adults to revert to the status of children. Wallace also quickly grows accustomed to the level of luxury of the ship and finds that he only desires more because there is no way to satisfy the childish impulse to want everything. Wallace concludes that people go on cruises but do not feel that they deserve such treatment and so in some way resent the people who give it to them.

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