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Maybe skip David Foster Wallace’s essay collection ‘Both Flesh and Not’


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By David Foster Wallace, $27.

David Foster Wallace died in 2008, but that hasn’t slowed down his writing. The Pale King, The Broom of the System, This Is Water, Everything and More—those books were all published after Wallace hung himself. And now we have Both Flesh and Not, a collection of essays on tennis, writing, words, AIDS, 9/11 and Terminator 2.

At his worst, David Foster Wallace still writes better than 95 percent of all other journalists. I bring this up because, judging by the five essays I read (of 15), Both Flesh showcases Wallace at his worst. In “The (As It Were) Seminal Importance of Terminator 2,” Wallace stupidly argues that “the larger a movie’s budget is, the sh*ttier that movie is going to be.” Remember how Avatar sucked and One for the Money rocked? Yeah, me neither. The 15-year-old essay concludes with a prediction that Titanic will suck. Apparently—and I say this without sarcasm—DFW is sometimes wrong. Going through his other books, I’d just assumed he was an omniscient literary demigod.

If you’re new to DFW’s nonfiction, read A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. And if you’ve already read DFW’s nonfiction, skip Both Flesh. It’ll only bring your opinion of him down.


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