A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

by David Foster Wallace
Project by Elizabeth Greenwood
Partnered with Kevin Le

“Wallace’s novella-length essay takes place on a cruise ship and is structured like parentheses within parentheses: small observations trigger larger facts about the human condition; like Russian dolls, they are all nestled within each other and are contained between heavy concrete brackets, which represent the m.v. Nadir and his Harper’s assignment. The floors inside these brackets are made of glass to represent the clarity and truth Wallace encounters during his time at sea, and the curved parenthetical cuts made into them allow light to filter between the floors, illuminating invisible links and connecting seemingly disparate themes and digressions. The structure is penetrated by an elevator shaft, which is an explosion of creativity and continuity representing the author himself, who cannot be contained even within the clearest of glass, and who stubbornly refuses to be subdued even in the ostensibly lightest of occasions, like a vacation on the high seas.”

Columbia University