Let me state right now that the idea of an ocean cruise strikes terror into my heart. The notion of spending a week (7NC) trapped with a bunch of strangers on a ship in the middle of the ocean with no chance of escape...well, I am the one you see leaping overboard!
Reading David Foster Wallace's hilarious account of spending a week (7NightCruise) on board a luxury ship in A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, has only confirmed that there is Belle and there is the Ocean Liner and never the twain shall meet.
It also confirmed my suspicion that there aren't enough anti-motion sickness patches in the world to stave off mal de mer.
Reading Mr. Wallace's take on the enforced fun, the forced feedings seven times a day, and the frolicking of his fellow passengers was in all ways, for me, the best cruise experience. My armchair doesn't move. There are no engines throbbing continuously underneath me. There are no smiling waitresses trying to sell me a six dollar drink (not included in the price of the cruise). There is no glare from the sun and sea so there is no chance of getting sunburned. There are no touristy ports of call - picturesque (the front side of poverty) and full of cheap souvenirs - to negotiate.
Mr. Wallace was sent by Harper's to take this Caribbean cruise and write about his experiences. The piece was published in 1996 under the title "Shipping Out". By his own admission he filled three Mead notebooks with his observations, opinions, fears and phobias, insights, and philosophical musings. He acknowledges that having one's every need and want attended to All The Time only sets up a craving for even more luxurious pampering and faster, better service. We are insatiable spoiled brats.
I have long been of the opinion that we are being entertained to death. We cannot spend one moment in contemplation or silence and spend an inordinate amount of money trying to amuse ourselves.
Our battle cry: "Are we having fun yet?"
ASFTINDA is a long piece that is one of seven essays/reports/arguments in the book of the same name. Mr. Wallace sprinkles 137 footnotes throughout the text that offer explanations and asides. The footnotes are worth reading on their own. Other pieces offer Mr. Wallace's take on subjects such as the 1993 Illinois State Fair, the impact of television on contemporary literature, and tennis and professional athletes.
A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again is a great read and I look forward to diving into other pieces of Mr. Wallace's non-fiction included in this book.