The January 1996 issue of Harper’s Magazine featured an article some pundits describe as potentially the single best essay ever written in the English language. Titled Shipping Out, the piece recounts author David Foster Wallace’s experience aboard a luxury ship during a one-week long Caribbean cruise.
The essay remains one of my all-time favorites. Collected within A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments, you can enjoy the article, renamed as it is within this collection to serve as the title piece.
It turns out you can also read the essay within Back Bay Books’ The David Foster Wallace Reader. If I’d been paying closer attention, I would have known that, but I discovered the DFW Reader thanks to my monitoring the Wallace-l e-mail list, which I’ve, for years, enjoyed perusing in my inbox.
If you’re a fan of literature or DFW, you should subscribe. The list regularly boasts thoughtful, insightful conversation. I’ve learned of many new wonderful books, thanks to the list, which also introduced me to Knausgaard’s My Struggle series.
Maybe a month ago, another Wallace-l member (Phil Dangler) shared a personal story of having rediscovered the cruise essay while reading the DFW Reader collection (purchased from Berkeley’s Pegasus Books) in a Bay-area bar. I really enjoyed his description of the experience. You can read it here.
Incidentally, several other gems populate A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments, including Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All, also published in Harper’s, albeit in 1994, and Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley, which again, appeared in Harper’s, but in 1991. I recommend reading them all.