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Shipping Out: On the (Nearly Lethal) Comforts of a Luxury Cruise

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Also collected in A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again and originally published in Harper's, this is another travelogue turned existential rumination that shows unabashedly and hilariously the horrors of society (this time via a cruise ship) and really says more about the author himself.


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Also collected in A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again and originally published in Harper's, this is another travelogue turned existential rumination that shows unabashedly and hilariously the horrors of society (this time via a cruise ship) and really says more about the author himself.

43 review for Shipping Out: On the (Nearly Lethal) Comforts of a Luxury Cruise

  1. 5 out of 5

    John Caulfield

    I read this book at the suggestion of a friend I met on, ironically enough, on a cruise. I’d greatly suggest it to anyone who recently disembarked a cruise, or is trying to make sense of their experience. His rant regarding the psychological syndrome of WANT (unceasing and increasing desire for self-indulgence) is worth the price of admission. Reading DFW continues to be heartbreaking yet rewarding endeavor. For a man who has such a beat on the human condition, it hurts to watch him continuously I read this book at the suggestion of a friend I met on, ironically enough, on a cruise. I’d greatly suggest it to anyone who recently disembarked a cruise, or is trying to make sense of their experience. His rant regarding the psychological syndrome of WANT (unceasing and increasing desire for self-indulgence) is worth the price of admission. Reading DFW continues to be heartbreaking yet rewarding endeavor. For a man who has such a beat on the human condition, it hurts to watch him continuously miss the forest for the woods. This happens every time I read him. I am left on the verge of tears over his ability to notice everything, and yet [to him] nothing seem ultimately worth his noticing. He reminds me of this Lewis quote I’ve always loved: “You cannot go on 'seeing through' things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to 'see through' first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To 'see through' all things is the same as not to see.”

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lucas Clarke

    There is something inescapably bovine about a herd of American tourists in motion, a certain greedy placidity, I feel guilty by perceived association. I've barely been out of the U.S.A. before, and never as part of a high-income herd, and in port-even up here above it all on Deck 12, watching-I'm newly and unpleasantly conscious of being an American, the same way I'm always suddenly conscious of being white every time I'm around a lot of non-white people. I cannot help imagining us as we appear There is something inescapably bovine about a herd of American tourists in motion, a certain greedy placidity, I feel guilty by perceived association. I've barely been out of the U.S.A. before, and never as part of a high-income herd, and in port-even up here above it all on Deck 12, watching-I'm newly and unpleasantly conscious of being an American, the same way I'm always suddenly conscious of being white every time I'm around a lot of non-white people. I cannot help imagining us as we appear to them, the bored Jamaicans and Mexicans, or especially to the non-Aryan and hard-driven crew of the Nadir, All week I've found myself doing everything I can to distance myself in the crew's eyes from the bovine herd I'm part of: I eschew cameras and sunglasses and pastel Caribbeanwear; I make a big deal of carrying my own luggage and my own cafeteria tray and am effusive in my thanks for the slightest service. Since so many of my shipmates shout, I make it a point of special pride to speak extra-quietly to crewmen whose English is poor. But, of course, part of the overall despair of this Luxury Cruise is that whatever I do I cannot escape my own essential and newly unpleasant Americanness. Whether up here or down there, I am an American tourist, and am thus ex officio large, fleshy, red, loud, coarse, condescending, self-absorbed, spoiled, appearance-conscious, greedy, ashamed, and despairing. DFW has a certain charm in his ability to be an absolute nerd. You get the sense that he's nerdy in the same way that someone who genuinely loves Star Trek is nerdy. Somehow earnest and honest about his nerdiness, albeit a tad more introspective. He's a human birdwatcher or something of the sort. Wallace has a way of turning his writing into a set of musings rather than observations, a stylistic trait that keeps this from ever becoming too heavy for you to bear. In a sense, he pampers you with the simplicity that this naked honesty brings. Learned as the writing may be, it carries you through the spectacle(s) in a way that I only wish I could emulate. The most notable thing about this essay is that every word of it is spot on. To the letter. His only errors were missing that Pre-Cruise pictures will be sold to you almost immediately into the cruise in their own gift shop rather than after the fact (perhaps not so in 1996?) and that the room is designed to keep you away from it as much as possible, agoraphobic or no. I don't think any paragraph has isolated the sensation of being alien to and alienated by your own cultural superiority as well as the above one has. Cruise ships are the perfected formula of hedonistic intake, and he captures just about every single characteristic of cruising that should be captured in a critical essay that can't escape the bewilderment of such excess. Anyone who thinks that they can declaratively critique The Cruise is just frightened by it and succumbs to their fears. It is more powerful than you and will always be more powerful than you. You may feel that you are above those who consume The Cruise, but where does that really leave you at the end of the day?

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ryan McCarthy

    Truly, existentially horrifying stuff.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary

    In case anyone still needs to be put off luxury cruises after the disasters of this spring, I'd recommend this long essay by David Foster Wallace.

  5. 5 out of 5

    JPEREZH

    Hay algo insoportablemente triste a bordo de un crucero de lujo

  6. 5 out of 5

    Margit Meius

  7. 4 out of 5

    JimZ

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rin

  9. 4 out of 5

    Caley

  10. 5 out of 5

    Peter Crown

  11. 5 out of 5

    Qukatheg

  12. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  13. 5 out of 5

    Anastassia Oudovitchenko

  14. 4 out of 5

    Gladys

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mimi Liu

  16. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne Ryvers

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly Dawn

  18. 5 out of 5

    Gleb

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mandy Mahdavi

  20. 5 out of 5

    Harrison Wang

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kiara

  22. 4 out of 5

    Callum

  23. 4 out of 5

    M

  24. 5 out of 5

    jennet wheatstonelllsl Proc

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  26. 5 out of 5

    Griffin Wilson

  27. 5 out of 5

    Maki

  28. 5 out of 5

    Gareth

  29. 5 out of 5

    Casey Jewell

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Friesen

  31. 4 out of 5

    Mike Williams

  32. 5 out of 5

    Car Roll

  33. 4 out of 5

    Celia Sweet Guillard

  34. 4 out of 5

    Evelyn Jackson

  35. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Shepard

  36. 4 out of 5

    Seven Negen

  37. 5 out of 5

    Robert Glover

  38. 4 out of 5

    Lori Carlile

  39. 4 out of 5

    Marissa

  40. 4 out of 5

    Johan

  41. 4 out of 5

    Nina Emamifar

  42. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly Smart

  43. 5 out of 5

    Maria Thompson

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