Consider the Tennis Player

David Foster “Consider the Lobster” Wallace has a typically thoughtful, discursive, and quirky piece in the NY Times’ excellent Play Magazine this weekend on the physics and metaphysics of tennis player Roger Federer. (Foster Wallace used to be a competitive college tennis player, and knows whereof he writes on this subject.)


  1. Coincidentally, I’m about 800 pages into Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest” — which means I only have another 200 or so to go :-)

  2. I struggle like crazy with DFW’s fiction, and generally enjoy his non-fiction. Matter of fact, his entire fiction oeuvre — Broom of the System; and Infinite Jest — remains in my incomplete stack.
    Mind you, I did enjoy a few of the short stories in DFW’s Girl with Curious Hair, so I have finished and liked some of his fiction. I just find his discursive, polymath-run-amok style exhausting in long fiction, where it’s much more fun in non-fiction.
    As synchronicity would have it, my two favorite DFW essays came out precisely a decade ago: “The String Theory”. Esquire. July, 1996; and “Shipping Out: On the (Nearly Lethal) Comforts of a Luxury Cruise”. Harper’s Magazine. January 1996.
    The former is also about tennis, while the latter is a wonderfully muscular bit of prose, with some of the best stuff Wallace has written. For example, there is a passage describing the Caribbean sunlight as being “exfoliating”, a metaphor that I have gleefully ripped from DFW a number of times. It also has a section about cruise ship toilets that still makes me nervous every time I enter an airline lavatory.

  3. I would definitely have to agree with the discursive, polymath part. I compared his writing style recently to a really good prog-rock band like Yes or Pink Floyd — excellent technique and amazing proficiency with the instruments and so forth, but also really loooooong guitar solos and songs that take half an hour. I think a teacher may have written “show your work” on one of Dave’s assignments at school, and he started applying it to everything.