This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life

This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life

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by David Foster Wallace
     
 

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Only once did David Foster Wallace give a public talk on his views on life, during a commencement address given in 2005 at Kenyon College. The speech is reprinted for the first time in book form in THIS IS WATER. How does one keep from going through their comfortable, prosperous adult life unconsciously? How do we get ourselves out of the foreground of our thoughts

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Overview

Only once did David Foster Wallace give a public talk on his views on life, during a commencement address given in 2005 at Kenyon College. The speech is reprinted for the first time in book form in THIS IS WATER. How does one keep from going through their comfortable, prosperous adult life unconsciously? How do we get ourselves out of the foreground of our thoughts and achieve compassion? The speech captures Wallace's electric intellect as well as his grace in attention to others. After his death, it became a treasured piece of writing reprinted in The Wall Street Journal and the London Times, commented on endlessly in blogs, and emailed from friend to friend.

Writing with his one-of-a-kind blend of causal humor, exacting intellect, and practical philosophy, David Foster Wallace probes the challenges of daily living and offers advice that renews us with every reading.

Editorial Reviews

Alicia J. Rouverol
We read Wallace because he forces us to think. He makes us consider what's beneath us and around us—like water.
The Christian Science Monitor
Tom Bissel
None of the cloudlessly sane and true things he had to say about life in 2005 are any less sane or true today...[This is Water] reminds us of [Wallace's] strength and goodness and decency—the parts of him the terrible master [the mind] could never defeat, and never will.
New York Times Book Review
Mark Follman
Striking...is [Wallace's] evocative insight and humor.
Mother Jones
Alicia J. Rouverol - The Christian Science Monitor
"We read Wallace because he forces us to think. He makes us consider what's beneath us and around us--like water."
Tom Bissel - New York Times Book Review
"None of the cloudlessly sane and true things he had to say about life in 2005 are any less sane or true today...[This is Water] reminds us of [Wallace's] strength and goodness and decency--the parts of him the terrible master [the mind] could never defeat, and never will."
Mark Follman - Mother Jones
"Striking...is [Wallace's] evocative insight and humor."
From the Publisher
"David Foster Wallace's unbelievable graduation speech...will inspire you."—Daily Candy"

We read Wallace because he forces us to think. He makes us consider what's beneath us and around us—like water."—Alicia J. Rouverol, The Christian Science Monitor"

Think of it as The Last Lecture for intellectuals."—Time"

None of the cloudlessly sane and true things he had to say about life in 2005 are any less sane or true today...[This is Water] reminds us of [Wallace's] strength and goodness and decency—the parts of him the terrible master [the mind] could never defeat, and never will."—Tom Bissel, New York Times Book Review"

Striking...is [Wallace's] evocative insight and humor."—Mark Follman, Mother Jones

Time
"Think of it as The Last Lecture for intellectuals."
Daily Candy
"David Foster Wallace's unbelievable graduation speech...will inspire you."
"There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, 'Morning, boys. How's the water?' And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, 'What the hell is water?' " After you finish reading David Foster Wallace's 2005 Kenyon College commencement speech, you too will feel awash in new experiences. This speech, Wallace's most direct personal statement before his death in 2008, has circulated on the Net in various forms since the day of its presentation.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316068222
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
04/14/2009
Pages:
144
Sales rank:
55,354
Product dimensions:
4.70(w) x 6.70(h) x 0.90(d)

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What People are saying about this

Tom Bissel
None of the cloudlessly sane and true things he had to say about life in 2005 are any less sane or true today...[This is Water] reminds us of [Wallace's] strength and goodness and decency—the parts of him the terrible master [the mind] could never defeat, and never will.
— New York Times Book Review
Alicia J. Rouverol
We read Wallace because he forces us to think. He makes us consider what's beneath us and around us—like water.
— The Christian Science Monitor
Mark Follman
Striking...is [Wallace's] evocative insight and humor.
— Mother Jones

Meet the Author

David Foster Wallace was born in Ithaca, New York, in 1962 and raised in Illinois, where he was a regionally ranked junior tennis player. He received bachelor of arts degrees in philosophy and English from Amherst College and wrote what would become his first novel, The Broom of the System, as his senior English thesis. He received a masters of fine arts from University of Arizona in 1987 and briefly pursued graduate work in philosophy at Harvard University. His second novel, Infinite Jest, was published in 1996. Wallace taught creative writing at Emerson College, Illinois State University, and Pomona College, and published the story collections Girl with Curious Hair, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, Oblivion, the essay collections A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, and Consider the Lobster. He was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Award, and a Whiting Writers' Award, and was appointed to the Usage Panel for The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. He died in 2008. His last novel, The Pale King, was published in 2011.

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Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
February 21, 1962
Date of Death:
September 12, 2008
Place of Birth:
Ithaca, NY
Place of Death:
Claremont, CA
Education:
B.A. in English & Philosophy, Amherst College, 1985;MFA, University of Arizona, 1987

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This Is Water 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
John_Frusciante13 More than 1 year ago
DFW is one of my favorite writers, but this book is really a waste of money. The layout is one sentence per page so they can justify putting a speech into book form in order to capitalize just a little bit more on his death. Unfortunately this plan worked on me, so please don't let it work on you. Seriously, don't waste your money on this "book." They may as well have just dressed this up as some inspirational page-a-day book that you can open up every morning and take one quote from. Then we could've spent a day living our lives by "Or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning." The only difference is you can't hide how ridiculous, unnecessary, and financially motivated a DFW daily book of inspirational quotes is. With this book, they're able to dress up their motivations with a minimalist book cover.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best things I have ever read. Someone complained that there is only one sentence per page (true) and that it makes it look as though it is supposed to be read a page a day (not as I read it). This was a commencement speech. People tend to speak a sentence at a time when they are giving a prepared speech. To me, having one sentence per page helps re-create the tempo of the speech. It also works well on the page because it is a small book (6 3/4" x 4 3/4").
DaB1959 More than 1 year ago
Oh to have been a graduate of Kenyon College when David Foster Wallace gave this speech! I wish mine had been as compelling. If ever I were to give a commencement address I hope it would be as hip, intelligent, funny and thoughtful as this. Well worth reading and giving as a gift to college graduates.
WHOISJG More than 1 year ago
I found this essay so resonating that I sent the online article to practically everyone I knew. To those middle aged denizens who remember their life when if felt real, to those youth who live in the now and vow never to change, this book will speak to them. In addition to graduation cash I plan to give this to young people I know who graduate from high school or college. I am so pleased that DFW's words were given the honor of being bound in a book; they are too weighty just to remain electronic or on fading newsprint. When after a harrowing day or a soul-sucking encounter I read this and it helps me to find my center, again. Yeah you can find this elsewhere and I am not big on paying for what is out there for free, but this, in a book, gives heft, gives importance and so David Foster Wallace is and also his words.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amy_Neftzger More than 1 year ago
David Foster Wallace's "This is Water" is a transcript of a speech the author gave to Kenyon College in 2005. You can probably find this speech online and hear the same information contained in this book for free, but I'm naturally a reader and enjoy reading the printed word. I get more out of the content when I read instead of listen. One of the things I liked best about this book is the way that the prose was broken up into brief segments on each page so that I could digest it piece by piece. The whole book can be read in about an hour, but the short passages on each page help with the pacing so that each line is taken in more thoughtfully. The main theme of the message is that we often miss seeing the things that are right in front of us, the things that are obvious. The author makes the point beautifully be starting off with a story and then he fills in the details. This is a short but excellent work.
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I am a deep thinker but I have ADD when it comes to reading. This book was originally supposed to be a gift for a friend who had just graduated from college but I had to sneak a peak. Once I opened it up I couldn't stop reading. That rarely happens to me. Very moving. Very honest. Very good.
valia More than 1 year ago
a really nice, little book. a lesson about life from a great writer.