Review: David Foster Wallace’s ‘This Is Water’

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 by David Foster Wallace

My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
I feel like an exception to the rule in that this is actually the first of DFW’s ‘works’ that I ever read, and what spurred me on to the reading of his books.

Re-reading it in this new ‘book’, it’s even more haunting than that initial read was. Being more familiar with David Foster Wallace through his other writing as well as reading / watching various interviews allows me I feel to say just how much of him comes out in this commencement speech. I think he both hints and expounds on various parts of his genuine self, from what allowed him to drive in some days as well as what broke him down on others, and I won’t even touch on the various (now haunting) references to suicide.

I think what he has to say about education as well as empathy are simple yet brutally honest, and I’m not sure there’s any better advice that could be offered to new graduates (or anyone, really, for what matter) than what he imparts.

“This is water.” The simplicity is what it makes it so hard to grasp for any length of time. Beautiful, honest, brilliant, a bit broken…so very much DFW is almost hurts to read at times.

I know some people have qualms with the format; I have to say personally it didn’t bother me that much, except for a couple of times where only ‘And so on.” is repeated on a few pages and could have been held on the opposing page, etc. While probably doomed / somewhat targeted for the yearly ‘For Graduates!’ book pile at your local chain book barn, I think Wallace’s unique approach in this commencement speech will allow a special place for this work for many years to come.

I don’t care that it’s freely available online. It’s worth the money. It’s a beautiful, clean little book with a lot of incredible things to say.

View all my reviews.

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