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Review: This Is Water

March 13, 2009


In 2005, David Foster Wallace delivered the commencement address to graduates of Kenyon College.  It’s the only commencement address he ever made.  This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life is the speech he made.  This is a small, pocket sized book that can be read quickly, but should be slowly savored to be fully appreciated.  He reminded the graduates that a liberal arts education is meant to teach us how to think. He said:

“Learning how to think” really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think.  It means being aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.

Fans of David Foster Wallace will want to add this book to their collection.  It would make a wonderful gift for a college graduate.  I read this in one sitting and have found myself picking it up over and over again to re-read passages.

David Foster Wallace received his Bachelor’s degree in English and Philosophy from Amherst College and his Master’s from the University of Arizona.  He received a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” and was the first Roy E. Disney Professor of Creative Writing and Professor of English at Ponoma College.  He struggled with depression for years and committed suicide in 2008.  He death was mourned by many.

This Is Water will be published on April 14, 2009.

Review copy provided by Hachette Books.

25 Comments leave one →
  1. March 13, 2009 7:18 am

    I would love to read this! Looks wonderful! What a great gift for the graduate in your life!

  2. March 13, 2009 7:57 am

    I definitely want to read this . I haven’t read any of his books before (I don’t think), but this sounds really good.

  3. March 13, 2009 8:08 am

    I agree with Nicole and Julie. This sounds like a great book. Love that cover too.

  4. March 13, 2009 8:51 am

    Wow! This sounds super. I like the idea of giving it as a gift to a college graduate.

  5. March 13, 2009 11:52 am

    I love a book that makes me want to keep picking it up to reread passages. Glad you liked it Kathy.

  6. March 13, 2009 12:05 pm

    I’m always looking for graduate gifts since I work at a university and someone I know is always graduating. Nice review. Thanks!

  7. March 13, 2009 1:03 pm

    This is the type of book I would probably not have picked up on my own, but after reading the passage you included I’m extremely curious to read the entire speech. Thanks for the review.

  8. March 13, 2009 1:15 pm

    May his words continue to inspire; he was a talented writer.

  9. March 13, 2009 1:36 pm

    Great review. I always appreciate your reviews.

  10. March 13, 2009 1:37 pm

    I don’t remember reading about him before but I love the quote. I’ll have to see about picking this up for my sister-in-law when she graduates, thanks!

  11. March 13, 2009 1:54 pm

    It is a truly great speech. I didn’t even know it was being published, and I work at Kenyon! Thanks for the news!

  12. stacybuckeye permalink
    March 13, 2009 2:05 pm

    Thanks for the recommendation. I didn’t know that it was being published.

  13. March 13, 2009 3:53 pm

    I’ve passed on an award to you Kathy. I’m terribly behind in my blog reading and posting on my blog this week and hope to catch up soon!

  14. March 13, 2009 4:44 pm

    Kathy, thanks so much for the great review! This is going on my wish list.

  15. March 13, 2009 7:33 pm

    Sounds like a great speech. I can’t remember a thing about the commencement address when I graduated.

  16. March 13, 2009 10:05 pm

    Wonderful review, Kathy! I really would love to read this. This is hitting my list!


  17. March 13, 2009 10:45 pm

    This does sound like something I would enjoy.

  18. March 13, 2009 11:05 pm

    That sounds wonderful. I remember reading about his death and thinking, “Wow, that name sounds familiar,” but I don’t believe I’ve ever read anything he wrote.

  19. March 13, 2009 11:08 pm

    My review is posting tomorrow. I liked it as well.

  20. March 14, 2009 12:11 am

    It’s not often that commencement speeches are that inspirational. This sounds like it would be a good one. Great review!

  21. March 14, 2009 10:39 am

    Looks like a great one to keep in mind when I start looking for graduation gifts. Thanks for the review!

  22. March 15, 2009 8:51 pm

    Nice review, thanks for letting me know about it!

  23. March 17, 2009 2:09 pm

    One of the greatest speeches I have ever read. It has become sort of a touchstone for me.

    Oddly, sort of Buddhism in a nutshell.

  24. Margo permalink
    April 23, 2009 7:37 pm

    For any of those who have not had the luxury of reading this commencement speech, it truly depicts life in the words no one else has seemed to been able to capture. Each day seems to slip by, and in reflection we forget most of what we have seen, heard, and done. Our memories seem to be the same moment repeated over and over again. The cliche of a broken record player seems to apply here. David Wallace shows that one can reflect on the miserable way of people; however, the hardest task is to figure out what to do about it and how to savor every moment of life before it is gone. Wallace had the genius to understand this, and his talent to depict life in the simplest terms should be most awarded.

  25. May 28, 2010 6:30 pm

    I read this book a few months ago and loved it! Nice review.

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