The work under review is a series of essays that conform to the original meaning of the term as a literary “experiment” or “attempt.” The subjects they cover are wildly disparate, ranging from Wallace's teenage experience of being a nationally ranked junior tennis player in his home state of Illinois (the reader will never feel quite the same about the Great Plains after Wallace's explication of the region's weather and geographical complexity) to a riff on late-20th-century television and its relationship to postmodernist literature to the tour de force, an account of a magazine-commissioned “imprisonment” of a week on a luxury cruise liner that sailed out of Fort Lauderdale through the Caribbean. In many ways, he was the penetratingly observant anthropologist, piling up reams of data, replete with exhaustive footnotes. The great Polish anthropologist, Malinowski, with his searingly self-revelatory A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term, comes to mind. Wallace was the ethnographic protagonist trying to make sense out of the “alien” environments he had been sucked into. He bears comparison with Proust, another remarkable participant-observer, who was extremely funny, ironic, and poignant and was basically compassionate concerning the extravagant people he described.