In my 20 years alive I have been on, at least, 4 different cruise lines and 12 different cruise ships. I have never found something that explains the way a cruise ship feels better than the way David Wallace recounts his time aboard the Nadir. I found the way he compares a cruise, a vacation mode that much fewer people experience than the beach traveling to a different country, to feelings that nearly every person can associate with was a genius way to enable his readers to connect with his own feelings even though they might not have experienced themselves.
“A vacation is a respite from unpleasantness, and since consciousness of death and decay are unpleasant, it may seem weird that the ultimate American fantasy vacation involves being plunked down in an enormous primordial stew of death and decay.” (36)
In this quote, Wallace is comparing how he felt aboard to the feeling of vacations in general and the feeling of the ocean in general. Almost everyone knows how much they want their vacation to go perfectly and to have the most relaxing time because it is one’s time to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but as he states thinking about death and decay would not be the most relaxing time. While not everyone would associate the ocean with death and decay as he does, it is quite common for people to be afraid of ships in open waters (due to the sheer number of boating incidents and the dramatization of the Titanic in 1997 and now when people reference their disdain for boats in open waters they typically reference the Titanic film and not the actual sinking). This skillful comparison makes it much easier for the readers who have been on vacation and who have an opinion on the ocean to make the association he does; it is as if he is giving the foundational framework for his own perceptions so that the readers can rationalize the same way he rationalizes.
Another aspect I find that Wallace effortlessly employs is his, at times crass, humor that provides a very open feeling for readers. This open feeling, to me, drew me in closer and made me more excited to continue reading because his writing style, from metaphors to tone, created a diluted fear of missing out within me that made me want to read and not feel like it was a chore. I say this because many academic writings are filled with jargon and complexities that make reading them difficult and unenjoyable. I believe Wallace understood this as he was an English professor, and even noted something similar early on in this article, so he crafted this in a way that would instill the want to learn (or in this case the want to read). There are numerous jokes and anecdotal stories present throughout this piece, but these are even extended to the footnotes which only emphasize his topics within the main article.
“My sense was that Cheeriness was up there with Celerity and Servility on the clipboard evaluation sheets the Greek bosses were constantly filling out on the crew.”
This comical quote can be found within the 8th footnote on page 37 and exemplifies part of his writing style. While this refers to the satirical tone he has about the ways in which Celebrity Cruises posits the feelings the crew has, it pushes it further to make it clear to see the irony between what is in reality and what is constructed by the cruise line for their “fantasy-enablement”. I think Wallace uses this satirical connotation because of how insane it seems to him that passengers aboard truly do believe the advertisements and the feelings the cruise sells. His shock and awe are seemingly translated to his readers through this method and, in my opinion, brilliantly executed.
There are too many quotes for me to talk about that I enjoyed. There are too many areas for me to praise him within his writing, though personally I feel like labeling this as a “writing” does not do it justice. The way he unpacked his time onboard the Nadir changes this article into a story because the way he constructed it was through storytelling. His use of rhetoric is a way that I hope to achieve one day and I will be reading more of his work on my own; in all honesty, from this one article I think he may have surpassed Albert Camus as my favorite writer… but only time shall tell.