Consider the Lobster: And Other Essays

Consider the Lobster: And Other Essays

by David Foster Wallace


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Do lobsters feel pain? Did Franz Kafka have a funny bone? What is John Updike's deal, anyway? And what happens when adult-video starlets meet their fans in person? David Foster Wallace answers these questions and more in essays that are enthralling narrative adventures. Whether covering the three-ring circus of a vicious presidential race, plunging into the wars between dictionary writers, or confronting the World's Largest Lobster Cooker, Wallace projects a quality of thought that is uniquely his and a voice as powerful and distinct as any in American letters.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316013321
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 07/02/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 50,011
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)

About 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.

Date of Birth:

February 21, 1962

Date of Death:

September 12, 2008

Place of Birth:

Ithaca, NY

Place of Death:

Claremont, CA


B.A. in English & Philosophy, Amherst College, 1985;MFA, University of Arizona, 1987

Read an Excerpt

Consider the Lobster

By David Foster Wallace

Little, Brown

Copyright © 2006 David Foster Wallace
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-316-15611-6

Chapter One


THE AMERICAN ACADEMY of Emergency Medicine confirms it: Each year, between one and two dozen adult US males are admitted to ERs after having castrated themselves. With kitchen tools, usually, sometimes wire cutters. In answer to the obvious question, surviving patients most often report that their sexual urges had become a source of intolerable conflict and anxiety. The desire for perfect release and the real-world impossibility of perfect, whenever-you-want-it release had together produced a tension they could no longer stand.

It is to the 30+ testosteronically afflicted males whose cases have been documented in the past two years that your correspondents wish to dedicate this article. And to those tormented souls considering autocastration in 1998, we wish to say: "Stop! Stay your hand! Hold off with those kitchen utensils and/or wire cutters!" Because we believe we may have found an alternative.

Every spring, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents awards for outstanding achievement in all aspects of mainstream cinema. These are the Academy Awards. Mainstream cinema is a major industry in the United States, and so are the Academy Awards. The AAs' notorious commercialism and hypocrisy disgust many of the millions and millions and millions of viewers who tune in during prime time to watch the presentations. It is not a coincidence that the Oscars ceremony is held during TV's Sweeps Week. We pretty much all tune in, despite the grotesquerie of watching an industry congratulate itself on its pretense that it's still an art form, of hearing people in $5,000 gowns invoke lush clichés of surprise and humility scripted by publicists, etc.-the whole cynical postmodern deal-but we all still seem to watch. To care. Even though the hypocrisy hurts, even though opening grosses and marketing strategies are now bigger news than the movies themselves, even though Cannes and Sundance have become nothing more than enterprise zones. But the truth is that there's no more real joy about it all anymore. Worse, there seems to be this enormous unspoken conspiracy where we all pretend that there's still joy. That we think it's funny when Bob Dole does a Visa ad and Gorbachev shills for Pizza Hut. That the whole mainstream celebrity culture is rushing to cash in and all the while congratulating itself on pretending not to cash in. Underneath it all, though, we know the whole thing sucks.

Your correspondents humbly offer an alternative.

Every January, the least pretentious city in America hosts the Annual AVN Awards. The AVN stands for Adult Video News, which is sort of the Variety of the US porn industry. This thick, beautifully designed magazine costs $7.95 per issue, is about 80 percent ads, and is clearly targeted at adult-video retailers. Its circulation is appr. 40,000.

Though the sub-line vagaries of entertainment accounting are legendary, it is universally acknowledged that the US adult-film industry, at $3.5-4 billion in annual sales, rentals, cable charges, and video-masturbation-booth revenues, is an even larger and more efficient moneymaking machine than legitimate mainstream American cinema (the latter's annual gross commonly estimated at $2-2.5 billion). The US adult industry is centered in LA's San Fernando Valley, just over the mountains from Hollywood. Some insiders like to refer to the adult industry as Hollywood's Evil Twin, others as the mainstream's Big Red Son.

It is no accident that Adult Video News-a slick, expensive periodical whose articles are really more like infomercials-and its yearly Awards both came into being in 1982. The early '80s, after all, saw the genesis of VCRs and home-video rentals, which have done for the adult industry pretty much what TV did for pro football.

From the 12/11/97 press release issued by AVN:

* The nominations for the 15th Annual AVN Awards were announced today. This year's awards show, commemorating AVN's 15th anniversary, celebrates "History". [sic]

* Awards will be presented in a record 106 categories over a two night period.

* The adult industry released nearly 8,000 adult releases [sic] in 1997, including over 4,000 "new" releases (non-compilation). AVN reviewed every new release in every category [sic] this past year, logging over 30,000 sex scenes.

* By comparison, last year there were approximately 375 films eligible for the Academy Awards that these voters [sic-meaning different voters from the AVN voters, presumably] were required to see. AVN had to watch more than 10 times the amount of releases in order to develop these nominations [usage and repetition sic, though 4,000 divided by 375 is indeed over 10].

From the acceptance speech of Mr. Tom Byron, Saturday, 10 January 1998, Caesars Forum ballroom, Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino complex, Las Vegas NV, upon winning AVN's 1998 Male Performer of the Year Award (and with no little feeling): "I want to thank every beautiful woman I ever put my cock inside." [Laughter, cheers, ovation.]

From the acceptance speech of Ms. Jeanna Fine, ibid., upon winning AVN's 1998 Best Supporting Actress Award for her role in Rob Black's Miscreants: "Jesus, which one is this for, Miscreants? Jesus, that's another one where I read the script and said 'Oh shit, I am going to go to hell. [Laughter, cheers.] But that's okay, 'cause all my friends'll be there too!" [Huge wave of laughter, cheers, applause.]

From the inter-Award banter of Mr. Bobby Slayton, professional comedian and master of ceremonies for the 1997 AVNAs: "I know I'm looking good, though, like younger, 'cause I started using this special Grecian Formula-every time I find a gray hair, I fuck my wife in the ass. [No laughter, scattered groans.] Fuck you. That's a great joke. Fuck you."

Bobby Slayton, a gravelly-voiced Dice Clay knockoff who kept introducing every female performer as "the woman I'm going to cut my dick off for," and who astounded all the marginal print journalists in attendance with both his unfunniness and his resemblance to every apartment-complex coke dealer we'd ever met, is mercifully absent from the 1998 Awards gala. The '98 emcee is one Robert Schimmel, alumnus of In Living Color and a Howard Stern regular. Schimmel looks like a depraved, deeply tan Wallace Shawn and is no less coarse than B. Slayton but a lot better. He does a pantomime of someone attempting intercourse with a Love Doll he's been too lazy to blow up all the way. He contrasts the woeful paucity of his own ejaculate with the concussive orgasms of certain well-known male performers, comparing these men's ejaculations to automatic lawn sprinklers and doing an eerie sonic impression of same. All of 1998's marginal print journalists are together at Table 189 at the very back of the ballroom. Most of these reporters are from the sorts of men's magazines that sit shrinkwrapped behind the cash registers of convenience stores, and they are a worldly and jaded crew indeed, but Schimmel gets a couple of them-whose noms de guerre are Harold Hecuba and Dick Filth-laughing so uproariously that people at the Anabolic Video table nearby keep looking over in annoyance. At one point during a routine on premature ejaculation, Dick Filth actually chokes on a California roll.

... But all this is Saturday night, the main event. And there are a whole lot of festivities preceding Saturday's climax.

The adult industry is vulgar. Would anyone disagree? One of the AVN Awards' categories is "Best Anal Themed Feature"; another is "Best Overall Marketing Campaign-Company Image." Irresistible, a 1983 winner in several categories, has been spelled Irresistable in Adult Video News for fifteen straight years. The industry's not only vulgar, it's predictably vulgar. All the clichés are true. The typical porn producer really is the ugly little man with a bad toupee and a pinkie-ring the size of a Rolaids. The typical porn director really is the guy who uses the word class as a noun to mean refinement. The typical porn starlet really is the lady in Lycra eveningwear with tattoos all down her arms who's both smoking and chewing gum while telling journalists how grateful she is to Wadcutter Productions Ltd. for footing her breast-enlargement bill. And meaning it. The whole AVN Awards weekend comprises what Mr. Dick Filth calls an Irony-Free Zone.

But of course we should keep in mind that vulgar has many dictionary definitions and that only a couple of these have to do w/ lewdness or bad taste. At root, vulgar just means popular on a mass scale. It is the semantic opposite of pretentious or snobby. It is humility with a comb-over. It is Nielsen ratings and Barnum's axiom and the real bottom line. It is big, big business.

Thirty-four-year-old porn actor Cal Jammer killed himself in 1995. Starlets Shauna Grant, Nancy Kelly, Alex Jordan, and Savannah have all killed themselves in the last decade. Savannah and Jordan received AVN's Best New Starlet awards in 1991 and 1992, respectively. Savannah killed herself after getting mildly disfigured in a car accident. Alex Jordan is famous for having addressed her suicide note to her pet bird. Crewman and performer Israel Gonzalez killed himself at a porn company warehouse in 1997.

An LA-based support group called PAW (=Protecting Adult Welfare) runs a 24-hour crisis line for people in the adult industry. A fundraiser for PAW was held at a Mission Hills CA bowling alley last November. It was a nude bowling tournament. Dozens of starlets agreed to take part. Two or three hundred adult-video fans showed up and paid to watch them bowl naked. No production companies or their executives participated or gave money. The fundraiser took in $6,000, which is slightly less than two one-millionths of porn's yearly gross.

As you know if you've seen Casino, Showgirls, Bugsy, etc., there are really three Las Vegases. Binion's, where the World Series of Poker is always played, exemplifies the "Old Vegas," centered around Fremont Street. Las Vegas's future is even now under late-stage construction at the very end of the Strip, on the outskirts of town (where US malls always go up); it's to be a bunch of theme-parkish, more "family-oriented" venues of the kind that De Niro describes so plangently at the end of Casino.

But Las Vegas as most of us see it, Vegas qua Vegas, comprises the dozen or so hotels that flank the Strip's middle. Vegas Populi: the opulent, intricate, garish, ecstatically decadent hotels, cathedra to gambling, partying, and live entertainment of the most microphone- swinging sort. The Sands. The Sahara. The Stardust. MGM Grand, Maxim. All within a small radius. Yearly utility expenditures on neon well into seven figures. Harrah's, Casino Royale (with its big 24-hour Denny's attached), Flamingo Hilton, Imperial Palace. The Mirage, with its huge laddered waterfall always lit up. Circus Circus. Treasure Island, with its intricate facade of decks and rigging and mizzens and vang. The Luxor, shaped like a ziggurat from Babylon of yore. Barbary Coast, whose sign out front says CASH YOUR PAYCHECK-WIN UP TO $25,000. These hotels are the Vegas we know. The land of Lola and Wayne. Of Siegfried and Roy, Copperfield. Showgirls in towering headdress. Sinatra's sandbox. Most of them built in the '50s and '60s, the era of mob chic and entertainment-cum-industry. Half-hour lines for taxis. Smoking not just allowed but encouraged. Toupees and convention nametags and women in furs of all hue. A museum that features the World's Biggest Coke Bottle. The Harley-Davidson Cafe, with its tympanum of huge protruding hawg; Bally's H&C, with its row of phallic pillars all electrified and blinking in grand mal sync. A city that pretends to be nothing but what it is, an enormous machine of exchange-of spectacle for money, of sensation for money, of money for more money, of pleasure for whatever be tomorrow's abstract cost.

Nor let us forget Vegas's synecdoche and beating heart. It's kittycorner from Bally's: Caesars Palace. The granddaddy. As big as 20 Wal-Marts end to end. Real marble and fake marble, carpeting you can pass out on without contusion, 130,000 square feet of casino alone. Domed ceilings, clerestories, barrel vaults. In Caesars Palace is America conceived as a new kind of Rome: conqueror of its own people. An empire of Self. It's breathtaking. The winter's light rain makes all the neon bleed. The whole thing is almost too pretty to stand. There could be no site but Las Vegas's Caesars for modern porn's Awards show-here, the AAVNAs are one more spectacle. Way more tourists and conventioneers recognize the starlets than you'd expect. Double-takes all over the hotel. Even just standing around or putting coins in a slot machine, the performers become a prime attraction. Las Vegas doesn't miss a trick.

The Annual AVN Awards are always scheduled to coincide with the International Consumer Electronics Show (a.k.a. CES), which this year runs from 8 through 11 January. The CES is a very big deal. It's like a combination convention and talent show for the best and brightest in the world of consumer tech. Steve Forbes is here, and DSS's Thomson. Sun Microsystems is using this year's CES to launch its PersonalJava 1.0. Bill Gates gives a packed-house speech on Saturday morning. Major players from TV, cable, and merchandising host a panel on the short-term viability of HDTV. A forum on the problem of product returns by disgruntled customers seats 1,500 and is SRO. The CES as a whole is bigger than your correspondents' hometowns. It's spread out over four different hotels and has 10,000+ booths with everything from "The First Ever Full Text Message Pager in a Wristwatch" to the world's premier self-heating home satellite dish ("The Snow and Ice Solution!").

But far and away the CES's most popular venue, with total attendance well over 100,000 every year, is what is called the Adult Software exhibition, despite the fact that the CES itself treats the Adult tradeshow kind of like the crazy relative in the family and keeps it way out in what used to be the parking garage of the Sands hotel. This facility, a serious bus ride from all the other CES sites, is an enormous windowless all-cement space that during show hours manages to induce both agoraphobia and claustrophobia. A big sign says you have to be 21 to get in. The median age inside is 45, almost all males, nearly everyone wearing some sort of conventioneer's nametag. Every production company in the adult industry, from Anabolic to Zane, has a booth here. The really big companies have booths that are sprawling and multidisplay and more like small strip malls. A lot of porn's top female performers are contract players, exclusive vendors to one particular production company; and one reason why a lot of the starlets seem kind of tired and cranky by Saturday night's Awards gala is that they will have spent much of the previous 72 hours at their companies' CES booths, on their feet all day in vertiginous heels, signing autographs and posing for pictures and pressing all manner of flesh.

The best way to describe the sonic environment at the '98 CES is: Imagine that the apocalypse took the form of a cocktail party. Male fans move through the fractal maze of booths in groups of three or more. Their expressions tend to be those of junior-high boys at a peephole, an expression that looks pretty surreal on a face with jowls and no hairline. Some among them are video retailers; most are not. Most are just hard-core fans, the industry's breath and bread. A lot of them not only recognize but seem to know the names, stage names, and curricula vitae of almost all the female performers.

It takes an average of two hours and twelve minutes to traverse the Adult CES expo, counting an average of four delays for getting lost after a chicane turn or some baroque ceiling-high cheval glass designed to double the visual exposure of Heatwave Video's display for Texas Dildo Masquerade gets you all turned around. Your correspondents are accompanied by Harold Hecuba and Dick Filth, who have very generously offered to act as guides and docents, and here is a random spatter of the things we see the first time we come in:


Excerpted from Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace Copyright © 2006 by David Foster Wallace. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Consider the Lobster 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with David Foster Wallace's writing. In fact it is superb. I've given the nook book version of his essay collection only one star because it is missing probably one his most interesting pieces, "Host." Perhaps the reason is because the form is so strange and it couldn't be adapted to a nook book format. However, I don't buy this excuse. The hard copy is cheaper (online) and complete, so buy that one instead.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
David Foster Wallace has looked into the heart of American. I think he saw all we are/were and had trouble coming to grips with it. A man for all seasons. His writing reminds me of the character Homer Simpson in that we all have a trait that is a fault, so you can either take a step back and laugh at yourself, or you reject the truth of it. Those who reject the truth often can not look at themselves with a truly enlighten and open mind. The truth is out faults are what make us most human and in that respect most endearing.
WithKnivesOut More than 1 year ago
David Foster Wallace is the best writer you haven't read. This book of essays allows the reader to get a great idea of how he writes. He's witty, amusing, well-researched, and talented. I cannot speak for his short stories or other fiction, but his essays were very fun to read.

Note, his favorite essay technique is the footnote, so be prepared. Every essay is an exercise for the eye as much as the brain.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Though this reviewer rarely reads essay collections, this form of literature is both my favorite and my most detested format (corollary to the 50 page rule of why keep reading if it so bad, for essays a 20 page rule). When satirically amusing and filled with irony on ¿postmodern¿ life, nothing beats an essay such as classics like the ¿postmodern¿ ¿How to Cook Roast Pig¿ or ¿A Modest Proposal¿. David Foster Wallace provides ten delightful articles on a variety of topics ranging from the relativity of pornography to generalizing the insipidness of sports autobiographies extracting from Tracy Austin¿s perfect tennis adventure (Bill and Ted for a set anyone). In Mr. Wallace¿s delightful way, if one wants to know whether a lobster feels pain while undergoing scalding water treatment, don¿t ask the cook, the lobsterman, or the zoologist go to the source (not sauce): ask the lobster who obviously is not dancing their life away. Same goes to McCain's presidential bid lost during a failed debate with a fundamentalist demanding the senator turn no cheek insisting Christ condemned homosexuality. Though the asides can be difficult to follow with abbrev, they are fun to follow up on with their deeper explanations and Americanization of the English language through ibid. Readers will appreciate the deep look at ¿postmodern¿ American life as a fabulous INFINITE JEST. --- Harriet Klausner
mana_tominaga on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dyamic engaging collection of essays on various topics ranging from the annual adult porn industry awards to Kafka's humor to lobsters.
EnriqueFreeque on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In lieu of standard review (supposedly a "review" I know I'll never write again), **[¿Dude, it's just lobsters man, relax.]**interspersed within whatever the hell this is (homage? tribute? unconscionable crap?) I¿m presently composing now**[¿Why do you care so deeply about lobsters? Don¿t you think you maybe, just maybe, you might care a wee bit too much about bottom-dwellers?¿]**are snippets from an imaginary one-sided conversation. a brief and hideous interview, I had with the late DFW recently;**[¿Mr. Wallace, if you'll pardon my transgression as I regress to alluding to earlier famous essay of yours, can¿t you suck down some margaritas and just enjoy the damn cruise?]**said fantasy monologue acting, I believe, as curious catharsis, channeling my loss -- strangely personal,**[¿You tell us lobsters¿er basically gigantic insects, that folks on the coast of Maine call `em `bugs,¿ so what are you...I don't see you lugubriating about the unethical treatment of escargot!"]**though simultaneously distant and, I guess, vicarious?, if that¿s the right word, which I don't think it is (I mean, I obviously didn¿t know DFW**[¿I¿ll admit I¿ve never really considered the lobster like you have, Mr. Wallace, and if I¿ve ever considered lobsters before buying your book (besides acknowledging that they taste mmm-mmm good, dip `em in butter, mmm), I¿ve considered them disgustingly overgrown, underseawater cockroaches.¿]**even though his writing spoke to me and untold others about everything and more, as in Moses-and-the-Burning-Bush-Speak, as if he were indeed (not necessarily Yahweh or Allah or Buddha) but my/our dearest most understanding friend) -- into, what?, **[¿Remove their pincers, paint `em black ¿ voila! -- you got yerself a `roided up sea salted cockroach -- yuck"]**something ¿productive?¿; nah, what the hell does that mean?-- that¿s the sort of disingenuous drivel DFW loathed; or, **[¿I¿m just jesting about the lobsters, Mr. Wallace, I admire your enriching, truly educational and edifying, disturbing even, ultra-linguistic meta-analysis of ethics/morality-Maine-Lobster-Festivalish"]**channeling to maybe expunge the nebulous, hard to mentally grasp and accurately articulate, grief over DFWs death, (why it¿s so painful to me when I didn¿t literally know him beyond his books/interviews) out of my head, onto the page, **[¿Forgive my sentimentality, Dave ¿ and what¿s so necessarily automatically wrong with being somewhat sentimental at times anyway?!¿]** so that my heart can maybe intervene and somehow translate these emotions in-transit through the oblivion between my brain and the page in order to ¿in order to what?...make sense of it?...**[¿But I¿m already remembering you fondly, perhaps even sentimentally ¿ despite your assumed omnipresent protestations of hyper-literary-vigilance against said syrupy nostalgia -- and despite what you did.¿]**make sense of the bewildering incomprehensibility of what you did, of that which will never be explained, only hinted at in essays and fictions, because the only person who could possibly explain it to us, is now dead?**[Nevermind, Mr Wallace, I'm obviously confused from so much considering, searching for answers to infinite questions only you'd think to ask.]**
elsyd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I probably would have been more open to David Foster Wallace had the book been rearranged. I was offended by the first essay, Big Red Sun.This author is quite amazing. Smart, talented and leaned! I probably wouldn't pick up something by him again, or reccomend this book to a friend, but it was definately informative.
jnyrose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fascinating collection of essays that range in subject from the porn industry to lobsters to political campaigns but never lose their basic faith in humanity or sense of humor and occasional puzzlement about what humanity gets up to. Each essay is carefully set out to provoke a well-thought out response in its readers. And, often, make them laugh as they think about changing some aspect of their lives or the world.
Periodista on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For those who have never read Wallace's nonfiction before, this isn't the essay collection to start with. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again has more winners that I read over and over, with the piece on taking a cruise an absolute gem. That book also has accounts of the Illinois State Fair and a top-level tennis tournament. This volume has a visit to the Maine lobster vessel but it doesn't reach the peaks (well, digressions and ruminations) that the earlier volume did. Instead he pretty much settles on mulling over where lobsters feel pain (they seem to) and thus whether we should be eating or cooking then. He would have made a good popular science writer. The funny piece on a porn movie awards show in Las Vegas is really more Wallace's element. Yes, it's as tacky and ridiculous as you might expect, but he also gets the perspective of the addled waiters as the awards dinner, just like he did with Tibor (the Tibster) in the cruise story.The piece of Updike the misogynist makes you wonder why Wallace wasn't given more chances to take on these grand old men. Wouldn't he have been good on Roth and Bellow? Also spot on is the review, from Harper's, of a new Oxford book on American usage. He really zeroes in on the author/editor's premises, whether he's liberal or conservative, yadda yadda. Maybe this only interests copy editors and their fans, but it was a lot more interesting that the review in A Supposedly Fun Thing of some text on deconstructionism or something. Then there was a strange visit to some obscure right-wing talk show host in Southern Calfornia; why would anyone outside the region and time give a damn. Maybe the John McCain profile would have seemed more interesting if I hadn't read Michael Lewis's very similar treatment in a book covering the Dole election (whenever that was). The two writers have the same problem: they know very little about *policy* and have little interest in learning more. They both like and admire McCain and, without thinking very much, assume that;s all readers and voters want or need to know. Lewis went through the whole campaign, so he's the worst offender; he never tried to grasp the platforms of any of the candidates in that race. Well, regardless, we all know all this color stuff about McCain many times over by now; Wallace's piece doesn't age well.
joshberg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This thoroughly brilliant book of essays probably deserves 5 stars; my only quibble is that as a collection it asks a lot of the reader. DFW's metafictional take is effective and charming, with footnotes and annotations that are at least as entertaining as the more traditional text they complement. But since this is a series of essays, the PoMo approach can start to feel like too much of a good thing. Still, the subjects are varied and wonderful--among other adventures, the author spends time at the Adult Video Awards, on John McCain's 2000 Straight Talk Express bus, and visiting a late-night radio shock-jock--and the observations surprising, illuminating and witty.
nohablo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The perfect marriage of head and heart. Loopily earnest and self-reflexive with a terrifying capacity to understand and understand: not just brain-straining theories, but - more impressively - people. Feels and writes the world with all nerve endings exposed, at once rawly disappointed at the overall state of meanness and pettiness and inhumanity, but still, somehow, achingly hopeful. Never simple, never reductive, always great.
basilisksam on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For once the hype is deserved. Have to admit I'd never come across him before his death and the first thing I read was a piece in "The Guardian" which impressed me so much I went out and found Lobster. It's especially impressive how he searches out everything there is to know about lobsters and whether they can feel pain without ever preaching for or against eating them. His description of the porn industry and the porn awards show succeeded in making me feel revulsion towards it in a way that any number of feminist authors have failed to do in the past. That's quite some feat.
PatriciaUttaro on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I like Wallace's voice, but I ahve to say I was a little turned off by the lengthy first section about the porn industry. It could easily have been half as long and still packed a punch.
mrtall on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
More incandescent prose from one of my favorite essayists. DFW is in fine form throughout, with particularly good pieces on the 'seamy underbelly' of lexicography, John McCain's 2000 presidential campaign, a porn convention, a talk radio host, the works of Dostoyevsky, and the eponymous crustaceans. I can never make up my mind: Wallace is famous for his copious use of footnotes and other digressions; is he self-indulgent (i.e. he can't bear to leave out even a single pearl of his wisdom) or is he instead a hyper-considerate, even nervous, writer who's obsessed with avoiding confusion or leaving himself open to misinterpretation? Either way, his style works for me, so I'd highly recommend this volume.
pynchon82 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wallace is often at his best in essay form and his newest collection is no exception. There's some great stuff here: including "Big Red Son," an amusing behind-the-scenes look at the Adult Video Awards; "Authority and American Usage," which starts as a review of a new dictionary and gradually devolves into not only a comparison between prescriptivist and descriptivist thinking, but an indictment of his own teaching style; "The View from Mrs. Thompson's," in which DFW watches the second plane crash into The World Trade Center from the safety of his neighbor's kitchen; and the title essay, where DFW gets too tied up in the realization that The Maine Lobster Festival amounts to not much more than asking a million people to stand around and watch as one million lobsters are boiled alive to actually write about whether the festival is fun or not.The book has it's problems, obviously. There's a Dostoevsky piece that left me bored and cold. And the footnotes, which don't tend to bother me usually, are quite annoying in "Host" (instead of being at the foot of the page, they're included in little boxes that break up the text--pretty to look at, but difficult to read). But there is something to enjoy or learn in almost all of this collection's entries.For me, though, no matter how good or bad the rest of the book is, the book itself gets four stars solely for the inclusion of "Up, Simba." This essay, originally an e-book, concerning eight day's on the campaign trail with Senator John McCain back in 2000, is one of the most thought-provoking and beautiful pieces of writing that DFW has ever produced.
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