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Consider the Lobster: And Other Essaysby David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace is arguably the most accessible, intelligent, versatile writer working today. Never mind just now his novels and stories, or his "compact history" of infinity. In Consider the Lobster, he insinuates himself among actors, actresses, directors, and producers at the Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas; delivers a brilliant portrait of Bloomington, Illinois, on the morning of 9/11; and fills sixty pages addressing an issue of great personal (his) significance, the evolution of American usage dictionaries. And let's not forget the justly acclaimed title piece, written for Gourmet and subsequently anthologized, about the culinary centerpiece of a summer festival in central Maine. Whatever the topic, you can take for granted that his sentences will sparkle with wit and pointed observation; you understand that he will see through his subject, and report back with fidelity and style. He is smarter than you, but you like him anyway. And if perhaps you begrudge him a bit for that, you're forgiven.
Since I decided to finally read the 1,104-page complication that is Infinite Jest instead of using it as a makeshift bookend, I've suffered from a debilitating fear of commitment that has gradually devolved my reading stamina from novel to novella, novella to New Yorker, New Yorker to the NBA playoffs. To both re-approach and further delay the epic beast, I instead picked up and successfully completed Consider the Lobster. Wallace's persona is so wholly irresistible, he can guide me, very willingly, through any explored subject, from the AVN Awards (the adult film equivalent of the Academy Awards) to the ethics of eating lobster (in the manner of M. F. K. Fisher) to John Updike, no stranger to volume himself. Wallace's essays are steeped in intellect; his perspective is charming, clever, and fastidiously astute. Even the intense postmodern overlays, active footnoting, and occasional archness are easily traversed when a writer is simultaneously this brilliant and sincere about his enterprise. Read this (if you haven't already), then prime, prep, and put all your other books aside: it's time for Infinite Jest.
Synopses & Reviews
Long renowned as one of the smartest writers on the loose, David Foster Wallace reveals himself in Consider the Lobster to be also one of the funniest. In these pages he ranges far and farther in his search for the original, the curious, or the merely mystifying. His quest takes him into the three-ring circus of a presidential race to ask, among other urgent questions, why it is that the circles journalists walk in while whispering into their cell phones are always counterclockwise. He discovers the World's Largest Lobster Cooker at the Maine Lobster Festival and confronts the inevitable question just beyond the butter-or-cocktail-sauce quandary. He plunges into the wars among dictionary writers, deconstructing once and for all the battles between descriptivists and prescriptivists. And he talks his way into an LA radio studio, bearing buckets of fried chicken, to get an uncensored view of a conservative talk show and its alarmingly attired host.
"Novelist Wallace (Infinite Jest) might just be the smartest essayist writing today. His topics are various — this new collection treats porn, sports autobiographies and the vagaries of English usage, among others — his perspective always slightly askew and his observations on point. Wallace is also frustrating to read. This arises from a few habits that have elevated him to the level of both cause clbre and enfant terrible in the world of letters. For one thing, he uses abbrs. w/r/t just about everything without warning or, most of the time, context. For another, he inserts long footnotes and parenthetical asides that by all rights should be part of the main texts (N.B.: These usually occur in the middle of phrases, so that the reader cannot recall the context by the time the parentheses are wrapped up) but never are. These tricks are adequately postmodern (a term Wallace is intelligent enough to question) to prove his cleverness. But a writer this gifted doesn't need such cleverness. Wallace's words and ideas, as well as a wonderful sense of observation that makes even the most shopworn themes seem fresh, should suffice. Agent, Bonnie Nadell." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Another savory, hard-thinking, wildly imaginative collection of essays and observations from the artful Wallace." Kirkus Reviews
"Wallace's complex essays are written, and rightfully so, to be read more than once." Mark Eleveld, Booklist
"Watching Wallace play his outrage meter is a little like watching John McEnroe complain about a line call: It's not always the accuracy of the claim that keeps you caring, but the hysterics with which it's expressed." Boston Globe
"Like his best fiction, it reminds the reader of both his copious literary gifts and his keen sense of the absurdities of contemporary life in America at the cusp of the millennium." Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
"Wallace is so smart and clever that he can make almost any subject seem fresh." Baltimore Sun
"Wallace is unique, a writer who combines dense academic theory with a reporter's observations and a soaring, guitar-riff style." Christian Science Monitor
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 also 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 at the annual Maine Lobster Festival, Wallace projects a quality of thought that is uniquely his and a voice as powerful and distinct as any in American letters.
About the Author
David Foster Wallace is the author of several highly acclaimed books, including the novel Infinite Jest and the essay collection Consider the Lobster. He has been the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, a National Magazine Award, and numerous other awards.
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