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Consider the Lobster and Other Essays by…
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Consider the Lobster and Other Essays

by David Foster Wallace

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Recensione su: http://wp.me/p3X6aw-hK
Review at: http://wp.me/p3X6aw-hK ( )
  Saretta.L | Mar 24, 2014 |
Some of these essays were both informative and entertaining. I enjoyed the inside look granted by "Up, Simba" and "Host." But the heavily-footnoted writing style got old for me: DFW's continued reliance on it makes me feel like he's unable to organize his writing in a logical way without this crutch. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 6, 2014 |

Oddly, the best essay here is about dictionaries. The title essay makes you feel bad for eating animals without any of the blood-and-guts visceral stuff you get from such essays in general. The porn essay makes you feel bad for having sex without any of the quasi-religious guilt you usually get in such essays. The essay about 9/11 makes you feel bad for hating on the moral majority. They're all okay essays. The dictionary essay, combined with the essay on Joseph Franks' work on Dostoevsky, are the real low-key manifesto pieces here, designed to make you feel bad for not caring about anything at all. This isn't, *pace* the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "brilliantly entertaining." The best essays here actually force you to consider your own life. Imagine that.
That said, there's plenty of padding, and nobody needs to read the piece on Kafka, the review of Updike (who is justifiably skewered, but still), or even the piece about a tennis autobiography. Even the McCain essay is a little dull post-Obama, although it's interesting to find out that Obama essentially out McCained McCain to win the election. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
A series of lucid, well-written, essays on a variety of topics. Reminiscent of John McPhee's better essays with a moral tinge, a linkage of the aesthetic with the moral, if you will. The one on the reaction of people in Bloomington/Normal Illinois to 9/11 is both insightful and poignant. I especially liked the way he handled the issue of pain in the lobster: unhysterical, rational, and detailed with correct information. He asks if gastronomes, i.e. those who delight in the preparation and presentation of food, think much about “the moral status and probable suffering of the animals involved, and, if so, what ethical system have they “worked out to enjoy gastronomic culture. Is it the product of actual thought? Or do you just not want to think about it?” Will the Maine Lobster festival be seen decades from now much as we view the Roman games?

This is not the kind of book you want to listen to in the car with your kids or grand-kids. In the third essay, his descriptions of events at the Adult Video awards (which began in 1982 coincident with the rise of VCRs.) The exhibits at their convention got even my normally unflappable nature perturbed. The idea that an exhibitor would have a starlet squatting on his table masturbating with a riding crop was a bit much. The judges for the awards have to sit through the equivalent of 1.4 years of sexual coupling and after their eyes glazed over I suspect their “members” (to quote Fanny Hill) probably locked into a permanently flaccid state much like workers in chocolate factories who are permitted to eat all the chocolate they want, soon develop a positive distaste for the stuff.

All of this leads me to an observation. Many of the essays reveal a deep concern on the part of Wallace for wanting to examine all the moral ramifications of his subject. I'm beginning to understand why he committed suicide. He must have deeply disturbed by what he discovered. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
This collection features essays on topics as broad as the porn industry, the humor in Kafka’s work, John Updike’s penis obsession, and conservative talk radio hosts. Once again, my mind was pretty much constantly exploding while reading these essays. DFW has this way of making me feel at once really stupid (How have I never thought about that? What does that even mean? This is kind of over my head.) and also kind of smart. (Hey! I get this part! I’m learning new crazy new concepts, and now I know what words mean!) Although he uses a lot of fancy vocab that I’m not familiar with, I like the way he makes me work for my understanding. I have to look up words in the dictionary to understand his points sometimes, and that is rewarding.

One of my favorite pieces was “Authority and American Usage,” a 60-page review of Bryan Garner’s new Dictionary of Modern American Usage. I’m interested in grammar, and this essay tickled all of my fancies. In addition to talking about the merits of this book, Wallace discusses the differences between the two schools of grammar, prescriptivist and descriptivist, and makes really interesting arguments for and against them. I had no idea there WERE multiple approaches to grammar usage and my inner word nerd was totally fascinated.

“Up, Simba” is about Wallace’s week as a Rolling Stone journalist on John McCain’s campaign trail before the 2000 primary. He describes (the totally unglamorous) life on the trail, contemplates the inscrutability of John McCain as a person, and offers really interesting insights into campaign strategy. I was intrigued to learn exactly why saying, “I’m not going to vote because I don’t like either candidate and I don’t want to participate in the system,” is invalid. Essentially, if all the moderate people don’t vote because of apathy, only the more extreme people entrenched in their parties will vote, and they will vote the way their parties tell them to. So if you don’t vote, you’re effectively voting for the party-backed candidate.

The title essay was one of the most fun to read. DFW covers the Main Lobster Festival, where thousands of people flock to eat lobster and take in the “local flavor,” which of course is destroyed by the thousands of tourists descending upon the region. This is really only a tiny part of the essay, though. Mostly, Wallace is concerned with the ethics of eating lobster. Do lobsters feel pain? If they do feel pain, do they have the emotional capacity to experience it as unpleasant? Why, at the MLF, is the World’s Largest Lobster Cooker such a highly advertised spectacle when a World’s Largest Killing Floor at the Nebraska Beef Festival would be totally unimaginable? It’s a really entertaining, thought-provoking essay about our relationship with the food we eat that raises questions about how we justify eating living things.

I loved Consider the Lobster and Other Essays; David Foster Wallace is entertaining, funny, informative, and incredibly smart. Sometimes the footnotes-within-footnotes are difficult to follow (especially in “Host,” which uses mapped boxes connected by arrows instead of actual footnotes), but the added insights were always fun to read. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of DFW’s work! Does anyone have recommendations for where to go from here? I don’t think I’m quite ready for Infinite Jest.

Some words I had to look up:

Solipsist, synesthetic, satyriasis, anomie, senescnece, dysphemism, solecistic, salvos, pleonastic, sesquipedelian, heliogabaline, abstruse, autotelic, involuted, androsartorial, lapidary, cancrine, amentia, hortatory, synechdoche, athwart, gonfalon, luxated, germane, prolegomenous, nictitating, torsions, styptic, jingoistic, atavistic

More book reviews at Books Speak Volumes. ( )
  LeahMo | Jun 24, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316013323, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:49:51 -0400)

For this collection, Wallace immerses himself in the three-ring circus that is the presidential race in order to document one of the most vicious campaigns in recent history. Later he strolls from booth to booth at a lobster festival in Maine and risks life and limb to get to the bottom of the lobster question. Then he wheedles his way into an L.A. radio studio, armed with tubs of chicken, to get the behind-the-scenes view of a conservative talk show featuring a host with an unnatural penchant for clothing that looks good only on the radio. Do lobsters feel pain? Did Franz Kafka have a sick sense of humor? What is John Updike's deal anyway? And who won the Adult Video News' Female Performer of the Year Award the same year Gwyneth Paltrow won her Oscar? Wallace answers these questions and more.--From publisher description."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."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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