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Consider the Lobster: And Other Essays

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  21,285 ratings  ·  1,799 reviews
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 betwe ...more
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Published December 1st 2005 by Little, Brown and Company
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Full disclosure: I have a major intellectual crush on David Foster Wallace. Yes, yes, I know all about his weaknesses - the digressions, the rampant footnote abuse, the flaunting of his amazing erudition, the mess that is 'Infinite Jest'. I know all this, and I don't care. Because when he is in top form, there's nobody else I would rather read. The man is hilarious; I think he's a mensch, and I don't believe he parades his erudition just to prove how smart he is. I think he can't help himself - ...more
Riku Sayuj

Consider The Essay

This is a fine collection of essays. It does not seem to be put together following any particular collective logic, but all the essays seem to be good advertisements to DFW’s intuitively imaginative, explorative and curious writing method. Would need to read more of DFW’s essays to be able to comment on the logic of this particular set of essays inhabiting the same book. It is, however, vintage DFW and hence cannot be rated below 5 stars, even if a couple of essays were so-so.
What can I say? Another brilliant set of essays.

1. Big Red Son - at the AVN (Adult Video News) Awards. An insightful and amusing look at the porn industry.
For a regular civilian male, hanging out in a hotel suite with porn starlets is a tense and emotionally convolved affair. There is, first, the matter of having seen the various intimate activities and anatomical parts of these starlets in videos heretofore and thus (weirdly) feeling shy about meeting them. But there is also a complex erotic t
MJ Nicholls
Outstanding. The closest one can get to triple penetration in essay form.

Each one is a stunner, from the grotesquerie of the Adult Video Awards in ‘Big Red Son,’ the magniloquent ass-handing of John Updike, the sublime pedantry of the modern classic ‘Authority and American Usage,’ the obsessive campaign chronicling of ‘Up, Simba,’ to the staggeringly researched meta-bubbling John Ziegler profile ‘Host.’

All the essays succeed at tying razor-sharp exegeses of American culture to a holy clarity of
Books Ring Mah Bell
Do you know that feeling of falling in love so hard and so fast that your head spins? That feeling that your sweetie is AMAZING, PERFECT, and you have no idea how you ever lived without them? The sun rises and sets with each breath they take??
Sorry about your luck.

The first DFW book I read was A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again and I was instantly smitten. Totally in love.
And then I read this.

That AMAZING, PERFECT love? I feel like I have just busted him mid-nose pick. Knuckle deep
Moira Russell
(Ceci n'est pas une review, but I'm getting tired of just rating and adding status updates)

Thought maybe this was worth 4.7666666666666665 stars, but what the hell, there isn't going to be any more, so....'Up, Simba' wrestles in my affections with the cruise ship essay, it's that good. Big Red Son, Tracy Austin, lobsters, Dostoevsky, Kafka, 9/11, gutting Updike, all amazing....the _one_ thing I don't like is the Host essay, which seems a little long and (gasp) pointless, altho with a stunning co
Dave Russell
There's a small theme running through some of these essays(1): People trying to bridge the gap between two different camps. In "Authority and American Usage" DFW praises Garner for bridging the gap between the Prescriptionist and the Descriptionist usage experts. In "Joseph Frank's Dostoevsky" Frank impresses DFW by weaving together two rival approaches to literary criticism. "Up, Simba" is an encomium to John McCain's ability to appeal to Young Voters (presumably of all political stripes(2).)

May 26, 2014 Oriana rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Oriana by: um, everyone?
Shelves: read-2010, read-2009
I don't have anything to say that hasn't already been said. DFW is/was amazing, brilliant, and it is so devastating that he won't spend the next several decades casting his genius out to us in small sips, book by book by book. One of my favorite things about reading what I consider to be DFW's best writing is the sheer grace of his phrasing, the joy of getting sucked right in and through paragraph after paragraph of the longest, most convoluted-seeming sentences which nonetheless pull you along ...more
I just finished reading Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace. What I'm left with is an absolute amazement at the immense amounts of knowledge related in the essays. It's like DFW had - or did enough research - to fill a set of encyclopedias on each topic, and then whittled it down to the presented short-storyish length.

In "Big Red Son", an essay about the Annual AVN Awards (that's Adult Video News, by the way) I learned more about the adult entertainment industry than I ever thought poss
Feb 24, 2008 Rob rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: DFW fans; modern Americans
Recommended to Rob by: Sue; Adam
Shelves: 2008
I would suggest, dear reader, that when considering Consider the Lobster, that you consider it in the same light as David Foster Wallace's collection A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again . Use that book as your frame of reference for style and content and you can place this collection firmly into the category of "typical" DFW. That being said, if you thoroughly enjoyed A Supposedly Fun Thing... then you'll likely thoroughly enjoy this one as well; by that same coin, if you're on the fence ...more
I didn't know much about David Foster Wallace when I cracked open this collection of his essays, so the first piece on the Adult Video News Awards caught me rather by surprise. Within just a few paragraphs, however, the sheer and utter brilliance of this fascinating and yet also erudite and intellectual examination of the porn industry left me with little doubt that DFW's reputation as one of the smartest and funniest writers of my lifetime is well-deserved.

Prior to this book, if you had told me
Nov 05, 2012 Ken-ichi rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ken-ichi by: Akemi
Shelves: snoot, learning
"A strange and traumatic experience," David Foster Wallace wrote in an essay on attending the Annual Adult Video News Awards, "which one of yr. corrs. will not even try to describe consists of standing at a men's room urinal between professional woodmen [male porn stars] Alex Sanders and Dave Hardman. Suffice it to say that the urge to look over/down at their penises is powerful and the motives behind this urge so complex as to cause anuresis (which in turn ups the trauma)." Aside from hinting a ...more
Jackie "the Librarian"
David Foster Wallace is a self-described SNOOT, the sort of person "who watched The Story of English on PBS (twice) and read Safire's column with their half-caff every Sunday." So, he's a bit of a know-it-all, and if you're like me, you'll feel like you're out of your league trying to keep up with him when it comes to grammar and all things English.

But that's okay, because he's also witty and self-deprecating, and interested in not just English usage (thank goodness!), but also politics, lobste

So let's get this out of the way: intellectually Wallace trounces Klosterman and Gladwell and still has more than enough left over to bounce David Brooks or any other pop-essayist du jour.

This collection is actually better, more substantial, than the essays in "A Supposedly Fun Thing..." It's nothing I can exactly single out, except that this group of essays came across as more polished, professional, but no less amusing and illuminating. In the course of reading these, I've had the pleasure of
Leo Robertson
Not his best for the following reasons:

1. We know what we know now of how his life was cut short. So why the hell did someone, in retrospect, choose to send the great American writer to a bloody lobster festival? To a pornography awards show? At any rate, all this ended up revealing was that DFW was the real world Buzz Killington- he starts his porn award article with genital mutilation statistics, and implores of the readers of some gourmet food magazine to consider the pain and suffering of no
Nov 13, 2007 Adam rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone and their mother
Another essay collection by the man I would consider America's foremost essayist. As great a novelist as he is, and he's certainly no slouch with the short story, his non-fiction is beyond compare.

I think that this work differs from his previous stuff in that it plays up the author's own dorkiness a lot less than the other ones, although it doesn't even come close to losing it entirely. Rather, it gets augmented by some level of taking himself seriously that lends a little more credence to his
reading dfw takes work. it takes focus and a dictionary, and not the pocket kind that has commonly used words, but the kind with SAT words that is too heavy to carry. you probably have to read dfw at home or with a smart-phone handy. and i still prefer reading him to any other writer. i’ll throw the warning out there that i have an inability to articulate why i like a favourite author’s work (but this doesn’t mean i won’t keep trying).

i remember when dfw was writing and speaking about what he we
I must confess that I am not one of the cult of DFW followers that wallow in his genius ramblings; I honestly appreciated, though did not love, his (universally acknowledged) masterpiece: "Infinite Jest"; despite its raw humor, it rambled and meandered WAY too much for me to get a feel for his true storytelling talent. It seemed almost as if he was using his (arguably infinite, or at least infinitely superior to my) intelligence to slap the reader insensate. (Part of this feeling was no doubt du ...more
What I look for in a David Foster Wallace book is not so much his much-talked about brilliance, but his humanity. Under the verbal and visual tricks, there was a sensitive man who thought and felt deeply about everything he experienced. He was not what I expected from a "post-postmodern writer," which is to say that he was earnest and genuinely funny, and his writing style seems to be an organic representation of how his brain works, rather than something consciously literary. Reading him feels ...more
Review #8 of "Year of the Review All Read Books"

Big Red Son was the first thing that I ever read by David Foster Wallace. It was a few days after Christmas 2011 and I was at my local Barnes & Noble. It was the anecdote about men that had voluntarily cut off their own penises that had gotten me. I knew of David Foster Wallace in vague terms: a depressive, a gifted fiction writer of large books I was long away from reading (how wrong I turned out to be), a successive suicidal, and a man whose
DFW wrote adrenaline-fueled, almost manic, hyper-insightful, exuberant prose mixed with street slang and professorial footnotes. His curiosity and knowledge were encyclopedic, probably due being a prodigy and to his double major in philosophy and English. He had a way of making you see very mundane things in an entirely new light.

DFW believed that our passions were no longer our own; we were all being manipulated by a very sophisticated media. He argued that television had a great seductive pow
Jason Coleman
The adult-entertainment convention covered in the opening piece seems like a natural for Wallace, but, aside from a pathetic but priceless aside about one actress's "no hands" method of signing autographs, it seems a little tired. By this point, Wallace may have been beyond the cruise-ship and state-fair pieces for which his first essay collection was best known and which the porno expo seemed to be the latest, perfect target for. The other essays are better, including a McCain 2000 campaign-tra ...more
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 presen ...more
Gabi Dopazo

Loving DFW again, here again at his best… loved the porn industry one, loved the one about Tracy Austin and the one about is just something else. This last one should be taught at schools so people understand better what are they facing every time election time comes. Have never read anything so brilliant regarding an election campaign. Again I couldn't put the book down. I only have one worry now, is he way better when he writes about non-fiction? Do I need to start IJ? Do
Jose Luis
Pues esperaba más, habida cuenta de la "fiebre DFW" que me habían contagiado Twitter y los bloggers que tanto me odian ;-)

No digo que sea un mal libro, qué va, pero no ha satisfecho mis expectativas. Me gustaría saber algo más sobre su origen, sobre la opinión del propio Wallace acerca del artículo de la Feria de la langosta y tal. En principio me ha parecido una combinación de artículos, prólogos, reseñas y conferencias muy dispares. Por ejemplo, el artículo sobre Tracy Austin ni siquiera lo he
Austin Kleon
Brilliant dude, brilliant essays. RIP. A great quote from DFW on how he thought about non-fiction:

“I don’t know a whole lot about non-fiction journalism, but the way i think about [it:] in terms of what I can do is: I think of it as a service industry. Essays like this are occasions to watch somebody reasonably bright but also reasonably average pay far closer attention and think at far more length about all sorts of different stuff than most of us have a chance to in our daily lifes…”
Ranjeev Dubey
Wallace is one of those insightful essayists who will surprise you with his tangential thinking on pretty much any subject, and he write about most all of them.

This book contains his thoughts on Lobsters as gourmet food, on the biography of the tennis child prodigy Tracy Austin, on the hard porn industry in America, and on how one small American town reacted to the 9/11 bombing. I wasn't particularly interested in any of the subjects but still couldn't put the book down till it had been read. E
What a smart, smart dude.

A collection of essays by David Foster Wallace discussing topics from the moral ambiguity involved in steaming lobsters at the Maine Lobster Festival, to the annual Adult Video Awards in Las Vegas, Kafka’s sense of humour and following Senator John McCain’s bid for the presidency in 2008. I found some of the essays a bit Americentric in their composition, which is right and expected as Wallace was an American essayist and novelist. Being Canadian, I have some clue about
This is the second David Foster Wallace essay collection I've read. Man, I love this guy. What a mind. When I read him, I feel like I'm being invited into his thought process (Consider the Lobster is as much an argument with himself as it is persuasive to the reader), and the experience is both challenging and entertaining. And the subject doesn't really matter-after reading two collections of his essays, I really believe he could write about anything and it would be original, thought-provoking ...more
Midwestern literary genius keeps its eye squarely on communication, especially in essays - see William Gass's Habitation of the Word, anything by Twain. So, no surprise how readable this book is, or not just readable since that makes reading it sound like something that, yeah, you could do if you really had to, when the reality is that anyone who tastes a page of DFW, 1) begin abbreviating frequently-used proper names, 2) start covering endpages, forearms, even bedroom walls with tiny, intricate ...more
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David Foster Wallace worked surprising turns on nearly everything: novels, journalism, vacation. His life was an information hunt, collecting hows and whys. "I received 500,000 discrete bits of information today," he once said, "of which maybe 25 are important. My job is to make some sense of it." He wanted to write "stuff about what it feels like to live. Instead of being a relief from what it fe ...more
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“Am I a good person? Deep down, do I even really want to be a good person, or do I only want to seem like a good person so that people (including myself) will approve of me? Is there a difference? How do I ever actually know whether I'm bullshitting myself, morally speaking?” 379 likes
“ real life I always seem to have a hard time winding up a conversation or asking somebody to leave, and sometimes the moment becomes so delicate and fraught with social complexity that I'll get overwhelmed trying to sort out all the different possible ways of saying it and all the different implications of each option and will just sort of blank out and do it totally straight -- 'I want to terminate the conversation and not have you be in my apartment anymore' -- which evidently makes me look either as if I'm very rude and abrupt or as if I'm semi-autistic and have no sense of how to wind up a conversation gracefully...I've actually lost friends this way.” 239 likes
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