Joanna's Reviews > Consider the Lobster and Other Essays

Consider the Lobster and Other Essays by David Foster Wallace
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's review
Nov 17, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: nonfiction
Read in January, 2010

The whole: Wow. I might love David Foster Wallace. His tangential style takes some work to follow, but it flows merrily along. I kind of think I agree with every word he says. It feels true, and right, and good. I don't think I am quite ready for Infinite Jest, but maybe now I have some idea of what I am in for.

"Host" Behind the scenes look at right wing talk radio. Fascinating. Also, in place of footnotes we have flow chart boxes, which are a bit distracting but also entertaining in their own right. And they help to give this essay a breakneck pace that suits the material. (January 3)

"Joseph Frank's Dostoevsky" reviews a multi volume review of the life and works of Dostoevsky. One star. (January 1)

"Consider the Lobster" At last, the title essay! As expected, this article dealt mostly with the question of whether and why we are ok with boiling a lobster alive in order to eat it. Charming, rambly, interesting, and well informed, Wallace doesn't really come to a conclusion, but does point out that most of us are uncomfortable with it and choose not to think about it much. Just like we try not to think about slaughterhouses when we eat our steaks. (January 1)

"Up, Simba" Fiercely savvy and interesting look at McCain's Campaign2000 tour. I really enjoyed reading this very long essay, and realized I was like a lot of America in not knowing very much about McCain at all. (January 1)

"How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart" A review of a pseudo-autobiography ghost written about Tracy Austin. She was a tennis star from the age of 4 who fell apart around 21. His review is spot-on denigration of all the crazily badly written books that sell a million copies and then die off and never should have managed to get published. It also examines the super-star quality of extremely successful athletes and ponders the question of why the American public is so fascinated by them. I enjoyed this essay immensely and was not once irritated by footnotes. (December 31)

"Authority and American Usage" Holy cow, this is dense stuff. I like it, then I don't get it, then I like it, then I am exasperated by the endless footnotes, then I like it. Essentially--a review of a new dictionary. Wallace explores the debate between Prescriptionists (those who tell you what is correct usage) and Descriptionists (those who tell you how people use language). Loved the SNOOTs. Loved the defense of hopefully, and the ending of sentences with prepositions. Also, loved the rueful acknowledgement that even a vehement defender of those grammatical choices will alienate enough audience when using them that they should still be avoided.

"The View from Mrs. Thompson's" A gem. (December 30)

Loved the essays on Updike and Kafka. (December 12)

24 pages in and I really enjoy the style except that I am starting to get irritated by the frequency and length of the footnotes. 19 footnotes in 24 pages seems a bit excessive. And I hate footnotes that make you flip a page and then go back. (December 5)


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