M. D. Hudson's Reviews > Consider the Lobster and Other Essays

Consider the Lobster and Other Essays by David Foster Wallace
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Apr 14, 10

Read in April, 2010

I’ve really become a fan of Wallace’s non-fiction. This collection of essays is really fine although I am not completely sure how I feel about it. A few stray thoughts…

Wallace is a first-order word-geek, which I mean as a compliment because he is aware of it and he never, ever is anything but tactful and aware of the pitfalls this implies. Word geeks are, after all, the fussy gooftards who enjoy the word games that used to run in the back of The Atlantic and who feel compelled to correct your use of the word “hopefully” in a non-adverbial (or whatever) sense. But words matter, and when Wallace digs in on the topic in “Authority and American Usage” he is wonderful.

I am not a sports guy, but Wallace is, and when he is he is at his best. “How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart” shows the pathos of the athlete that is almost like one of those Hellenistic sculptures of the dying gladiator or the busted-up boxer lining his fists with lead.

As for contemporary events, I am a little sad Wallace wasted his time on the stuff. “Up, Simba” is a long piece on the 2000 McCain bid for the Republican nomination for which Wallace dimmed his prose for his audience, the readers of Rolling Stone. Wallace is too principled to try and go Gonzo the way Hunter Thompson did back in ’72. And finally, who cares about the McCain ’00 efforts? In a similarly ephemeral fashion, the profile of talk radio lower-echelon star John Ziegler is interesting, but quickly evaporates. His stab at doing 9/11 is a failure (“The View from Mrs. Thompson’s”), but I am not sure why – as always, he resists the usual tub-thumping and over-emoting that characterized a lot of such essays…but Wallace sometimes has trouble “doing” plain old regular folk in such a way that doesn’t come off as self-conscious and almost Norman Rockwellish condescending sometimes.

The title essay is quite good – I eat all sorts of industrially-slaughtered meat, but I don’t eat lobster and after reading this I never will. Boiling anything alive is just wrong.
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