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Consider the Lobster and Other Essays

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  44,871 ratings  ·  3,010 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
Hardcover, 343 pages
Published December 13th 2005 by Little, Brown and Company
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Michael Spawn Fear not. Wallace is Wallace and he obviously can't turn off that titanic brain of his, but his non-fiction is lightyears more accessible than his fic…moreFear not. Wallace is Wallace and he obviously can't turn off that titanic brain of his, but his non-fiction is lightyears more accessible than his fiction. It's where his sense of humor shines the brightest and many (maybe even most) fans prefer it to his equally brilliant but - yes, dense as all hell - fiction.(less)
François Boucher Yes: I read the Lobster on Kindle. The more recent Notes system on Kindle works very well. The footnotes are easy to access, and also to leave and com…moreYes: I read the Lobster on Kindle. The more recent Notes system on Kindle works very well. The footnotes are easy to access, and also to leave and come back to the text by clicking "back to text". The sub-footnotes are included in the footnotes, and it works very well.
I am not aware of any "arrows", and that may be because "Host" is not iocluded in the Kindle cersion…(less)

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Jan 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2007
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.
MJ Nicholls
May 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, merkins
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
Nov 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Steven Godin
I've long been told by so many to read Infinite Jest, but the problem is, an equal amount of people have said it's not worth the bother. For a book so long, I'm not ready to take the risk. I can't comment on his fiction, but this collection of essays was simply A+ material. I would have given five stars just for the piece on the porn industry. The rest too were also mighty fine. I don't use tour de force that often when it comes to books, but this was precisely that.

He's been called a postmodern
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book reminds me why I love DFW. The erudition, humility, self-consciousness, and truth-seeking are all on fine display here, as is the extremely personal nature of his prose. He's constantly revealing himself while writing about others, even when such revelations are less than flattering, and is openly unsure about the worthiness of such self-revelation, and is also unsure whether this very open unsureness about the worthiness of his self-revelation is itself another layer of unworthy self- ...more
Dec 31, 2016 marked it as on-hold-for-now  ·  review of another edition
A reading inspired by Ian, who is presently traipsing across Portugal (whatever, I'm not jealous), because, Lord Byron, I presume.

This is my first foray into the works of DFW. It's unclear at this time if I'll read this in one sitting or at random, notwithstanding, my intent is to review each essay as a standalone.

Big Red Son

Big Red Son is the first of nine essays. What possible contrasts can be drawn between auto-castration, the Hollywood film industry with it's less celebrated but more lucra
Dec 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Consider the Lobster was an admirably consistent—and frequently entertaining—collection of essays by DFW. In my opinion, it was actually even stronger than his A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, which was itself certainly no slouch. Thoughts on and ratings for the individual essays can be found below.

“Big Red Son”: 4.5 stars. This essay on the porn industry was peppered liberally with humorous observations and intelligent insights, but really, that industry is so monumentally absurd, th
Michael Finocchiaro
This is an interesting collection of unrelated essays by the late David Foster Wallace. The funniest one for me was the title essay. No one could match him for wit and manipulation of language as this book attests. There are some essays though which are nearly unreadable like the one about a dictionary. Once you have read Infinite Jest and Pale King and wish to read a bit of his non-fiction, this one or Something Supposedly Fun that I'll Never Try Again would be a nice place to start. ...more
Khashayar Mohammadi
What a trip! DFW's fractured narrative feels more like a genuine conversation than anything else. The essays are insightful and thought provoking; but I feel they are aimed mostly at an American audience. I loved DFW's writing, especially the last piece where endnotes were boxed-in and merged with the body of essay itself; but asides from a chapter or two, a big bulk of the content was socio-political issues that hardly matter to a non-American. ...more
Books Ring Mah Bell
Feb 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
L.S. Popovich
Nov 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Polishing off the remainder of DFW's works has been a treat this year. I began by listening to the author-read audiobook, then picked up the paperback where the audio left off.

What an astounding journalist he was. "Consider the Lobster" is an in-depth look at a lobster festival. "Big Red Son" is a porn industry inside scoop. But like most of his books, the surface narrative and the snarky commentary enlarge upon grand and universal themes. The omnipresent wit and sophistication is never absent,
Apr 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
A Democratic Spirit is one that combines rigor and humility, ie, passionate conviction plus a sedulous respect for the convictions of others. As any American knows, this is a difficult spirit to cultivate and maintain, particularly when it comes to issues you feel strongly about. Equally tough is a DS’s criterion of 100 percent intellectual integrity – you have to be willing to look honestly at yourself and at your motives for believing what you believe, and to do it more or less continually.

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
Nov 10, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: essays, nonfiction
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).)

Jan 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
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
Sep 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
The most striking thing about this set of essays by the late David Foster Wallace is that they are written in the familiar, cynical style of American gonzo journalism, but underneath that veneer they are the furthest thing in the world from cynical. They are deeply sincere, heartfelt and searching meditations on the most important questions all human beings face: meaning, suffering, identity, love, and our duties to each other. Although he was not religious in the way we think of that word, the ...more
Ramos Anthony
Dec 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
This felt like eating a piece of dessert that was left out for too long yet still managed to taste decent. I enjoyed reading "Consider the Lobster" but it felt a bit loose at parts, almost disorienting. Although I understand this wasn't a completed novel I still urge any readers of Wallace to check this out. It's nicely packaged inside and is quite sentimental at points. Took me a while but good read. ...more
Apr 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2020
Wallace takes boring topic like reviewing a dictionary and turns it into an interesting piece of writing. I came in only for Dostoyevsky, but left with suffering lobsters.
Sep 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jackie "the Librarian"
Dec 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Nov 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
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 fen ...more
Leo Robertson
Jul 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewtastic
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
Feb 15, 2012 rated it really liked it

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
Jun 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ken-ichi by: Akemi
Shelves: learning, snoot
"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
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
First a declaration of interest: anything by Wallace gets a 5 star review from me.

David Foster Wallace was a truly a literary virtuoso – talent on a stick - with a style indebted to Mark Twain, seen as a major influence on his work.

I read the book a few years ago but have splashed out to get the Audible app so I could listen to this collection of essays narrated by the author himself – a marvellous gift from beyond the grave made possible by modern technology, though a poignant experience too.

Feb 20, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: true-story, 2010
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
Richard Harvey
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Having predictably traversed the 120 first pages of I J I turned to this highly enjoyable readable and fun lobster book. Something I like about DFW and something I find rather young and self-indulgent about him. So before getting back into IJ I have resorted to the Hideous Men book and I am not enjoying it at all. Harold Bloom says to be selective because you can't read all the books anymore... so I think I might go for the completist read of Delillo (apparently DFW's favorite author) and spare ...more
kartik narayanan
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Welp, I could not finish the book. I found it to be weird - a throwback to the days of Art Buchwald etc but could not get into it for some unidentifiable reason.

I planned to binge David Foster Wallace but obviously that's no longer on the cards.
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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

Articles featuring this book

The word “essays” may bring up memories of tedious composition classes, but today’s collections are anything but dull. Whether it’s...
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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?” 720 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.” 335 likes
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