Consider the Lobster

Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace is not at all what I expected.  To be fair my expectations were fairly vague and not entirely formed prior to picking up  the book, but the point still stands.  This book did take me a bit longer to get through than I was anticipating, partly because the content did not make for a quick read, and also because Netflix just got MASH so that was consuming most of my time outside the donut shop.  But I’ve reached the Alan Alda influenced half of the series now and to avoid being sad about war all the time I returned to David Foster Wallace and his very entertaining articles about Porn awards, radio shows, 9/11, and the presidential race media circus, to name a few.

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The topics were, as you could probably tell, particularly varied and not all of them managed to keep my interest the entire time.  However I’d wager to say that if it weren’t for David Foster Wallace’s (I’m going to keep using his full name. It’s a really good full name.  Say it three times in a dramatic voice, you’ll see what I mean) witty way of presenting the material, and very entertaining footnotes and editorial comments, none of them would have kept my interest at all (except for the one about the porn convention/awards thing.  That’s one of those things that’s hard to not be intrigued by.)  The tone of the essays made me feel like I was having a conversation with a very intelligent friend, while sipping on beer and his footnotes allowed for the conversation to have tangents.

I couldn’t help but wondering about the original printing of some of the essays and what the editors thought.  He mentions the editing process in the essay in which he follows the McCain Campaign (Up, Simba) for Rolling Stones was difficult not through any fault of the editors, but just because so much needed to be cut.  However, he never mentions what the food magazine he was writing for thought of his review of the Maine Lobster Festival (Consider the Lobster) in which he focuses less on the festival (he admits to not particularly liking festivals in general) and more on the moral issue of whether eating lobster is actually ok or not.  An article that I started reading with happy festivals thoughts and I finished with a great confusion about how much responsibility I have over the pain the animals I eat go through so I can eat them.  Do I care?  Do I want to care? If I don’t want to care does that make me a bad person?  Did I expect to be thinking about this while eating ice-cream at 3 PM on a perfectly innocent Wednesday afternoon? Well, the answer to the last one is for sure no, but I also don’t regret it.  David Foster Wallace gave me what everybody claims to want when they’re talking about entertainment and want to sound sophisticated.  I just finished an intelligent, witty, deep, and funny book.

I would not recommend this to someone who wants a quick, light read but I would certainly recommend to people that like to be made to thought and have a genuine curiosity about whether or not lobsters can feel pain.

Common Place Book

“Rampant or flaccid, Ben Turnbull’s unhappiness is obvious right from the novel’s first page.  It never once occurs to him, though, that the reason he’s so unhappy is that he’s an asshole.”

-Certainly The End of Something Or Other by David Foster Wallace

“…part of any speaker’s motive for using a certain vocabulary is always the desire to communicate stuff about himself.”

-Authority and American Usage by David Foster Wallace

“I’m not sure what else to say.  It seems grotesque to talk about being traumatized by a piece of video when the people in the video were dying.  Something about the shoes also made it worse.”

-The View from Mrs. Thompson’s by David Foster Wallace

“It always seems to be important to have at least one person in the vicinity to hate.”

-The View from Mrs. Thompson’s by David Foster Wallace

“Truly decent, innocent people can be taxing to be around.”

-The View from Mrs. Thompson’s by David Foster Wallace

“…a sort of interior war between your deep need to believe and your deep belief that the need to believe is bullshit, that there’s nothing left anywhere but sales and salesmen.”

-Up, Simba by David Foster Wallace

“To make someone an icon is to make him an abstraction, and abstractions are incapable of vital communication with living people.”

-Joseph Frank’s Dostoevsky by David Foster Wallace

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