Consider the Lobster
By David Foster Wallace.
I’m on a David Foster Wallace kick since loving Infinite Jest so much over the summer. In these essays I’m starting to notice his neurotics more — which maybe you’d think would be impossible to ignore in Infinite Jest but the novel generally was in the perspective of the character, so separating out whose neuroses were whose is trickier.
Which isn’t to say I liked these essays. I did.
I like his candid questioning of the reader of animal rights in ‘Consider the Lobster’.
I like his distraction, almost to a fault, in ‘Up, Simba’ (about the 2000 McCain primaries campaign.)
I had already read ‘Authority and American Usage’ and again liked his obsession with fiddling out why a dictionary could be great.
I liked the strange disappointment in professional athletes in ‘How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart’.
I disliked the way the footnotes were arranged in ‘Host’ and wasn’t sure I really understood much more about right-wing talk shows at the end, though it was classically entertaining to read him intellectually futzing around with some theories about their success.
‘The View from Mrs. Thompson’s’ was a touchingly hilarious account of 9/11.
(Essays I didn’t mention: ‘Big Red Son’ about the porn industry Oscar equivalent, ‘Certainly the End of Something or Other’ about Updike’s book that Wallace didn’t like, ‘Some Remarks on Kafka’s Funniness’ of which the topic is obvious, and ‘Joseph Frank’s Dostoevsky’ which is about Joseph Frank’s books about Dostoevsky.)
I will say I ended the book with less unadulterated love of David Foster Wallace, not because it’s bad but because it demonstrated in several places his humanity and ability to write silly thoughts and be neurotic to the point where it isn’t helping anyone. I think what draws me to him is his amazing portrayal of similar neurotic and cynical thoughts to those that I have — it’s like someone saying “oh, yeah, I do this crazy thing in my head all the time” and I respond with “holy shit me too.”