Friday, January 20, 2006

Consider the Lobster
by David Foster Wallace

Thus far, DFW has been a better essayist than a fiction writer, Infinite Jest - one of my favorite novels of all time - notwithstanding. I hope this proves to be untrue with time.

Consider the Lobster is the perfect companion his first set of essays, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. Though "Consider" is the superior of the two.

Big red son
Is a report on an awards ceremony for porn stars that's typically held at the same time the International Consumer Electronics Show is. Of course it's not a coincidence. Highlights are his aside on the effect of viewing all the nominations for best porno on himself and his fellow male reporters, and the vignette on a female reporter's apparent porn-scene-fatigue near the end, especially when a 12-year-old boy gets up to accept his brother's win for best gay male star. Yes, it's harrowing, but it should be. Here's an excerpt of "Big Red Son" for your enjoyment and consideration. If you like this, you'll like the whole lobster.

TLD: I once worked in a video store that rented pornos. We were asked to view a selection of the titles - if our religions or other life circumstances and opinions didn't prevent it - so we could recommend them. At the time we had this bubbly, vivacious blonde working there who even wore Lolita heart-shaped sunglasses. One day a guy customer calls out from the porn section for some assistance in selecting a good one (whatever that is). He clearly meant me, but Lolita hopped over there before I could stop her and started chirping away about which ones she liked. Now the fact of the matter is most guys who rent porn by themselves are lonely and are going home to deface a Kleenex or two, and by extension are sensitive about this obvious fact. Well, having a beautiful little blonde suddenly pop up and offer commentary is something these guys just don't expect or desire (oddly enough). You could say it was near the top of the list with "my arrest making the best of show on 'Cops'" and "finding naked photos of my mother-in-law." You could practically see the "please kill me now" waves emanating from the porn enclosure. Besides offering a thumbs up or a thumbs down, Lolita was plucking the better ones (in her opinion) from the shelf and placing them in his shaking, mortified hands. If you've never seen one, a typical porn video box has quite a few graphic photos festooned across it. When the guy could finally move, he slammed all but one back onto the self and sprinted to the checkout counter, with a look on his face begging me to set the land speed record in video rental checkout. I obliged. After he rocketed out the door, Lolita turns to me, and in all innocence asked, "Jeez. What was his problem?"

Certainly the end of something or other, one would sort of have to think
A quietly vicious takedown of a John Updike novel, kind of like Twain's famous "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses." Just as funny, too. (I've never enjoyed Updike, and got an icky feeling from his prose.)

Some remarks on Kafka's funniness from which probably not enough has been removed
Nice try, but then I'm not the audience for this one. I think Kafka needed help wish he would've gotten it.

Authority and American Usage
I enjoyed this one, but it sailed about 3 feet above my head every other paragraph. I know that my education wasn't the best there was to be had, but this just made me feel stupid. Still, I liked what I understood.

The view from Mrs. Thompson's
A sketch of his reaction to 9-11. Beautiful.

How Tracy Austin broke my heart
Short version: Jock books are kinda dumb. Perhaps you can't describe what it's like to be a top athlete. (My note: Kinda the same way you can't adequately describe a song to someone. They have to hear it to understand.)

Up, Simba
I didn't have the heart or energy to read this one at this point in time. What with the illegal spying, half the administration under some sort of indictment, and asking the major search engine companies to hand over all their records for a week so they can look at who's looking at what. Dear God. No. Not right now.

Consider the lobster
Part journalism on an annual lobster festival and part rumination on killing and eating things.

Joseph Frank's Dostoevsky
Like, "Authority and American Usage" was a bit higher than I wanted to reach. I liked the Dostoevsky I've read, but Russian literati can be a bummer, so once I finished them, put them down and headed for sunnier shores. All Dostoevsky fans should read this, though.

Report on talk radio, which of course is mostly wingnut radio. I think he does a good job of presenting that odd world and not getting into the partisan side of it. The footnoting method is fun all by itself, and many are a hoot.

Here's another take on it from media consumption, and here's's take.

Consider the Lobster is one of the most enjoyable reads I've had in recent memory. Procure a copy, why doncha?

1 comment:

Nick Tambakeras said...

i've been googling dfw obsessively since news of his sad end hit the wires. came across your link-thru to the excerpted "Big Red Son." i've hardly read the man's work but something draws me to it now. based on your snippet reviews, i'm gonna find a copy of Consider the Lobster. thanks for the insights.