Consider the Lobster: Essays
by David Foster Wallace
2005, Little, Brown & Co.
Those of you who know me well are doubtless familiar with my slow-burning obsession with DFW of late. His essays, in particular, have proven fertile ground for the seedling of my infatuation to flourish into a wild post-modern fruit-bearing leafy-looking semiotic representation of a tree.
Consider the Lobster was the most recent of my forays into DFW land. I completed the book
several months ago and due to some moving silliness and personal shirking of self-imposed intellectual responsibilities (aka this blog) never wrote about it. As with all these bloglettes, too much time has passed for me to give an accurate reading of my impressions of the book except that I loved it.
Of particular note were an essay on the debate in the dictionary-writing community between
recording language as people speak it (descriptivists) and recording language as people should speak it (prescriptivists), an lengthy essay on John McCain's failed 2000 presidential bid that assumes that its audience of Rolling Stone-reading 20-something white guys were apathetic towards politics, and a beautifully sad and insightful article on the emotional consequences of Sept. 11th from the perspective of a (like me) highly conflicted American.
What sticks in my mind the most, though, is DFW's alarming ability to shift rhetorically to address the audience he is courting. His explication of the ins-and-outs of grammar snobbery, for example in the aforementioned article on American usage, professes gleefully to DFW's elitism in grammatical matters in order to sidle up along his readership, whereas his titular exploration of the morality of eating sentient food (namely, the lobster) downplays its end-goal of forcing the readers of Gourmet to re-think their position by evading its central moral question until the last few pages, masquerading its point as it were in a cleverly deceptive, nearly parodic description of the mania surrounding a lobster festival. (Hello, run-on, let's be friends.) After all, who could doubt DFW's seemingly impromptu questioning of the ethics of lobster bib-donning when he first describes in excruciatingly funny detail the tumult and buffoonery around him?
Now that I've ostensibly exhausted his nonfiction, you can look forward (if anyone can be said to do such a thing in reading this blog) to my turning an eye to his short fiction soon.