Sunday, August 29, 2010

Book twenty-four: Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace.

Not too long ago I finished reading Trevor Corson's The Secret Life of Lobsters.  One of my friends read my blog post (thanks Jen, not many people actually read my blog), and left a comment that I should read another book Consider the Lobster and Other Essays by David Foster Wallace.  I downloaded the book to my Kindle but never seemed to have a break in my reading schedule to fit it in.  I finally got around to reading it.

This book simultaneously makes me feel smart and stupid.  I feel smart because it's obvious that Wallace is one intelligent guy and brings an intellectual attitude to just about any subject he tackles.  I feel stupid because there are whole swaths of this book that I'm pretty sure I didn't really understand.  And I wouldn't have made it through the book without the on-board Kindle dictionary. Because D.F.W. (he likes to use lots of unexplained acronyms) has an impressive vocabulary (although he also likes to make up his own words).

Many of these essays were written as assignments for major magazines.  And it's interesting to see how Wallace takes a basic, straightforward assignment and turns it into something more philosophical or literary.  A book review turns into an in-depth discussion about the value of grammar and "correct" language usage. An assignment to cover a Maine lobster festival becomes a rumination on sentience in the animal world.  And an assignment to cover presidential candidate John McCain on the campaign trail turns into an epic tale of American politics. 

This is a book for serious readers.  The writing style is modern and experimental.  And it's difficult to keep up with Wallace's obvious intellect.  Some of the essays are already outdated and so are nothing more than the author showing off.  But I still enjoyed the book.  The philosophical nature of many of the essays is rewarding.  And David Foster Wallace has a delightful, subversive sense of humor.  So I say you should consider Consider the Lobster.

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