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Consider the Lobster: And Other Essays [Hardcover]

by David Foster Wallace
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (128 customer reviews)


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Book Description

December 13, 2005 0316156116 978-0316156110 First Edition
Do lobsters feel pain? Did Franz Kafka have a funny bone? What is John Updike's deal, anyway? And what happens when adult video starlets meet their fans in person? David Foster Wallace answers these questions and more in essays that are also enthralling narrative adventures. Whether covering the three-ring circus of a vicious presidential race, plunging into the wars between dictionary writers, or confronting the World's Largest Lobster Cooker at the annual Maine Lobster Festival, Wallace projects a quality of thought that is uniquely his and a voice as powerful and distinct as any in American letters.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Novelist Wallace (Infinite Jest) might just be the smartest essayist writing today. His topics are various—this new collection treats porn, sports autobiographies and the vagaries of English usage, among others—his perspective always slightly askew and his observations on point. Wallace is also frustrating to read. This arises from a few habits that have elevated him to the level of both cause célèbre and enfant terrible in the world of letters. For one thing, he uses abbrs. w/r/t just about everything without warning or, most of the time, context. For another, he inserts long footnotes and parenthetical asides that by all rights should be part of the main texts (N.B.: These usually occur in the middle of phrases, so that the reader cannot recall the context by the time the parentheses are wrapped up) but never are. These tricks are adequately postmodern (a term Wallace is intelligent enough to question) to prove his cleverness. But a writer this gifted doesn't need such cleverness. Wallace's words and ideas, as well as a wonderful sense of observation that makes even the most shopworn themes seem fresh, should suffice.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

It’s a well-accepted proposition that Wallace, a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant recipient, is one of the most brilliant essayists alive. But it’s another matter altogether whether his work—at once luminous, provocative, digressive, and frustrating—finds the audience it deserves. Like Infinite Jest (1996) and A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (1997), this collection showcases Wallace’s love of language, emotional IQ, and curiosity about the world (and the starlets who populate it). His trademark footnotes, essays in themselves, rarely fail to entertain—if you can follow them. But a few critics ask whether this collection exhibits more high jinks than actual intellectual insight; the arrows and boxed comments in the essay "Host," for example, may just obscure a Very Important Point. But that may be the point—to get you thinking about much more than the lobster.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (December 13, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316156116
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316156110
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.7 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (128 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #196,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Foster Wallace wrote the acclaimed novels Infinite Jest and The Broom of the System and the story collections Oblivion, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and Girl With Curious Hair. His nonfiction includes the essay collections Consider the Lobster and A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, and the full-length work Everything and More.  He died in 2008.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
140 of 149 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Perfect, but Awfully Good November 3, 2006
Format:Hardcover
I've never read Wallace, mostly because his best known work ("Infinite Jest") is so long. But I tend to like writers that digress and use footnotes for asides, so I thought maybe this collection of ten essays would give me enough of a taste to know if I should check out his other stuff. Ranging in length from 7 to 80 pages, the essays all appeared previously (albeit often truncated) in various magazines such as Harper's, The Atlantic, Gourmet, Rolling Stone, Premier, etc. They can be roughly categorized into three categories: brief review, personal piece, and long in-depth topical examination.

The brief reviews generally tend to take an item and use it as a staging area for discussing something more interesting than the given subject. For example, in "Certainly the End of Something or Other", Wallace uses his review of John Updike's novel Toward the End of Time to highlight the general narcissism and shallowness of writers such as Updike, Philip Roth, and Norman Mailer. His 20-page review of Joseph Frank's biography of Dostoevsky is largely dedicated to making a larger point about literary criticism, and his 25-page review of tennis player Tracy Austin's autobiography is similarly dedicated to identifying the fundamental problem of sports memoirs. I have to admit that the essential point of the shortest piece, "Some Remarks on Kafka's Funniness", eluded me.

The two more personal pieces are strikingly different, but in each one gets a vivid impression of Wallace working through his own feelings. In, "The View From Mrs. Thompson's", he uses 13 pages to recount his own September 11 experience in Bloomington, Indiana.
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62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wallace (finally?) delivers the goods October 17, 2006
Format:Hardcover
Probably no contemporary writer has to meet higher expectations than David Foster Wallace. He's a genius. Ask anyone. In some cases, this works against him; as someone who survived reading Wallace's essay collection A SUPPOSEDLY FUN THING..., I can testify that Mr. Wallace sometimes has aspirations that even his prodigious skills can't meet, and the results ain't pretty.

But in CONSIDER THE LOBSTER, he is hitting on almost all of his many cylinders. In fact, it is high praise indeed for me to report that on a flight to Phoenix, I was laughing so hard at this book's first essay (it's about a pornography awards show), I almost felt compelled to explain to my fellow passenger the source of my mirth.

I didn't. (I'm not insane.) But it was that good.

The rest of the topics examined by Wallace's gimlet eyes are, shall we say, wide-ranging, but aside from an enervating and lengthy examination of A DICTIONARY OF MODERN USAGE, Wallace lives up to his "genius" billing. I did grimace when I saw that the book contained a piece devoted to one of his pet topics, (namely tennis), but even this essay transcended its subject and was eminently worthwhile.

In short, I'm quite glad to have read this book. More, please.
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88 of 101 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine Dining for the Mind July 21, 2006
Format:Hardcover
I was introduced to DFW by the classic essay "A supposedly fun thing I'll never do again," but stupidly lost track of him until picking up "Lobster" on a whim a few weeks ago.

Let me say this first: even though DFW is a freak for the correct use of language, I love him because he can break all the pesky little rules we've all learned about clear writing (eg, no fifty-cent words, limit footnotes, limit adverbs, two simple sentences are better than one complex sentence, etc), and write vividly, clearly, engagingly, etc (see, he's already liberated my long-caged drive to adverbize.) Perhaps even better, he writes so that it feels we are in his head, and doesn't patronize his reader by tidying up messy internal disputes, which is damn refreshing.

Many of the essays are are similarly conceived (it somehow all seems to do with marketing to the least common denominator, and the way this marketing glosses over so much that is complex and difficult and important to think about, and the author's simulataneous fascination with and and revulsion regarding said marketing, in an "I'm revolted but I can't look away... and in fact am I actually that revolted?.... Gosh, should I be more revolted? Am I actually falling for this?" kind of way).

At this point, I'm thinking that my favorite is the title essay, which is among the shortest in the collection but definitely the most visceral and, at many points, just plain sad. I have a neuroscience background, and can vouch for the moral and biological complexity of the question over whether animals without cerebral cortices "experience" pain. Warning: yes, the essay's description of a lobster's behavior during the boiling process dissuaded me from eating lobster ever again.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Missing one key piece... August 27, 2009
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
DFW's content is not the object of this review. Rather, I am reviewing (and objecting to) the Kindle version of the book, which does not include the marvelous essay, "Host." Although I (now) understand that the article in its original form used sidenotes that cannot be duplicated in the eBook format, it would have been nice to know that before hunting through the publication notes on my Kindle to discover this. It seems that either the sidenotes could be changed to footnotes and so duplicated, or the publisher and Amazon could let me know that what I am buying is a somewhat diminished version of the book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars worthy of a read
The genius of DFW applied to such disparate topics makes this collection a worthy read. There's something to be learned even from his rather technical reviews of other authors.
Published 22 days ago by David Jakubosky
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth Reading
Very interesting. Like that you can read separate essays without committing to a whole book. Very adept writer, hard to put down!
Published 26 days ago by Carol Jean Havlena
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious & Insightful
I bought this book not knowing what to expect, and I was pleasantly surprised! DFW is first and foremost a brilliant author. Just as importantly, he's hilarious. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Moon
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book and an awesome tead
This is an excellent read. If you have reading if his work, you will thoroughly enjoy. The stories are well written.
Published 2 months ago by Judy Turner
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, informative essays written as only DFW could
This was the first DFW I've read since Infinite Jest, which I read a few years before I started reviewing books here, and I'm still firmly rooted among those in awe. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Richard Bon
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Professional and Reliable Seller and Extraordinary Book
I am very pleased with my purchase. The book was in better condition than described, arrived quickly, and was professionally packaged. The price was also reasonable. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Barbara Baraff
5.0 out of 5 stars Helped me with my writing
His essays are the most brilliant things I have ever read. They are extremely thought-provoking and you are guaranteed to finish each one with a new perspective. Read more
Published 3 months ago by C. Cundey
4.0 out of 5 stars Over my head, almost.
If only I could could comprehend all that these collected pieces had to offer without the vigorous use of a dictionary and frequent trips to Wikipedia this might have been a 5-star... Read more
Published 6 months ago by rocket80
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining collection of essays
This is my first foray into David Foster Wallace (I know, it's one of his last works and nonfiction, but I felt like it would be a good introduction). Read more
Published 6 months ago by Tased
2.0 out of 5 stars So-so Essays
This is a so-so collection of essays. Some of the author's most interesting ideas were obscured by his stylistic gyrations, some of which do not even appear in the Kindle version.
Published 6 months ago by Michael W Watkins
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