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Consider the Lobster: And Other Essays Hardcover – December 13, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0316156110 ISBN-10: 0316156116 Edition: First Edition

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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 (143 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.


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

This piece was quite thought-provoking, and its brevity makes it much easier to read in one sitting.
Logan Stewart
He is amazingly capable at evoking empathy, while occasionally stunning with his amazing command of the language and his in-depth research of his subjects.
ReaderMatt
And Consider the Lobster and Other Essays, which pulls writings of Wallace's from the past decade, easily contains some of his best work.
Wheelchair Assassin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

147 of 157 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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65 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Bart King on 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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91 of 105 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer A. Cummings on 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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By David M. Giltinan on January 31, 2008
Format: Paperback
Full disclosure: I have a major intellectual crush on David Foster Wallace. Yes, yes, I know about his weaknesses - the digressions, the rampant footnote abuse, the flaunting of his amazing erudition, the mess that is 'Infinite Jest'. I know all this, and I don't care. Because when he is in top form, there's nobody else I would rather read. The man is hilarious; I think he's a mensch, and I don't believe he parades his erudition just to prove how smart he is. I think he can't help himself - it's a consequence of his wide-ranging curiosity. At heart he's a geek, but a charming, hyper-articulate geek. Who is almost frighteningly intelligent.

The pieces in "Consider the Lobster" have appeared previously in Rolling Stone, The Atlantic Monthly, the New York Observer, the Philadelphia Enquirer, Harper's, Gourmet, and Premiere magazines. Among them are short meditations on Updike's `Toward the end of Time', on Dostoyevsky, on Kafka's humor, and on the `breathtakingly insipid autobiography' of tennis player Tracy Austin. An intermediate length piece describes Foster Wallace's (eminently sane) reaction to the attacks of September 11th. Each of these shorter essays is interesting, but the meat and potatoes of the book is in the remaining five, considerably longer, pieces. They are:

Big Red Son: a report on the 1998 Adult Video News awards (the Oscars of porn) in Las Vegas.
Consider the Lobster: a report on a visit to the annual Maine Lobster Festival (for Gourmet magazine).
Host: a report on conservative talk radio, based on extensive interviews conducted with John Ziegler, host of "Live and Local" on Southern California's KFI.
Up Simba: an account of seven days on the campaign trail with John McCain in his 2000 presidential bid (for Rolling Stone).
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