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Consider the Lobster and Other Essays Paperback – July 2, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0316013321 ISBN-10: 9780316013321

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Consider the Lobster and Other Essays + A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments + Infinite Jest
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 343 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (July 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780316013321
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316013321
  • ASIN: 0316013323
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (138 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This audiobook is like no other—not for the fabulous essays or deft narration, but for its inclusion of footnotes. Audio footnotes? It's quite simple. When Wallace reads his plentiful footnotes, which as fans know are anecdotal asides rather than bibliographic references, his voice changes tone. At first, this audio wrinkle sounds odd. But the novelty quickly fades and the parentheticals play as effective and amusing a role as in his print work, perhaps more so since here flow can be better maintained. Wallace dissects various subjects—lobsters, porn, sports memoirs, September 11—through Midwestern eyes. Smart and incisive, he always goes deep and follows threads of thought to their vanishing points, often in witty (though never a self-consciously clever) manner. His delivery is dead-on and fresh, the words often springing from his mouth as if conceived on the spot. His voice mostly hovers a notch or two above monotone, imbuing the material with equal parts wonder and skepticism. Though this collection comprises a mere four hours on three discs, Wallace's depth and breadth creates the sensation of a larger narrative—an audible confirmation that modern American writing continues to gain strength. Simultaneous release with the Little, Brown hardcover (Reviews, Oct. 10). (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


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

Wallace's collection of essays is intelligently and engagingly written and well researched too.
magellan
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
This piece was quite thought-provoking, and its brevity makes it much easier to read in one sitting.
Logan Stewart

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

144 of 153 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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64 of 68 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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89 of 102 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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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By julius on January 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Warning: If you abhor explanatory footnotes and asides, this book may not be for you.

Members of the American literati, the admitted audience for at least one essay in this collection, will already be familiar with DFW. For the rest of you: young (as in under 40), hip (as in long hair, swear words and breaching convention), and extremely smart and well read (as in English prof, and essay topics that include Kafka and Dostoevsky and prescriptive vs. descriptive American usage).

Somewhere in here there may be a reference to the fact that the aim of writing is to connect with the reader. DFW certainly did with me. I ripped through the collection over the weekend and enjoyed every one of the nine essays (having only come across one previously). Some of the reasons I liked them, in no particular order:

1) DFW points out, in reviewing Joseph Frank on Dostoevsky, that "Russian is notoriously hard to translate into English, and when you add to this the difficulty the archaisms of nineteenth-century literary language, Dostoevsky's prose/dialogue can often come offmannered and pleonastic and silly". I still don't know what pleonastic means, but have often felt that someone should make this point (as in "silly") about the prose/dialogue in some of the great Russian literature. The examples he goes on to give are hilarious, but I won't spoil it for you.

2) All the essays were to varying degrees funny. Big Red Son (on the 1998 Adult Video Awards) and Consider the Lobster (on the Maine Lobster Festival) standout in this regard.

3) The title essay was a review of the Maine Lobster Festival for Gourmet magazine. DFW paints a disturbing picture of the MLF and raises for consideration whether boiling lobsters alive is a good thing.
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