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Showing 1-10 of 97 reviews(5 star, Verified Purchases). See all 224 reviews
on January 13, 2017
I'm sure that 99.999999% of people who asked DFW to review something knew what they were getting into -- ask him to review a lobster festival, get a miniature treatise on the ethical implications of causing pain to animals; ask him to review a grammar handbook, get a play-by-play of warring factions within the lexicographical community; ask him to review an adult-film trade show, get (in a footnote, no less) one of the most moving little soliloquies ever written about the connection between sex and truth -- but I wonder if anyone ever commissioned a piece without ever actually having read his stuff before (like, they just heard he was a really "in" writer) and then they get a draft of his article and they're like "oh COME ON he didn't even say if the lobster rolls were any good"
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on November 5, 2011
DFW has an unbelievable knack for making the most distasteful of subjects riveting. The topics of some of his essays, oh let's say, for instance, Big Red Son, are not something that I would necessarily, ordinarily seek to read on my own, but his thorough depiction and analysis of this, well, interesting subculture is so top notch and fascinating that I found it impossible to put down.

Politics isn't my cup of tea either. Yet his essay on McCain's 2000 bid for the Republican nomination just sucks you right in. His keen understanding what makes both things and people "click," of human nature, outweighs that of any other author I believe I have ever read.

He's definitely become one of my favorite moderns authors, along with Jonathon Franzen, Jose Saramago, Zadie Smith, and Dave Eggers. I just read The Broom Of The System, which grant you is really rather weird. I'm not sure I "got" the ending-- only maybe I did-- and am now happily devouring Oblivion, so it is clear that he can broach both nonfiction and fiction with equal aplomb.

Sadly and sorely missed you are, DFW.
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on July 5, 2011
David Foster Wallace, more so than any other person, makes me laugh and cry, in other words, feel deeply. Which is a good thing, I think--which is the other thing he makes me do--think. And all that is as he intended if I am interpreting his writing accurately--which is as he posits, not possible--to know how a reader will react to what it is you write; but writing, as Wallace says, is nothing but, " ... an act of communication between one human being and another ... " [From "Greatly Exaggerated" in the Harvard Book Review (1992) reprinted in A supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again (1997). Essentially this is what troubled Wallace throughout his life--all these little contradictions that abound everywhere if you take the time and spend your attention looking. Which is what he did better than anyone I have ever read or listened to. He was an expert observer by his own criteria which is to be passionate about what you care about. And yet, his observations were often dispassionate, or better, more clear because he did not allow his passion to cloud what it was he saw. And then could he write? Better than anyone else I've read, because he had a mastery of words and language. He was a self acknowledged "SNOOT," or an extreme word usage fanatic (fn. pg. 69 in "Authority and American Usage.") Which is a book review of an American language usage dictionary, wrote in 1999, that had me laughing out loud, which is not an easy thing to do. A lot! So, besides dispassionate (mostly) he observes and writes objectively (as much as this is possible) in beautiful, unambiguous, extraordinarily detailed prose. If you are not curious and not open-minded, Wallace's writing will disturb you. And if you are curious and open-minded his writing will blow your mind and really, really disturb you. If you are the former, however, you don't have to read him and probably won't, and things will go on as they always have. But if you are the latter - you must read him - and then things might never be the same. So that is a general review of what you're in store for in Consider The Lobster.

Slightly more specifically. The non-fiction essays were written (except for one in 1994) from 1998 through 2005. The subjects are: Words, language, literature, teaching, writing, thinking, lying, entertainment, sports, celebrity, politics, food, small towns, Las Vegas, pornography, morality, talk radio; and of course the people and personalities that make up those places, industries, and things ... in other words: What it is to be human in America at the turn of this millennium. Do I always agree with him? No. For example, in "Up, Simba," about John McCain and the GOP primary of 2000 he writes about the decision to vote or not (something I have written about myself) and I agree with him--not voting is actually a vote for the status quo. And this, in the same essay, hits home:
" ... getting lied to sucks - that it diminishes you, denies you respect for yourself, for the liar, for the world. Especially if the lies are chronic, systemic, if experience seems to teach that everything you're supposed to believe in's really just a game based on lies." (pg. 189)

Yes, David; but just what game are you talking about? ( I was living just a few miles away from him when he killed himself. And before his death I had never heard of him. I feel - like I lost something, something that I'll never have the opportunity to experience ever again.) [If you're into the ins-n-outs of lying, check out my blog @ markjabbour.com (coming in mid July 2011). Lying is one of my favorite subjects.] So how does Wallace reconcile that with this: The senior ladies, his neighbors in Bloomington, Indiana, on September 11, 2001 were innocent. He says. Not stupid but innocent. I get his point, but I disagree. No adult in America is innocent. Children are innocent; but in a democracy that stands for freedom and equal rights, every citizen, especially the older you get and the more you benefit from that freedom - is not innocent but responsible. Ahhh, but these are the contradictions that drove Wallace, ultimately I think, to take his own life. He asked questions, the right questions, he studied the problems and asked more questions. And more than any other, he could put it all down on paper so as not to offended or rankle or make defensive - but to make people think. Which is, arguably (which he does) a good thing, right?
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on January 3, 2010
David Foster Wallace reachs new heights in this brilliant collection of essays. Although uneven, as is much of his work, the best of these essays set new recent standards for this art form. In the finest works of this collection, he truly does achieve art with non-fiction writing. Imagine a critique of a new academic work on English grammar usage that is too fascinating to put down, and frequently too humorous to not have to stop reading while your laughter subsides. His points are made without his ever becoming preachy, and are all the more convincing for it (c.f. the title essay). His mastery of understatement serves to place a new emphasis on events of chilling importance by observation of events seemingly mundane.
His use of sarcasm and irony when appropriate remains as adroit as ever.

For those who are already Wallace fans, I recommend this as my favorite of his collections of non-fiction. For those who have never encountered him before, I think this is the best introduction to his non-fiction work (and that is high praise indeed, as his other collections are wonderful).

This book serves to remind us of the tragic loss to American arts and letters caused by Wallace's untimely passing. I mourn his absence, and am deeply saddened by the void he leaves behind. Treasure these works, he was unique and nothing quite like him will come again.

LJS
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on March 31, 2011
To characterize the late David Wallace as merely a fiction writer is to be truly short sided. In fact, I'd wager that his true talent was on exhibit moreso in these wonderful books of essays and short stories and not necessarily in his novels. In 1997 he published the marvelous "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" that accumulated numerous nonfictional narrations that emoted a side of Wallace not seen in his literary breakthrough "Infinite Jest", a legendary fictional monolith. Continuing with the short non fiction writings, we now encounter "Consider the Lobster" an amalgam of previously published magazine pieces that Wallace was commissioned to write for, among others, Harpers, Esquire and Rolling Stone. Put together in an order that was surely well thought through by both author and editor, we enter a maze of prodigious writing and thinking that few writers could ever hope to aspire to. Wallace's talent is truly laid bare here and it is the reader who is the victor as one's mind is hopelessly expanded while damning fate (re: clinical depression) is responsible for taking such a talent away before his work was complete.

Yea verily, to appreciate Wallace, one must really be dialed into his cynicism...for me he's at his best when he methodically and systematically dismembers those whose inflated sense of self importance and self aggrandizement leave no other choice. In "Up Simba" and "The Big Red Son" Wallace picks apart two widely disparate but uniquely unified egos when he tackles the arrogant national press that follows a major presidential candidate and the self proclaimed untouchable postures of adult video hierarchy. Slowly at first and then gathering steam, these mercenary depictions integrate within the narrative, giving nuance and depth that by the end, the reader is suddenly faced with reporting as he's never experienced...in both of these excellent essays, I found myself laughing almost uncontrollably while marveling, at the end, at why all journalism can't be this way. This, to me, is the power of DFW.

The other essays, although not quite up to the standard of the two previously mentioned, are also excellent in varying forms. This next level would include "The View from Mrs. Thompson's", a "where were you" for Wallace on 9/11 that uniquely treats the human spirit in a seemingly heretofore un-Wallace-like way. "How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart" is a rigorous diatribe at Austin's memoirs and a "how could she be so callous" with her life story review. The book's title essay is an exploration not so much of the Maine Lobster Fest of 2003, although it's certainly centered around that, rather it's a referendum on animal rights and, more specifically, a thoughtful study on the lobster and whether it's cruel and unusual punishment to boil one alive. Wallace has clearly done his homework here and his crustacean knowledge approaches Phd level.

The others are works that I would characterize as academic essays ranging from studies on Kafka and Dostoevsky (the essential post modern literary anchor points) to a surprisingly personal reflection on today's use of language compared to its intended use and how many language syntax fanatics or SNOOTS (don't ask...look it up), Wallace having been one of it's proud leaders, are mulling about the land looking and lurching for the ever present mistake in prose. These works require a lot more work and commitment from the reader but are still rewarding in the end. Finally, it wouldn't be a Wallace work without a word about the footnotes. Wallace explains that the endnotes are a way for him to "fracture reality" and provide a way to give him a second voice, all of which I believe and trust...but, I also believe that to a degree, Wallace is messing with us a bit and enjoying it...methinks he's thumbing his nose at those who would criticize him with the final essay "Host" in the book. Without giving it away, one only has to turn to any page in this essay to see what I'm talking about.

It is true that this reviewer has come aboard the DFW bandwagon very late and the circumstances of his death have certainly added the needed melancholy to his legend. But, I believe that I do possess enough balance to recognize genius when I read it and I must say that David Wallace deserves all accolades thrown his way...with "Consider The Lobster" being one of his many masterpieces.
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on December 22, 2016
My husband has read a few books by David Foster Wallace, so I bought this for his birthday. He loves it and wants me to read it, too! He says it's not as labor intensive as some of DFW's other work, and that's good - especially if you don't have hours to dedicate to looking up obscure phrases and unusual terms.
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on July 18, 2017
Excellent read. An astonishing mixture of hoighty-toity (though certainly formidable) intellect, gramma nazism, and laconic humor. Very entertaining. His essay on 9/11 is particularly moving. It's a great shame that he's no longer around, and even sadder that it's his own doing. RIP DFW.
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on April 2, 2017
Awesome book...I sincerely wonder how his keen eye and mind would capture the Great Recession or Trumpism. To RIP DFW
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on January 27, 2017
This book is a nice way to start getting into DFW before trying to digest a whole novel. You can clearly hear his voice throughout the essays which gives you the strong sense that you know DFW. His essays are insightful and thought-provoking. Enjoy.
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on March 12, 2017
wonderful collection
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