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I, Lobster: A Crustacean Odyssey Hardcover – October 9, 2012
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Top Customer Reviews
I Lobster treats this creature as a starting point to packets of diverse information spreading into unanticipated regions of engaging facts from eras past to present (which testify to fathoms of research). Yet, it uses a template of philosophical observation which turns its attention to us - our symbolism, perceptions, and the projection of ourselves onto the lobster. As NF states, the central thesis of the book is..."that the lobster as we know it is a reflection of ourselves..." Hume would likely agree, that we "apply to external bodies every internal sensation which they occasion." Lobsters have always provoked a palatable swirl of sensations (ask Stephen King) which the author vividly describes with a colorful style effective as strokes from an artist's brush.
Beyond all that, this book is just plain fun to read.
"I, Lobster: A Crustacean Odyssey" delights, charms, informs, and amuses on every page. Many are the books on lobster biology, lobster cooking, lobsters-and-the-environment, honorably and carefully cited in "I, Lobster." What's new and (as far as I know) unique is the beginning, middle, and end viewpoints.
The book began with a term paper on lobsters in art: fine art, from the splendid Roman mosaics to the great artists of the Renaissance to contemporary artists, such as Joseph Cornell (gentle boxes of balletic lobsters) and Salvador Dali (not gentle at all). From fine art, Frazier turns to the other arts. There's a chapter on lobsters in science fiction across many centuries, including one nightmare-inducing book by Stephen King and another by Lucian (CE about 100).
There are 13 richly researched chapters: the cult of the lobster, celebrations seductions & crimes, natural history, life death & medical conditions, man-eating monsters, SF, the Palinurus problem, secrets of the seas, a metaphor for people, the bartender & the lobster, welcome to the lobster hotel, bouilabaisse, and lobster recipes. Each has five or so sections, like short stories within a general theme, cleverly titled, and written with enough detail to satisfy but not overwhelm. Cumulatively, the book examines lobsters and the human condition about which there is far more to be said than ever I imagined.
Frazier is so excellent a writer, though, she probably could make any topic a treasure-house of wit and wisdom. The closest writers to her might be E. B. White in his essays on his Maine salt-water farm and the admirable writers of "Lobscouse and Spotted Dog," that glorious book on recipes of dishes served in the Aubrey-Maturin series. To these on my book-shelf now will be added "I, Lobster."
So admirable a book by so gifted a writer could perhaps have a better title. Except for citing Lewis' "Tis the voice of the lobster, I heard him declare" the lobsters never speak in their own (imagined or otherwise) voices. Wisely, mystical extrapolations to their inner lives are avoided except for an appropriate setion on whether lobsters feel pain when they're boiled alive. Also---granted a minor wave in a vast ocean of enthusiasm, the cover photograph of a glistening lobster tail (uncooked, black) didn't seem as inspired and witty as the book itself.
At any rate, a book to give a friend curious of mind and encyclopedic of interests, a book to read aloud if you are lucky enough to participate in a lobster feast, and a book for reading again and again for your own great pleasure. With melted butter or not.
Thank you, Ms. Frazier!