Taking the 52 Book Challenge, I’ve promised myself to start a new book every week this year….but I never said anything about finishing them. Below are my impressions (and predictions) after reading only 155 pages of David Foster Wallace’s Consider The Lobster.
What I Know (Pages 1 – 155)
It pains me that I wasn’t able to finish this week’s book. I’ve been obsessed with David Foster Wallace’s writing since I first read Infinite Jest (a monolithic novel that, doubtless, weighs more than our pug) but Consider The Lobster is the first of his nonfiction collections I’ve found the time to sit down with. Having spent hours in book stores thumbing through hundreds of books whose first chapters are all I may ever know of them, I’ve always felt I understood why most people held his essays over his fiction but found it hard to accept without investigating for myself.
Deep down I think I was worried his glorious overuse of footnotes was contained to novels but I was gladly mistaken. If you aren’t familiar with David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest alone has some 388 Footnotes that comprise the back 100 pages of the novel. In fact, one of those footnotes explains the complete filmography of a fictional filmmaker spanning more than 8 pages with 6 smaller footnotes inside the text. And I love it.
Equal parts journalist and philosopher, David Foster Wallace is an undefinable writer that spent his career comfortably seated on “the edge”. He is the only writer I know that can spend 50 pages analyzing industry professionals as caricature at the Adult Video Awards with all it’s nuance and idiosyncrasy only to shift gears into literary criticism of Franz Kafka, John Updike and Philip Roth. There is (I kid you not) a passionate 62 page review of the Oxford University Press’s A Dictionary of Modern American Usage, written by Bryan A. Garner, which (if you’re as grammatically inept as I am) reads like an actual, slightly humorous, dictionary.
Though I didn’t make it far enough to read the Title story of the collection, (which I assume is about a monstrous lobster that terrorizes the Midwest after exposure to gamma radiation, causing it to double in size each day, shedding shells as big as Buicks until no elastic band known to man can restrain it!!!), the high-point of the stories is in The View From Mrs. Thompson’s; A very raw, very unique telling of how he and his neighbors searched for closure in the days following the 9/11 attacks, referred to only as the Horror.
No one in Mrs. Thompson’s crew would ever be so nausceous as to try to get everybody to pray aloud or form a prayer circle, but you can still tell what they’re all doing.
[…] Truly decent, innocent people can be taxing to be around. I’m not for a moment trying to suggest that everyone I know in Bloomington is like Mrs. Thompson (e.g., her son F—– isn’t, though he’s an oustanding person). I’m trying, rather, to explain how some part of the horror of the Horror was knowing, deep in my heart, that whatever America the men in those planes hated so much was far more my America, and F—–‘s and poor old loathsome Duane’s, than it was these ladies.
What I Assume Happens (Pages 156 – 343)
Up, Simba (156-234)
Surely, a character analysis of John F.Kennedy Jr – the world’s first Justin Trudeau. DFW draws very direct, teetering on scandalous, comparisons between the
hunk late president’s son and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Assuming this piece was originally published while Wallace was working on the manuscript for Infinite Jest (a 1000+ page “modernization” of Hamlet) Up, Simba showcases DFW’s Great American Novel biceps, while he flexes and stretches, in preparation of prime time.
Consider The Lobster (235-254)
In which, our hero explains why lobster is disgusting and no one should eat it ever. You dont’ need to be vegan to see that lobsters are the scary, gross monsters we only eat after drenching in melted butter. I’d eat my own feet if they tasted like garlic bread, so you can’t sit there and tell me lobster is actually delicious when we all see it as a delivery system warm, liquid salt.
Lobsters are bottom feeders that look like a mad scientist’s insect army, that at one time were considered peasant food and fed to prisoners almost daily.
Joseph Frank’s Dostoevsky (255-274)
Don’t we all have our own Dostoevsky? Mine is the Dostoevsky that wintered in the mountains, and summered in the Golden Ring, all the while musing about man’s futility and persistence in expediting it’s own existence. My Dostoevsky is the man that sold bottle caps as a boy, to help pay his library late charges. MY Dostoevsky is the man that influenced a generation of writers to find beauty in the ghettos and strive for understanding in the violent conflicts at the heart of our being. (I’ve never read Dostoevsky…he’s basically Russia’s John Grisham, right?)
A story about how the internet has paved the way for humans to upload their personalities to internet and live forever? An in depth exposé on the inner workings of Jeopardy? Maybe it’s a criticism of former president George W. Bush, and how his inability to be more than the face of decisions made while he wasn’t even in the room can be compared to Cymothoa exigua, the parasite that eats and becomes a fish’s tongue…
But who knows! I just peaked and Up, Simba is actually a 15,000 word coverage of the 2000 US Campaign Trail???
With any luck my George Bush / Parasite Tongue think piece is closer to the mark than I originally thought.