Having learned of DFW from his enormous, Joycean tome entitled Infinite Jest—which, to be fair, I’ve not actually read, though it is one of my goals for this year—I was curious as to what a rather smaller offering of his might entail. Consider the Lobster is a collection of completely unrelated (indeed, almost baffingly unrelated) essays written over a period of about ten years.
It begins with a 50-page exposè on the Adult Video Awards, which are basically the Oscars of pornography. Wallace manages to create a mix of isn’t-it-silly hauteur, earnest, sociological inquiry, and some self-effacing humour in the vein of Dave Barry.
From there, it varies between literary reviews (John Updike, Dostoevski), politics (a memoir of Wallace’s week spent with John McCain’s campaign during the 2000 primaries), and of course lobsters (namely, do lobster feel pain when they are boiled alive?). If that assortment of topics isn’t bewildering enough, Wallace’s extensive footnotes (which often cover 3/4 of a page, and have footnotes of their own) can turn any reasonably simple topic into a digressive and byzantine tract (wholly fun for nerds). I of course have to wonder whether I can make it through 1000+ pages of such style (Infinite Jest), but Wallace’s fun, I’m-too-intellectual-for-my-shirt romps through the oddest of topics in the oddest of contexts (consider that his essay on lobsters’ rights was written for Gourmet magazine) is so endearing that I feel compelled to try.
In the meantime, if you aren’t so bold, check out any of DFW’s shorter collections, Consider the Lobster included.