Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Consider the Lobster
And other essays

by David Foster Wallace

      At the Maine Lobster Festival, David Foster Wallace wonders what the event itself and the morality of inflicting probable pain on another being for our gustatory pleasure says about us. This was a commission for sybaritic Gourmet magazine, where footnoted social commentary was not exactly the expectation. Wallace is not afraid to stir things up. While thoroughly enjoying his fact-based discussion of some hot button issues, I did wonder how much the level of distaste Wallace shows for such mass tourist venues colored his perspective on the justification for this one. This may be a case where having the author read is a mistake, since his cool tones heighten an impression of superciliousness.

Next he offers September 11, 2001 unfolding before someone already experiencing both alienation and community in middle America. Watching TV is the basis of most social interaction where he lives; and the same neighbors who can't understand his refusal to own one welcome him freely into their homes to watch. Including on September 11th, when watching with his essentially innocent, 'good people' neighbors brings rueful realizations about the differences between them -including that the America the attackers resented had more to do with himself than with them.

Wallace uses the hook of its annual Academy Awards equivalent to discuss the modern porn industry. There's dry humor and a critique whose effectiveness derives from giving those in the industry -and it is always an industry- enough rope to hang themselves rather than fire and brimstone preaching from afar. Here the author's cool reading tones are a decided advantage.

Finally he looks at sports biographies -how disappointing they are and what that might say about both the average person's relationship to sports heroes and the heroes' relationships to their own success.

Wallace's real specialty is thinking about things: past the obvious or surface levels and encouraging the reader to do the same. Whether or not the subject interests you or you agree with him, you will be engaged. The audio version is abridged to only 4 of the 10 essays from the hardcover. While there's plenty to satisfy the reader in this snack sized version, my one complaint is that I don't get an opportunity to be engaged by the rest.

The Book

Time Warner Audiobooks
December 13, 2005
Audiobook - abridged (3 CDs)
Non-Fiction Essays
More at
NOTE: One of the essays covers the porn industry and contains a lot of sexual references of varying degrees of offensiveness

The Reviewer

Kim Malo
Reviewed 2006
© 2006