Posts Tagged ‘descriptivists’

Consider The Lobster (collected essays) – David Foster Wallace

April 16, 2010

I swore off DFW material but I couldn’t help myself. I had finished Oblivion, I had Consider the Lobster sitting there, waiting. I picked it up and I started reading it and I was hooked. I’m not sure what can be said about a collection of essays except that when an essay about an awards banquet for porn movies is the least interesting essay and the most interesting is a 60 page review of a dictionary that turns into a synopsis of a language war between prescriptivists and descriptivists, you know you have something special.

The elephant in the collection, though, is probably “Up, Simba!” It was an article originally commissioned by Rolling Stone for Wallace to go out on the campaign trail and find out what the whole John McCain thing was about way back in 2000 when he was upsetting the W political applecart.Now, why Rolling Stone would look at anything Wallace has ever written and thought that he would return with something that is, first, what they had in envisioned from the outset and, second, of a reasonable length, is beyond me.  The thing is huge. At the time Wallace was told that to publish it as is it would likely take ALL print space in the magazine. All of it. Which meant it had to be heavily edited.  I have no idea what ended up in the magazine but this piece, the whole piece, paints a very odd portrait of McCain as not only a maverick but of an occasionally far right magnet. Some of the things he supported from being very pro-gun to, bizarrely considering the era, vehemently anti-drugs (as in, wasn’t that war an 80s thing?) he had all of the hallmarks of a great GOP candidate. It’s something where his lack of popularity with the GOP can only be explained by how it has become so rabidly marginalized in its views. It also spoke to how frightening he should have been to the left but that he had such a weird aura about him that he was a genuinely interesting candidate from the middle – despite his clear leanings towards the right. In the end, it’s still about as interesting as the porn awards essay but it’s also Wallace at his best, finding a way to step back and take a look at something that is at the same time reflective and insightful while also distanced enough to convey a genuine openness to interpretation. It’s an essay that welcomes the reader in and asks them to take part, a trait that is shared throughout the collection.

A quick websearch turned up the following link for the full text for the essay Consider the Lobster (via It’s as good of a place as any to start to see if you would be interested in the rest of the collection and how can anyone pass up a free essay questioning the morality in killing any animal for food?