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Friday, May 2, 2014

Consider the Lobster and Other Essays

We are wrapping up DFW week, and I wanted to end with Consider the Lobster and Other Essays. This was my first experience with the man and I fell in love with his wordiness and his genius and his copious use of footnotes. It was love at first read.

At the Maine lobster festival, DFW contemplates the finer points on whether lobsters actually feel pain. Everyone has a 9/11 experience--what was yours? What is proper grammar usage and why do we get it all wrong? After spending time on the campaign trail with McCain is 2000, will either survive? These are just some topics explored in essays that force you to consider new sides of topics about which you never knew you had an opinion.

DFW shines when it comes to his narratives, but I also have a soft spot for his essays. I think they are the perfect fit with his love of footnotes (and mine...I love footnotes like nobodies business).

I have simplified the premises of several essays, of course, because DFW can not be boiled down to a simple blurbed description. His work is full and nuanced; it's a fine meal of the greatest delicacies you can find with paired wines for every course. The first essay I read was "Consider the Lobster," and if you poke around online you can find the original publication in which it was published. It is full of care and research because the man loves facts. Whether it's dates and times or scores and averages, he puts in details that are so minute you wonder if they are even necessary--then you read on and realize that they are whether you know it or not. Have you ever wondered if lobsters feel pain? Even if you actually have, you haven't pondered it in this way before. Deep and thoughtful with a dab of facts in your melted butter.

The other essay that really took me for a ride was "Host," which is about talk radio, specifically The John Ziegler Show. I am sure many of us have mixed opinions on talk radio, so I appreciate that DFW has this way of wanting to know all of the facts, not just the ones that drive him to form an opinion and then support it. He digs deep into the psyche of why people do what they do, and even if you don't agree with their reasoning, you find out what it is. He asks questions that make you go, "I hadn't even thought of that!" They are deep and inviting, making me want to step even further into the recesses of his mind.

Which I guess is something that could be said of all of his work, and it's one of the most loveable things about the man as the brilliant writer that he was.

Hard copy only below.

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