Do lobsters feel pain? Did Franz Kafka have a funny bone? What is John Updike’s deal, anyway? And what happens when adult video starlets meet their fans in person? David Foster Wallace answers these questions and more in essays that are also enthralling narrative adventures. Whether covering the three-ring circus of a vicious presidential race, plunging into the wars between dictionary writers, or confronting the World’s Largest Lobster Cooker at the annual Maine Lobster Festival, Wallace projects a quality of thought that is uniquely his and a voice as powerful and distinct as any in American letters.
Consider the written word.
Consider the writer.
DFW brings out the depth of these random and unrelated subjects through the written word in these bunch of brilliant essays that are equal parts humorous and profound.
“Aren’t there parts of ourselves that are just better left unfed?”
“Big Red Son” is a first-person account of the Adult Video News awards held in Vegas in 1998. It’s worth reading because of the eloquence with which DFW covers the industry that is anything but.
“Some Remarks on Kafka’s Funniness from Which Probably Not Enough Has Been Removed” Franz Kafka had a sense of humour – we were not taught to see this.
“It’s not that students don’t “get” Kafka’s humor but that we’ve taught them to see humor as something you get — the same way we’ve taught them that a self is something you just have. No wonder they cannot appreciate the really central Kafka joke — that the horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle.
“The View from Mrs. Thompson’s,” The grotesque attack of 9/11, as seen from the American Midewest, where DFW lived at that time. Watching it on the his fellow church goer Mrs. Thomson’s television, he describes the day, the scene, the sadness and the empathy.
“To make someone an icon is to make him an abstraction, and abstractions are incapable of vital communication with living people.”
“How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart,” A great essay about the bad autobiography of a remarkably good tennis player.
“Consider the Lobster,” Probably my favourite, it’s the detailed account of the main Lobster festival which proudly boasts of containing the biggest lobster boiling pot in the world. But then, why do we boil the lobster alive before putting it on our plates, and what’s with this delicacy.
“There is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.”
DFW successfully and subtly brings out the modern American society’s obsessions, its absurdity and attempts to put it together in a cohesive way. And he does it so beautifully.