05 January 2011

Consider the Lobster And Other Essays, by David Foster Wallace

I didn't read the entire thing - I skipped Authority and American Usage (which I probably would've enjoyed, actually, but by the time I realized that I was just glad to be done with the book), Host, and Up, Simba, and only skimmed How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart (though I did enjoy my skimming thereof - just read the last three pages, starting with the paragraph "Maybe what keeps us buying in the face of constant disappointment" - it's a nice few paragraphs). If one of the things you find difficult in David Foster Wallace's writing is the occasional unbelievably awful scene that leaves you shaken and somewhat traumatized, skip the first essay, Big Red Son, which is about the porn industry. Other than that, I don't have any particular comments. I'm not really going to get into the specifics of the remainder, because I don't think I am a fair judge of it.

So I will say this instead: I respect David Foster Wallace. I recognize that he is an extremely intelligent person with some genuinely fascinating observations about the world. I think he's a good writer, for the most part, and an interesting one, though there are aspects of his style that I find grating. I also recognize that he is a deeply moral human being, with an unwavering engagement with the question of how to do the right thing.

But at the end of the day, I really, REALLY don't like him. I just don't. Not just because I find his worldview devastating - though that's a huge part of it - I don't like him the way I don't like some people. Because I just don't. I recognize those people may not be Bad people, and that spending time with them is enjoyable for other people that I like. But to me, it is trying, even if I have to admit that the day was largely pleasant.

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