Before considering whether you will buy Consider the Lobster, I would like you to reflect on the old adage "Brevity is the soul of wit". If you tend to appreciate brevity and succintness in a humorous writer, then Consider The Lobster may not be for you. If, on the other...
Before considering whether you will buy Consider the Lobster, I would like you to reflect on the old adage "Brevity is the soul of wit". If you tend to appreciate brevity and succintness in a humorous writer, then Consider The Lobster may not be for you. If, on the other hand, your favourite sort of jokes are the ones that start out funny, then stop being funny, but go on so incedibly long, that eventually they become even funnier than they were at first, then this might be just the book for you. Part of the humour in this collection of writing is simply that David Foster Wallace includes so much irrelevance. Many of the tangents are indeed amusing or even insightful, but it''s not the content itself that is expected to astound us, it is Foster Wallace''s sheer audacity to include them at all.
All of which means that all of these pieces are long, or at least far longer than they need to be. And although Foster Wallace loves creating abbreviations – mostly abbreviations of things he himself has written – do not take this to mean that this will allow you to read these pieces any faster. Acronyms and abbreviations are supposed to make things easier and shorter for the reader to read, not shorter and easier for the writer to write. In the essays, articles, and reviews in CTL, DFW uses abbreviations in an irritatingly indulgent way. Was he assuming that the abbreviations would be obvious for his readers, or did he use them knowing full well that the readers would have to stop reading, go back through previous paragraphs, and figure out what the letters stand for? I suspect the latter was the case. For the Every-Single-Word-Foster-Wallace-Ever-Wrote-Is-Genius literary fanboys, I''m sure this is part of his appeal, and indeed hard proof that ESWFWEWIG. I am not such a fan. I do not feel that every thought that DFW ever had is worthy of putting on paper. I suppose there''s nothing wrong with putting them on paper, but subsequently deeming them all worthy of publication is another matter. Unfortunately though, one gets the impression that DFW himself does not share this opinion. It feels like even the onset of a thought, if it is one of his thoughts, is worthy of inclusion. He chooses to include his whole thought process.
So, if DFW wrote a sentence, and then immediately reconsidered its value or accuracy, instead of deleting that sentence, and replacing it with the thought he eventually reached, he prefers to include them all. So there are so many qualifications and asides and footnotes that even writing "It was a sunny day" will devolve into a description of our tendency to judge current weather only by comparing it to recent other weather, the etymology of the word ''day'', the chemical make-up of the sun, our unquestioned acceptance of the impersonal use of the pronoun ''it'', and more. And if you choose to delve into all this unnecssary detail about how sunny the day might be and why, how about adding some comments about the very fact that you are commenting on your initial comment? Sure, why not? I doubt any reader has ever considered any of these things before, but once brought to their attention will be fascinated. Do other people also have thoughts? I had assumed so. But DFW appears less convinced. DFW assumes that few people know what it is like to have an inquisitive mind, to have a brain that can observe stuff and wonder about it. Luckily for them, he does possess such a mind and he shares exactly what that''s like. In excrutiating detail.
I wish I had been commissioned to write a 3,000 word review of CTL just so I could turn in a 150,000 treatise on premonitions of social media vanity during the dawning years of the internet. My POSMVDTDYOTI would contain more words than the magazine that commissioned it, and even more than the very book it is reviewing. But as it would consist of things that I had thought or observed or experienced, nothing could be omitted. My POSMVDTDYOTI would not just be a review of a book that you had been considering reading. CTL will become the thing you read just so you can understand POSMVDTDYOTI better. Because no one really cares about CTL or DFW anymore, apart from the ESWFWEWIG fanboys of course. People will read my POSMVDTDYOTI review of CTL and stand, or sit, or lie, in awe of my literary brilliance until someone reads my 150,000-word review and tweets: "Not all your thoughts are worth sharing" and then #NAYTAWS will trend on Twitter for about 25 minutes, my brief literary career will end abruptly, as will Twitter itself, as well as all literature.