Consider The Lobster…

…is the latest from David Foster Wallace, who seems to be wearing out the welcome afforded him by Infinite Jest. Poor Adam Begley has to swallow hard and deliver the bad news in this week’s Observer.

Notable bit from the review:

Consider the Lobster begins with a long account of a 1998 awards ceremony for adult videos—both boring and repellent, like porn itself. Held in Las Vegas, in a Caesar’s Palace ballroom, and sponsored by Adult Video News, the awards are the porn industry’s equivalent of the Oscars. In other words, the essay is Mr. Wallace’s chance to say something interesting about an industry (porn, not Hollywood) that rakes in billions of dollars and polarizes the nation. The best he does is buried in a footnote that stretches over two pages, in which he argues that the “psychodynamics of porn” depend on “a certain real degree of shame, self-loathing, perception of ‘sin,’ etc.” experienced “both on the performing end…and on the consumption end.” The rest is numbingly detailed and oddly detached reportage. (Sending literary authors to report on porn was a mini-trend of the last decade: Martin Amis and George Plimpton covered the same beat.)

To which I reply – I don’t find the detachment odd. Porn “polarizes the nation” because it is powerful. I rather suspect that in covering it, particularly from a male perspective, you have to be either an enthusiast, an opponent, or a ghost, floating outside yourself and your own flesh. Hence the detachment.


  1. Matt,

    Why are you so obsessed with articles on porn? Something to ponder…

  2. This post is about DFW, not porn. But Matt can defend himself.

  3. Kevin Jones says

    Have you ever read DFW’s fake encyclopedia entry from the future on the social meanings of the verb “to date”? The piece is called “Datum Centurio” and appears in Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. I thought it was a hilarious reductio ad absurdum of pornoculture.

    I do agree with the critic’s assesment that DFW seems to be slipping. I wasn’t incredibly impressed with Oblivion, though I thought the good outweighed the bad. He’s in the “check out from the library” section of my mind now instead of the “buy and reread like a zealous fanboy” section.

  4. Matthew Lickona says

    Haven’t read that piece – where is it?

  5. Kevin Jones says

    The piece is called “Datum Centurio” and appears in _Brief Interviews with Hideous Men_, a short story collection.

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