So I was happy to see he's got a new collection of essays, "Consider the Lobster." I should have bought it yesterday at Border's, where I had it with me on the counter, next to a latte and a stack of bluebooks, in a pile with a few other books, not including Ana Marie Cox's "Dog Days," which I looked for but found wasn't in stock.
"Consider the Lobster" gets a nice front-page-of-the-arts-section review in today's NYT. Michiko Kakutani writes:
The strongest entries in this volume are written in language that shows that it's possible to be serious without being sanctimonious, funny without being sophomoric, erudite without being pretentious, and these chapters unfold, beguilingly, from the particular to the philosophical, from small case studies to larger, zeitgeisty ruminations.(That makes me think of blogging: I want to blog like that!)
...Mr. Wallace is capable of writing about things like metaphysics and the politics of the English language with the same verve and irreverence he brings to matters like the pornography industry and the cooking of lobsters. He describes language snobs as Snoots ("Syntax Nudniks of Our Time") and "usage Trekkies," and he argues that few people make "very deep syntactic errors" in conversation because "there is probably an actual part of the human brain that's imprinted with this Universal Grammar the same way birds' brains are imprinted with Fly South and dogs' with Sniff Genitals."...(Subthoracic! I need to use more words like "subthoracic.")
He's similarly able to show why he disagrees with language Descriptivists (who claim that "so-called correct English usages like brought rather than brung and felt rather than feeled are arbitrary and restrictive and unfair") by drawing the following analogy: While it can be argued that the dictum identifying "pants instead of skirts" as the "correct subthoracic clothing for U.S. males" is similarly arbitrary, restrictive and unfair, the fact "remains that in the broad cultural mainstream of millennial America, men do not wear skirts."
Unlike the author's last two claustrophobic [fiction] books, this collection trains Mr. Wallace's acute eye not inward at the solipsistic terrain of people's minds, but outward at the world - at politicians, at writers, at ordinary and oddball individuals of every emotional stripe.Mmm... yes. I love this kind of nonfiction. Spare me your made-up characters and stories and tell me whatever you have to say about the world you observe. I know it's too much to ask that Mr. Wallace blog, but this reminds me of so many things that I want blogging to be. And that I love to get a nice, fat, juicy book of essays from my favorite living essayist.
I went to a David Foster Wallace reading some years ago. I believe he was promoting "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," and that was the book I had in hand for an autograph. The man seemed terribly shy, as if it was quite painful for him to appear in public. In the question session, I wanted to ask him about it -- are you the person you seem to be in the essays? -- but I just couldn't bring myself to risk making him uncomfortable, even though, at the same time, I felt the flat questions he was getting weren't making him feel too good.
Suddenly, it was time for the signing, and with my usual way of being the first person to get to the front when a crowd moves, I was right there where the signing was to begin. Then, somehow, behind the second person that got to the counter, a long line formed. If I were to get in line then, I'd be behind 30 people. The hell! I was appalled at my fate. I was first, kind of. And now I was supposed to get behind all those who shuffled obediently into the line? Mr. Wallace noticed my distress and took my book to sign:
He hated lines too, he told me. See what he wrote?