Thursday, September 22, 2011
Consider The Lobster, or, DFW, Again
Today I finished “Consider the Lobster,” a collection of essays and articles by David Foster Wallace, and I have mixed feelings about it. Finishing it, I mean.
Today is a good day for me to finish it on one hand. I like symmetry and balance and literary elegance in reality, and this fits that bill to an extent. The boy who leant it to me (who has appeared here once or twice as D, I think) leant it to me exactly a week ago, and to give it back to him after (or before) a cappella, in some ways a reminder of who we were a week ago, is nice. And the stories were excellent: grammar and the 2000 McCain campaign and Dostoyevsky and the rise of talk radio were all thrilling and engaging and my friends got quite sick of me carrying the book everywhere and strong-arming them into talking about it with me, even though they hadn’t read it. And I like the feeling of completing something, of accomplishment and reflection that finishing a book incites for me. I like that I will be able to go back to Dave (I think it’ll be okay if I use his actual name here) and tell him how much I loved the stories, how unbelievably grateful I am to him for lending it to me. I am excited to talk about the book as a whole and not just do what we’ve been doing, talking about each story one at a time, because although they were published at different times and in different things, seeing the anthology as a whole book is really nice.
You may recall some blog posts on Infinite Jest. I remember picking it up in Shakespeare & Company and reading it on my April holiday, being totally engrossed in the world of the Entertainment and tennis and the AA program while sitting in Paris and Morocco, unable to tear myself away from the book. I remember practically begging Mike to read it (sorry, Mike) and being slightly disappointed (again, sorry, Mike) when he got stuck some two hundred pages in with footnotes and the need for the OED and stopped. I love Infinite Jest. I love how DFW somehow pulled me into this alternate Massachusetts, where suddenly bits of home were recognizable and others weren’t, where a bit of French was hugely helpful to understanding what was going on, and for the first time in my life a footnote made me cry. I remember finishing Infinite Jest and feeling so full, so glad that I had read the book, but also empty. That book was done, there wasn’t going to be another first time for me to read it, and I had devoured one of the finite DFW tomes out there.
For those of you who don’t know, David Foster Wallace killed himself in 2008. He has written some short stories and two finished novels and some essays in different anthologies, and one huge unfinished novel. But that’s it. After I’m done with those, there is no more David Foster Wallace for the first time, no diving into encyclopaedic tomes that are almost too heavy to hold up for a while, no more excitement of finding that next book. At some point, I will have read all of them, and it will be over.
So today in the library, after I had read all of the bio stuff for our exam on Tuesday, I finished “Consider the Lobster” and just sat there for a while. It feels empty to have finished this book and to know that there aren’t a million more out there, a million more that he’s writing right now. I think, though, that it’s probably the right day for me to finish these. I’ve had them for a week, and enjoyed them hugely, devoured them at dinners with friends and breakfasts alone with tea before everyone else is awake and in my room when I should be doing my French homework. These stories, these essays and articles and reviews are done, and that’s okay.