Consider the Lobster Review
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After an eight-hour flight from Amsterdam, I’d made it to New York—but I still had a few hours to kill until I boarded the final flight home. It was the perfect time to crack open a new book.

Consider the Lobster opens with a 50-page essay on the Adult Video News Awards, an event that brings more adult video enthusiasts than you’d like to imagine to Las Vegas each year. A few pages in, I started to rethink my decision to read this particular book at this particular time. First, you never know who’s going to be looking over your shoulder while you’re sitting in the airport. Second, I couldn’t concentrate, thanks to the screaming kids running through the terminal, the strange man trying to have conversations with anyone who would listen, and the fact that the book has more footnotes than most college texts.

The footnotes, in fact, are my greatest complaint about this book. Some are as long as a page and a half. Some are rambling asides that have little to do with the subject matter. Others are just a few words that could have easily been made a parenthetical statement—and it would have kept me from having to pause in my reading, scan down to the bottom of the page, and read “(so to speak).” Wallace’s writing has a cynical, elitist 1 tone to begin with—and the excessive footnotes only make it more difficult to read.

When I first picked up Consider the Lobster, I expected it to be a collection of witty essays—something like a David Sedaris book. Instead, what I found was a random collection of speeches, essays, articles, and book reviews that read like they were written by a 90-year-old Harvard professor 2.

There’s a 60-page in-depth book review of a dictionary 3—a piece that I actually found to be somewhat interesting, though that could have something to do with the fact that I have, on occasion, been called a “grammar Nazi.” But I’m guessing I’m in the minority here.

I was also fascinated by Wallace’s essay, which he wrote for Rolling Stone, covering a week on the campaign trail with 2000 presidential hopeful John McCain 4. I think I enjoyed the McCain piece the most because it was entirely free of footnotes.

I wanted to enjoy this book, but I couldn’t. In fact, I found it extremely hard to finish 5. Wallace’s voice is a difficult one to enjoy 6, and he has the ability to make even a porn convention sound tedious7. If you’re looking for captivating casual reading, steer clear of this one.

1 (something that he freely admits on occasion)
2 (who always wears a bowtie)
3 (yep—you read that right)
4 The finished article was 80 pages long, and Wallace was politely informed that, if printed as-is, it would take up the entire magazine’s text and run into some of the ad space. It was seriously shortened for the magazine, but it appears here in full.
5 And I’ll admit that I skipped a lot of footnotes toward the end.
6 (unless, perhaps, you enjoy reading excessively long and detailed university text books for pleasure)
7 A moose once bit my sister.

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