Consider the lobster and remember David Foster Wallace

I never even attempted David Foster Wallace’s novels, but I will always love him for Consider the Lobster. In a short essay for Gourmet Magazine, Foster wrote the best contemplation of morality amidst the spineless that I have ever read. The entire essay is online – if you don’t mourn Wallace now, you will after you read it. (And you will scorn this pathetic and appalling excuse for performance art even more.)

The more important point here, though, is that the whole animal-cruelty-and-eating issue is not just complex, it’s also uncomfortable. It is, at any rate, uncomfortable for me, and for just about everyone I know who enjoys a variety of foods and yet does not want to see herself as cruel or unfeeling. As far as I can tell, my own main way of dealing with this conflict has been to avoid thinking about the whole unpleasant thing. I should add that it appears to me unlikely that many readers of gourmet wish to think hard about it, either, or to be queried about the morality of their eating habits in the pages of a culinary monthly. Since, however, the assigned subject of this article is what it was like to attend the 2003 MLF [Maine Lobster Festival], and thus to spend several days in the midst of a great mass of Americans all eating lobster, and thus to be more or less impelled to think hard about lobster and the experience of buying and eating lobster, it turns out that there is no honest way to avoid certain moral questions.

Another ocean-related Wallace essay that I highly recommend, Shipping Out, is available on as a PDF on the Harper’s website. Also, Wallace on McCain.

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4 Responses to Consider the lobster and remember David Foster Wallace

  1. Greg says:

    Don’t forget “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,” which is at least set on the ocean.

  2. Actually, it’s the same as Shipping Out, linked above. They changed the title for the eponymous book. My attempt to not be confusing clearly backfired.

  3. Eric says:

    Thanks for posting the links to the essays Miriam! I know what I’m reading tonight.

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