Who: American literary novelist and essayist David Foster Wallace

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LobsterWhat: Consider the Lobster, a psychological traipse through Foster Wallace’ mind as he plainly analyzes behaviors of American culture with an often cynical but always smart perspective. Foster Wallace goes from exploring the fascination with Hollywood’s seedy doppelganger—the porn industry—to asking the mortal question, “Is it all right to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure?” in the book’s eponymous essay.

Why: Upon first read you might be slightly thrown off, slightly disgusted at the calculated (and overly detailed) description of the porn industry in Lobster’s first essay “Big Red Son.” Even the title becomes suggestive. But Foster Wallace is a crafty writer, and throughout the book is skilled at being both a distant and omnipresent observer of little details. By the second essay you will have no choice but to be hooked by his prose. The essay in particular that will have your book groups excited is the politically-charged “Up, Simba” where Foster Wallace follows the behind-the-scenes rodeo show that was John McCain’s 2000 election campaign. He offers a more magnified look at “The Maverick,” but more specifically the essay is a reportage on the daily operations and idiosyncrasies of countless camera crews and tech persons, personal assistants, self-important reporters from major news stations trying to fill a day-long event into a 3-minute slot ready for the 6 o’clock news. And all for what, Foster Wallace asks.

Rating: 4.5 stars

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