Skip to main content

Consider(ing) the Lobster, and the cut short life of David Foster Wallace



This piece was originally written a couple weeks after David Foster Wallace's (DFWs) suicide, Sept. 12, 2008. I lived less than twenty minutes south of where DFW taught at the Claremont Colleges the last half decade or so of his life. I often considered the dreamy idea of either just showing up at one of his classes, or calling his department and seeing if I could get through to him, not to be a worshipful lunatic fan looking to him as some messiah, but simply to ask him if he wanted to go hiking. In the mountains I know like the back of my hand literally just behind and to the north of his back yard. I thought a question like that might disarm him, and would allow me to explain to him quickly that I wasn't a stalker or serial killer, but simply loved to hike, and thought he might like to too; and then I'd tell him, once we were on the trail (Icehouse Canyon Trail probably) how the outdoors have been such an escape, a refuge and replenishment for my often overly wrought, too easily discouraged and depressed, stressed out, strung out mind. I may arrive at the trail head a tumult of anxiety and neurotic nerves, but that baggage of negative emotion sheds quick, once my lug-soled boots leave their first treads on that dusty trail. I figured David could use such a sanctuary, where, as John Muir wrote, "cares drop off like autumn leaves," and it would've been my joy to share my mountain sanctuary with him...

A couple times, I almost called. I had the number. But it was just, turns out, a timid fan's fantasy. Nothing more. I'd like to believe that reaching out to him might've helped avert what ultimately happened to him, but David Foster Wallace, by all accounts, was hard to get to know, shy even, and undoubtedly would have, at worst, thought me a hack upon approaching him or calling him; or at best, merely politely said to me, "no".

Anyway, below is what I wrote in appreciation of him, and also after having recently completed what would become his final (and wonderful!) essay collection, Consider the Lobster, in late Sept., 2008:

In lieu of standard review (supposedly a "review" I know I'll never write again),

Dude, it's just lobsters man, relax.

interspersed within whatever the hell this is (homage? tribute? unconscionable crap?) I’m presently composing now

Why do you care so deeply about lobsters? Don’t you think you maybe, just maybe, you might care a wee bit too much about bottom-dwellers?

are snippets from an imaginary one-sided conversation, a brief and hideous interview, I had with the late David Foster Wallace recently;

Mr. Wallace, if you'll pardon my transgression as I regress to alluding to an earlier famous essay of yours, can’t you suck down some margaritas and just enjoy the damn cruise?

said fantasy monologue acting, I believe, as curious catharsis, channeling my loss -- strangely (inappropriately?) personal,

You tell us lobsters’er basically gigantic insects, that folks on the coast of Maine call ‘em ‘bugs,’ so what are you...I don't see you getting all eloquently loquacious too about the unethical treatment of escargot!

though simultaneously distant, our "relationship" and, I guess, vicarious?, if that’s the right word, which I don't think it is (I mean, I obviously didn’t know David Foster Wallace

I’ll admit I’ve never really considered the lobster like you have, DFW (if I may call use the acronym, DFW, as you're prone to frequently do), and if I’ve ever considered lobsters before buying your book (besides acknowledging that they taste mmm-mmm good, dip ‘em in golden liquid butter, mmm), I’ve considered them disgustingly overgrown, underseawater cockroaches.

even though his writing spoke to me (and even spoke for me when I couldn't put the words to whatever concept or descriptive myself) and untold others about everything and more, as in Moses-and-the-Burning-Bush-Speak, as if he were indeed (not necessarily Yahweh or Allah or Buddha) but my/our dearest most understanding friend) -- into, what?,

Remove their pincers, paint ‘em black – voila! -- you got yourself a ‘roided up sea salted cockroach -- yuck

something “productive?”; nah, what the hell does that mean?-- that’s the sort of disingenuous drivel DFW loathed; or,

I’m just infinitely jesting - ha! get it? - about the lobsters, Mr. Wallace, I admire your enriching, truly educational and edifying, disturbing even, ultra-linguistic meta-analysis of ethics/morality-Maine-Lobster-Festivalish

channeling to maybe expunge the nebulous, hard to mentally grasp and accurately articulate, grief (yes, my own personal grief, even though I never met the man) over DFWs death, (why it’s so painful to me when I didn’t literally know him beyond his books/interviews) out of my head, onto the page,

Forgive my sentimentality, Dave – and what’s so necessarily automatically wrong with being somewhat sentimental like Charles Dickens at times anyway?!

so that my heart can maybe intervene and somehow translate these emotions in-transit through the oblivion between my brain and the page in order to...in order to what?...make sense of it?...

But I’m already remembering you fondly, perhaps even - yes! - sentimentally, despite your assumed omnipresent protestations of hyper-literary-vigilance against said syrupy nostalgia -- and despite what you...how could you, Dave?...what you did.

make sense of the bewildering incomprehensibility of what you did, taking your own beloved life...like eternity, it will never be explained, only hinted at in essays and fictions, because the only person who could possibly explain it to us, you Dave, is dead.

Nevermind, Mr Wallace, I'm obviously confused from so much considering, searching for answers to infinite questions only you'd think to ask, and know how to answer.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Brief introduction to the Novels of Khwaja Ahmad Abbas

The majority of the material for this post is taken from Contemporary Novelists, 3rd Ed., Edited by James Vinson, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1982

Khwaja Ahmad Abbas (1914-1987)


There's only eight books of K.A. Abbas cataloged in LibraryThing (five or six different works).  He's virtually forgotten in the United States, though still revered in Indian literary circles.

On highbrow literary critics in India, Abbas said they "have sometimes sneeringly labelled my novels and short stories as 'mere journalese'. The fact that most of them are inspired by aspects of the contemporary historical reality, as sometimes chronicled in the press, is sufficient to put them beyond the pale of literary creation.

"I have no quarrel with the critics. Maybe I am an unredeemed journalist and reporter, masquerading as a writer of fiction. But I have always believed that while the inner life of man undoubtedly is, and should be, the primary concern of literature, thi…

Guest Post: Farewell to Manzanar reviewed by Mac McCaskill

"Mountain now loosens rivulets of tears.
Washed stones, forgotten clearing."
 —Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston




When my father was a boy, he learned that he’d been adopted by the man whom he’d thought was his father. Digging through a dusty trunk in his attic, he found legal documents that gave him the name he wore and the father he knew, but also uncovering an origin that had been hidden from him.

His mother was, by all accounts, a volatile woman — her siblings called her “the hornet” because her sting was quick and painful. She was a hard woman, and reticent to either acknowledge or divulge anything about his biological father. Over the years, he eventually learned from other relatives that she met Mr. Black — it was his name, but also a metaphor for much more — in a late 1920’s dance hall. He left her pregnant, taking whatever money he could get his hands hand on when he went.

Late in his life, after his mother died, my dad started quizzing other relatives for information about Mr…

Guest Post: Play It As It Lays reviewed by Joseph Brinson

You know, I began a try at this review writing about Iago in Othello and the nature of evil.

And about ennui and apathy.

And that the answer is: nothing.

And how I felt deep empathy for Maria.

And then I deleted it all.

This is my review: This novel depressed the fuck out of me.

That, and giving it four stars, should sum it up.






















Joseph Brinson (a.k.a., "Quixada"), a poet and a longtime online pal, made me fucking howl when I first read his deadpanned piece on Play It As It Lays years and years ago.  Yes, it is brief — yet is playfully, skillfully thorough. His homage still slays me today.