TN Read-Along #6: Consider the Lobster Discussion Thread
We covered quite a bit in the live chat last night — enjoy the Ralph Wiggum School of Segues "transitions" between topics! — but if you couldn't make it, or have come to the comments a bit later after finishing the book, we can continue the discussion here.
Overall, I found it an enjoyable read. A few of the pieces haven't benefited from the passage of time, the 9/11 piece in particular; in the immediate aftermath, I recall seeing a lot of pieces like that, the explication of everyday rituals or items in an attempt to re-sight the horizon. Reading them now…a recent episode of Extra Hot Great inducted the Buffy episode "The Body" into the EHG Canon, and someone (I think Joe R) mentioned that, while on the whole it's extremely powerful, there's a pan out to people going about their daily business, feeding a parking meter or whatever it is, that hit it a little too squarely, and that's how the bulk of 9/11 pieces by people not on-site land with me now. Not the fault of the authors, even, generally, but mostly that we've all lived with it for nearly a decade now.
That's probably the weakest piece, and it's not even "weak"; Wallace takes evident care and pride in his descriptions but doesn't let them get too precious. (You could argue that the footnoting, especially in the radio-host piece, is self-regarding and distracting, but I spent a few minutes imagining how else he could set up his particular digressive flow, and basically he's doing it the only way he, himself, can do it. That said, the boxes in the radio piece made it physically hard to follow.) Occasionally, re: the subject matter, it can feel somewhat trite, and I could point to several that repeated themselves or could have lost 5-10 pages, but when he nails a description, he nails it. The sequence in the McCain piece in which he describes the view out the bus window and the beaten-down, surreal quality of the landscape as the flora begin to look more southern is the best descriptive graf I've read in some time.
The McCain piece is my favorite; it's easily the longest, and yet I wanted it to go on and on. Wallace shifts between tones with ease but it doesn't feel contrived; it's perfectly paced. An excellent piece of road writing, and very interesting to read ten years on.
I'll let you discuss the Garner amongst yourselves, as I've read it several times already and would rather hear from you first. I'll also say that his piece on Updike is a sweet-and-sour little nugget of "exaaaactly, what he said" that is both compassionate and unstinting.
Good choice, readers. I liked this one. What did you think?
Tags: Bryan Garner David Foster Wallace Extra Hot Great John McCain John Updike Ralph Wiggum The TN Read-Along