Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Old Book, New Book #30: Consider the Lobster -> The Accidental Billionaires
So, as I was preparing for my road trip last week (for those who can't wait for a recap here, photos can be found here), I realized I only had about 20 pages left in my current book, and that I would probably need to get a new book to take with my on the trip if I wanted some reading for downtimes. And I didn't really want to have to pack two books just for the last 20 pages of the first one. So I buckled down and finished off David Foster Wallace's "Consider the Lobster" in the last hour or so before my ride came to pick me up.
I know I've been reading this book for a while now, since December, I believe. As a collection of essays it definitely didn't provide the same impetus to get to the end that a good novel generally does, so that probably made it easier to put down and just work on it from time to time when I needed something to fill up a little bit of time.
There's definitely a broad variety of topics addressed in this collection, and I have to say it started out pretty rough. The first essay is about the Oscars of Adult Video (aka porn), and after a couple pages of that, I decided I'd rather just skip it. The next essay or two were critiques of literature that I haven't read written by authors that I am not familiar with (James Joyce among others). Finally I hit the essay that made me think I ought to stick with this book to the end. And to be honest, the topic was pretty esoteric as well. It was a review of an English language usage guide. Which, I've never heard of a usage guide before, but it seems to be the equivalent of a dictionary, but for grammar. DFW spends a fair amount of time talking about why this particular usage guide is particularly well-written, but the part that really grabbed my attention was the topic of "smart" kids who are able to speak like adults, but fail to communicate effectively with their peers (other kids) and that really they are lacking a certain kind of intelligence in not being able choose their communication to fit their audience. Or something like that. This was a couple months ago.
I also particularly enjoyed essays about John McCain's 2000 campaign, one about the author's experience with September 11th in an Indiana suburb, and one about star athletes and their inability to produce memoirs that consist of much more than cliches. There was also an essay about Dostoevsky, or more particularly one man's compendium of analysis of Dostoevsky that got me thinking maybe I should take a crack at Crime and Punishment or the Brothers Karamazov at some point in the near future.
Anyway, minus the first essay that I skipped, I thought this was a thought-provoking collection of essays and I think I would consider reading more of Wallace's work, though I probably won't start with Infinite Jest first, given its 1079 pages.
The book I grabbed just hours before that at the tiny library branch near my work was "The Accidental Billionaires", a book about the creation of Facebook by Ben Mezrich (author of "Bringing Down the House"). If you've seen "The Social Network", it's the book that that film was adapted from.