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Claws Celebre 

A real potboiler

David Foster Wallace (hereinafter referred to as DFW, as the acronym-fond author would no doubt prefer) is one of the preeminent literary lights of his generation. Equal parts logorrhea and locution, he's been compared to such legendary word wizards as William H. Gass, William Gaddis and Thomas Pynchon, and DFW's got the lengthy, doorstop-sized masterwork Infinite Jest to prove it. (The book contains plenty of the last part of its title, and damn near approaches the former descriptive.)

Even in this, his second collection of essays, the breadth of DFW's curiosity is breathtaking. Lobster, like A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, is a heavily-footnoted, semi-improvisatory romp. "Big Red Son" is tell-some about the show-all 1998 Adult Video Awards. There's a reconsideration of Dostoevsky, by way of a review of Joseph Franks' biography of the same. "Consider the Lobster," the title piece, commissioned for Gourmet magazine, soon becomes a labyrinthine treatise on ethics, culinary and otherwise. "Host," originally printed in Atlantic Monthly, is a sort of Choose Your Own Adventure for the ink-stained set, featuring boxes and arrows with arrows leading to other boxes and arrows. It's about the state of modern radio and talk-show hosts, at least temporally.

What there is here (besides, of course, the previous paragraph) is an intellectual curiosity that awes in its scope, a heart that pumps much blood (if to thousands of different arteries and veins) and a wit (humor plus intelligence, sez here) drier than anything since Robert Coover.

Yes, there's plenty of DFW's signature footnotes, something that never fails to rile the many Sons and Daughters of Carver currently teaching at many of our nation's colleges and universities. Yes, there are some sentences as long as this review. Yes, this book will make you visit the dictionary, probably more than once. But isn't that the point of a really good book? To show you one view of the world and perhaps offer a window to another?

DFW seems to think so. Consider The Lobster might not be for everyone, but it's damn sure for everything.

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