Another savory, hard-thinking, wildly imaginative collection of essays and observations from the artful Wallace (Oblivion, 2004, etc.).
Included here is the wonderful “Up, Simba” (the director’s cut), a consideration of what John McCain’s presidential bid reveals about “millennial politics and all its packaging and marketing,” and how the “general sepsis actually makes us US voters feel.” It is an essay that showcases Wallace’s ability to capture the queer gamut of our citizenry, from “Talmudically bearded guys asking about Chechnya” to “the obligatory walleyed fundamentalist trying to pin [McCain] down on whether Christ really called homosexuality an abomination.” In “Joseph Frank’s Dostoevsky” he suggests why the Russian master is important to today’s American, citing his degrees of passion, conviction and engagement with deep moral issues, as well as his great plots and splendid, alive characterizations. He gets in a mighty dig at John Updike for his uncritical celebration of self-absorption, though he may have been premature in speaking of Philip Roth’s “senescence.” A lobster festival becomes an opportunity to explore the subjectivity of pain and suffering (lobsters are not likely dancing a happy fandango under the clattering lid of the boiling pot). He addresses the exformative associations in Kafka, the ethics of American English usage, the state of the porn industry and gets windy tearing apart tennis champ Tracy Austin’s “insipid” autobiography—but let the wind blow, for it is ever-refreshing.
Should Wallace suggest an article on the behavior of a sack of hammers, the smart editor will give him a fat advance and all expenses paid.