Lobster Quadrille

How pleasant to see a departure from the Brown Man Review Brown Book rule; here, Pankaj Mishra gets to review David Foster Wallace’s Consider The Lobster for The NYT:

Writing in the late 1920’s, Musil recalled a recently superseded culture in which greatness “was exemplified by a person whose courage was moral courage, whose strength was the strength of a conviction, whose steadfastness was of heart and virtue, and who regarded speed as childish . . . and agility and verve as contrary to dignity.”
Wallace does not have this sense of history, which was indispensable to a moralist like Musil — or, indeed, Mencken, Wallace’s precursor in the distinguished American tradition of boisterous iconoclasm. What he has instead is nostalgia, for a time when writers possessed moral courage and conviction, and it is no less affecting. Still, it doesn’t seem to liberate him entirely from the prejudices and assumptions of his own historical moment — and class. Something of the graduate-school seminar room still clings to his worldview.





One response to “Lobster Quadrille”

  1. James Fletcher Baxter Avatar

    Consider: The missing element in every human ‘solution’ is an accurate definition of the creature. Each individual human being possesses a unique, highly developed, and sensitive perception of diversity. Thus aware, man is endowed with a natural capability for enact- ing internal mental and external physical selectivity. Quantitative and qualitative choice-making thus lends itself as the superior basis of an active intelligence. Human is earth’s Choicemaker. His title describes his definitive and typifying characteristic. Recall that his other features are but vehicles of experi- ence intent on the development of perceptive awareness and the following acts of decision and choice. Note that the products of man cannot define him for they are the fruit of the discerning choice- making process and include the cognition of self, the utility of experience, the development of value- measuring systems and language, and the accultur- ation of civilization. The arts and the sciences of man, as with his habits, customs, and traditions, are the creative harvest of his perceptive and selective powers. Creativity, the creative process, is a choice-making process. His articles, constructs, and commodities, however marvelous to behold, deserve neither awe nor idol- atry, for man, not his contrivance, is earth’s own highest expression of the creative process. Human is earth’s Choicemaker. The sublime and significant act of choosing is, itself, the Archimedean fulcrum upon which man levers and redirects the forces of cause and effect to an elected level of qual- ity and diversity. Further, it orients him toward a natural environmental opportunity, freedom, and bestows earth’s title, The Choicemaker, on his singular and plural brow. Human is earth’s Choicemaker. Psalm 25:12 He is by nature and nature’s God a creature of Choice – and of Criteria. Psalm 119:30,173 His unique and definitive characteristic is, and of Right ought to be, the natural foundation of his environments, institutions, and re- spectful relations to his fellow-man. Thus, he is orien- ted to a Freedom whose roots are in the Order of the universe. Let us proclaim it. Behold! The Season of Generation-Choicemaker Joel 3:14 KJV – from The HUMAN PARADIGM

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