Consider the Cover

Dear Mary,

I just discovered the essays of David Foster Wallace not too long ago. I’m late to the game, I know, but I find them good. Really good. Am I being duped? Should I be worried about my ability to recognize good stuff? Are they too good to be true?
Yours sincerely,
Difficulty in Discerning
Dear DID,

Oh, David Foster Wallace! I’m oft queried about this author’s merit. He’s been a favorite of the chic intelligentsia for some time now (my polite way of saying that yes, you are late to the game, but it’s alright as long as you give the impression that you read these essays in elementary school). But that star status makes some people skeptical about a writer’s actual ability to smith words. And just because you enjoy reading something certainly doesn’t mean that it’s any good. Otherwise how would I explain the sixty-seven cat companion mystery novels on my own bookshelves?

It is a myth that one cannot judge a book by its cover. In fact, the literati in the know will tell you that it is the principle way of assessing a volume’s value. The trick is to know what to look for on any given cover. Consider the Consider the Lobster lobster. It’s gross. DFW even talks about how lobsters are just big, creepy sea bugs that people eat. But before you let that dissuade you from lauding the book, remember that young, hip people are edgy and dark, and a big creepy sea bug may be just the ticket. Plus, the lobster looks like it’s waving to you—and that is unquestionably hilarious. If there is a comely individual sitting across from you on the public transport vehicle, he or she will be tickled to see that crustacean’s salutation. I know I would. So yes, the conclusion must be that DFW’s essays are, in fact, good.



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