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14 Funny Passages from David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster

which means that some staff photographer came in and popped a flash in the face of a traumatized kid at prayer.

Photo by Jay Lamm / Unsplash
29 pages of his biography talk about his depression. 14 touch on his anger. And nestled in-between at 20: references to his humor.

Page references in the index of D.T. Max’s Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace.

I’ve long found DFW hilarious. Granted, I often find essayists humorous, taking delight in writers from Max Beerbohm to H.L. Mencken to Joseph Epstein, but DFW might be the funniest non-humorist essayist of our postmodern era.

As proof, I offer these passages from his essay collection, Consider the Lobster.

From “Big Red Son,” an essay about the Annual Adult Video News Awards (something I didn’t even know existed and a lesser person for learning it):

Mr. Harold Hecuba is deep in conversation with a marginal porn producer about one of his performers’ being sidelined with something called a “prolapsed sphincter,” which condition yr. corresps. decline to follow up on in any way.

Writing about the porn starlets on the red carpet

Several of the outfits defy very basic precepts of modern physics.

On John Updike

Updike’s big preoccupations have always been with death and sex (not necessarily in that order)

[H]is characters seemed to become more and more repellent, and without any corresponding sign that the author understood that they were repellent.

It never once occurs to him, though, that the reason he’s so unhappy is that he’s an asshole.

Living in Bloomington, Indiana, on 9/11/01

[H]e’s out here on a stepladder polishing his [flag] pole with some kind of special ointment and a chamois cloth — I shit you not — although in the morning sun it’s true that his metal pole does shine like God’s own wrath.

There’s a half-page photo of a student at Bloomington Central Catholic HS saying the rosary in response to the Horror, which means that some staff photographer came in and popped a flash in the face of a traumatized kid at prayer.

Bloomington is a lot like a seaside community except here the ocean is corn . . .

Mrs. Thompson’s is a tiny immaculate one-story home that on the West Coast would be called a bungalow and on the south side of Bloomington is called a house.

Regarding the September weather in Bloomington

The air is clear and temperate and wonderfully dry after several weeks of what’s felt very much like living in someone’s armpit.

He inserts this before a series of newspaper headline quotes

Everything to follow is sic.

On grammar snobs

[A] certain irony attends the publication of any good new book on American usage. It is that the people who are going to be interested in such a book are also the people who are least going to need it

The same sorts of people who watched The Story of English on PBS (twice) . . .The sorts of people who feel that special blend of wincing despair and sneering superiority when they see EXPRESS LANE — 10 ITEMS OR LESS or hear dialogue used as a verb or realize that the founders of the Super 8 Motel chain must surely have been ignorant of the meaning of suppurate.

And finally

When a solipsist dies, after all, everything goes with him.