David Foster Wallace seems to have had the ability to take any topic and make it acutely interesting, revealing an intense devotion to whatever it is he had decided to (or agreed to) write about. This couldn't be more true in this collection of essays, which included, among other topics, his experiences at the Annual AVN (Adult Video News, i.e. porn) Awards show (an assignment for Premiere magazine) and separately, a review of "A Dictionary of Modern American Usage", which chronicles the "Usage Wars" between the two camps of lexicographers/linguists, the Prescriptivists, who outline the rules of how a language should be used, and the Descriptivists, who think that as long as a particular sentence gets across the intended idea, that's good enough. Of the two essays, which were both incredibly interesting and funny, I found the second one more intriguing, which I am telling you not to highlight my overwhelming nerdiness and geekitude, as I certainly have nothing against adult entertainment, but to show how DFW can take two diametrically different topics, and make them equally engrossing.
Also enjoyable was "Up, Simba", written for Rolling Stone magazine, about the week he spent on John McCain's campaign trail in 2000. This particular week turns out to be a fairly significant week in the campaign, with events that cause DFW to reflect on our generation's cynicism of today's politicians, which we commonly and casually regard simply as salesmen trying to get our votes, even if that salesmen appears genuine and straightforward, and spurns bundled and soft money contributions, and rides a bus called the Straight Talk Express and stays in non-ritzy chain hotels, because really, couldn't he just just be doing this to set himself apart from the other salesmen that we regard with such distaste, so that he can get our votes?
"Consider The Lobster" was a thoughtful essay questioning the morality (using science and modern ethics) of boiling lobsters alive, and eating any animals for that matter, and then detailing the mental gymnastics some carnivores (both DFW and I included) use to "be OK" with continuing to eat our favorite meaty meals.
"The View from Mrs. Thompson's" recounted DFW's experience on the day of and the few days following 9/11, and the thoughts he had while spending it with a group of older Midwesterners he happened to be with at the time. A worthwhile essay, for sure.
I don't read autobiographies of athletes or anyone in the entertainment industry because I have the feeling that they just don't have anything of significant value to tell me that woud relate to my own daily struggles. In, "How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart", my suspicions are confirmed, as DFW recounts the one especially insipid autobiography that put him over the edge in this regard as well.
Finally, rounding up the essays are ones on Kafka and Dostoevsky, which although weren't as meaty (I'm still thinking about lobster, obviously) and captivating as the others, did make me want to go back and re-read the Crime & Punishment, and The Brothers Karamazov that I'm sure I didn't fully understand and "get" back in high school, and the Kafka I have sitting there way down on my Goodreads "to-read" list.