Consider the Lobster. David Foster Wallace, Matthew Robbins, Photographs.
Consider the Lobster
Consider the Lobster
Consider the Lobster

Consider the Lobster

[South Freeport, Maine]: Ascensius Press, 2011. Robbins, Matthew. Limited Edition. Hardcover. Lettered copy "J" of 26 copies (total edition), folio size, 24 pp., signed by Matthew Robbins and Scott Vile, with prospectus. Fine. Item #21081401

David Foster Wallace (1962-2008) committed suicide at the tragically young age of 46, after battling anxiety and depression for most of his adult life. A "child prodigy" in both mathematics and tennis, he would eventually turn to creative writing between his sophmore and junior years in college; his senior thesis was the novel that would be published in 1987, "The Broom of the System". His writing career was nothing short of meteoric, finding a literary agent while working on his M.F.A. and having "The Broom of the System" published before graduation, in 1987; by 1997 Wallace received a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant".

He married in 2004, and it was during this time that this "brief period of happy domesticity...yielded a steady stream of short stories and essays, the best of which were collected in the story and essay collection "Oblivion" (2004) and "Consider the Lobster and Other Essays" (2005), all while working on his magnum opus, "Infinite Jest". It was only a few short years later that, having stopped taking his antidepressant medication (believing it was interfering with this creative ability), Wallace committed suicide. He was called by the critic A.O. Scott "The Best Mind of His Generation" (n.b., quote and much of the above information from the online American National Biography).

This work, containing the single essay "Consider the Lobster", was (at the time of publication) "the first private press edition of any of David Foster Wallace's works" (per the prospectus). Wallace wrote the essay for "Gourmet" magazine in 2004, examining the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland. The essay examines "the ethics of boiling a creature alive in order to enhance the consumer's pleasure..." (n.b., quote from Wiki) and one can only imagine the controvery it caused with readers of "Gourmet". Wallace's background in philosophy shines forth when he asks the reader: "Is it all right to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure? A related set of concerns: Is the previous question irksomely PC or sentimental? What does 'all right' even mean in this context?".

Illustrated with seven photographs taking during the 2010 Maine Lobster Festival by Matthew Robbins, a professional photographer for many years, which were digitally printed [on Hahnemühle Photo Rag Duo] by Robbins. While this may strike some as unusual for a fine press book, the bright clarity of the photographs work well with the underlying philosophical questions Wallace asks; there is no hiding from those questions, and one hopes the bright light will provide some insight into the issues raised.

Note that the total edition was 26 lettered copies; per OCLC, nine are with institutions, leaving just seventeen for private ownership. As of this writing, we see two copies in the online marketplace.

___DESCRIPTION: Bound in paste paper over boards in shades of green and orange in a scalloped design (vaguely reminiscent of a lobster tail), green leather shelfback with gilt lettering, fore-edge uncut and bottom edge rough cut, the frontis one of the seven photographs, title page in red and black, running title and author's name in red, colophon with the hand-lettered "J" (total edition 26 lettered copies) and the pencilled signatures of Scott Vile (the printer/publisher) and Matthew Robbins; Fairfield type, binding by Gray Parrot of Hancock, Maine; folio size (12 1/8" by 8 3/8"), unpaginated with twelve printed leaves. In a custom clamshell box covered with green cloth, red leather spine label with gilt lettering. Prospectus loosley laid in, a single sheet printed on one side and folded once (presumably for mailing), measuring 8.5" by 11" when open.

___CONDITION: Volume fine, with clean boards, straight corners without rubbing, a strong, square text block with solid hinges, the interior is clean and bright, and entirely free of prior owner markings; clean, crisp, and as new. The clamshell box also fine, clean and without wear; the prospectus near fine, clean, without noticeable edgewear but with some light creasing.

___POSTAGE: International customers, please note that additional postage may apply as the standard does not always cover costs; please inquire for details.

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Price: $3,750.00