I didn’t participate in any of last or early this year’s many outpourings of memorial affection following Dave Wallace’s death, aside from a short note of expressing sadness and gratitude. But as I’m preparing to teach Infinite Jest at SAIC and write an essay of my own about rivalry, athletic fanhood, and envy, I’ve found myself back deep into “Consider the Lobster”, both the book and (right this second) the essay, and I’ve reached this moment here in a particular footnote that just about captures, for me, the true wonder of Dave’s work, a wonder I could no easier describe with English words than I could pull wings from out my ears and fly myself off to Cambodia. The moment, from the tiny type at the bottom of p. 247:
Is it significant that “lobster,” “fish,” and “chicken” are our culture’s words for both the animal and the meat, whereas most mammals seem to require euphemisms like “beef” and “pork” that help us separate the meat we eat from the living creature the meat once was? Is this evidence that some kind of deep unease about eating higher animals is endemic enough to show up in English usage, but that the unease diminishes as we move out of the mammalian order? (And is “lamb”/”lamb” the counterexample that sinks the whole theory, or are there special, biblico-historical reasons for that equivalence?)
Reading this essay now, contextualized by the issue’s recent Foerization and Natalie Portman’s resulting and fairly comical and completely insulting soapbox derby, is a bit like waking up from too long a sleep beneath too many blankets, wearing flannel pajamas (with cute little attached booties) and sweating terribly, then rolling out of bed into a tub of ice water. We miss you, Dave.