My Angel is the Centerfold

I picked up my first ebook on my iphone, and I chose David Foster Wallace’s collection of essays: Consider the Lobster. I previously read Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again and the titular essay of that collection was one of the funniest and most entertaining pieces of writing I have read in a long time.

In Consider the Lobster I have only read the first essay, which is called “Big Red Son” and it’s about his coverage of the AVN awards, which is the same thing as the Oscars for porn. His coverage is remarkably staid despite some of the things that are said and done, but this is part of the essay’s charm. He has quite seriously tried to live and experience this sub-culture without moralizing excessively about it.

The strength of this approach is only really apparent once one puts the essay down. You realize that you have been exposed to a powerful argument against porn without Wallace ever needing to point to its exploitation and perversion. All he does is show you who these people are and what they say and one cannot help being repulsed by them, and by extension, their whole way of life. Their “careers” if you will. One also cannot help feeling sorry for these people, who Wallace, someone with an eye for sadness and aloneness, catches without dramatizing.

There aren’t too many philosophical tangents in this essay, and in many ways, it scales my assessment of Wallace’s prose back from god-like (from reading “A Supposedly Fun…”) to just really good, which is probably where it should stay. At one point, he talks about a policeman who explains that he watched porn for the subtle moments when the actors’ defenses were down and so revealed something about their vulnerability and their humanness.

Other stuff is strange to me because he gets (forced to? condemned to?) to hang out with these two guys who are reporters who whole job is to cover porn. Their names are Harold Hecuba and Dick Filth. No joke. But what’s really funny is that he goes to all these insider things with them, but then writes pretty scathing stuff about them. I mean, I would like to see their reactions. What I mean is, did Wallace act polite around them? You don’t get that sense from the small vignettes about their interactions and Wallace’s dripping sarcasm and his, most likely, completely ineptitude at faking expected social gestures. His disgust most likely showed through, so maybe these people were expecting to be lampooned? Or maybe they simply don’t understand the sophisticated and artful criticism that they are receiving. Not sure.

Then there are segments that are quite unbelievable. Here’s something I hadn’t heard before:

One of the B-girls, meanwhile is explaining that she has just gotten a pair of cutting-edge breast implants that she can actually adjust the size of by adding or draining fluid via small valves under her armpits

On the one hand its kind of funny-shocking, but on the other, it’s just break-your-heart sad.

Here’s a little back and forth segment of the essay.

Q: But even just venerially — all these anal shenanigans and everything. Is there much worry in the industry about HIV?

A: Harold Hecuba: “There’s not as much worry about AIDS now. Everybody gets tested on a schedule.”

Q: What about herpes?

A: H.H.: “I think it’s rampant.”

Or, at the actual awards ceremony, there’s this.

Rob Black’s Miscreants keeps getting nominated in category after category, and time and again there’s a frantic caucus at the podium about the correct pronunciation of miscreant, complete with a couple of presenters audibly whispering what in the fuck is the word even supposed to mean.

Anyway, the whole thing, as Wallace describes it, is reminiscent of a high school sophomore year awards ceremony (yea that’s right, not even senior year, where people are going off to college). Everything is just amateurish, low, degrading, crude, and depressing. In fact, Wallace recommends going to this awards show if you never want to be aroused by another human being again.

Also, another thing I found very disturbing and strange was that apparently there are a lot of middle eastern waiters who agree to work the event knowing that they will face heavy abuse from the clientele, but then afterward, part of their compensation is that they get to take pictures with the stars where they grope them, take of their shirts, and other inappropriate things. I mean pictures are one things, but its kind of like tacitly understood sexual assault, or paying these waiters in kind with the goods that the porn world creates. Very disturbing.

Lastly, Wallace, obviously a huge critic of the Oscars and Hollywood, tries to run a metaphor throughout that subconsciously asks you to consider all TV and the entire american media system as a version, not necessarily of pornography, but of this same time of degrading, low, insulting system.




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