He's baaaaaaack: And no, I'm not referring to me, although I have been silent of late. No, I refer to my main man, David Foster Wallace, and just in times for the holidaze. His new book: "Consider the Lobster" continues the tradition of DFW alternating novel, anthology, essays, novel.... Lobster is in the essay department, or to be more descriptive, a compilation of essays and articles he's written in the past on such wide-ranging topics as his attendance at the 1998 AVN (that's the Adult Video News) Awards (the porn industry's version of the Oscars), the humor found in Kafka, and modern usage of American english.
Being a DFW adherent, I find this format (the essays) to be his strongest suit. The novel, in my humble opinion, does not lend itself to his method or madness -- he's too meta (stay out of this Eno) to be able to stay on one or even three plotlines (viz "Infinite Jest"). Some of his earlier (and much shorter -- well, I mean, we are being comparative here) books, "Broom of the System", for instance, to me, lacked a certain narrative consistency.
His short stories are either wonderful or painful (occasionally both) - the man can write some serious run-on sentences. I will even deign to agree with Eno that such form over substance, even when calculated, can grate.
But his essays -- they typically draw on his strengths while limiting his weaknesses (they tend to me more heavily edited, and while he is publishing the full-length versions never seen in a magazine, they are still consciously striving for his version of brevity, which helps). For a very entertaining read in this vein, go borrow or buy now, "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" - his take on a Carnival cruise trip is particularly amusing.
Anyway, "Lobster" offers all the DFW insight (which is what you're paying for) plus his usual lexico-hijinks (which you're also paying for although it's a mixed bag), plus the satisfying knowledge that if you're not digging the subject matter, just wait 10 or 50 pages and it will be over.
Amazon chooses to direct DFW readers to authors such as Pynchon (right tune, wrong instrument) and Eggers (right instrument, wrong symphony) [I suppose the Alpha and Omega of post-modern lit so far, although rife with differences], but a more determined digger might uncover John Barth, Martin Amis, and even Richard Yates or John O'Hara as scraggly branches on the DFW literary family tree*.
*Of course vis-a-vis post-modern lit, w/r/t his progeny a la Pynchon, DeLillo et ux., one could argue that he merely trods along their path, as opposed to stepping squarely into their shoes-qua-mocassins, and but for his use of syntax and grammatical chicanery (not to mention the ellipse)... Well, it's all rather debatable as to his importance.