In this week’s post, we were asked to provide an example of research writing that we admire and think could provide a lesson for the benefit of research writing as a whole. In my opinion (though some may shake their fists in protest), David Foster Wallace exemplified qualities in his non-fiction writing style that could inform research writers. “Consider the Lobster”, for instance, is an informative, qualitative piece written by Wallace that is tinged with highly verbose language. Though this may pose a slight issue to the non-academic reader, the issue is minor since his writing is chock-full of observational description that transforms the process of reading into a vibrant, participatory experience. His field observations are quite subjective; yet, these depictions of life are presented in a relatable manner (explaining the context or pretext to a conversation where permissible, especially through footnotes) that can hardly be called unclear or irrational. By this, Wallace exemplifies a genuine care and interest in his craft (regardless of the subject) through providing a highly entertaining and informative experience for the reader.
The untraditional structural design of “Consider the Lobster” is also noteworthy. Wallace: a) Illustrates a case study, being the Maine Lobster Festival and its participants; b) provides a detailed, entertaining history of the lobster and lobster-based cuisine, and; c) proceeds to highlight the main purpose of this research at a mid-point in the article, asking “is it alright to boil a sentient creature for our gustatory pleasure?” Through the process of becoming informed, a transformation occurs where the reader is now an involved participant in this ethically charged, deeply controversial conversation. Regardless of whether the article has or has not instilled alarm or genuine concern, the readers cannot help but engage in active thought around the questions Wallace has posed. The reader is, in every practical sense, compelled to ‘consider the lobster.’ This is what makes (or made) Wallace’s writing admirable. His method of ‘framing’ or creating a context for the larger question at hand in a non-linear fashion, and of leaving an open-ended close to the article, is inventive and effective. And to think that back in 2004 you would stumble across this gem in Gourmet, a monthly American magazine publication dedicated to the art of food and wine. Interesting, huh?
Wallace, David F. (2004, August). Consider the Lobster. Gourmet. 50-64. Retrieved from: http://cunycomposers.wikispaces.com/file/view/Wallace%2C+David+Foster+–+Consider+the+Lobster.pdf/126536687/Wallace%2C%20David%20Foster%20–%20Consider%20the%20Lobster.pdf
(I’ve attached a link to the PDF version of the article for those interested. It’s seven pages in length, but well worth the read!)