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I, Lobster

A Crustacean Odyssey

Nancy Frazier

Publication Year: 2012

A consideration of the lobster in history, myth, art, literature, and cuisine Consider the lobster. An improbable icon, Mesozoic revenant, surrealist fetish, nightmare ornament, and gastronomic adventure, it has fascinated people throughout history. It may be an exaggeration to say that lobsters are a cultural obsession—but only slightly. I, Lobster dissects the place of the lobster in human affairs, through history, science, myth, art, literature, music, movies, and, of course, cuisine. Though not generally beautiful to human eyes, lobsters star in some of the most gorgeous works of art in the world, the still-lifes painted in the Low Countries during the seventeenth century. And while many of us would question their sex appeal, lobsters carried an erotic charge for artists of the twentieth century who, inspired by Freud, found many opportunities to think of them in that way. Nancy Frazier explores diverse facets of our fascination with the lobster, whether in art, myth, or science. She describes how the lobster lives in its natural surroundings: its food, sex life, social life, predators, and general behavior. But I, Lobster goes beyond what we think about and do to the lobster, to explore how lobsters speak to us as signs, symbols, metaphors, code words, myth, lore, and fantasy. With recipes drawn from such notable lobster connoisseurs as M. F. K. Fisher, Alice B. Toklas, and Craig Claiborne, I, Lobster is a quirky, charming, and weirdly fascinating compendium of lobster lore.

Published by: University of New Hampshire Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-x

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pp. 1-10

I am sitting at a window in Waldoboro, Maine, looking out at the Medomak River. The powdery blue sky is banked with lowlying clouds edged in gray and pink. It’s four o’clock on January 25, 2008. The temperature is zero and falling. About an hour ago a bald eagle flew toward the opposite shore, ...

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Chapter 1 | Consider the Cult of the Lobster

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pp. 11-27

In the second century Pausanias—the ancient Greek geographer, traveler, and author—wrote: “The lobster was generally esteemed sacred by the Greeks and was not eaten by them; if the people of Seriphos caught a lobster in their nets they put it back into the sea; if they found a dead one they buried it and mourned over it as over one of themselves.”1 ...

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Chapter 2 | Celebrations, Seductions, and Crimes

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pp. 28-42

Lobster is more than food: it is an idea, an event, a challenge, a happening, a celebration, an indulgence. And, more often than imagined, it is an opportunity to misbehave. ...

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Chapter 3 | “Natural” History

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pp. 43-55

In book 9 of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History is a brief statement of inquiry as conceptually sweeping as his encyclopedic masterpiece as a whole: “Why the Sea should breed the greatest living Creatures.”1 This statement compels us to consider an idea that we might not ordinarily think about, let alone question. ...

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Chapter 4 | Life, Death, and Medical Conditions

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pp. 56-66

April 10, 1982. Saturday Night Live, season 7, episode 16. A historic, inspirational, and notorious skit written and performed by Eddie Murphy. Murphy holds up, live and kicking, Larry the Lobster for judgment in the court of public opinion. Viewers are given two telephone numbers, both beginning with a 900 exchange, ...

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Chapter 5 | Man-Eating Monsters

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pp. 67-79

Semiconscious, Roland Deschain doesn’t know if he is dreaming or drowning. Suddenly he is shocked by icy cold water washing all the way up his legs to his gun belt. Thus alerted, his first clear thought is to save his guns and shells, though he’s peripherally aware of a dangerous monstrosity off to his right. ...

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Chapter 6 | SF: Are We All Lobsters Yet?

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pp. 80-93

Horror and SF (the abbreviation that writers and readers of science fiction prefer to “sci fi”) are not mutually exclusive. The American philosopher Noel Carroll narrows the gap between them, writing: “We shall not respect the notion that horror and science fiction are discrete genres. ...

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Chapter 7 | The "Palinurus"/Palinurus Problem

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pp. 94-106

Palinurus is also the pen name that Cyril Connolly—the English writer, editor, and influential intellectual—used to write The Unquiet Grave. Naming Palinurus his “ancestor” and “old incarnation” he writes: “O Palinurus Vulgaris . . . whether feeding on the spumy Mauretanian Banks or undulating ...

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Chapter 8 | “Secrets of the Sea”

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pp. 107-127

Lobsters are everywhere—under the ocean, obviously, and there are freshwater varieties too. There are lobsters, and then there are more lobsters, and the way they live their lives in their natural habitat has very little to do with how they live their lives in our world. This is about the most important thing you can understand about them. ...

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Chapter 9 | A Metaphor for People

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pp. 128-146

In December 2008, the artist Jeff Koons installed a lobster in the Mars Salon at the Palace of Versailles, in France. Made of aluminum, steel, and vinyl; decoratively painted red, of course; and detailed in yellow and black, the lobster measured eight feet long, from tail to nose. ...

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Chapter 10 | The Bartender and the Lobster

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pp. 147-162

You can tell whether a lobster is male or female by turning it upside down and looking at the underside of its stomach (which most people call the tail). The first pair of pleopods or swimmerets on a male lobster are hard, whereas on a female lobster they are soft and feathery. ...

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Chapter 11 | Welcome to the Lobster Hotel

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pp. 163-178

Captain George Waymouth (the name is sometimes spelled Weymouth) of the ship Archangel and a few of his men took soundings near Maine’s Monhegan Island in 1605. They also cast a few fishing lines to see what was there. In no time at all they caught enough codfish to feed the whole crew of twenty-nine for three days. ...

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Chapter 12 | Bouillabaisse

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pp. 179-191

“I loved the fishwives. They were a breed apart: big, loud, and territorial, they screamed at each other in nasal accents. ‘When one of them dies, there’s always another one just like her, ready to take her place,’ an old pêcheur told me. They were a great resource for me, even though they didn’t always agree with each other,” ...

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Chapter 13 | Lobster Onstage: Recipes

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pp. 192-206

ven in a perfect world there would not and should not be a definitive recipe for bouillabaisse. We should have freedom of choice, excluding the omission of lobster. The best course of action is to follow an admirable, trustworthy authority, so here is the poet of appetites, as she’s been called: M. F. K. Fisher. ...

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Epilogue, Acknowledgments

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pp. 207-216

Six years have passed since I began to study the lobster, and almost four years have gone by since that freezing day in January 2008 when I watched an eagle fly over the Medomak River, dive, and then disappear as sunset tinted the clouds. I saw but hardly noticed it because I was absorbed by what wasn’t there: ...


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pp. 217-232


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pp. 233-244


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pp. 245-254

E-ISBN-13: 9781611683233
E-ISBN-10: 1611683238
Print-ISBN-13: 9781584659624
Print-ISBN-10: 1584659629

Page Count: 268
Illustrations: 15 illus.
Publication Year: 2012