In a nod to David Foster Wallace’s title for a group of essays called, “Consider the Lobster”, I decided not to title this piece an ode, despite what may be the storied history of the barcalounger. Mr. Wallace’s keen and incisive understanding of the world in general has led me to want to better understand the barcalounger, albeit aesthetically not historically, and in as few words as possible.
But first, David Foster Wallace’s untimely death (an oxymoron, I know since he was a suicide, but his death would have been untimely if he had lived to 104) was a blow to American arts and letters. His thoughts are like cluster bombs that explode from paragraph to footnote to footnote on footnote (to a size that requires either great eyesight or great spectacles). My appreciation for his relentless nailing down of idea is boundless. I wish I had such an intellect, but greatly appreciate not having the depression which ultimately led to his suicide. I am an instant fan.
The inherent contradiction that lies in all furniture is that of function and aesthetics, that is if you are going to actually use the furniture and not stare at it like a piece of sculpture. Like emotion and intellect, function and aesthetics have a hard time lying together on the same couch. The barcalounger, easily among the most comfortable of, I can’t say chair because it isn’t, recliners, has no aesthetic quality. I mean, when you get down to it, why not a hospital bed?
The tradition from which the barcalounger comes is 19th century patented furniture. This furniture was rife as furniture makers endeavored to create fortunes by making a piece that every household in America would need. A few were successful, but aethetics were never a strong point in this race. Indeed, you might say they were altogether sacrificed.
The lineage of the barcalounger is obscure to me and I am not certain that I wish to discover it, as worthy a story as it may be. Let it be said, however, that this recliner, as stated earlier, is not a chair. It is a heavy object, it is a place in which the remote can disappear and it is often the most coveted parking space in a room in a great many households. But for me, I’d rather have the hospital bed, albeit in the bedroom. The rest of the house is for sitting.