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Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

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In his startling and singular new short story collection, David Foster Wallace nudges at the boundaries of fiction with inimitable wit and seductive intelligence. Venturing inside minds and landscapes that are at once recognisable and utterly strange, these stories reaffirm Wallace's reputation as one of his generation's pre-eminent talents, expanding our ides and pleasure In his startling and singular new short story collection, David Foster Wallace nudges at the boundaries of fiction with inimitable wit and seductive intelligence. Venturing inside minds and landscapes that are at once recognisable and utterly strange, these stories reaffirm Wallace's reputation as one of his generation's pre-eminent talents, expanding our ides and pleasures fiction can afford. Among the stories are 'The Depressed Person', a dazzling and blackly humorous portrayal of a woman's mental state; 'Adult World', which reveals a woman's agonised consideration of her confusing sexual relationship with her husband; and 'Brief Interviews with Hideous Men', a dark, hilarious series of portraits of men whose fear of women renders them grotesque. Wallace's stories present a world where the bizarre and the banal are interwoven and where hideous men appear in many different guises. Thought-provoking and playful, this collection confirms David Foster Wallace as one of the most imaginative young writers around. Wallace delights in leftfield observation, mining the ironic, the surprising and the illuminating from every situation. This collection will delight his growing number of fans, and provide a perfect introduction for new readers.


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In his startling and singular new short story collection, David Foster Wallace nudges at the boundaries of fiction with inimitable wit and seductive intelligence. Venturing inside minds and landscapes that are at once recognisable and utterly strange, these stories reaffirm Wallace's reputation as one of his generation's pre-eminent talents, expanding our ides and pleasure In his startling and singular new short story collection, David Foster Wallace nudges at the boundaries of fiction with inimitable wit and seductive intelligence. Venturing inside minds and landscapes that are at once recognisable and utterly strange, these stories reaffirm Wallace's reputation as one of his generation's pre-eminent talents, expanding our ides and pleasures fiction can afford. Among the stories are 'The Depressed Person', a dazzling and blackly humorous portrayal of a woman's mental state; 'Adult World', which reveals a woman's agonised consideration of her confusing sexual relationship with her husband; and 'Brief Interviews with Hideous Men', a dark, hilarious series of portraits of men whose fear of women renders them grotesque. Wallace's stories present a world where the bizarre and the banal are interwoven and where hideous men appear in many different guises. Thought-provoking and playful, this collection confirms David Foster Wallace as one of the most imaginative young writers around. Wallace delights in leftfield observation, mining the ironic, the surprising and the illuminating from every situation. This collection will delight his growing number of fans, and provide a perfect introduction for new readers.

30 review for Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    ON HAVING HAD IT WITH DAVID FOSTER WALLACE FOR THE MOMENT Given that most of my goodread friends love DFW with immoderate, alarming gusto, this requires some kind of explanation. There’s a direct parallel between DFW and James Joyce. They both tended perpetually towards the encyclopaedic. They were utterly indifferent to audience expectation - even to the modernist, avantgardish audience they themselves created. Their main books are vast, oceanic, limitless affairs. They appeared to wish to use ev ON HAVING HAD IT WITH DAVID FOSTER WALLACE FOR THE MOMENT Given that most of my goodread friends love DFW with immoderate, alarming gusto, this requires some kind of explanation. There’s a direct parallel between DFW and James Joyce. They both tended perpetually towards the encyclopaedic. They were utterly indifferent to audience expectation - even to the modernist, avantgardish audience they themselves created. Their main books are vast, oceanic, limitless affairs. They appeared to wish to use eventually every single word ever admitted into the English language and a shedload of foreign ones too. You might say they were both insufferable know-it-alls. They had a delightful propensity for going off on rants or lists or ranting lists in their books - these are from the present book : we called them Granola Crunchers or simply Crunchers, terms comprising the prototypical sandals, unrefined fibers, daffy arcana, emotional incontinence, flamboyantly long hair, extreme liberality on social issues, financial support from parents they revile, bare feet, obscure import religions, indifferent hygiene, a gooey and somewhat canned vocabulary, the whole predictable peace and love post-Hippie diction or Lying there helpless and connected, she says her senses had taken on the nearly unbearable acuity we associate with drugs or extreme meditative states. She could distinguish lilac and shattercane’s scents from phlox and lambs’-quarter, the watery mind of first-growth clover. Wearing a corbeau leotard beneath a kind of loose-waisted cotton dirndl and on one wrist a great many bracelets of pinchbeck copper. But there’s a difference between the ocean of Joyce and the ocean of DFW, or what I have observed of it. Joyce had a plan and he stuck to it. DFW, it seems, never sticks to the point in his writing (forever interrupting himself, subverting his own text with page long footnotes, or end notes, forever entangling us readers in his sperm-whale-sized syntactic constructions, forever digressing) because he wasn’t that sure there actually was a point. He thought there should be but he wasn’t sure he’d discovered it. He was an out of control noticing machine (that’s not my phrase). All of his writing is suffused with unbearable acuity we associate with drugs or extreme meditative states. It's like breathing poisoned air. He writes about “addiction” and “tennis” and “parental abuse” and whatnot, all daytime tv subjects. He was mighty literary power-drill cracking a nut. Not much left of the nut when he’s done. Not much of a nut to begin with. I’m not saying the reason I love Joyce & unlove DFW is that Joyce was a general ordering a successful campaign and DFW was a lonely guerilla hacking through the jungle with a dead radio. One's heart lies with the guerilla, after all. But there’s also the matter of JJ’s gorgeous way with words and effortless humour. Even his fans may concede that DFW’s logorrhific outpouring is often ugly, deliberately ugly. And also that reading JJ & DFW is like attending a service at the Church of Giant Brains - there's a great choir, fab stained glass windows, but it's so chilly, and it makes you feel like an ant, a bad ant who does bad things. DFW’s narrators are most of the time like a rat in a trap, ceaselessly whirling around in a confined space, hysterically looking for the way out, but there’s no way out of their own awful sensibilities into the world, and I can’t help but think that as his characters, so it was with DFW himself, never getting to the end of his own endless sentences until the day he just wrote a full stop and had done with it. DFW's own motto might be from p247 of this book : I’m aware of how all this sounds and can well imagine the judgements you’re forming *** Note - two stars just for my own discomforting reading experience. I think it's a four star piece of writing. But I don't like it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Samadrita

    To call these meanderings and sub-meanderings of a brilliant mind short stories, will be akin to putting a leash on DFW's creativity with the aid of conventional terminologies and thereby undervaluing the sheer inventiveness on display in this compelling collection. In course of my limited venturings into DFW's literary landscapes I have arrived at one crucial inference. That to read DFW is to transgress the very act of simply reading through and discover a newer way to commune with his chain of To call these meanderings and sub-meanderings of a brilliant mind short stories, will be akin to putting a leash on DFW's creativity with the aid of conventional terminologies and thereby undervaluing the sheer inventiveness on display in this compelling collection. In course of my limited venturings into DFW's literary landscapes I have arrived at one crucial inference. That to read DFW is to transgress the very act of simply reading through and discover a newer way to commune with his chain of thoughts, to work your grey matter just a tad bit harder to truly grasp what he has intended for you to understand. And that's an exercise I am all too happy to engage in especially if it sharpens my senses and compels me to achieve a state of oneness with the narrative without sparing a second thought to any of my other parallel reads. Reading him is like being given the unique opportunity to listen in on one of the greatest minds that ever existed speaking from some imaginary podium and letting that same mind direct my own to follow pathways that it didn't even know existed. It's like making yourself a part of the virtual reality he has recreated through his words and believing in the truth of it without trying to compartmentalize his writing. Hideous men (and, occasionally, women) and the alarmingly convoluted inner workings of their still hideous minds string this collection together. Some of the 'short stories' are mere snapshots of eponymous interviews of seemingly disturbed individuals, ranging from hippie youths who have devised Machiavellian plans to seduce and subsequently ditch women with psychopathic precision to adolescents with elaborate masturbation fantasies creepy enough to make you involuntarily shudder, while some are little snippets which merely detail the secret inner lives of certain individuals which always remain carefully concealed behind an ingeniously orchestrated charade. Add some metafictional commentary inserted sporadically as footnotes of considerable length, in several of which the author even challenges the potential reader to weird pop quizzes, and you have a hazy idea of what this collection has to offer. But even so, I probably haven't even grazed the tip of the iceberg of DFW's gift for redefining narrative structures. Given that I am accustomed to more or less linear narratives, consisting of immaculately crafted sentences which put more emphasis on superficiality of actions and emotions, it is a bit of a surprise to find myself being drawn to a writer who sought to expose the raw core of every pretension. Sometimes while reading I was even tempted to flip a coin to decide whether he was being ironic or simply acknowledging some disturbing reality in a matter-of-fact tone. "He ruled from that crib, ruled from the first. Ruled her, reduced and remade her. Even as an infant the power he wielded! I learned the bottomless greed of him. Of my son. Of arrogance past imagining. The regal greed and thoughtless disorder and mindless cruelty - the literal thoughtlessness of him." The man's perspicacity is so palpable in everything he writes and his sincere attempts at perfect reconstruction of thought processes and the true motivations at work behind every human gesture so obvious, that I can't help but be charmed. The 5 stars are probably a dead giveaway of my veritable moony-eyedness. Belying expectations the footnotes did not annoy. The infinite digressions merely served to intensify my fascination with the way DFW's mind worked. But can it be said that DFW left behind a body of work which can be given the label of 'proper literature'? The answer to the question depends on the way you choose to constrict your definition of 'proper literature' or whether you choose to constrict it at all. The man was a genius and his suicide only translates into a profound loss for all the good which remains in the world of publishing. And I doff my hat in honor of the creative freedom he refused to sacrifice while writing.

  3. 4 out of 5

    sarah

    Usually when some undergraduate English major brings up DFW to me at a keg party I tend auto-file them under "douchebag." Because, let's be honest people - Infinite Jest was profoundly not good. But everything that's irritating about Wallace's thoroughly self-aware postmodern writing style is somehow much more stomachable in smaller bites. Brief Interviews has its highs and lows - the quality is extremely variant between the pieces - but when it's on, it is ON. In fact, Brief Interviews holds mo Usually when some undergraduate English major brings up DFW to me at a keg party I tend auto-file them under "douchebag." Because, let's be honest people - Infinite Jest was profoundly not good. But everything that's irritating about Wallace's thoroughly self-aware postmodern writing style is somehow much more stomachable in smaller bites. Brief Interviews has its highs and lows - the quality is extremely variant between the pieces - but when it's on, it is ON. In fact, Brief Interviews holds moments where Wallace is actually transcendant. If you're looking to buy or borrow this book, take my advice : do not read the whole thing. First, read the interviews. They're the clear highlights, with the last one being, in my opinion, one of the best pieces of short fiction written in the last couple of decades. If you're feeling it at that point, then dive in to the other ones - Octet is a particularly strong, as is Suicide as a Sort of Present. A good percentage of the stories use painfully self aware "tricks" to "challenge" the modern concepts of narration, character, structure, etc -- "tricks" that are now being replicated unendingly in sophomore fiction writing seminars across the world, I'm sure. It's not particularly clever and for the most part detracts from the writing. But in the Interviews, Wallace manages the dialectic narration style more or less beautifully, somehow capturing both the worst and best traits of his characters. These men are hideous; even worse, they are hideously realistic, and I often found my pity or empathy overwelming my initial stomach-churning disgust. These portraits are intimate and familiar; it's like listening in on a conversation of an ex-boyfriend. The last interview is off-the-charts good, mostly because it manages to be both grotesque and quite funny. This is the DFW that people obsess over - tossing around references, satirizing modern society, soaking dialogue in irony. That story alone is worth the price of the book. If you end up loving this book - more power to you. DFW has definitely done things to earn his widespread critical acclaim. Just don't name-drop him to pick up girls at parties, because that makes you an asshole.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Garden

    It's official: my heart is broken for David Foster Wallace. Anyone who thinks they don't like him is, I'm sorry, an ass. This shit is just not up for debate. It's official: my heart is broken for David Foster Wallace. Anyone who thinks they don't like him is, I'm sorry, an ass. This shit is just not up for debate.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Emily B

    This is a hard book for me to rate and review. I could listen to David Foster Wallace talk all day but his writing is just hard. It requires work, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Although short and relatively simple I adored the first short story ‘A radically condensed history of postindustrial life’ and struggled with the more complex titles such as ‘Tri-stan: I Sold Sisee Nar To Ecko’

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stephen M

    A Brief Word on the Famous Interview #20 I'm here to air my total ambivalence after having read the final interview (second to last story in the collection) and not knowing what at all to make of the story. Yes, it is very well written and DFW had certainly mastered the interview style by this point in the book. The way that the Hideous Men speak in each of the interviews is quite natural and sounds true from the stories that I've heard many guys tell w/r/t women, sexual encounters etc. And it is A Brief Word on the Famous Interview #20 I'm here to air my total ambivalence after having read the final interview (second to last story in the collection) and not knowing what at all to make of the story. Yes, it is very well written and DFW had certainly mastered the interview style by this point in the book. The way that the Hideous Men speak in each of the interviews is quite natural and sounds true from the stories that I've heard many guys tell w/r/t women, sexual encounters etc. And it is also the point of these stories (given that they're Hideous Men) to give voice to misogynistic men and men who struggle severely with relationships with other women, but the last story just did not go down well with me, given what the story seems to imply. Without spoiling the story, there's a woman character that the interviewee tells the story about in which she tells the man a story. But the way she deals with what happens to her seems to make okay a very serious and problematic occurrence in society. Now, I know; I imagine that DFW had much different intentions when he wrote the story, but the implication it makes seems inevitable to me and kind of problematic to be honest. All that aside, the story hit me in this very visceral way; it is fucking powerful. I've always been of the opinion that moral outrage in a story is a good thing, as it incites dialogue among its readers. So I guess I'm trying to say (very long-windedly) that I'm giving the story the highest compliment I could give it. It treads some dangerous ground while wresting a great deal of emotionality from the situation and develops three different complex characters through a single man's monologue. That's some writing skill, that is. It was a good thing that the story left such an impression because there are some stinkers towards the end of the book. I am the first to admit that DFW is not perfect and there are a couple obvious examples of that throughout this collection. But overall, I'm so happy to have sifted through more of the DFW ouvre. It's worth it, if you ever do get the chance. A Brief Conversation with a Friendly Barista ‘Next. . . Next!’ ‘Yeah, sorry. Can you just do a water with ice.’ ‘Sure man, no probs. So, nothing else then?’ ‘Well, yeah. I think that, um. . . C—— are you getting anything?’ ‘. . .’ ‘So yeah, then just one of those teas. . . No, yeah, the purple one.’ ‘This?’ ‘Yeah, great then.’ ‘Okay. . . two-fifteen then.’ ‘Great. Lemme get my. . . um. . .’ ‘No rush my friend.’ ‘Yeah thanks.’ ‘Hey, whatchya reading there?’ ‘Oh. . . It’s this guy David Foster Wallace. He’s a—’ ‘Oh yeah, I’ve heard of him. I’ve heard his college thing I think.’ ‘Yeah yeah. The Kenyon Commencement Speech.’ ‘Sure.’ ‘Well, yeah anyway, this here is a collection of short stories.’ ‘Whatdya call it?’ ‘Ha, um. . . It’s called Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.’ ‘Right on. Killer title.’ ‘Yeah definitely. It’s a good one.’ ‘Well, here’s your tea man.’ ‘Oh great. It’s for her, but cool man thanks.’ ‘Hey, hold up.’ ‘. . .’ ‘So like what goes on in it?’ ‘The book?’ ‘Sure. What else?’ ‘Okay yeah. Um. . . well it’s like a series of short stories and everything, but also there are these interview-things throughout it and they’re supposed to be all from the perspective of guys and they all have some problem in relationships and everything. Some’ve ‘em are pretty misogynistic too. But yeah, it’s got a couple of my favorite stories in it.’ ‘Right on man. Lemme take a look.’ ‘Oh, yeah of course. Here.’ ‘Right on. Great cover.’ ‘Yeah, I like how the face is covered up by the bag. It’s kind of like how, well, I should say that in the interviews, all the names are gone and the dialogue is written so that there’s no person tags, or whatever to them. But so anyway, you don’t get any of the people’s names or the questions in the interview either. It’s just the words.’ ‘Right on man.’ ‘Yeah, it’s pretty great. I mean I can see how it could be a very just guy-type of book given that all the perspectives are all men and they’re all like, you know, pretty masculine and occasionally degrading to women and I could get how that might not make for the most sympathetic characters, if you know what I mean and not to generalize too much about women or anything.’ ‘Sure man, but I’m not sure if you have to sympathize with the character to appreciate a good book.’ ‘Ah! Definitely. You got me on that one.’ ‘For sure dude. Lolita and everything.’ ‘Ah, great book. One of my first loves.’ ‘No pun intended, eh?’ ‘Ha. Sure man, if you say so.’ ‘No, yeah, speaking of, here’s a Nabokov comparison on the back. Check it.’ ‘Right you are, there. It’s great. I mean backcover blurbs are always pretty over the top and ridiculous. But sometimes they’re cool. I mean, I’m not sure Nabokov is who DFW resembles most, but I guess I see what the person is saying.’ ‘Sure man, I feel you. But it’s like their only way to get the word out. I mean a lot of them depend on that kind of stuff.’ ‘Oh. . . the authors? Oh sure. No, I mean, and especially for unknown writers, it’s way important, definitely. But I think that’s a bit different than still calling out the bullshit of what it is. I don’t know.’ ‘Yeah. . . Hey, so what are the good stories?’ ‘Oh man, I mean there’s this one called the depressed person in it. Goddamn.’ ‘Oh yeah?’ ‘Yeah, I mean, maybe it’s a bit of a downer, but if you’re the type of person who has ever been through any kind of depression or anything, I mean, every line will just make you clutch your heart.’ ‘Oh yeah? Ha. I suppose by you saying that, it is an admission of having been through depression then?’ ‘Oh, yeah. I guess it is. I mean, it’s still a good story on its own merits.’ ‘For sure man. No, no offense or nothing. I’ve been through it all too. So no worries.’ ‘Sure.’ ‘Huh. . . looks like there’s some good-sized footnotes in here.’ ‘Oh, ‘course!’ ‘Yeah?’ ‘Definitely. That’s the DFW trademark. I mean, I don’t think there could be anyone who could ever use footnotes in fiction again without being pinned directly to Mr. Wallace.’ ‘Is that right?’ ‘It’s his trademark.’ ‘For sure. Well that’s cool.’ ‘Certs. And somewhat frustrating too.’ ‘Whatdya mean?’ 
‘Well. Few reasons. First, as a reader. I mean, there’s a couple of those damn things that just drag on and on and they pull you out in mid-sentence and it’s kind of irritating especially for someone like me who reads real slow and has a hard time with following the complex stuff. So it’ll take you that much more time to just understand what all is happening. Don’t get me wrong, it’s worth it because he has so much to say that’s brilliant but still. . .’ ‘No yeah bro. I got you.’ ‘. . .’ ‘You said a few reasons?’ ‘Oh yeah. And the other is as a writer.’ ‘How’s that?’ ‘Oh well. Next time you sit down to write. Well, I’m not sure if you do write. If you don’t, you definitely should. It’s great.’ ‘Ha, if you insist bro.’ ‘No? Okay, anyway. You think to yourself, hey I’ll just try out a footnote to see what it’s like and them bam, you want to use it every time you sit down to write. It captures, like that part of your mind that sidetracks or argues against itself and gets away from the original point.’ ‘How’s that?’ ‘Well, it’s so easy when you write, to let your mind wander or just lock into a groove of a style and just go with it, but there has to be an outlet for the alternate voice in your head vying for attention.’ ‘Huh, okay man. I mean I don’t write so I guess I’ll just take your word there.’ ‘No sure, I get it. It kind of sounds like a bunch of abstract nonsense but trust me man. If you ever dive into it, you’ll see what I mean.’ ‘And how does the life as a writer treat you?’ ‘Oh goodness. I mean, I wouldn’t dare fashion myself with the label of a writer. I mean, I do try to write, but it’s not like I’m an actual writer in any real capacity.’ ‘For sure dude, you’ve got it. Be writing. Don’t be a writer.’ ‘Hey! William Faulkner!’ ‘You got it.’ ‘Right on dude.Well you know your shit.’ ‘Not really. My girlfriend is way into this shit. So I get an earful whenever we’re out or whatever.’ ‘Ah, damn. What a great girlfriend.’ ‘Yeah, man. She’s alright.’ ‘Well then, maybe she can sympathize with the footnote addiction. Because like I said, you start and then it’s so difficult to stop and all the while I feel guilty because I’m ripping from someone else.’ ‘All great artists steal.’ ‘Right again. But I mean, you’ve got to conceal who you steal from and you have to steal from a wide variety of people. I mean if an entire work of writing is copping just one author, people’ll notice.’ ‘. . .’ ‘Seriously man. Writing is a huge anxiety-ridden mess.’ ‘Why do it then?’ ‘Well, my life is a huge anxiety-ridden mess, so might as well try to become famous with it and regarded as brilliant or whatever.’ ‘Ha! Good one bro. Good one.’ ‘Yeah man. Well, shit looks like my date is pissed that I’m spending the whole time chatting up literature. I better go.’ ‘Ah, don’t worry about it bro. It makes you look cool, like you are good in conversation and she’s just lucky to have such a socially-stable person deigning to date her.’ ‘Really?’ ‘Ah, probably not bro. But it doesn’t hurt to think that, right?’ ‘Ha. Right you are my friend. Hey I’m S—— by the way.’ ‘Good to meet you S——. I’m J——.’ ‘J——. Good talk.’ ‘You too bro. I’ve gotta get to some other customers.’ ‘Sure man. You do that. . .’ ‘Who was that?’ ‘Dunno. Someone I just met.’ ‘Oh really. What did you talk about?’ ‘My book.’ ‘Oh, so that’s why you brought it with you on our date, to start up conversations with other people?’ ‘Oh. I guess I never thought about it.’ ‘. . .’ ‘Sorry?’ ‘Whatever. Let’s go somewhere else. This place is weird.’

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tom Quinn

    David Foster Wallace is an excellent lister. He isn't always the greatest storyteller, but he is a truly excellent lister. Things. Sensations. Details. Tics. He notices and lists them all. He is like Emerson's invisible eyeball, turning outward to reveal more about what is inside, listing a thousand tiny details in endless parade where each attains paradoxically heightened importance by becoming equally unimportant. It's not that he is a poor storyteller, but this collection gave me the sense th David Foster Wallace is an excellent lister. He isn't always the greatest storyteller, but he is a truly excellent lister. Things. Sensations. Details. Tics. He notices and lists them all. He is like Emerson's invisible eyeball, turning outward to reveal more about what is inside, listing a thousand tiny details in endless parade where each attains paradoxically heightened importance by becoming equally unimportant. It's not that he is a poor storyteller, but this collection gave me the sense that maybe some stories don't need to be told. That maybe just because something happens doesn't always mean it's significant. I hope I don't seem dismissive. There are some really, really good stories in here, actually. But do they matter? Big picture? Do they paint a picture, reveal truth, resonate thematically? Or are they just lists of things that happen sometimes? 2.5 stars out of 5. Excellent form, but not so much function. Ignore the interviews and read the standalone stories - those are great.

  8. 4 out of 5

    B0nnie

    The cover, someone wearing a paper bag, presents a sad, pathetic image. That - along with the title - implies elephant man ugliness, and I'm inclined to be sympathetic before I even start to read. It quickly becomes apparent that the hideousness does not refer to any exterior quality (sometimes there is a physical component to the ugliness, but that fact is secondary). These guys are creeps. The real problem is always within. The “Union of the Hideously and Improbably Deformed” services are not The cover, someone wearing a paper bag, presents a sad, pathetic image. That - along with the title - implies elephant man ugliness, and I'm inclined to be sympathetic before I even start to read. It quickly becomes apparent that the hideousness does not refer to any exterior quality (sometimes there is a physical component to the ugliness, but that fact is secondary). These guys are creeps. The real problem is always within. The “Union of the Hideously and Improbably Deformed” services are not needed. Gradually, remarkably, your disgust turns to pity, to the point where you see how sad and pitiful even a brutal rapist torturer is. Some of these pieces (they're not exactly short stories) are hilarious, with a veneer of sadness. All are smart as a whip. A few of my favourites: Death is not the End - A poet has settled. "It is the height of spring, and the trees and shrubbery are in full leaf and are intensely green and still, and are complexly shadowed, and the sky is wholly blue and still, so that the whole enclosed tableau of pool and deck and poet and chair and table and trees and home’s rear façade is very still and composed and very nearly wholly silent, the soft gurgle of the pool’s pump and drain and the occasional sound of the poet clearing his throat or turning the pages of Newsweek magazine the only sounds—not a bird, no distant lawn mowers or hedge trimmers or weed-eating devices, no jets overhead or distant muffled sounds from the pools of the homes on either side of the poet’s home—nothing but the pool’s respiration and poet’s occasional cleared throat, wholly still and composed and enclosed, not even a hint of a breeze to stir the leaves of the trees and shrubbery, the silent living enclosing flora’s motionless green vivid and inescapable and not like anything else in the world in either appearance or suggestion. " Forever Overhead - Bits of human skin, the sky, water. The end. "Two black spots, violence, and disappear into a well of time. Height is not the problem. It all changes when you get back down. When you hit, with your weight. So which is the lie? Hard or soft? Silence or time? The lie is that it’s one or the other. A still, floating bee is moving faster than it can think. From overhead the sweetness drives it crazy. The board will nod and you will go, and eyes of skin can cross blind into a cloud-blotched sky, punctured light emptying behind sharp stone that is forever. That is forever. Step into the skin and disappear." B.I. #59 - This one is so funny: a masturbation fantasy based on Bewitched has gone wrong because of the Synodic Period and Sidereal Period. "Well, too, do I remember this envy I felt of my brutish, unimaginative brother, upon whom the excellent scientific instruction of so many of the posts’ schools was sheerly wasted, and he would not be in the least overwhelmed by the consequences of realizing this further: that the earth’s rotation was but one part of its temporal movements, and that in order not to betray the fantasy’s First Premise through causing incongruities in the scientifically catalogued measurements of the Solar Day and the Synodic Period, the earth’s elliptical orbit around the sun must itself be halted by my supernatural hand’s gesture, an orbit whose plane, I had to my misfortune learned in childhood, included a 23.53-degrees angle to the axis of the earth’s own spin, having as well variant equivalents in the measurement of the Synodic Period and Sidereal Period, which required then the rotational and orbital stopping of all other planets and their satellite bodies in the Solar System, each of which forced me to interrupt the masturbation fantasy to perform research and calculations based upon the varying planets’ different spins and angles with respect to the planes of their own orbits around the sun. This was laborious in that era of only very simple hand-held calculators." B.I. #20 - A re-enactment from the movie (yes, there's a movie!) http://youtu.be/LHXpl2FiVQk A Hideous Man B.I. #42 - Unfortunately the irony is lost in the movie, which is the main point here. http://youtu.be/PF_lUrrZYJI John "I think David Foster Wallace is one of the greatest writers that has ever lived" Krazinski at Starlight Books Los Angeles reads from "Brief Interviews With Hideous Men" which he adapted, directed, and acted in.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    I sold my first car just a little over a year ago. It was sort of a bittersweet thing for me because even though that rustbox was old and broken there was a comfortable familiarity there. I loved it in spite of itself. I venture to guess that if I were ever to get back into the driver’s seat (theoretically, of course—the car is long gone now), I’d be awash in nostalgic warmth and tenderness for it. Then, I’d start driving it and quickly remember that yes, the turn signal does sometimes blink spo I sold my first car just a little over a year ago. It was sort of a bittersweet thing for me because even though that rustbox was old and broken there was a comfortable familiarity there. I loved it in spite of itself. I venture to guess that if I were ever to get back into the driver’s seat (theoretically, of course—the car is long gone now), I’d be awash in nostalgic warmth and tenderness for it. Then, I’d start driving it and quickly remember that yes, the turn signal does sometimes blink spontaneously without driver input and yes, the heater fan does get “tired” if you keep it too long at Level 4. Oh, not to mention that weird noise when you first start it but I swear it will go away on its own once the car warms up. Still, I would love to be driving it again. In a lot of ways it was a great car; so what if it had a few shortcomings? DFW’s got a few shortcomings. He’s got that twitchy way of winking at you in his footnotes (some of which go on for pages). He’s got the long, winding sentences that often have a kind of manic quality to them. And often times he devolves with his storytelling choices into an almost experimental writing style (e.g. providing the reader with a story in the form of his narrative notes rather than that of the finished product itself). And yet, there is definitely still a loveable familiarity there. The footnotes are entertaining, sometimes even fairly amusing. The long sentences are actually pretty brilliant for the most part and lend his stories a qualitative edge that is unique to DFW and somehow just…works. I’m not particularly fond of the writing experiments but I can look past them when they crop up here and there and appreciate the story for what it is. All in all it’s not a bad drive and even with those DFW-isms I hated while reading Infinite Jest, it was nice being back in DFW territory. Of course not every story in this collection worked for me, which is why I’m only giving it three stars. (Infinite Jest got four.) I hated “Church Not Made with Hands” and “Tri-Stan,” for example. That said, the stories I did like, I loved. Here are my favorites: “Forever Overhead” “The Depressed Person” “Signifying Nothing” “Octet” “Adult World” Oh and but except the other thing this DFW car does that’s pretty quirky sometimes is instead of successfully ending a story it’ll just

  10. 4 out of 5

    Vince

    A much better read than The Girl with the Curious Hair for me personally. DFW shows off his prowess as a writer, observer and above all, as a storyteller. His stories tackle issues that are not often discussed that I've come across. He talks of feelings of self-loathing, depression, loneliness and growing up in the modern world dominated by television and the internet. There was one story I didn't like and frustrated me with little pay off. At this point I'm used to the author challenging his re A much better read than The Girl with the Curious Hair for me personally. DFW shows off his prowess as a writer, observer and above all, as a storyteller. His stories tackle issues that are not often discussed that I've come across. He talks of feelings of self-loathing, depression, loneliness and growing up in the modern world dominated by television and the internet. There was one story I didn't like and frustrated me with little pay off. At this point I'm used to the author challenging his reader than to spoon feed where it's too easy, but one particular story just didn't cut it, hence the four rather than five star score. What I gleaned the most out of this collection is that DFW loves to read and strives to reinvent it and wants to share his passion with the reader. Overall, I had a blast with this book and recommend it if the sheer size of Infinite Jest is too intimidating.

  11. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    4.5 stars rounded up to a fanboyish five. Brief Interviews is the strongest short story collection from the affectionately acronymously monikered DFW in this reviewer’s eyes—Girl With Curious Hair falling too far into a sort of rat-escaping-the-fictional-labyrinth obliqueness, and Oblivion supersized with unstoppable novella-length formal flops. Both flaws are in evidence here but are steeped in so much hip-shaking wonderment it’s heartless not too turn a blind eye. ‘Forever Overhead’ and ‘The D 4.5 stars rounded up to a fanboyish five. Brief Interviews is the strongest short story collection from the affectionately acronymously monikered DFW in this reviewer’s eyes—Girl With Curious Hair falling too far into a sort of rat-escaping-the-fictional-labyrinth obliqueness, and Oblivion supersized with unstoppable novella-length formal flops. Both flaws are in evidence here but are steeped in so much hip-shaking wonderment it’s heartless not too turn a blind eye. ‘Forever Overhead’ and ‘The Depressed Person’ and ‘Octet’ and the title stories are the formidable insulation of the book, caulked with little vignettes and cool experiments, giving the collection a clear-minded unity, purpose . . . manifesto, even. Unlike the other collections, Brief Interviews feels touched with the same form-owning irrepressible one-man Goliathian intellectual megalomania at play in Infinite Jest and A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. The mostly appalling ‘Tri-Stan’ and ‘On His Deathbed’ can be excused because they belong to the broader purpose of allowing the one-of-a-kind mind of DFW to expand to its fattest, happiest horizons on the page for us all to see. Not that I’m pandering to the mythopoeia or anything. But this is a seriously significant work. Got it? [P.S. The UK Abacus DFW editions are useless. Miniscule fonts and hideous covers will not help win a legion of British supporters—look at poor Paul Bryant . . . ]

  12. 5 out of 5

    Junta

    Update while reading, October 24 2016: I'm enamored with his writing so much at the moment that I'm sharing a whole segment here. This is one of the 'Brief Interviews with Hideous Men' which has made a huge impression on me so far. (pp.20-22) B.I. #11 06-96 VIENNA VA 'All right, I am, okay, yes, but hang on a second, okay? I need you to try and understand this. Okay? Look. I know I'm moody. I know I'm kind of withdrawn sometimes. I know I'm hard to be in this with, okay? All right? But this every t Update while reading, October 24 2016: I'm enamored with his writing so much at the moment that I'm sharing a whole segment here. This is one of the 'Brief Interviews with Hideous Men' which has made a huge impression on me so far. (pp.20-22) B.I. #11 06-96 VIENNA VA 'All right, I am, okay, yes, but hang on a second, okay? I need you to try and understand this. Okay? Look. I know I'm moody. I know I'm kind of withdrawn sometimes. I know I'm hard to be in this with, okay? All right? But this every time I get moody or withdrawn you thinking I'm leaving or getting ready to ditch you - I can't take it. This thing of you being afraid all the time. It wears me out. It makes me feel like I have to, like, hide whatever mood I might be in because right away you're going to think it's about you and that I'm getting ready to ditch you and leave. You don't trust me. You don't. It's not like I'm saying given our history I deserved a whole lot of trust right off the bat. But you still don't at all. There's like zero security no matter what I do. Okay? I said I'd promise I wouldn't leave and you said you believed me that I was in this with you for the long haul this time, but you didn't. Okay? Just admit it, all right? You don't trust me. I'm on eggshells all the time. Do you see? I can't keep going around reassuring you all the time.' Q. 'No, I'm not saying this is reassuring. What this is is just trying to get you to see - okay, look, things ebb and flow, okay? Sometimes people are just more into it than other times. This is just how it is. But you can't stand ebb. It feels like no ebb's allowed. And I know that's partly my fault, okay? I know the other times didn't exactly make you feel secure. But I can't change that, okay? But this is now. And now I feel like anytime I'd just rather not talk or get a little moody or withdrawn you think I'm plotting to ditch you. And that breaks my heart. Okay? It just breaks my heart. Maybe if I loved you a little less or cared about you less I could take it. But I can't. So yes, that's what the bags are, I'm leaving.' Q. 'And I was - this is just how I was afraid you'd take it. I knew it, that you'd think this means you were right to be afraid all the time and never feel secure or trust me. I knew it'd be "See, you're leaving after all when you promised you wouldn't." I knew it but I'm trying to explain anyway, okay? And I know you probably won't understand this either, but - wait - just try to listen and maybe absorb this, okay? Ready? Me leaving is not the confirmation of all your fears about me. It is not. It's because of them. Okay? Can you see that? It's your fear I can't take. It's your distrust and fear I've been trying to fight. And I can't anymore. I'm out of gas on it. If I loved you even a little less maybe I could take it. But this is killing me, this constant feeling that I'm always scaring you and never making you feel secure. Can you see that?' Q. It is ironic from your point of view, I can see that. Okay. And I can see you totally hate me now. And I've spent a long time getting myself to where I'm ready to face your totally hating me for this and this look of like total confirmation of all your fears and suspicions on your face if you could see it, okay? I swear if you could see your face right now anybody'd understand why I'm leaving.' Q. 'I'm sorry. I don't mean to put it all on you. I'm sorry. It's not you, okay? I mean, it has to be something about me if you can't trust me after all these weeks or stand even just a little normal ebb and flow without always thinking I'm getting ready to leave. I don't know what, but there must be. Okay, and I know our history's not great, but I swear to you I meant everything I said, and I've tried a hundred-plus percent. I swear to God I did. I'm so sorry. I'd give anything in the world not to hurt you. I love you. I always will love you. I hope you believe that, but I'm giving up trying to get you to. Just please believe I tried. And don't think this is about something wrong with you. Don't do that to yourself. It's us, us is why I'm leaving, okay? Can you see that? That it's not what you've always been so afraid of? Okay? Can you see that? Can you maybe see you just might have been wrong, even possibly? Could you give me that much, do you think? Because this isn't exactly fun for me either, okay? Leaving like this, seeing your face like this as my last mental picture of you. Can you see I might be pretty torn up about it too? Can you? That you're not alone in this?'Nov 17, 2016: watched the film adaptation a couple of nights ago. Not bad, but definitely read the book first; the film wasn't so memorable. October 9, 2018: I recently read about adult attachment theory, and came to the realisation that several of the 'interviews' may have really hit home for me because DFW and I share some similar flaws (in the sphere of relationships and personality), belonging to the group of avoidants (fearful-avoidant rather than dismissive-avoidant, though maybe a mix of both). Well, it seemed to me that it would be impossible to write what he wrote without having experienced such scenarios himself; but it could be that he's just that good at writing, of course.

  13. 5 out of 5

    De(Jen)erate

    Q. I’m conflicted about the author’s stylistic buffoonery. Vituperative is what it is. I’m a bit punch-drunk, if I’m being honest. I have suffered a sustained bludgeoning to my self esteem. Frankly, it’s as if I were accosted in the supermarket by a terrifying maniac and drilled, almost fatally, by a frozen chunk of venison. Right here, you see? I’m pointing at the occipital dimension of my head calcium. Utterly blindsided by this block of wild game to the dome which caused an explosion of white, Q. I’m conflicted about the author’s stylistic buffoonery. Vituperative is what it is. I’m a bit punch-drunk, if I’m being honest. I have suffered a sustained bludgeoning to my self esteem. Frankly, it’s as if I were accosted in the supermarket by a terrifying maniac and drilled, almost fatally, by a frozen chunk of venison. Right here, you see? I’m pointing at the occipital dimension of my head calcium. Utterly blindsided by this block of wild game to the dome which caused an explosion of white, followed by a kind of pointillist mosaic of unresolvable questions and concerned figures. Anyway, I found myself, while weathering the author’s obvious distain for my attention, wondering if anything of value was being revealed, or if DFW was at fool-mast, for making me feel like an imbecile. A part of me balks at enduring abuse from some puffed up organism that would be terminated by attempting to inhale an irregular tater tot. Just like you or me. Have you ever nearly choked to death on, lets say, a chicken nugget, or a lego, and had a searing flash of cosmic insignificance? Well, let me tell you, unless you have a terminally fixed perspective, this simple act of nearly asphyxiating on the severed head of a Malibu Barbie will cause you to reappraise everything. Q. Rapport? Do you call instances of domestic abuse instrumental to building a harmonious relationship? What you’re asking me to do here, is, what you’re asking me to - let me get this straight, you’re saying; put on my best bib a tucker and let DFW make aero plane noises while he feeds me Stockholme-O’s? Is the crippling extraneous details a necessary component of the delivery system? Can a book not be both difficult and engaging? Why prohibitively difficult? What if the difficulty is just a method of obscurantism for what is, at base, a vacuous piece of masturbatory drivel that only receives accolades in a manner similar to Black Metal bands who try to out-kvlt each other, where devolving one’s sound to the level of hateful inaccessibility is the primary animus, because who would want to be associated with the hoi polloi and their horrible tendency to catapult kitsch to commercial success? Someone told me once that the point of it was to be inedible. Maximalism they call it. It’s enough to make a cat laugh. You remember what Orwell said about certain ideas being so stupid that only an intellectual could believe them? Well, that applies to this entire genre. It’s a kind of fiction that only a bunch of hyper educated pillocks would endorse. It’s as if we had sat down at a restaurant recommended to us by these stinky gourmands, and we’re consuming and not really taking time to taste anything, but then, like, I had inquired, with dawning consternation; “Are we... (leaning forward and cutting through the avant-garde jazz fusion) ... Are we eating shit, mate?” I don’t feel edified. I don’t feel nourished. I don’t feel entertained. I feel as though half masticated feces is rolling around in my open trap. As a matter of fact, I’ve heard the author address this very thing in interviews. This naked hostility expressed by pretentious little shits who have realized, deep down, that they have no way to make durable transformations to the reality they inhabit, because they’re inept and frightened by how stupid they are, and so but, these are resentful acts. I’m telling you, they’re looking for revenge for having no actionable skills. They carve out a niche where they can feel superior. They produce these holograms of knowledge that are predicated on axioms of their own devising, which, if you really wanna know what I think, it’s all about getting laid. Pomo is just a big noodle wetting machine. Q. Kvlt? Well. Let me give you an example. If I, while on stage, wrapped myself in razor wire and crawled up the ass of a dead bison, that’s pretty Kvlt, right? But if I obtained widespread notoriety for these bizarre rites and gained, lets say, a thousand fans, I will have diminished my Kvlt status in direct proportion to the amount of groupies amassed? Understood? It’s not important. Anyway. Q. That’s right. Appearing tortured and mysterious and on this other level. But they don’t want to have collisions with comprehensibility, because if they said anything plainly they’d receive our collective ridicule. They don’t want to pass through the dreadful sieve of empirical reality where they’ll inevitably find themselves trapped in the company of other coarse individuals who found the act of communicating too difficult and so opted to masquerade as semiotic Mavericks, who place the onus on you to consume excrement, to disregard all the common conventions of sense making and just wallop your fat gob with manure, and smile and exclaim with gustatory avidity; “Simply divine!” Entire metaphysical substrates are constructed and populated by a gullible clergy who are similarly disenfranchised by their lack of creative engagement with the world, these people, the faithful, supply the whole enterprise with tremendous motive force by imputing genius to the scribblings of these painfully insecure, petty tyrants. Goddamn sadists. They have their own lingo, their own methods of analysis which reveals in the text whatever they wish. Do you know what I heard once as a defense for these fucking footnotes? That they were there to take you out of the work, so you could observe it in a more clinical fashion. Q. Say that to me again! I’ll bash ye fookin’ ‘ead in, I swear on me mum! ... Q. I enjoyed pretty much all of the stories, and some of them were transcendental. The bit of clumsy meta-fiction’ing during Octet is a good example of the earnestness which always attracted me to his work. That a person could possess such tremendous self awareness yet be brave enough to render themselves fully human before their readers, it’s just very moving. The bit about the hand waving and stopping time in order to fornicate with a clerical aide, but, like, extrapolating the consequences of that power to such a degree that you’ve cognitively cock blocked yourself, genius. And I think that despite some of the difficulty, there’s nearly always something important being said or inferred, or else an interaction is being captured at such a level of granularity that you’re able to reconfigure your own sensitivity. Then the thing is, like, you begin to internalize this lesson, you come to realize that, much of the time, when you’re going about your daily life, you are, for all practical purposes, insensate. Just totally numb to this panoply of complex interactions. But you don’t have to be. That’s one of things that great works of fiction offer. A remonstrance to wake the fuck up. Like what Bradbury said about putting a book under a microscope and seeing life streaming past in infinite profusion? Well, Wallace is the microscope. I think that’s one of the aims of Maximalism, to show the kind of Brownian motion that underlies the seemingly mundane. Q. That’s hard to say, I’m pretty much in love with the guy. I think it’s probably his sensitivity to detail, and his unparalleled ability to capture the ephemeral nature of thinking directly, rather than being once removed from it by the explicative mode. I also find him to be one of the funniest writers I’ve ever read. He seizes these moments of absurdity by the scruff while they’re in the act of pissing up the furniture. Take for example the idea that a marriage could be improved by mutually hidden agendas, that discovering her husband is chronically tweaking his heat-seeking moisture missile could assuage a woman’s insecurities and precipitate a kind of sexual liberation in her. The idea of a kind of transparency only being possible for these neurotic souls through willful blindness. He’s amazing at exposing these preposterous motives which typify our existence. He is also very good with dialogue, at making it seem like a believable exchange. It’s messy and digressive and, like, riddled with these little idiosyncrasies. Q. Personally, I think it’s important for art to always seek new modes of expression. Stagnation is the alternative. Culture is always in flux, and so writers must also be dynamic if they wish to capture something important about the spirit of the time. There’s no shortage of traditional narratives for those people who are completely satisfied with them. But it can only be a net benefit for experimental forms of fiction to emerge and thrive. And if they’re difficult to digest, so what? Most of what we find fulfilling in life is not easily obtained or understood. It seems to me that much of what we value, we value because of the effort involved. Freshly squeezed orange juice is better than swilling from the carton. It’s an incontrovertible fact that nuts you have to crack yourself yield more tasty innards. And feeling a person’s flesh yield to a perfect rapier thrust, after an intense back and forth of parries and feints, is inherently more satisfying than, say, blindsiding them in the supermarket with a frigid truncheon of elk meat while they puzzle over their shopping list and just, like, discombobulating them mid-thought and causing them to pitch violently into the cabbages and be spritzed by the automated produce moisturizers in a state of mystified pain and confusion while you leer above them and mutter cryptically; “I told you.” Q. Kvlt? Okay, lets say that one musician is willing to fist a dead hog on stage, but another is willing to do so while aggressively rubbing his Bobby Dangler all over a Jumping Cholla Cactus, the later is said to have out performed his contemporaries in the Kvlt olympics. But lets say that, due to this obscene perforation of his twig and berries, he had garnered attention sufficient enough to move the needle of commercial success, it is then incumbent upon him to recede into deeper obscurity or else risk losing the kvlt resources which were gained through genital mutilation. Understand? It’s not important. Anyway.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Leo Robertson

    The Asshole Monologues. Re-reading for a writing project... Man does DFW ever ramble on! He gets a pass because of what it felt like reading this book for the first time ;) Original review. I won't reveal too much about the individual stories because I don't want to take away the surprise, but: - Amongst other devices, post-modern or otherwise, metafiction and the dreaded poioumena are used properly and to fantastic effect: yes, they are. I've never seen it done before. Never understood it, but peelin The Asshole Monologues. Re-reading for a writing project... Man does DFW ever ramble on! He gets a pass because of what it felt like reading this book for the first time ;) Original review. I won't reveal too much about the individual stories because I don't want to take away the surprise, but: - Amongst other devices, post-modern or otherwise, metafiction and the dreaded poioumena are used properly and to fantastic effect: yes, they are. I've never seen it done before. Never understood it, but peeling back the layers of the storytelling to reveal the process of writing works amazingly with some of these stories in that it for example shows the inability to craft a powerful story in modern times without sounding like you're falling into cliche, and even reflecting our own angst in doing this when we talk to each other (I definitely do this and I'm worried you think that what I just wrote is pretentious. Such is the unavoidable nature of contributing anything! And one of the best messages here is that double-guessing and attempted likeability can be fatal to anything worth saying. So I'm leaving it.) - Bar 2 or 3, each of these stories feels like a punch in the face, and whether or not you agree with DFW's analysis (and it is often open anyway) you owe it to yourself to ask... yourself the questions that they pose, even if you end up concurring with your own philosophy heretofore. - These stories are what the short story is for. Asking yourself 'What is a short story?' feels redundant but the question no less rhetorical, and I think this collection is a great example of what short stories do. Infinite bloody Jest, say, cannot achieve what these stories can- not that it is better or worse, it is only not a short story, agreed? So as an homage to what I think this book stands for, at risk of sounding gushy or pretentious, trite or pleading for attention, these are my bare bones honest thoughts. I would strongly advise that you read this book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    L.S. Popovich

    Recommended for hardcore DFW fans. This collection is a deeply personal, scattered exhibit of loneliness, a harrowing, sad, and convincing portrayal of damaged psyches. Wit, brilliance, and exuberance are all evident in Wallace's oeuvre, but here, must be discerned through strata of mimesis. Listening to the audiobook reading by the author this time around allowed me to feel landscapes of hurt and brokenness within its multitudes of layers of densely packed, heady elegance. Its psychological aby Recommended for hardcore DFW fans. This collection is a deeply personal, scattered exhibit of loneliness, a harrowing, sad, and convincing portrayal of damaged psyches. Wit, brilliance, and exuberance are all evident in Wallace's oeuvre, but here, must be discerned through strata of mimesis. Listening to the audiobook reading by the author this time around allowed me to feel landscapes of hurt and brokenness within its multitudes of layers of densely packed, heady elegance. Its psychological abysses yawned before me, its desolate precision etched indelible fingerprints of gracious remembrance into my mind. Elevating this story-jumble are the author's tangentially related interviews with fictitious personalities, wherein elaborate thought-salads congeal into heartbreaking, cohesive episodes of disturbing humanness. Unlike his other 2 story collections, untamed libidos and feverish perversity reign here - hence the title - along with truly awe-inspiring prose-segments, interspersed in a confusing and disorienting package, where every page yields meteoric surprises, hand-in-hand with sweaty frustrations, culled from the unhallowed interior corridors of bed-sheet-twisting angst. Especially notable are the longer pieces, the meditations on violence, where Wallace proves his mastery of voice and imitative dialogue. He somehow renders incomprehensible concepts digestible, and translates his polymathic cogitations for the layman reader. My second reading enlarged upon my first, and no doubt a third review of his complete works would uncover further joys. His contribution to American letters is astounding, and though divisive, these fragmentary stories depict an oft-forgotten side of Wallace, who had a tendency to tiptoe around his own insecurities, except when he dramatized them, when, carried away by the slippery slope of his magnificent intellect, he connects the dots for us, that we might better come to terms with the hidden maps of the mind and heart.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    It seems I am a little stupid. A bit slow. Not so quick on the uptake. Perhaps even a hair over the boundary separating the uncultured from the genuinely dumb-ass. The reason for this sudden self-awareness, my profound dumb-lightenment? I can’t read David Foster Wallace. I tried. I opened Brief Interviews With Hideous Men and bashed myself against the towering walls of his prolixity, his long meandering stories, the seemingly endless sentences. And oh, those sentences. They are rabbits disappearin It seems I am a little stupid. A bit slow. Not so quick on the uptake. Perhaps even a hair over the boundary separating the uncultured from the genuinely dumb-ass. The reason for this sudden self-awareness, my profound dumb-lightenment? I can’t read David Foster Wallace. I tried. I opened Brief Interviews With Hideous Men and bashed myself against the towering walls of his prolixity, his long meandering stories, the seemingly endless sentences. And oh, those sentences. They are rabbits disappearing down endless winding warrens, lit only by the dim glow of ten-dollar words. If Wallace’s most famous work - Infinite Jest - is anything like his short stories it would have more aptly been named infinite Sentence. Seriously. Forget just taking a breather in the middle of some of DFW’s sentences to gather yourself and try to hold all the ideas he presents together. You’ll need to take a packed lunch, and perhaps an emergency beacon for when you inevitably become lost in his deep jungles of words that stretch for half a page or more, with only the odd comma to mark the trail. For me, Foster Wallace is the kind of writer who has you constantly flicking a few pages ahead, trying to motivate yourself with a mixture of the thoughts ‘there really aren’t that many pages to go, I can finish this’ and ‘this is a test. I have to finish this to prove that the internet hasn’t ruined my attention span.’ Once upon a time I would have flogged myself through this collection. I would have whipped myself along with an imaginary birch switch, believing that finishing this book would be character building, that I would be a better, maybe smarter person for making it to the end. Now, painfully aware that I will never have time to read all the books I want to in my lifetime, I am past this kind of self-improving masochism. I bailed on Brief Interviews With Hideous Men at the halfway point. I didn’t hate all the stories I got through. There’s artistry here, and a sense of humour in some of the titular stories where awful men demonstrate and justify their awfulness. DFW has style, and wit, but he does not possess, in any measure, succinctness. Each paragraph is an interesting example of form and language, but, in their multitudes their uniqueness becomes uniform, their meandering tedious, their overall effect anything but the ‘Brief’ promised in the title. David Foster Wallace has long seemed to me to be a cultural marker in the reading world. An author to be seen reading on the train, a delineator between cultured, Capital-L-Literary reader types and the genre-reading, hoi polloi. If that is the case, then I count myself among the unwashed, Stephen-King-loving masses, a reading milieu where you only flick ahead in a story when, gripped with excitement, you cannot wait to see how it ends.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I just finished reading Brief Interviews With Hideous Men. This book is some kind of a literary masterpiece yeah. I just didn’t enjoy reading it that much. I understand what this book is supposed to be, and it’s very eye-opening to note what he is doing/trying to do/succeeding to do in any one of these stories, but it is simply not enjoyable to read. It is rather like– as a child does in one of the earlier stories in this book, the only story I enjoyed– finding yourself forced to leap off of a h I just finished reading Brief Interviews With Hideous Men. This book is some kind of a literary masterpiece yeah. I just didn’t enjoy reading it that much. I understand what this book is supposed to be, and it’s very eye-opening to note what he is doing/trying to do/succeeding to do in any one of these stories, but it is simply not enjoyable to read. It is rather like– as a child does in one of the earlier stories in this book, the only story I enjoyed– finding yourself forced to leap off of a high-dive. Post-leap, there are several different ways to consider yourself as having grown somehow, but during the dive it is not at all entertaining. You may find yourself feeling harassed, terrified, bored, or any other of a number of unpleasant emotions, and when you are finished you will cry GOD I AM GLAD THAT IS OVER and you will go on living some kind of expanded life and cease to think much about said high-dive UNLESS you are one of those people who find themselves compelled constantly to do unpleasant things and therefore suddenly find yourself compelled, through this unpleasant childhood experience most other people are busy forgetting, to become a world-class high-dive leaper. The big thing is this: yes, it is clever to be all sorts of postmodern, and yes, those who can pull it off well are all geniuses and deserve much praise– and DFW can pull it off well, frequently– but this is still not the kind of thing that books were invented for. They’re not enjoyable as short stories. I don’t care if they are a ‘delight’ and a ‘harassment of the short story form’. I am not going to want to read short stories if the writer of the short stories wrote them in order to harass me. In the same way, though I would credit laudable creativity to an artist whose form of sculpture involved filling a room with knives, I would not particularly enjoy being in that room, and would instead feel a degree of tension of be a little bit upset. The only one of these stories I actually enjoyed was ‘Forever Overhead,’ a brilliant piece about a boy on a high-dive. I think it is stunning. Other sections– the first of the ‘Hideous Men’ sections, for instance, or ‘Church Not Made With Hands’, a story about a young family in a tragic situation– are wonderful also, but are, in the case of the first, not as easy to enjoy, or, in the case of the second, so buried into the abrasive unpleasantness of the rest of this excellently-written book that by the time the reader gets to it he or she is simply too mentally exhausted to even recognize that this story is well-done and pleasant instead of abrasive. Putting the book down does not help– remembering prior sections can so trouble or bore that reading onward simply becomes as unpleasant as they were, regardless of whether or not the bit you are actually reading is itself unpleasant. The writing gets to be its least-bearable when he starts to write totally ironically about how stupid it is to always be totally ironic. I don’t know if it’s possible to sarcastically criticise sarcasm without sounding like a jerk, even if you ARE DFW. The fact is this: when DFW wants to make you experience, as in ‘The Depressed Person,’ what it is like to enter the mind of a severely depressed person, he does it in such a way and with such accuracy and force that there is practically no room for the reader to reflect. That’s how genuine it gets. It is the same, though less so, with the bit about an honored playwright’s father who, on his death bed, insists on going on and on a bout how much he hates his talented son. DFW simply presents these relentless neverending trauma-filled paragraphs one after another as if he is pounding the reader’s head with a bloody brick, and the reader must shout ‘God, this is spectacular, DFW! Now please get the brick out of my eye!’ The question we should all be asking is NOT ‘Is this good?‘ The question should be, ‘Am I having a good time reading this?‘ It is a totally inescapable fact that wholly unpleasant things are rarely saved for posterity. Even upsetting or pathologically-focused books, like Crime and Punishment, are saved because there is something accessible or somehow pleasant about the reading experience that makes at least some of us refrain from hurling it out of a window. There is barely any such redeeming factor here. So. DFW is some kind of literary god. But it is now perfectly self-evident to me why more writers are not running around trying to be as horrifically postmodern as he was. It is soul-crushingly unhappy to be so postmodern. I do not mean to be crass, but these stories make it clear that DFW understands human agony and disgrace and depression. And he killed himself. So, I say this: it is okay not to like this book. Read it and perhaps admire it, but it is okay to dislike it. The reason you dislike it so much is that you have understood what DFW was trying to do. And the thing he was trying to do was not to write an accessible, edifying book, but to conduct ‘a harassment of the short story form,’ which is the opposite of what short stories are for. One does not go around trying to become a successful baker by baking breads which are a harassment of the mouth. There is a reason for this.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dave Schaafsma

    I have a confession to make; I am an obsessive reader, even a reader of postmodern fiction, but I think this is the first fiction I have read from David Foster Wallace. I read his former wife Karen Green's reflection about him in her book, Bough Down, and some of his non-fiction, but when I saw that I could hear the author narrate this book (with a few actors) and saw it was not the thousand page length of Infinite Jest, I decided to listen to it. It was a kind of rollercoaster experience for me I have a confession to make; I am an obsessive reader, even a reader of postmodern fiction, but I think this is the first fiction I have read from David Foster Wallace. I read his former wife Karen Green's reflection about him in her book, Bough Down, and some of his non-fiction, but when I saw that I could hear the author narrate this book (with a few actors) and saw it was not the thousand page length of Infinite Jest, I decided to listen to it. It was a kind of rollercoaster experience for me. The dude can write, so listening to the language tumbling out of various men's mouths was at turns exhilarating and disgusting. More disgusting as the stories of hideous men piled up, but I was never entirely without admiration for his propulsive prose. As I read I was reminded of Joyce and his breathless, stream-of-consciousness cataloguing, all the long, flowing sentences, and the great talk. All of Wallace's men are non-stop talking obsessively lost and narcissistic/misogynistic men talking about women throughout, but the language is itself seductive. I thought of Nabokov's Lolita: I am being seduced by the very language Wallace uses to depict behavior and ideas of which I simply cannot approve, which sometimes even turns my stomach, and yet makes me admire his taking on the deepest darkest places in (male) psyches. Some of it is funny, and some of it makes me cry and some of it makes me sad, and some of it makes me angry. There were plays by Neil LaBute and others in the nineties that captured male assholism very well and this is part of that admirable and hard to stomach tradition. Here's an example of the kind of outrageous/hideous guy he includes, a guy who is explaining why he is dumping his girlfriend: “And I was--this is just how I was afraid you'd take it. I knew it, that you'd think this means you were right to be afraid all the time and never feel secure or trust me. I knew it'd be 'See, you're leaving after all when you promised you wouldn't.' I knew it but I'm trying to explain anyway, okay? And I know you probably won't understand this either, but --wait-- just try to listen and maybe absorb this, okay? Ready? Me leaving is not the confirmation of all your fears about me. It is not. It's because of them. Okay? Can you see that? It's your fear I can't take. It's your distrust and fear I've been trying to fight. And I can't anymore. I'm out of gas on it. If I loved you even a little less maybe I could take it. But this is killing me, this constant feeling that I am always scaring you and never making you feel secure. Can you see that?” The interviews are page long monologues by guys who just cannot shut up, alternated with Q, though we never hear the Question, the interviewer, often a woman, who is thus silenced. I have to say, though, that this book is very good fiction, technically a collection of related stories, which has sent me in a little spiral of depression about men on this planet. And that was Wallace's problem, depression, which may in fact have led him to write this very book. But the writing is often amazing.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mala

    Recommended for: DFW fans, ppl who want to expand their vocabulary & their mind. Shelf: Postmodernism,metafiction,American writer,short stories. I have many DFW works on my shelf but i picked this particular book up as the cover really grabbed my attention: the male face; covered in burlap sack,reminded me of the Phantom from 'The Phantom of the Opera', but unlike the tortured,homicidal,musical genius whose passion,angelic voice & sad past,made him a tragic character, hence,easy to feel compassion Recommended for: DFW fans, ppl who want to expand their vocabulary & their mind. Shelf: Postmodernism,metafiction,American writer,short stories. I have many DFW works on my shelf but i picked this particular book up as the cover really grabbed my attention: the male face; covered in burlap sack,reminded me of the Phantom from 'The Phantom of the Opera', but unlike the tortured,homicidal,musical genius whose passion,angelic voice & sad past,made him a tragic character, hence,easy to feel compassion for- the same can't be said of this gallery of "hideous men"(save case no 46 & 42): pathological characters of varying degrees & hues: self absorbed,neurotic,cunning,cruel & what's worse aware of their cruelty,these meta, post-structuralist men who speak in quotation marks; throw their readings of Foucault & Lacan at you!  Sample this from a grad student: "This,of course,is because today's postfeminist era is also today's postmodern era,in which supposedly everybody now knows everything about what's really going on underneath all the semiotic codes & cultural conventions,& everybody is operating out of,& so we're all as individuals held to be far more responsible for our sexuality,since everything we do is now unprecedentedly conscious & informed." Conscious & informed indeed! Only trouble is,they have rationalised their feelings to such an extent that they are unable to feel anything anymore--as the male in the concluding interview cries out: "what an empty way this was to come at women...empty. To gaze & not see,to eat & not be full. Not just to feel but be empty." And therefore,empathise with such poor men,we must cause as DFW says,the primary aim of fiction is to "allow us imaginatively to identify with characters' pain" so that "we might then also more easily conceive of others identifying with our own. This is nourishing,redemptive; we become less alone inside." Arranged around these interviews are short stories & short sketches of alternating length & structure. Most of these worked for me,few like 'Church Not Made With Hands','Datum Centurio' etc. did not. The stand out stories are 'Tri -Stan: I Sold Sissee Nar to Ecko': brilliant in its wit & biting satire,its mock epic struture is beyond praise! It recalled to mind Pope's mock epic 'The Rape of the Lock' where a trivial theme is given a grand epic treatment. The controversial 'The Depressed Person' where Wallace ironically points out time & again that this person is suffering due to her narcissism rather than past wounds. My fav story of this story cycle is 'Forever Overhead' which was included in Best American Short Stories (1992)-- it's a simple coming-of-age tale where a boy,on his 13th b'day,decides to sneakily jump into the community pool from a high dive. Here the form & theme coalesce beautifully.  On a different level,this story even reads like a metaphysical musing on life,death & beyond which is true in a way as"All changes,even the most longed for,have their melancholy;for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves. We must die to one life before we can enter another."(one of my fav quotes though sadly can't recall the author). This book is a good introduction to Wallace's work as most ppl eagerly(& wrongly) begin with 'Infinite Jest' & then are turned catatonic by it's verbal wizardry & stylistic pyrotechnics (as happened to me long back!). To quote Marshall Boswell: "Brief Interviews...does,however,work as a decisive & articulate recaptitulation of Wallace's by now characteristic themes,including depression,solipsism,community, self-consciousness--both textual & psychological--& the impact on our collective consciousness of therapeutic discourse writ large... More a clearinghouse of still vital ideas than a bold shift in direction,Brief interviews with Hideous Men is possibly Wallace's most 'characteristic' book." Here is a link to this excellent critical analysis'Understanding David Foster Wallace' by Marshall Boswell,in case you are not satisfied with "200 words capsule reviews" & you shdn't be! Writers like Wallace need to be read with a couple of reference books & a dictionary near you & i mean that in a good way unlike Faulkner's mean swipe at Hemingway! http://books.google.ae/books?id=3N4ir... *. *. * The opening story 'A Radically Condensed History of Post-industrial Life' is condensed like a haiku: only two terse passages,containing wealth of references : i was reminded of this beautifully poignant short story 'The Chrysanthemums' by Steinbeck,where a travelling salesman,in order to find some work,strikes up a conversation with a woman on her favorite topic of flowers. The woman is delighted & even hands him a few pots of eponymous chrysanthemums,only to find them later discarded by the roadside. Here's a link to this wonderful story: http://thatsclassic.wordpress.com/tag... Why call such encounters only postindustrial? Such fakeness & superficiality in human relationships has been there since time immemorial so much so that when someone is being genuinely nice to you,you still wonder"Am i missing something,what's the catch here!?" Also such examples are so common here on Goodreads: someone makes a lame joke on some thread,another laughs uproariously/someone writes a decidedly third-rate poem,another treats it as if it were the next thing to Eliot!  Only here they don't drive home alone with the same twist on their faces: it ends with a friend request & an acceptance. But make no mistakes abt it: there are no friendships here only a "reading network".

  20. 5 out of 5

    Erikaaaa

    If there are 12 things i appreciate in the world, i'm sure one of them is repetition for effect and i don't care if it's in music or in humor, anything. I'm not saying that's DFW's best element here, but it's done sooooo masterfully and it just works for me. I love tight and elegant prose, duh, but if you're going to be neurotic then just go all the way and DO IT and don't stop, keep going, it's so good and getting better. From a linguistic view, yep, it's astounding. The subtleties of language t If there are 12 things i appreciate in the world, i'm sure one of them is repetition for effect and i don't care if it's in music or in humor, anything. I'm not saying that's DFW's best element here, but it's done sooooo masterfully and it just works for me. I love tight and elegant prose, duh, but if you're going to be neurotic then just go all the way and DO IT and don't stop, keep going, it's so good and getting better. From a linguistic view, yep, it's astounding. The subtleties of language that he works into the pieces will make you die because you hadn't yourself written them into a story yet and should have. Yes some of it comes off as "tricks" and is, get over it. But i don't want you to write it off as just experimental because what he's doing is important. There were chapters where i'd start with "Eh, is he really going to write about this, i'm not necessarily looking forward to this one," and i don't know if i'd say that the substance of the story is what ended up winning me over, but the style makes me care about and appreciate the substance. A lot! (And then in some cases the substance of the story itself IS winning.) And there were moments when i'd think "Okay i can see why people think he's probably an arrogant jerk and yeah i too could have thought of second-guessing my own pieces and then writing one that actually comments on that, easy way out," but no, he then knocks that idea, and then the idea of that idea, and so on, he's soooo many steps ahead, he always has the upper hand. So i guess if you want you can still just say he's pulling some meta bullshit gimmicks but i say the extreme to which he does it and distance from which he does it makes it great. Oh, there were so many parts that made me freak out. And it was so rich that by the end it was hard to remember that it was the same book that had contained the very first piece which blew me away from the start. Suffice it to say he's got it goin' on.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mansoor

    John Currin, The Wizard, 1994. John Currin, The Wizard, 1994.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jenn(ifer)

    Ugh. Wow, this is just... bad. By page 230, I had had enough. The thing is, it's as if he decided he had to use every trick up his literary sleeve and instead of relying on the ingenuity and originality of his stories, he mucks it all up by trying too hard to be "unique." There are the brief interviews, which in and of themselves are interesting (saving this reviewer from having to give the author of one of my favorite books of the year one measly star). Then there are several short stories spri Ugh. Wow, this is just... bad. By page 230, I had had enough. The thing is, it's as if he decided he had to use every trick up his literary sleeve and instead of relying on the ingenuity and originality of his stories, he mucks it all up by trying too hard to be "unique." There are the brief interviews, which in and of themselves are interesting (saving this reviewer from having to give the author of one of my favorite books of the year one measly star). Then there are several short stories sprinkled in, some of which contained interesting ideas but they just didn't go anywhere. One story that could have been really good, The Depressed Person, ended up irritating the heck out of me because every time he talked about her, he called her "the depressed person." I found it so tedious and awkward. One day when I'm feeling particularly masochistic, I may decide to finish the last few stories, but until then, this book can collect dust on the shelf where it belongs.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lee Klein

    Originally posted this on Eyeshot.net way back in 1999: In all the reviews I read of David Foster Wallace’s recently published “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men,” I haven’t read a discussion of generosity. (My motivation for searching through the articles is simple: I wanted a reviewer to validate my thoughts, and if none did, I wanted to express this idea of generosity and make it accessible to, like, set everything straight.) Reviewers of Mr. Wallace’s latest book often mention “sex” and “ali Originally posted this on Eyeshot.net way back in 1999: In all the reviews I read of David Foster Wallace’s recently published “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men,” I haven’t read a discussion of generosity. (My motivation for searching through the articles is simple: I wanted a reviewer to validate my thoughts, and if none did, I wanted to express this idea of generosity and make it accessible to, like, set everything straight.) Reviewers of Mr. Wallace’s latest book often mention “sex” and “alienation” and the “war-of-the-sexes,” or they wax absolutely pathetically about how DFW’s characters “exemplify what can go wrong in a society when the romance of individualism turns inward and loosens restraints.” Survey says? XXX. (These signify “three strikes”; most of DFW’s reviewers would probably mistake XXX for pornographic content just as they mistook the book to be primarily about society’s “hideous” obsession with sex.) Allow me to extend a fishing analogy past breaking: reviewers of “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men” have been like shallowstream-running fishies that swallowed the lure and died belly-up rather than getting snagged and eaten by the author. Or if the reviewers are fishing they’re pulling up nasty cartilaginous skates from obtuse angles. Here’s the problem: reviewers don’t seem to come up with the right question. (One of the coolest formal contrivances in the book is that the “brief interviews” are in question-and-answer format, but they lack explicit questions: there’s just empty space for the reader to fill-in after Q and before A). As in Jeopardy, Wallace (a hyperliterate Alex Trebek) supplies the reader (the contestant) with a 273-page question. Now I have the opportunity to buzz in, my question to the overriding response of “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men” is four-fold: “How is generosity manipulative? What are the dynamics of give-and-take, giving and receiving? How does motivation complicate generosity? How are these complications played out in daily lives?” One chapter, “The Devil is A Busy Man,” comes in two installments. In the first, a redneck narrator’s father tries to give away the space-wasting contents of his machine shed/cellar. He even puts a “Free Stuff” ad in the local Trading Post, but no one takes anything until he affixes $5 and $10 tags to the old JC Penny Sleep Sofa and Old Harrow With Some Teeth a Little Rusted. People lap it all up and drive away “tickled to death to get a harrow for next to nothing.” (For extra credit: draw parallels between this story and Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony.” The sin is written across one’s back by a harrow.) The son asks the father the moral of the story and the father tells him he guesses “you don’t try to teach a pig to sing.” In the second story, a man anonymously “diverts” money to friends in need and justifies this anonymity thusly: “A lack of namelessness on my part would destroy the ultimate value of the nice gesture.” His “motivation” would be “not generosity, but desiring gratitude, affection, and approval.” The narrator meets with the recipients of the anonymous gift and refuses to acknowledge that he gave the much-needed money to them. The recipients gush about how thankful they are and the narrator dives into how the gift will help them (ie, the recipients), and he suddenly realizes that these words reveal his true motive to the recipients. Then he immediately spirals down into a despairing realization that his generosity has been emptied of any sincere good by his deception driven by motivation to receive something in return: “My attempts to sincerely be what someone would classify as truly a ‘nice’ or ‘good’ person . . . despairingly, cast me in a light to myself which could only be classified as ‘dark,’ ‘evil,’ or ‘beyond hope of ever sincerely becoming good.’” There are more instances of this ping-ponging dynamic that I won’t go into now. The devil is a busy man because secular pigs believe “next to nothing” is more valuable than nothing. The devil is a busy man because there is little hope to live beyond motivation. I ain’t preaching, but check out Genesis: God gave Eve to Adam and then Satan gave Eve an apple. The first gift ends solitude, setting the stage for the tumbling interworkings of give-and-take; the second gift (Satan’s) is a temptation. It’s manipulative generosity. Light and darkness have been in perpetual round long before Milton. Ultimately I think the way out of this labyrinthine ball is to be good without being sincere. And the easiest way to not have to worry about being sincere is to do something for profit. That way there’s no despair. Income fills the moral cavity. Go outside, breath the open air, and buy DFW’s book at a local independent bookstore. Help everybody out. Get what you pay for. If the major chains have vanquished your area’s indy booksellers, however, go get it in the traditional way.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sentimental Surrealist

    David Foster Wallace may be my favorite author, but I have to admit he had his shortcomings: uneven short fiction. He never wrote a collection of short stories that has affected me on the same level as Infinite Jest or Consider the Lobster and Other Essays, although this one is his strongest to date. His main problem was that a few of his stories seem more exercises in cleverness than anything else: here, we have the infamous "Tri-Stan: I Sold Sissee Nar to Ecko," an ill-advised attempt to give David Foster Wallace may be my favorite author, but I have to admit he had his shortcomings: uneven short fiction. He never wrote a collection of short stories that has affected me on the same level as Infinite Jest or Consider the Lobster and Other Essays, although this one is his strongest to date. His main problem was that a few of his stories seem more exercises in cleverness than anything else: here, we have the infamous "Tri-Stan: I Sold Sissee Nar to Ecko," an ill-advised attempt to give the Tristan and Isolde story a corporate twist; on top of that, a few of the short pieces don't really go anywhere as far as I'm concerned. I'm thinking specifically of "Death is Not the End" and "Think." Still, this is a book that goes there, over and over again, and isn't afraid to get ugly. DFW makes his contempt for his misogynist protagonists clear as day by referring to them as "hideous men" in the title, and oh boy are they gross people. True to his word, Wallace invites us into the minds of the spiteful, the bitter, the manipulative, the vengeful, the greedy, the petty, the control freaks of the world. Some try to change their situation, as in my favorite, the thought-provoking "Devil is a Busy Man" (the one about the money, that is), others find a change forced on them, whether in the haunting "Brief Interviews 6" or hilarious "Signifying Nothing," but most of them wallow in their condition. It's not just the unsparing awfulness of his characters that makes this such a striking collection, though, but the relentless experimentation with form. "Octet" is particularly memorable, told in the form of questions on an ethics test; "Datum Centuro" is a quasi-dystopian piece in the form of dictionary entries; "On His Deathbed, Holding Your Hand, the Acclaimed New Young Off-Broadway Playwright's Father Begs a Boon" gives us a gut-punch monologue, the second part of "Adult World" offers an outline of a story, and "The Depressed Person" is a harrowing and in my opinion 100 percent accurate portrayal of the experience of all-consuming depression. These on top of the "Brief Interviews," which really do take the form of interviews. When you take it all together, this is the ultimate example of Wallace as the postmodern moralist. He uses all of these tricky forms and techniques, but the central message, as usual, seems to be in favor of decency, sincerity, and communication between people. But where Infinite Jest argues the positives of taking on this mindset, this reveals the negatives of not taking it on, while at the same point using the form of fiction as a sandbox. It's not the most accessible of Wallace's fiction by any means, but if you're a fan, scoop this up.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Moeen

    David Foster Wallace once said "Good fiction’s job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable." I can say that many stories in this collection have done this to me. David Foster Wallace once said "Good fiction’s job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable." I can say that many stories in this collection have done this to me.

  26. 4 out of 5

    mark monday

    a great introduction to the author, particularly for those readers who quiver in fear at the idea of Infinite Jest and A Supposedly Fun Thing. the language is unsurprisingly brilliant, the ideas at times playful and at other times fairly heavy, and the various portraits fascinating and often repulsive. wonderfully repulsive! men who engage in misandry are often interestingly self-flagellating yet defensive, and wallace is no exception. perhaps the only drawbacks are some forced jokiness and the a great introduction to the author, particularly for those readers who quiver in fear at the idea of Infinite Jest and A Supposedly Fun Thing. the language is unsurprisingly brilliant, the ideas at times playful and at other times fairly heavy, and the various portraits fascinating and often repulsive. wonderfully repulsive! men who engage in misandry are often interestingly self-flagellating yet defensive, and wallace is no exception. perhaps the only drawbacks are some forced jokiness and the pervasive sense that wallace is laughing at your expense. and he probably is, somewhere. you're gone but you live forever, david!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    The first 1/2 rd of this book is just ok. I just love Wallace's writing style so it's always pleasant to read, but there wasn't much to get excited about. The last half was just stunning. One essay after another, funny, breathtaking, awful, but all so well-written and interesting. Wallace's subject is usually himself, which is to say men who think a lot about themselves and their desires and urges and conflicts and the ways in which they fail to be "good men." So these essays expose different co The first 1/2 rd of this book is just ok. I just love Wallace's writing style so it's always pleasant to read, but there wasn't much to get excited about. The last half was just stunning. One essay after another, funny, breathtaking, awful, but all so well-written and interesting. Wallace's subject is usually himself, which is to say men who think a lot about themselves and their desires and urges and conflicts and the ways in which they fail to be "good men." So these essays expose different conversations where men are awful, but are trying to justify their goodness. They do a good job actually where you almost believe them. They start off with a position that's clearly appalling (that rape can be good for women), then they just throw logic and words and arguments until you're with them. In a way, the arguments are like Nabakov's Lolita. I think we are supposed to be appalled by the thing being justified, but the author is so good at occupying the justifier's mind that there is really a fine line. The essay toward the end about the two grad student men talking about feminism is a classic.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    The story 'Forver Overhead' made me realize the one thing that I appreciate most about DFW. Much of his writing is executed with such exquisite, painstaking detail that it not only causes me to visualize the scenario more clearly, but often at the same time a particular scene will make me recall memories that were long ago misplaced. This story is about a thirteen-year-old boy who works up the courage to tackle that youthful right of passage of going off of the high dive for the first time. The The story 'Forver Overhead' made me realize the one thing that I appreciate most about DFW. Much of his writing is executed with such exquisite, painstaking detail that it not only causes me to visualize the scenario more clearly, but often at the same time a particular scene will make me recall memories that were long ago misplaced. This story is about a thirteen-year-old boy who works up the courage to tackle that youthful right of passage of going off of the high dive for the first time. The memory that this evoked for me was the vague fear that I always had in my pre-teen years of a wet foot sliding off of a wet, metal rung resulting in a banged up knee and potential fall to the concrete below. Another thing that impressed me about this story is that it was written in the second person. I know of very few stories that are well-executed from this point of view (Carlos Fuentes 'Aura' being the only one that comes to mind at the moment). This may have been the reason that I became so immersed in this particular story. My other favorite in this collection was 'Church Not Made With Hands.' The prose in this story is beautiful and there is a suggestion of magic realism afoot, in my opinion. The last section of 'Octet' made me laugh, as that nervously bumbling yet still brilliant writer persona that DFW does so well in his nonfiction makes an appearance. There is one thing that I am still pondering about the title story, 'Brief Interviews With Hideous Men.' This story, which is divided into sections and spread throughout the book, can be sloppily summarized as the text of interviews with men who would be considered creeps in regard to how they deal with and relate to women. One section, however, outlines the life of an older black man who has spent a majority of his work life as the attendant in a swanky restroom. I'm still struggling with how this section fits in with the rest. This is billed as "experimental fiction" but I think that it is a mixed bag that contains something for everyone.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Pictures at an Exhibition

    When David Foster Wallace gives his best, as in this collection of short stories, I make it through the book filled with admiration for his writing style and his inventiveness but also deeply touched from an intimate and emotional point of view. Wallace knows how to be painfully ruthless in portraying the selfish human misery, without ever lapsing into the melodramatic. The Depressed Person is perhaps one of his best stories, precisely because of its ability to oscillate between merciless humor When David Foster Wallace gives his best, as in this collection of short stories, I make it through the book filled with admiration for his writing style and his inventiveness but also deeply touched from an intimate and emotional point of view. Wallace knows how to be painfully ruthless in portraying the selfish human misery, without ever lapsing into the melodramatic. The Depressed Person is perhaps one of his best stories, precisely because of its ability to oscillate between merciless humor and bleak reflections on the disease that has tormented all his life and ultimately led him to suicide. It is a stylistically and thematically multifaceted collection, with a few weak stories, but I would certainly recommend it as a relatively easy way to familiarize yourself with this author. I mean, familiarize yourself with the question: so now what, must I laugh or cry?

  30. 4 out of 5

    Corey

    David Foster Wallace was a great writer. No two ways about that, it is so evident in his prose and in his stories that it does make you a little bit sad inside to know that you will never get the opportunity to meet this man. Yes, sometimes he gets a bit pretentious and self-important by hitting you over the head with the fact of his great-writer-ness. At some points the writing gets so esoteric and overly metaphorical that it ceases to make human sense or becomes extremely difficult to follow ( David Foster Wallace was a great writer. No two ways about that, it is so evident in his prose and in his stories that it does make you a little bit sad inside to know that you will never get the opportunity to meet this man. Yes, sometimes he gets a bit pretentious and self-important by hitting you over the head with the fact of his great-writer-ness. At some points the writing gets so esoteric and overly metaphorical that it ceases to make human sense or becomes extremely difficult to follow (I'll admit I could not find it in me to finish "Church Not Made With Hands" and elected to omit the last 5 pages). Considering how obsessed he was with irony, it's quite fitting that this book which was mostly with concerned the egomania of humankind was quite pretentious and self-important. I mean, it is fiction after all, there should simply not be footnotes within footnotes within footnotes. But getting back to my original point, the writing is superb overall. I feel like only DFW could pull off the trick of dehumanizing characters by taking away their names, genders, and all else that make them human to show their overwhelmingly flawed humanity. Stories like The Depressed Person (which, having dealt with clinical depression for a number of years, hit very close to home and nearly moved me to tears) or Adult World are shining examples of this. He was brave (although, this was post-Infinite-Jest, so I don't know how much courage he really needed after all of that overwhelming support from the literary community) in his efforts to try new things, that sometimes worked and sometimes did not. A lot of this came out in the form of narrative, using the second-person a lot of times, doing cool things with tenses and so on. I think he really took the old saying about "it's not the story that matters, but how you tell it"to heart. All of the blurbs on the book's cover reference his humor, and while DFW certainly made me laugh at points, I think "irony" would be more accurate. His comedy transcended Dark Humor, in my opinion. It's a very chilly brand of humor, and you can almost hear the man shouting as he pecks away at his keyboard, "HA look at how dumb and savage and miserable and self-consumed everyone is. It's HYSTERICAL!" There's a sort of savagery to Wallace's comedy that makes you feel truly sorry for both him and his suffering. Which brings me to my last point, which is that it is impossible not to read DFW without the fact that he took his own life in mind. He was no doubt a tortured soul, and this is evident throughout the book. I get the feeling that he was so disgusted by the self-importance of the human race that it probably destroyed him in the end, because, as he knew all too well, a large part of the human condition has to do with being a little self-indulgent. We can't NOT value our own lives and be happy. DFW, if you want my unprofessional opinion, died trying. SIDE NOTE: I dare anyone to go out and find an author who uses the word "niggardly" more in one book.

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