Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Let's Book Club!: Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace



So, yeah, I finished another book. Finally. I think I'm feeling a little back to school guilt i.e. I'm not in school now, but it's September, okay, October -- but it's the fall -- which is a time when you ought be thinking/learning/growing, or, alternatively, pretending to think/learn/grow.

After attempting (and failing) to read The Infinite Jest at least a couple of times, but knowing that Foster Wallace is an incredibly interesting/challenging writer, I thought that his book of short stories, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, would be a good warm-up (or, at the very least, I was curious to read the book before seeing the movie). Well, after reading through the bulk - say, the last third - of the book in the last two days or so I daresay that getting through The Infinite Jest seems pretty unlikely in the near future. It's certainly not that DFW is not a great writer, because there is no question that he is, but he may be too good, or, just too experimental at different points to get through 1,000 plus pages of tIJ (w/ footnotes).

The experimentation, at certain points during certain stories, works well -- e.g. the whole concept of omitting the interviewer's questions in the "Brief Interviews". Where I have the most trouble with DFW is when he gets into the overly technical/scientific/futuristic language/plots/sub-plots/footnotes which just requires so, so, so, much energy to concentrate and follow along.

The flip side to the technical/experimental nature of his writing is that often the technical/experimental nature leads to some really stunning sort of depth/complexity/nuance that he can find in the most basic human interactions. That, and again, with the B.I.s, the way DFW draws up these incredibly strange, neurotic, sick, bizarre, men with these strange, neurotic, sick, bizarre sexual experiences. Some of the B.I.s left me laughing out loud, some of them left me looking around, sort of incredulous, in a - did anyone else see/read that b/c I can't believe that someone put something that shockingly, hilariously, strange on paper, and at other points I was just left speechless.

For me, the saddest point of the book was the foreshadowing of the third last story "Suicide as a Sort of Present" (this will make more sense if you know that DFW committed suicide late last year). Who knows, maybe there's nothing there, but the way I read it, and how clearly he elucidates the anxiety and pain and the unmet expectations of the woman in the story makes you feel the struggle he must've been going through himself toward the end of/throughout his life. At any rate, despite how tough spots of this book are to get through, it's well worth reading for its unequivocal moments of brilliance.

Grade: A

Up next: More DFW, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do AgainA

Movie Trailer dir. by John Krasinski



1. The Inner Game of Tennis | Timothy Gallwey (134 pages) | A
2. The Last Shot | Darcy Frey (240 pages) | A+
3. The Road | Cormac McCarthy (287 pages) | A+
4. Outliers | Malcolm Gladwell (299 pages) | C+
5. The Last Season | Phil Jackson (304 pages) | B-
6.
The Sunset Limited | Cormac McCarthy (160 pages)| B-
7. The Education of a Coach | David Halberstam (288 pages)| B+
8. Downtown Owl | Chuck Klosterman | (288 pages)| B

9. Can I Keep My Jersey?| Paul Shirley| (336 pages)|C-
10. Then We Came to The End| Joshua Ferris| (416 pages)|B+
11. Friday Night Lights| H.G. Bissinger|(400 pages)|A++
12. Strokes of Genius| L. Jon Wertheim|(208 pages)|B
13.
Who's Your City| Richard Florida|( 345 pages)|C
14. Brief Interviews with Hideous Men| (336 pages)|A

3 comments:

Question Mark said...

I'm totally going to see the movie version if for no other reason than to see how BIWHM could possibly be adapted to the screen. And by frickin' Jim Halpert, of all people.

The R.O.B. said...

Yeah, I mean I think Jim's a pretty cool dude, but I don't know how this is going to string together into a coherent story line, let alone a good movie...

I'm dreading a Bruno-esque kind of storyline where it's just a bunch of funny stuff near each other, with little or no connection to what came before or after...

anjali said...
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