Jesse's Reviews > Girl with Curious Hair

Girl with Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace
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Oct 16, 11

bookshelves: read-in-2011
Read from October 05 to 15, 2011

A strange reading experience. So incredibly uneven, with a high quality of writing brutally undermined by persistent gimmickry. There are GREAT stories in it ("Lyndon" is my favourite, and "My Appearance" and "Little Expressionless Animals" are both excellent), but some of them are just mediocre, and others ("Here and There," "Westward the Course of Empire") have potential that seems rudely undermined by their own cleverness and trickery-- which may have been really fresh in 1988, but is pretty tired to read in 2011. "Westard" in particular (with its excruciating "If this were a piece of metafiction, then I'd say..." asides and tiresome analysis of fiction itself) has mighty potential that it undermines at every turn.

This could very well be just a taste thing, but I feel like Wallace didn't know his own talent while writing these and relied on these gimmicks ("I'll do a whole story in dialogue, with no narrative voice at all!") as external supports he didn't realize he didn't need. They don't improve the texts, but I feel like they had potential that the cleverness cancels out. Plus Wallace doesn't make the trickery his own, so I feel like it sits beside the quality of his writing and draws attention to itself. I'm glad of all his fiction that I'm reading this first, because I suspect it gets a lot better from here on in-- given his incredible nonfiction. But I had to force myself through the last sixty pages of "Westward," and when I got to the end my only thought was "thank god THAT'S over."
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