Jen3n's Reviews > Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace
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Sep 16, 08

bookshelves: literature, short-stories

The first time I logged in this book way back when I opened my Goodreads account and was just throwing everything I could remember ever picking up to read at the Goodreads wall in an attempt to not leave anything out. At that time I didn't write a review of this book. Not for any particular reason; I didn't write reviews for most of the books I have in my library. A couple for some I really loathed, one or two for some I liked, a couple for some that I (for one reason or another) felt the need to justify. That's it.

But now that DFW is dead ... no, well, shit: that's tacky. I mean, he is and that's awful and everything but that shouldn't be why I'm writing the review. It's the reason I re-read the book today and it's the reason I replaced my missing original copy at the bookstore last night, but it shouldn't be one of those band-wagon-y "oh I loved Infinate Jest he was like a god to me why did it happen how awful" sort of reviews. Because, while I liked Infinite Jest, I never thought he was a god, and I think I know exactly how "this" happened. But I don't want this review to be anything even approaching the band wagon. Like I said. I want it to be about Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.

The book is okay. Not fantastic. Not awful. I have to say, if I'm being honest, that the Mister Wallace (at least in the example of this specific book) didn't write actual stories. I don't know that he would have been able to if he tried. Or was forced at gunpoint. What he made was more like word paintings. Unconnected and layered and taxing and lovely. Sometimes lovely in their ugliness. From a technical standpoint, he could craft a sentence better than almost anyone alive today.

Sorry, that was crass. But I'm not deleting that sentence because it's true.

He did things (literarily speaking) that you are never, ever supposed to do. Like (in this specific book, at any rate) tell most of the narrative in footnotes, or make an entire section in out line form shorthand, or have interview transcripts where all the questions are removed. Everyone called it "postmodernism" and talked about how funny he was and how clever and new. I don't think the things he wrote in this book were, bar maybe one of the pieces, funny even in the slightest. The funny part, the truly and totally funny thing about DFW was that a lot of the things he wrote were so full of despair and bleak, unblinking irony that it felt, to me, that he was laughing at us, not with us. And THERE is where I found The Funny.

There's some beautiful craftsmanship in this book. The turn of phrase here or there is tap-dead-perfect. I wish I wrote like this some days. It makes me wish that I wrote period.

But I hated most of the content. Which is why I gave this book three stars. What it delivered (in my opinion) was shit; HOW it delivered it, however, was pure gold.

So it all equaled-out.
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