Jackie's Reviews > Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace
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Feb 17, 12

bookshelves: recs
Read in February, 2012

Again, I think I'm reading too many trying-too-hard, super self-aware and gee-isn't-our-society-messed-up books too close together.

Also, there's a few "chapters" where the footnotes overrun half of the page--I understand that it's a literary device, but it annoys the hell out of my brain, which can't take a break in the middle of a page/note to jump down/up and read the accompanying note/page.

I'll be the first to admit that maybe I didn't "get" this book. What I did get was a headache from trying to imagine how I could get it. General feeling -- there's a lot of unhealthy relationships/practices and pent-up angry feelings about the other gender in this book. Okay, it's called "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men..." Isn't that what I should have been expecting? Did I pick up the book because I WANTED to have my beliefs about hideous men confirmed, like many of the interview subjects seem to believe of the unnamed and completely effaced (and therefore likely meant to represent General Female) interviewer, who is seeking to know more about men?

No, actually. I grabbed this book because I'm trying really hard not to buy new ones, and it came highly recommended to me from a good friend who's a big fan of DFW... and also happens to be male. I didn't really have any expectations except that the writing would be solid (it was). But then I was left wondering, what was I supposed to get out of this book? And why did my friend like it so much? Because he'd heard about how hideous his gender supposedly is and enjoyed seeing that trope skewed and satirized in such a way?

Okay, that attempt to walk myself through it out loud got me nowhere (although I just texted my friend to have lunch and discuss). Let's try again.

Everyone in this book is damaged or twisted. And is given an attempt to explain themselves. Often, they point out motivators or points of view that I wouldn't have thought of on my own. They often hurt those around them. The interviewer is never once treated without cynicism--but she is also still told the truth. Am I to conclude that, if I am to expect someone as hideous, they will be hideous? That complete honesty will of course reveal hideousness?

I'm still not sure, but--I hope that's not the case. Being honest and truthful will sometimes open up windows you don't want to look through--but I refuse to think that everyone, at their core, is as hideous as these characters were.
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