Nicole's Reviews > Girl With Curious Hair

Girl With Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace
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Apr 22, 09

bookshelves: short-stories-to-kick-ass-by
Read in April, 2009

Funny, smart, complex, surprising. Also a little hit-and-miss. Some of these stories worked for me in beautiful and boggling ways. Some never quite felt cohesive enough to work for me at all.

Breakdown: "Little Expressionless Animals," "Lyndon," "John Billy," "My Appearance," and "Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way" are the memorable standouts for me. And they stand out enough that the collection as a whole earns four stars regardless of my thoughts on the other stories in it. These five stories each strike a fine balance between humor and personal tragedy. The closing novella ("Westward...") adds a certain self-awareness into the mix, particularly through its section headings, that could get annoying and easily be overdone in a longer work or if used in too many works by the same author (I haven't read enough of DFW's writing to know if the latter applies to him or not), but somehow sits fine in this meandering and somewhat bizzare story.

I seriously had to crack my trusty dictionary more than once while reading these stories (the novella in particular). "Had to" might not be entirely accurate. There weren't any places I remember being really stumped over the meaning of a word crucial to understanding the sentence/paragraph/story/character/whathaveyou. BUT he peppers this collection with the occasional word so obscure I feel compelled to look it up just to see if it's really a word or if he's pulling my leg and thinking he's getting away with something if I just nod and smile and gloss over it assuming it's a real word that means whatever it seems intended to mean in the context.
Also, and this is not necessarily a bad thing, the language and sentence structures of these stories make them denser than much contemporary fiction. As a result, they can be somewhat slow going and don't generally lend themselves well to short reading periods, but the payoff for the patience is definitely there and, I think, worth it.
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