Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book Review: Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace

I tried to read Infinite Jest but got bogged down about 2% in (which is still longer than some books). Still, I enjoyed David Foster Wallace's digressive, honest, and compassionate voice. Then his famous commencement address blew me away, and George Sanders' Tenth of December kept getting compared to Wallace, so I gave Brief Interviews with Hideous Men a try. It's full of short -- some very short -- stories and most of them are, as advertised, brief and in the voice of hideous males, although usually that adjective only becomes obvious gradually. If anything, the feel is that of a horror story, and although Wallace is about as good as King in creating warmth in the face of very dark subjects, the warmth here is always ambivalent and contradictory. The men are hideous but they hide it well. It depressed me a little to be a man and I'm glad it wasn't longer because I don't think I could take much more of the darkness. I have to say that this book probably needs to be balanced by the notes in Infinite Jest, for example, and I don't recommend reading it on its own. But for a dark, disturbing book, it does have a few elements of light. Definitely at the very least incomplete on its own. But Wallace's voice is a literary treasure and it adds up to be worth reading, if a lot more difficult than I thought it would be.

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