There will be many people who just don't get what David Foster Wallace is about, and I often think I am one of them. Depending what I am reading (Interviews With Hideous Men, Consider the Lobster, A supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again and Infinite Jest, yes I do totally get it; The Broom of the System, and this one, Girl With Curious Hair, which includes a novella called Westward The Course of Empire Takes Its Way, well - I am undecided that I even want to get it).
DFW is sometimes very hard work and even more difficult when the stories, as here, are hardwired into American culture. One, My Appearance, is all about a middling-famous actor going on a David Letterman show. Not having ever seen a Letterman show, I am only vaguely aware that the actor, having an ear-piece inserted in her ear so that her husband and his friend can help her make a good impression on the audience, is funny. Nevertheless, it seemed to me the lamest exercise in flabby satire. Sorry, but there is an enormous ocean between the BBC and American TV.
Another offering, Here and There, was a dialogue between a man and his girlfriend in which the man got to explain his ennui and nihilism and the girl got to talk about make-up and love. Though my heart wasn't in it, I found it restlessly, urgently, readable. The rest of the collection was equally patchy but did include a superb sub-Faulknerian pastiche and the marvellous Lyndon, about Lyndon B Johnson, Lady Bird and love. This hits all the right buttons and is surprisingly sympathetic.
Readers have to work hard with DFW, and the pay-off is sometimes bafflement, but often the shattering genius of the man gets through - and even in the least loveable of offerings, the light shines down on us heedless, struggling mortals.