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on 17 March 2001
Following Jest was, to me,a nearly insurmountable task. However, DFW does a more than amazing job. The writing in this book is funny and perfectly serious all at once. Particularly the Brief Interviews sections-they had me laughing out loud and nearly resenting my laughter. if you've never read DFW before this is a good place to start. You get him in story-length dosages and this collection is, in fact, a good precursor to reading Jest, despite the fact that it was published years after.He really takes the modern concept of the story further than nearly anyone I've ever read. You'll enjoy this. Trust me.
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on 10 August 2001
I cannot think of any other current writer more in touch with the spirit of the times than Wallace. He's most certainly of the cerebral type (equally adept at neurocognitive science and post-post-whatever literary theory), and the undisputed master of hard-tech US english. "Brief Interviews..." is merciless in its portrayal of the human condition - and it is sometimes difficult to discern whether your laughter is due to pure literary pleasure, or desperate self-defense in the face of a truth too nasty to bear. Wallace is basically tracking and describing the ongoing redistribution of the meaning of "being human", and anyone even remotely interested in which direction we are all headed should check out his books. At times brutal and bleak - but not without a certain tender regard for the fragile creatures lost in the information-saturated cultural wastelands of high modernity.
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on 1 January 2000
Another collection of short stories from Wallace, although to my mind the majority of the pieces contained within this book are observations rather than actual stories. This is a book that at its best is enthralling and informs and entertains in equal measure, the variety and style of the writing bring alive a lot of the characters contained within.
The interviews themselves reveal a range of characters familiar to most of us and are witty and well observed. Wallace has the ability to convey ideas and situations concisely, an ability that he exploits on a regular basis in these pages. His mode of expression is a bit more hit and miss however, when it works (The Interviews, The Depressed Person, Adult World) it adds to the quality of the writing but the flowery wordplay of chapters such as Church Made With Hands comes across as slightly pretentious.
I'd put this down as the best of Wallace's three short story/essay books, a book which, with a couple of omissions, would have been perfect.
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on 31 July 2005
Intelligent, cerebral and darkly comic; this book is all these things. David Foster Wallace's collection of shorts (some very short) will shock and amaze, but is for the commited only.
Wallace reaches almost Joycean levels of impenetrability from time to time, and is from the "hurts so much let's pretend it's funny" school of comedy. Although, I can't quite think of a moment while reading the book when I laughed, rather than just raising a wry eyebrow.
This is excellent stuff, and should be read - just don't expect to (makes reflexive air quote gesture) "enjoy" it in the traditional sense.
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on 12 July 1999
[1] a writer i find to be absolutely brilliant but somewhat {quote/unquote} hit or miss (as it were) w/r/t some of his more recent works (A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again comes to mind), the most likely explanation being that i just don't {finger flex} get them.
[2] Brief Interviews With Hideous Men
[3] brilliant. his use of the word "shiteater" on page 46 (a) is literary prefection (no hyperbole employed). i laughed so hard during some of these stories ... and scratched my head through others (see CHURCH NOT MADE WITH HANDS).
(a) Footnote 5 of THE DEPRESSED PERSON (for anyone reading the paperback)
[4] it was nice to see a departure from all of the medical terminology that overwhelmes (in my opinion) Infinate Jest (i believe DFW gives a hint as to what effect his copious use of pedantic medical jargon is supposed to produce somewhere in Brief Interviews - in any case he uses it for a reason).
[5] full of some pretty scary stories (see SUCIDE AS A SORT OF PRESENT). DFW has been criticized for self-referencing (read OCTET) but i found it to be really helpful - particularly if what he [dfw] was writing was what was actually going through his [dfws] mind - plus it confirmed my fear that every sentence he [dfw] writes could be a story in itself in terms of being a small part of the reticulate of sentences that make up each story.
[6] highlights were THE DEPRESSED PERSON, Datum Centurio, (all of the POROUSNESS OF CERTAIN BORDERS stories), and OCTET (among others.. like the last BRIEF INTERVIEW).
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on 15 June 2013
How does he do it? David Foster Wallace was literary innovator par excellence, but it's not tricksnand traps and attempts to be clever. These devices are just increasingly sophisticated weapons to deliver the truth im ways that will double you over when you flinch and wince each time you recognize the monster. The truth.
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on 4 August 1999
I had been eagerly waiting for this book to come out. I loved "A Supposedly.." and enjoyed "Broom" and parts of "Infinite." While there were a couple entertaining and heartfelt stories most were boring to intolerable. For the people who love his pedantic word-play, this won't disappoint. But for me, the endless footnotes, the sometimes unecessary use of arcane language and frustrating syntax made this unreadable at times. The schtick is getting old for me, which is a shame because I generally love his heart and what he has to say about society. His themes and ideas in all of his books resonate deeply with me as these are the same things that I worry and think about but I find the way he goes about saying them to take away from the power of his thoughts. It's similar to a band that has great songs but the album is drowned in overproduction and you miss out on the magic that was underneath. I know, "the medium is the message" and you can't separate what you say from how you say it, and I'm sure he feels that the way he says it is just as important as "what" he is trying to say. But some of this stuff is just plain intellectual dorkery.
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on 25 May 1999
i agree with the most recent poster: this collection is awfully thin in the "Why I, a beleagured reader, should care" department. In fact, at times, it was just awful. (And don't you DFW apologists start peddling that "You have to be as smart as DFW to love him" malarky--that's an elitist James Joyce argument best left for the cold, holier-than-thou Joyceans who've picked through his work. I mean, for crying out loud, the author needn't stand over my shoulder and explain himself to me. I'm someone who subscribes to the belief that a writer's work should not be so occluded in the first place. The point isn't to hide a message like so much Led Zeppelin backmasking; rather, to illuminate. (I have no problem stretching myself as a reader. I'll use a thesaurus, but I must be able to understand the language the author is speaking in to first use a thesaurus.
Why is it that when DFW is mentioned I can't shut up?
Having read most of these stories when they first appeared in other publications, my inclination was to avoid this collection. I should have stuck with that inclination. These stories are just as every bit infuriating, irritating, and over written as they were in Harper's, Esquire, The Paris Review, etc.
So, as someone who loved/appreciated "Infinite Jest" and most of "Supposedly Fun Thing" let me say that all of you who want to read the best DFW has to offer, read anything other than these. And let's hold our breaths about his next one, shall we?
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on 5 July 1999
I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and reward of Infinite Jest (it took a couple of months to get through, and the next book I read took around 2 days) as well as The Girl With Curious Hair, but never got to grips with A Supposedly Fun Thing, so I was uncertain about how much I would enjoy these Brief Interviews. However, almost all of these stories (the exception being Tri-Stan) had me rapt, they were so brilliant. True there is a lot of repetitiveness, only just on the right side of excessive, but in for instance The Depressed Person it served to heighten the endless reworking of the person's fears. Plus I knew this wasn't going to be an easy read, although I found it to be a breeze compared to Infinite Jest.
One thing I've noticed has been missing from the reviews of this has been Wallace's simply awesome use of words. I love the way the words in the story fit exactly as they should, not to say that there aren't surprises and loops where I couldn't help but laugh at the audacity. But in the interviews themselves it's so easy to imagine a real person speaking what's written, the way they're interrupted and interrupt themselves. What's also impressive in the interviews is the lack of words from the interviewer, which I found forced me to concentrate more on the book, and gave me the fun exercise of thinking of the questions; and that only in the last shocking interview do we get anything of the interviewer's persona. And I suppose even Tri-Stan's wordplay was entertaining, although for me it was too long and rambling; Wallace's stories generally work best for me when they're more condensed. This is one book I can't wait to re-read.
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on 27 May 1999
Now, let me get this completely clear! I am not the biggest David Foster Wallace fan, but for some reason I was tricked into reading this by an ex-girlfriend of mine who thinks of herself as a propogandist. No, she didn't put a elequent spin on it to convince me that to give in would be ok, no she put another dust jacket on it! So, here I was expecting Buddhist Philosophy, and here I am reading all of these little stories about men. Interviews in fact. And as much as I would like to say that I was charmed by the interesting figures within the book, I kept thinking about how they matched up too easily to the cliches that I see running around, or overhear on the subway. Now, I had to go and read his other stuff, and found after all of those thousands of pages, an odd emptied feeling. I felt as though I had been emptied out, but not in a Buddhist way! More like the feeling that there is a person on the other side of the text with a head and not a heart. My ex-girlfriend made me feel the same way: you have to beware of people who overcompensate in their prose, they turn out to be monsters. Like a local chirpy newscaster who turned out to be a child-abuser. Wallace has seemed to me just like the namesakes of the book, trying tp show off his ability through a fancy prose style, but he ends up ultimately as empty as the people he is portraying. It is a shame that we praise mediocrity now, that we have no literary heros anymore. I would liek to be able to give in to this prattle, but something tells me that my time would be better spent searching.
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