Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

3.9 29
by David Foster Wallace
     
 

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David Foster Wallace has made an art of taking readers into places no other writer even gets hear. In this new collection, the author extends his range and craft in twenty-two stories that intertwine hilarity with an escalating disquiet to create almost unbearable tensions. These stories venture inside minds and landscapes that are at once recognizable and utterly…  See more details below

Overview

David Foster Wallace has made an art of taking readers into places no other writer even gets hear. In this new collection, the author extends his range and craft in twenty-two stories that intertwine hilarity with an escalating disquiet to create almost unbearable tensions. These stories venture inside minds and landscapes that are at once recognizable and utterly strange: a boy paralyzed by fear atop a high diving board ("Forever Overhead"), a poet lounging contented beside his pool ("Death Is Not the End"), a young couple experiencing sexual uncertainties ("Adult World"), a depressed woman soliciting comfort from her threadbare support network ("The Depressed Person," chosen for Prize Stories 1999: The O. Henry Awards). The series of stories from which the book takes its title is a tour de force sequence of imagined interviews with men on the subject of their relations with women. These portraits of men at their most self-justifying, loquacious, and benighted explore poignantly and hilariously the agonies of sexual connection.

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Editorial Reviews

Greil Marcus
...[T]he result is definitively American and confident: Martin Amis with nothing to prove....[E]ven as you might focus on details of how the story has been put together...there's less and less sense of an author; the story seems to be running on its own power, as if not even its author could stop it.
Esquire
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Wallace, the young turk author whose ubernovel, Infinite Jest, was way too bulky for audio adaptation, throws himself gamely into the medium now, reading from his short fiction collection. In this audio debut, Wallace delivers his spry, satiric exercises in a sure-voiced, confident baritone. With the skill of a veteran narrator, he adeptly retains footing as he navigates his complex and wordy prose. His literary grab-bag trademarks include off-kilter descriptive passages, ponderous lists and footnotes, and a large portion of the tape is devoted to a one-sided interview with a psychotic sexual stalker. These odd tropes come across with humor, even tenderness, in Wallace's sensitive reading. He conveys the earnestness of a young, hardworking writer, eager to make his eccentric vision accessible through its spoken presentation. It's this sense of Wallace's strong desire to be appealing that will keep the listener with him throughout his sometimes difficult material. Simultaneous release with the Little, Brown hardcover. (May) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly
A host of talented narrators and actors—including television actors John Krasinski and Christopher Meloni—deliver nuanced performances of the late Wallace's classic. But it's the author himself who steals the show: his gentle, almost dreamy voice unlocks the elaborate syntax and releases the immense feeling concealed by the comedy and labyrinthine sentences. While the various narrators ably capture the essence of the text, Wallace's renditions of such stories as “Forever Overhead” and “Death Is Not the End” are transcendent. Essential listening for Wallace fans and a fine introduction for newcomers. A Little, Brown hardcover. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Stories, character sketches, monologs, and conversations selected from the late Wallace's (www.davidfosterwallace.com) exquisitely written 1999 collection are here read by a cast including the author and 14 actors featured in John Krasinski's 2009 film adaptation of the work. Many of the characters, such as the cad who dumps a woman he has lured across the country, are despicable; others—e.g., a gang-rape survivor, a men's room attendant—are captured by hideous circumstances. Language and situations are sometimes graphic. The performances, including that by the author, are exceptional. Recommended for literary fiction and creative writing collections. ["Fans of Thomas Pynchon and Donald Barthelme will find comparable challenges here," read the review of the Little, Brown hc, LJ 5/1/99.—Ed.]—Janet Martin, Southern Pines P.L., NC
Michiko Kakutani
Almost all the people in this book are members of what might be called Inward Bound....[Examines] the ways in which men can take advantage of women...The New York Times
Adam Goodheart
David Foster Wallace often writes...in mad cadenzas of simian gibberish that break suddenly into glorious soliloquies, then plunge again into nonsense....[The collection of stories] seems possessed...by a vandalizing spirit....[I]n his wild hits and misses, his eccentric obsessions and his sinister experiments, he is beginning to resemble another mad scientist of American literature: Edgar Allan Poe.
The New York Times Book Review
Adam Begley
Painful and often funny and very often hugely impressive and achieves, amazingly...piercing layers of irony, self-consciousness, fear, hostility, neurosis and plain old stupidity.
The New York Observer
David Kronke
...[I]t seems as if Wallace's imagination has acccelerated to the point where meta-fiction is dull. He's trying to eliminate narrative altogether and flood his readers' minds with images or moods without establishing time or place or any kind of context...There's a lot of inspired noodling going on here; he still writes like a man afire with sentences that run the length of paragraphs...But there's a sameness and a clinical sterility to the writing here that's simply difficult to become absorbed in. It's easy to admire the writing but not much else.
USA Today
Kirkus Reviews
A stimulating, if intermittently opaque, collection of discursive stories and even less fully fictionalized humorous pieces from the savvy-surrealistic author of Infinite Jest (1996), etc.

From the Publisher
"A host of talented narrators and actors-including television actors John Krasinski and Christopher Meloni-deliver nuanced performances of the late Wallace's classic. But it's the author himself who steals the show: his gentle, almost dreamy voice unlocks the elaborate syntax and releases the immense feeling concealed by the comedy and labyrinthine sentences. While the various narrators ably capture the essence of the text, Wallace's renditions of such stories as "Forever Overhead" and "Death Is Not the End" are transcendent. Essential listening for Wallace fans and a fine introduction for newcomers."—Publishers Weekly, Library Journal"

Brilliant... bitingly funny...wildly imaginative." -Salon"

Following the success of his massive, much-acclaimed novel, Infinite Jest, Wallace returns to fiction with a similarly dense, cerebral, and self-reflexive set of short works.... While the inauthenticity of male/female relations is a recurrent motif, the central theme is the nature of narrative itself, as in "Octet," where the author turns self-reflexiveness on itself, creating something that might be termed meta-meta-fiction. Fans of Thomas Pynchon and Donald Barthelme will find comparable challenges here." -Library Journal "

A supersonic delight, a full-scale harassment of the short story form.... David Foster Wallace is one badass fiction writer." -Benjamin Weissman, LA Weekly

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316925198
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
04/01/2000
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
72,017
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Death Is Not the End

The fifty-six-year-old American poet, a Nobel Laureate, a poet known in American literary circles as 'the poet's poet' or sometimes simply 'the Poet,' lay outside on the deck, bare-chested, moderately overweight, in a partially reclined deck chair, in the sun, reading, half supine, moderately but not severely overweight, winner of two National Book Awards, a National Book Critics Circle Award, a Lamont Prize, two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Prix de Rome, a Lannan Foundation Fellowship, a MacDowell Medal, and a Mildred and Harold Strauss Living Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, a president emeritus of PEN, a poet two separate American generations have hailed as the voice of their generation, now fifty-six, lying in an unwet XL Speedo-brand swimsuit in an incrementally reclinable canvas deck chair on the tile deck beside the home's pool, a poet who was among the first ten Americans to receive a 'Genius Grant' from the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, one of only three American recipients of the Nobel Prize for Literature now living, 5'8'', 181 lbs., brown/brown, hairline unevenly recessed because of the inconsistent acceptance/rejection of various Hair Augmentation Systems—brand transplants, he sat, or lay—or perhaps most accurately just 'reclined'—in a black Speedo swimsuit by the home's kidney-shaped pool,1 on the pool's tile deck, in a portable deck chair whose back was now reclined four clicks to an angle of 35° w/r/t the deck's mosaic tile, at 10:20 a.m. on 15 May 1995, the fourth most anthologized poet in the history of American belles lettres, near an umbrella but not in the actual shade of the umbrella, reading Newsweek magazine,2 using the modest swell of his abdomen as an angled support for the magazine, also wearing thongs, one hand behind his head, the other hand out to the side and trailing on the dun-and-ochre filigree of the deck's expensive Spanish ceramic tile, occasionally wetting a finger to turn the page, wearing prescription sunglasses whose lenses were chemically treated to darken in fractional proportion to the luminous intensity of the light to which they were exposed, wearing on the trailing hand a wristwatch of middling quality and expense, simulated-rubber thongs on his feet, legs crossed at the ankle and knees slightly spread, the sky cloudless and brightening as the morning's sun moved up and right, wetting a finger not with saliva or perspiration but with the condensation on the slender frosted glass of iced tea that rested now just on the border of his body's shadow to the chair's upper left and would have to be moved to remain in that cool shadow, tracing a finger idly down the glass's side before bringing the moist finger idly up to the page, occasionally turning the pages of the 19 September 1994 edition of Newsweek magazine1, reading about American health-care reform and about USAir's tragic Flight 427, reading a summary and favorable review of the popular nonfiction volumes Hot Zone and The Coming Plague, sometimes turning several pages in succession, skimming certain articles and summaries, an eminent American poet now four months short of his fifty-seventh birthday, a poet whom Newsweek magazine's chief competitor, Time, had once rather absurdly called 'the closest thing to a genuine literary immortal now living,' his shins nearly hairless, the open umbrella's elliptic shadow tightening slightly, the thongs' simulated rubber pebbled on both sides of the sole, the poet's forehead dotted with perspiration, his tan deep and rich, the insides of his upper legs nearly hairless, his penis curled tightly on itself inside the tight swimsuit, his Vandyke neatly trimmed, an ashtray on the iron table, not drinking his iced tea, occasionally clearing his throat, at intervals shifting slightly in the pastel deck chair to scratch idly at the instep of one foot with the big toe of the other foot without removing his thongs or looking at either foot, seemingly intent on the magazine, the blue pool to his right and the home's thick glass sliding rear door to his oblique left, between himself and the pool a round table of white woven iron impaled at the center by a large beach umbrella whose shadow now no longer touches the pool, an indisputably accomplished poet, reading his magazine in his chair on his deck by his pool behind his home. The home's pool and deck area is surrounded on three sides by trees and shrubbery. The trees and shrubbery, installed years before, are densely interwoven and tangled and serve the same essential function as a redwood privacy fence or a wall of fine stone. It is the height of spring, and the trees and shrubbery are in full leaf and are intensely green and still, and are complexly shadowed, and the sky is wholly blue and still, so that the whole enclosed tableau of pool and deck and poet and chair and table and trees and home's rear façade is very still and composed and very nearly wholly silent, the soft gurgle of the pool's pump and drain and the occasional sound of the poet clearing his throat or turning the pages of Newsweek magazine the only sounds—not a bird, no distant lawn mowers or hedge trimmers or weed-eating devices, no jets overhead or distant muffled sounds from the pools of the homes on either side of the poet's home—nothing but the pool's respiration and poet's occasional cleared throat, wholly still and composed and enclosed, not even a hint of a breeze to stir the leaves of the trees and shrubbery, the silent living enclosing flora's motionless green vivid and inescapable and not like anything else in the world in either appearance or suggestion.3

* * *

1. Also the first American-born poet ever in the Nobel Prize for Literature's distinguished 94-year history to receive it, the coveted Nobel Prize for Literature.

2. Never the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, however: thrice rejected early in his career, he had reason to believe that something personal and/or political was afoot with the Guggenheim Fellowship committee, and had decided that he'd simply be damned, starve utterly, before he would ever again hire a graduate assistant to fill out the tiresome triplicate Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship application and go through the tiresome contemptible farce of 'objective' consideration ever again.

3. That is not wholly true.

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Meet the Author

David Foster Wallace was born in Ithaca, New York, in 1962 and raised in Illinois, where he was a regionally ranked junior tennis player. He received bachelor of arts degrees in philosophy and English from Amherst College and wrote what would become his first novel, The Broom of the System, as his senior English thesis. He received a masters of fine arts from University of Arizona in 1987 and briefly pursued graduate work in philosophy at Harvard University. His second novel, Infinite Jest, was published in 1996. Wallace taught creative writing at Emerson College, Illinois State University, and Pomona College, and published the story collections Girl with Curious Hair, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, Oblivion, the essay collections A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, and Consider the Lobster. He was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Award, and a Whiting Writers' Award, and was appointed to the Usage Panel for The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. He died in 2008. His last novel, The Pale King, was published in 2011.

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Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
February 21, 1962
Date of Death:
September 12, 2008
Place of Birth:
Ithaca, NY
Place of Death:
Claremont, CA
Education:
B.A. in English & Philosophy, Amherst College, 1985;MFA, University of Arizona, 1987

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Brief Interviews with Hideous Men 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
sandiek More than 1 year ago
Brief Interviews With Hideous Men is a set of vignettes told from the male viewpoint. Some are quite short, while others are much more lengthy. Not for the faint-hearted, there is lots of talk about sex and some raunchy language. My favorite tale was told by a man who picked up a woman for casual sex and ended up being moved by her life story. Hitchhiking, she was picked up by a serial sex offender/murderer, and managed to save her own life by talking the man out of his need to kill her by empathizing with him. The man starts out by regarding the woman lightly, just another plaything, but her story makes him realise that she has depth and is someone to be taken seriously. Another favorite is the retelling of that first time on the high diving board (not that many pools still have these due to insurance concerns). Wallace captures the moment completely, using every sense to vividly place the reader out there on the board as they smell, see, hear everything the diver does. No detail is too small for Wallace to remember and comment on. The writing is gorgeous even when the topics are disturbing. I can't think of an author who writes more concretely about the details of an event. This is definately not a book that feminists will applaud; the men here are brazen, outspoken and often churlish. But the reader will not soon forget these stories. This book is recommended for readers who like to dip into books and read one or two stories at a time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book chamged how i looked at life and at the world.
SGUT-KIN More than 1 year ago
I have had a fascination with David Foster Wallace ever since i first heard of him. He is fascinating. He is a man that was perceived as a genius and hated it. He just wanted to be a normal man. This anger at the way society looked at him was the reason for his depression. Back to the book he wrote. This book is like nothing i have ever read before. Its full of ridiculous stories and situations that make you laugh and think. I wondered how he thought of most of these stories. For those readers that are unfamiliar with Wallace, he writes with footnotes. These footnotes are long, insightful, and hilarious. The footnotes are essential to the stories. I myself am in a relationship and can relate to some of the ridiculous thoughts demonstrated in the book. Thats not to say that i relate to all of them, most of the stories are incredibly weird and its just relieving to think about not having these issues in my relationship. In this book, Wallace uses very great language and detail to describe situations, much like his review of Roger Federer. So, the bottom line is that Wallace is a fantastic writer whose writing is very enjoyable to read. This book is a very funny book that makes you think and i happened to enjoy it very much. Some stories are a bit boring but the majority are excellent page turners that surely make up for the unique boring/depressing story. Thinking back at those types of stories, they could be rather enjoyable and funny if you look at them as mockery of the common depressing situation and how people react to them. Well, thats my spiel to get people to go out and quench their intellectual thirst by reading books by the master of literary craft David Foster Wallace. I apologize for not capitalizing my 'i's.
LegalBeagle More than 1 year ago
David Foster Wallace's Brief Interviews with Hideous Men is a compilation of vignettes/interviews told entirely from the male point of view. And yes, these men are truly hideous! The cast of male narrators range from the garden variety exploitative womanizer/woman-hater, to the seriously deranged, to the truly frightening! Each story/interview is compelling in the same way that rubberneckers are drawn to vehicular accidents: shock and horror are mixed with fascination. Women readers in particular will appreciate Wallace's laser penetration into the dark recesses of men's souls. One interviewee calls his deformed arm "the asset" because he uses it to manipulative women into sleeping with him. Another male narrator brags about sexually exploiting a hysterical jilted woman. Several stories are detailed rants from men who hate women. While the interviewees/narrators are various degrees of repugnant the stories themselves, however, are exquisitely crafted with layers upon layers of details. For example, one story is a lengthy exposition on diving that is also about suicide. Wallace's craftsmanship is truly impressive! Brief Interviews with Hideous Men is a fascinating, albeit disturbing, examination of the dark side of the male psyche. Hachette Audio; Unabridged edition (September 8, 2009) Advance Review Copy Provided Courtesy of the Publisher.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Definitely not what I thought it would be but satisfying none the less. Some of the stories spark anger because of the appropriate title 'hideous men' but the way David Foster Wallace articulates human thought process through these many characters is great. The things that we think but are never ever shared and at times not even recognized by ourselves, until now.
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AustinDGreat More than 1 year ago
Disclosure: I'm a fan of DFW, especially his essays and short stories so this might be biased. Brief Interviews is one of the the most oddly funny books I've read in a while. A few stories really stand out to me anyways (Octet, Death is Not the End) and of course the Brief Interviews. Wallace style gives detailed descriptions of things you would other wise not think about (smell of a pool, texture of sandles) and of course his ridiculous footnotes every where. If you looking for a different read or a change of pace, pick up Brief Interviews.
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