Girl with Curious Hair

( 6 )

Overview

Remarkable, hilarious and unsettling re-imaginations of reality by "a dynamic writer of extraordinary talent " (Jennifer Levin, New York Times Book Review).Girl with Curious Hair is replete with David Foster Wallace's remarkable and unsettling reimaginations of reality. From the eerily "real," almost holographic evocations of historical figures like Lyndon Johnson and overtelevised game-show hosts and late-night comedians to the title story, where terminal punk nihilism meets Young Republicanism, Wallace renders ...

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Overview

Remarkable, hilarious and unsettling re-imaginations of reality by "a dynamic writer of extraordinary talent " (Jennifer Levin, New York Times Book Review).Girl with Curious Hair is replete with David Foster Wallace's remarkable and unsettling reimaginations of reality. From the eerily "real," almost holographic evocations of historical figures like Lyndon Johnson and overtelevised game-show hosts and late-night comedians to the title story, where terminal punk nihilism meets Young Republicanism, Wallace renders the incredible comprehensible, the bizarre normal, the absurd hilarious, the familiar strange.

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Editorial Reviews

T. Coraghessan Boyle
“Turns the short story upside down and inside out, making the adjectives 'inventive,' 'unique,' and 'original' seem blasé.”
Benedict Cosgrove - San Francisco Chronicle
“A collection of stories as varied in length and theme as they are imaginative, and downright bizarre as any collection by one author has a right to be.... Truly funny surreal humor.”
Jennifer Levin - New York Times Book Review
“Mr. Wallace brings us, time and again, to hidden, mythic places that are strange yet oddly familiar. He succeeds in restoring grandeur to modern fiction.”
Madison Smartt Bell - Washington Post Book World
“These stories say something serious and sincere about the world that the rest of us have to live in.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Wallace caused a critical stir with his first novel, The Broom of the System , and this volume of stories is likely to attract equal attention. His publisher talks about post -postmodernism, whatever that means, but there is a highly unusual eye and ear at work here, and an impressive armory of writerly skills. All too often, however, the stories seem like dazzling exercises, show-off pieces designed to provoke applause rather than expressions of a consistent vision. Two stories about the morbidly incestuous world of TV, ``Little Expressionless Animals'' and ``My Appearance,'' catch perfectly the obsessiveness and fatuity of quiz- and talk-show people, and ``Lyndon'' is a tour de force in which the late president looms very large indeed. The title story is an experiment in the outre, about a grotesque Los Angeles yuppie and his punk friends, that seems designed to shock rather than illuminate. In ``Say Never'' Wallace enters an Isaac Bashevis Singer world, though naturally he gives it an odd twist. And the longest and most ambitious story, ``Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way,'' deliberately flaunts writing-school experimentalism in its overwritten, satirical account of a Midwestern reunion of actors in McDonald's ads. Wallace has talent to burn, and is an endlessly inventive storyteller, but one wishes he wasn't also such an exhibitionist. Aug.
Library Journal
In assessing this book, comparisons with Don DeLillo, Tom Robbins, and Robert Coover seem accurate, for Wallace is playful, idiomatically sharp, and intellectually engage. Overwhelming in his long, torrential sentences and his wit, he at times subjects us to overwritten, almost showy, passages, but his talent is undeniable. Included in this collection is a novella that examines, among other things, post-modernism. His generally overlong stories explore popular culture through the lives of a variety of characters: a lesbian with a three-year winning streak on Jeopardy, an actress anxious about appearing on David Letterman, a wealthy Republican yuppie who has a disturbing connection with some punk rockers; and Lyndon Johnson in a closeup that shows how well a historical figure can be used in fiction. Impressive in scope and savvy.-- Peter Bricklebank, City Coll., CUNY
Madison Smartt Bell
These stories are serious and sincere about the world the rest of us have to live in. -- Washington Post Book World
Jennifer Levin
A dynamic writer of extraordinary talent -- Mr. Wallace brings us, time and again, to mythic places that are strange yet oddly familiar. He succeeds in restoring grandeur to modern fiction. -- New York Times Book Review
Library Journal
Originally published in 1989 and available for the first time on audio, this collection of ten short stories by the late Wallace (d. 2008) exhibits his strength for exuberant storytelling peppered with pop-culture references ranging from Alex Trebek to Ronald McDonald. Wallace's notoriously long sentences and digressions weigh down a few of the tales, particularly "Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way," a sort of tribute to fellow postmodernist writer John Barth. But the work is uplifted by the narration: actors Robert Petkoff (robertpetkoff.com) and Joshua Swanson (www.joshuaswanson.com) bring to life the humor and joy in Wallace's writing, most notably through character John Billy's Southern drawl. Recommended for those liking the work of Sam Lipsyte or Thomas Pynchon.—Johannah Genett, Hennepin P.L., Minneapolis
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393313963
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/17/1996
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 192,942
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace (1962-2008) is the author of Infinite Jest, Girl with Curious Hair, Everything and More, The Broom of the System, and other fiction and nonfiction. Among his honors, he received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Award, and a Whiting Writers' Award.

Biography

Born in Ithaca, NY, and raised in Champaign, IL, David Foster Wallace grew up athletically gifted and exceptionally bright, with an avid interest in tennis, literature, philosophy, and math. He attended Amherst and graduated in 1985 with a double major in English and Philosophy. His philosophy thesis (on modal logic) won the Gail Kennedy Memorial Prize. His English thesis would become his first novel, The Broom of the System. Published in 1987 during his second year of grad school at the University of Arizona, the book sold well, garnering national attention and critical praise in equal measure. Two years later, a book of short stories, Girl with Curious Hair, was published to admiring reviews.

In the early 1990s, Wallace's short fiction began to appear regularly in publications like Playboy, The Paris Review, and The New Yorker, along with excerpts from his second novel, a complex, enormously ambitious work published in 1996 as Infinite Jest. Surpassing 1,000 pages in length, the novel was hailed as a masterpiece ("[A]n entertainment so irresistibly pleasurable it renders the viewer catatonic," raved Newsweek. "[R]esourceful, hilarious, intelligent, and unique," pronounced Atlantic Monthly), and Wallace was crowned on the spot the new heavyweight champion of literary fiction.

Hyperbole aside, Infinite Jest, with its linguistic acrobatics (challenging complex clauses, coined words, etc.) and sly, self-referential footnotes, proved to be the template for a new literary style. Subversive, hip, and teeming with postmodernist irony, the book attracted a rabid cult following and exerted an influence on up-and-coming young writers that is still felt today. The scope of Wallace's achievement can be measured by the fact that one year after the publication of Infinite Jest, he was awarded the MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant."

Nearly as famous for his nonfiction as for his novels and stories, Wallace produced mind-boggling essays on assignment for magazines like Harper's. In contrast to his sad, dark, disturbing fiction, these essays -- subsequently collected into such bestselling anthologies as A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again (1997), Everything and More (2003), and Consider the Lobster (2007) -- were ridiculously exuberant, fairly bursting with humor, energy, and good cheer. Yet Wallace himself suffered from clinical depression most of his adult life. He was treated successfully with anti-depressants, until side effects from the drugs began to interfere with his productivity. At his doctor's suggestion, he stopped taking the medication.The depression returned, and he did not respond to any further treatment. In September of 2008, at the age of 46, he committed suicide.

Wallace's influence on contemporary literature cannot be overstated. Descended from post-war superstars like Thomas Pynchon and Don De Lillo, his style is clearly visible in the work of postmodernists like Jonathan Safran Foer and Dave Eggers. His untimely death was mourned by critics, writers, and millions of adoring fans. As author David Lipsky stated in a tribute that aired on NPR in September, 2008: "To read David Foster Wallace was to feel your eyelids pulled open."

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

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 13, 2011

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    I Also Recommend:

    Great Collection of short fiction by great author.

    When most people feel they're up to the task of reading David Foster Wallace, they tend to gravitate towards Infinite Jest, attracted in part by the huge mass. This, an earlier book by him, is a much better intro to the man's work, and a great book in its own right. Apart from Donald Barthelme, Wallace has written here the most peculiar, audacious, and funny book of contemporary times. When I wrote my book, I thought back lovingly of Girl With Curious Hair. The author is one of my idols and is sorely missed.

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  • Posted April 17, 2010

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    I Also Recommend:

    Postmodern Icon Who's Actually Readable

    Scholars count David Foster Wallace (poss best known for Infinite Jest) among POMO icons, but most of the stories are more enjoyable than some POMO. I didn't like the title story, but many are poignant or insightful with cultural references that layer but aren't necessary to the read. There are even some "laugh out loud" moments throughout. His characters are people you know or know of, his voices seem spot-on, his settings are alternately bizarre or ordinary. One of my fav quotes: "one kind of response to Otherness. Say the whole point of love is to try to get your fingers through the holes in the lover's mask. To get some kind of hold on the mask, and who cares how you do it" (32). Try him out.

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