Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

by David Foster Wallace


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Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace

"David Foster Wallace has made an art of taking readers into places no other writer even gets near. In the pages of his novels Infinite Jest and The Broom of the System and the collections Girl with Curious Hair and A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, he has created as unique a voice and view as any writer at work today, rendering a dazzling array of interior states with delicious insight and humor. 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 the 1999 Henry Award Stories). 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. Brief Interviews with Hideous Men gives us men and women, celebrity and bitter loneliness, sexual posturing and naked honesty, erudition and apeman babble-abn world whose emotional complexity and outright comedy closely resemble our own. In these remarkable stories, David Foster Wallace reaffirms his reputation as a "passionate and deeply serious writer" (San Francisco Chronicle) who again expands our ideas of the pleasures fiction can afford."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316925198
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 04/01/2000
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 130,574
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.87(d)

About 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.

Date of Birth:

February 21, 1962

Date of Death:

September 12, 2008

Place of Birth:

Ithaca, NY

Place of Death:

Claremont, CA


B.A. in English & Philosophy, Amherst College, 1985;MFA, University of Arizona, 1987

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.

Table of Contents

A Radically Condensed History of Postindustrial Life0
Death Is Not the End1
Forever Overhead5
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men17
Yet Another Example of the Porousness of Certain Borders (XI)35
The Depressed Person37
The Devil Is a Busy Man70
Signifying Nothing75
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men82
Datum Centurio125
Adult World (I)161
Adult World (II)183
The Devil Is a Busy Man190
Church Not Made with Hands194
Yet Another Example of the Porousness of Certain Borders (VI)211
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men213
Tri-Stan: I Sold Sissee Nar to Ecko235
On His Deathbed, Holding Your Hand, the Acclaimed New Young Off-Broadway Playwright's Father Begs a Boon256
Suicide as a Sort of Present283
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men287
Yet Another Example of the Porousness of Certain Borders (XXIV)319

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Brief Interviews with Hideous Men 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 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.
rdaneel on LibraryThing 7 days ago
A wonderful collection of short stories, and quite subtle. Contains the only story I have ever read whose point is actually to bore the reader :-)
pynchon82 on LibraryThing 8 days ago
Aside from two entries in this collection (a moving short story entitled "Forever Overhead" and the scathing treatise on the stupidity of the post-modern movement entitled "Octet"), Wallace's second offering of short stories leaves a lot to be desired.Not unreadable by any means, but not as fun or well-written as Wallace's work tends to be. In most instances, this work just comes off as self-indulgent.
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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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