This morning I walked the two-mile road between my grandma’s house and my auntie’s house. I got soaked in the morning drizzle and I said hello to the horses and roosters, the rolling Hawaiian hills, the lush foliage and guava-smeared asphalt. I nodded at the familiar figures that some scamp graffitied on each telephone pole years ago: woman carrying pineapple, Bob Marley’s head, Winnie the Pooh. Then I sipped a papaya, apple-banana, and passionfruit-guava juice smoothie as the sun crept out from behind the clouds.
Now if I were David Foster Wallace, who knows how the heck I would have written about that walk. For starters it would have been either twelve times as long, or only one sentence. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Read the review and you’ll get an idea.
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, David Foster Wallace
I don’t think I’m intellectually sophisticated enough for this collection of David Foster Wallace’s short pieces. He’s a superb writer, and a brilliant mind, but I like him best at his most mainstream. When he dashes off in pursuit of the far boundaries of the genre, I can only stumble, huffing, hopelessly after him.
Some stories were incredible. “Forever Overhead,” featuring the internal monologue of a kid attempting the high dive, was poetic, exquisitely observational. I also enjoyed the eponymous four-parter, “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men,” consisting of transcripted interviews with an array of anonymous men, all the questions blanked out. The responses offer witty, lascivious, and occasionally chilling glimpses into Wallace’s cast of unknowns.
But other times I just couldn’t wade through. One piece, “The Depressed Person,” featuring a depressed person’s endless ruminations on depression, rapidly depressed me. Skip. Another might have been a futuristic encyclopedia entry? I don’t know, because after only a page of footnotes and obscure repurposed terminology, I gave up. Skip.
Wallace does not pander to his readers, and his brain is fiendishly complex. His collection is like a fascinating zoo exhibit. Watch him turn somersaults, stare motionlessly at rocks, and speak in tongues, and get out of it whatever you can. He won’t notice you leaving.