(Editor’s note: There’s a reason I’m reprinting this review at this time, even though it’s much shorter and older than my usual works. The reason for reprint is the post immediately following this one.)
By David Foster Wallace
Published April 2000
Reviewed September 17, 2007
Originally reviewed at: The Lesser of Two Equals
David Foster Wallace is a rare thing in modern writers – brilliant, incisive and hilarious. He is one of those genuinely gifted writers who is able to not only construct masterful sentences but is able to tell a story with them – or rather, many stories. “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men,” his collection of short stories, is more accessible than his mammoth novel “Infinite Jest” but with that same graceful skill.
Some favorites: “I Sold Sissee Nar to Ecko” is easily the best story in the collection, a retelling of Greek myths with the world of telecommunications serving as the new setting. “The Depressed Person” is one of the most honest stories ever, and its use of footnotes (thankfully located on the same page as opposed to in the back like “Infinite Jest”) show Wallace has a better angle on his craft than most. The brief interviews, scattered through the book, are hilarious takes on the neuroses of men with different ideas on sex. Wallace’s voice permeates each story, even when he steps into each individual character.
With any great writer there are some flaws – his writing is almost too literate for the typical reader and every character in every story seems to have more neuroses than usual – but that doesn’t change the fact that Wallace is unquestionably a writer of rare skill. He has taken William Burroughs’ role (as Norman Mailer put it) as the only American novelist who may conceivably be possessed by genius, and these stories serve as an ideal introduction to his work.