Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, David Foster, Wallace
David Foster,Wallace

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

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Some of the 23 stories in Wallace's bold, uneven, bitterly satirical
second collection seem bound for best-of-the-year anthologies; a few
others will leave even devoted Wallace fans befuddled. The rest of the
stories fall between perplexing and brilliant, but what is most striking
about this volume as a whole are the gloomy moral obsessions at the
heart of Wallace's new work. Like his recent essays, these stories (many
of which have been serialized in Harper's, Esquire and the Paris
Review) are largely an attack on the sexual heroics of mainstream
postwar fiction, an almost religious attempt to rescue (when not exposing as a fraud) the idea of romantic love. In the “interviews,”
that make up the title story, one man after anotherAspeaking to a woman
whose voice we never hearAreveals the pathetic creepiness of his
romantic conquests and fantasies. These hideous men aren't the collection's only monsters of isolation. In “Adult World,” Wallace
writes of a young wife obsessed with fears that her husband is secretly,
compulsively masturbating; in “The Depressed Person,” one of Wallace's
(rare) female narcissists whines that she is a “solipsistic,
self-consumed, endless emotional vacuum”Athis, to a dying friend. If MacArthur Fellowship-winner Wallace's rendition of our verbal tics and trash is less astonishing now than in earlier work (Infinite Jest; A
Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again), that is because it has
already become the way we hear ourselves talk. Wallace seems to have
stripped down his prose in order to more pointedly probe distinct
structures (i.e., footnoted psychotherapy journal, a pop quiz format).
Yet these stories, at their best, show an erotic savagery and intellectual depth that will confound, fascinate and disturb the most
unsuspecting reader as well as devoted fans of this talented writer.
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