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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comparatively accessible, and highly rewarding
I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and reward of Infinite Jest (it took a couple of months to get through, and the next book I read took around 2 days) as well as The Girl With Curious Hair, but never got to grips with A Supposedly Fun Thing, so I was uncertain about how much I would enjoy these Brief Interviews. However, almost all of these stories (the exception being...
Published on July 4, 1999 by Andrew Mogendorff

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62 of 71 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mostly good with a few exceptions
"Brief Interviews with Hideous Men" is the sort of collection that comes out only after an author has already achieved a reasonable amount of fame and success. It is a book where an author who has received critical praise for previous works can sell a book primarily on the value of his name, not necessarily on the quality of its contents. This isn't meant to imply this...
Published on December 26, 2000 by The Gooch


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62 of 71 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mostly good with a few exceptions, December 26, 2000
By 
The Gooch (Temecula, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (Paperback)
"Brief Interviews with Hideous Men" is the sort of collection that comes out only after an author has already achieved a reasonable amount of fame and success. It is a book where an author who has received critical praise for previous works can sell a book primarily on the value of his name, not necessarily on the quality of its contents. This isn't meant to imply this book is of no value or is even a bad book. In this reader's opinion, a good 70% of the stories in this work are worthy of publication. It is the other 30% or so that I question whether or not would be deemed deserving of publication if they didn't have David Foster Wallace's name attributed to them as the author.
The stories dealing with the self-absorption and egocentrism of our current therapy & self-help-filled age are both hilarious and frightening. In "The Depressed Person" a woman gets so wrapped up in her own depression that she actually looks at a friend's bout with cancer as a benefit, assuming that her friend, now free from the burdens of having to work, has little better to do with the last months of her life than listen to the sob stories of the title character. Another story concerns a woman so worried about her own sexual ability that she actually is relieved to find out her husband is a porn addict, thinking it means her own fears of sexual inadequacy are unfounded. Sometimes, though, the jokes die out long before the story ends. Towards the end of the book there is a story about a father filled with resentment towards his son, due to the fact that having the son around caused the father to have to share the attention and affection of his wife. What starts off as a funny tale of selfishness and jealousy soon begins to resemble one of those bad "Saturday Night Live" sketches where the same "funny the first time you heard it" joke gets repeated over and over again ad nauseam. . The title pieces, the "Brief Interviews With Hideous Men", which are interspersed throughout the book, are the collections strongest. They provide an insightful look at misogyny and the distorted logic used by many men to justify their poor treatment and attitude towards women. Two men in these interviews, while acknowledging the rape is always undeserving, still try to argue that is can build character in the victim. One man rationalizes his bizarre and deviant sexual behavior by arguing that he never heavily pressures any woman to participate. One man brags to another how he was able to use a woman's fragile emotional state as a tool in his sexual conquest of her. I have to tip my hat to Wallace, he had me absolutely in stitches with the "Brief Interview" about a young man who goes insane after contemplating the drastic universal implications of his sexual fantasy (a fantasy involving the temporary stoppage of time, a la Samantha from "Bewitched").
As a reader, I can deal with, and even enjoy some of Wallace's eccentricities (his constant, but almost always entertaining footnotes, his concluding one story with a plot outline for the remainder of the story instead of the ending itself). At times, though, you almost want Wallace's IQ to drop a few points, because he can occasionally get too clever for his own good. For the life of me, I couldn't tell you what the stories "Church Not Made with Hands" or "Tri-Stan: I Sold Sissee Nar to Ecko" are supposed to be about. I am willing to accept the possibility these stories were simply over my head, however, Wallace would be wise to realize that the quality of a story does not increase in direct proportion to how few people understand it. There is more than enough good stuff in this book to make it worth recommending, but I wouldn't worry too much about reading it all the way through. The few stories that don't seem promising at the outset don't get any better as they go on.
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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comparatively accessible, and highly rewarding, July 4, 1999
By 
Andrew Mogendorff (Minneapolis, MN United States) - See all my reviews
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I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and reward of Infinite Jest (it took a couple of months to get through, and the next book I read took around 2 days) as well as The Girl With Curious Hair, but never got to grips with A Supposedly Fun Thing, so I was uncertain about how much I would enjoy these Brief Interviews. However, almost all of these stories (the exception being Tri-Stan) had me rapt, they were so brilliant. True there is a lot of repetitiveness, only just on the right side of excessive, but in for instance The Depressed Person it served to heighten the endless reworking of the person's fears. Plus I knew this wasn't going to be an easy read, although I found it to be a breeze compared to Infinite Jest.
One thing I've noticed has been missing from the reviews of this has been Wallace's simply awesome use of words. I love the way the words in the story fit exactly as they should, not to say that there aren't surprises and loops where I couldn't help but laugh at the audacity. But in the interviews themselves it's so easy to imagine a real person speaking what's written, the way they're interrupted and interrupt themselves. What's also impressive in the interviews is the lack of words from the interviewer, which I found forced me to concentrate more on the book, and gave me the fun exercise of thinking of the questions; and that only in the last shocking interview do we get anything of the interviewer's persona. And I suppose even Tri-Stan's wordplay was entertaining, although for me it was too long and rambling; Wallace's stories generally work best for me when they're more condensed. This is one book I can't wait to re-read.
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81 of 100 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If it truly was 'Brief' it might have been good, July 11, 2001
This review is from: Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (Paperback)
A "brief" history of my relationship with David Foster Wallace's oeuvre is necessary, before I discuss the book in question:
I devoured "The Broom of the System", finding its characters, situations, and storytelling unique and enthralling. Although I was upset by it's ending (or lack thereof), I assumed it would be a good warm-up for "Infinite Jest". Wrong! So far, I've made two passes at that behemoth tome. The second time I even made it to page 200 before stopping in frustration. So when approaching "Brief Interviews", I was hoping for more "Broom" than "Jest". Wrong!
In reading "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men" one notices the extent that Wallace fancies himself the ultimate postmodern author. If you were to describe to me the style he uses here, I'd have to say: "Wow, what a neat idea! Challenge and frustrate the reader with unreadable prose, paragraphs that go on for pages and pages without a break, and endless footnotes that go on in infinite detail about the same mundane topic discussed in the body of the text! Genius!"
That's all well and good in theory, but it's a bitch to read. In this book Wallace uses his vast vocabulary in such a way that you'd think it would disappear if not exercised constantly. He even goes so far as to make up new words to try out. In one piece here he twice uses the word 'weeest', not because it is a more precise adjective than 'wee' (as in "...hours of the morning") but because its three-consecutive E's make it look exotic. It's style winning out over substance. And those paragraphs! They're endless. Try holding your breath for five minutes, and you'll know what it's like wading through a DFW paragraph. I asphyxiated on more than one occasion. Especially when those marathon paragraphs were made up of but a single sentence. As for the footnotes, sometimes they added substance to the piece, but more often than not they were merely distracting. One piece in particular actually had more text in the footnotes than in the main body. I was flipping back and forth like a madman trying to figure out what I was supposed to read next.
But the biggest peeve I had was his insistence on leaving the reader hanging. There are no payoffs here. The pieces don't end; they just stop. Sometimes I thought they could have gone on interminably, but instead Wallace decided to quit at some random point. After wading through twenty or so pages of philosophical ramblings and long-winded discussions, a punchline would have helped make me look forward to the next piece. As it is, I didn't.
I must say, though, that I wish I had Wallace's talent. That's not to say that I would use it the same way he does but it would be nice to have it there when I needed it. He seems to be constantly involved in a game of showing it off. His style is self indulgent to the nth degree. "Let's see how cool I can be," he seems to be saying. "Let's see how far post-modernism can stretch." The odd thing is that Wallace is willing to admit to this fault in an interesting way. Witness the first line in the last sub-chapter of the piece titled 'Octet': "You are, unfortunately, a fiction writer." He puts this (ironic) hindrance on the reader's shoulder. But as the piece moves along, it becomes apparent that he's constructing a meta-fictional rebuke of the sub-chapters that appeared before this one. He rips their intentions and their techniques to shreds. Ad infinitum. It's a great bit of self-referential (dare I say) theatre; the post-modern writer attacking his own post-modernism, in a hyper-post-modern way. It's enough to make the reader's head spin. Mine did.
There are a couple of other pieces here that really hooked me. "Tri-Stan: I Sold Sissee Nar to Ecko" is Wallace at his most fun. Using contemporary cultural objects as a new language, punning mercilessly (e.g. a line describing University of Southern California cheerleaders as "attendants at the Saturday temple of the padded gods Ra & Sisboomba" had me chuckling but good), and coining modern day epigrams such as "The Medium would handle the Message's PR", he tells a convoluted tale about modern narcissism. Although the joke runs out of steam halfway through, it's still quite a strong piece. The opening piece, "A Radically Condensed History of Post-Industrial Life" clearly shows Wallace can be a genius when he focuses his gifts. And the title pieces, a quartet interspersed throughout the book, embodies all the problems I've detailed above. But they are still quite powerful in their depiction of modern man's ugliness (or rather 'hideousness').
I admit that there were some pieces here that I couldn't finish, either out of frustration or ignorance. That's probably more my fault than Dave's. Still, he could have helped me out a bit. But he never did. So even though I admired his talents, I didn't like his book.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Challenging and easy to misunderstand, but very rewarding, July 19, 2001
I think that a lot of people who have written reviews of this book have missed its point. For example, one person said, "The book is full of random stories, some good, some not so good" but these are not random stories at all. Another said, "Wallace fancies himself the ultimate postmodern author" but has obviously completely missed the point of the book.
This book is a parody (or at least an examination) of post-modernism rather than a post-modern book. If you have read DFW's essays, "E Unibus Pluram", or "Greatly Exaggerated" in A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, you will know that DFW is at once repulsed and fascinated by the movement, and although he could be described as post-modern, he is also laughing at it, and wondering about its implications for society.
Brief Interviews is about how neurotic our post-modern society has become, with our obsessive self-examination and ironic distancing of ourselves from everything; and how ridiculous we are for knowing we are doing the wrong thing and doing it anyway, as in "The Depressed Person" and the Hideous Men who know that they are hideous but think that by acknowledging their hideousness it will be somehow less wrong. The Depressed Person's constant telephoning of her friends to ask them if they like her is very similar to DFW's musings on writers wondering if readers will like their books in "Octet", where he writes a final piece explaining everything that he was trying to accomplish in the previous pieces, showing how ridiculous the interjections of authors have become, and why its wrong to always be worrying about what people are thinking of you.
The reviewers who are treating this as a collection of independant short stories are, I believe, missing his point. These are all basically the same story with the same point told in different ways. Right from page one where everyone is worrying if the other people like them, through to the depressed person calling her friends to find out if they like her to DFW's musings about whether reader's will like his fiction, you are being exposed to the same ideas over and over. If you want to enjoy and understand this book, you will have ask yourself a lot of questions and compare everything he says to what he has said before. It's a very funny, thought-provoking book and deserves a very careful reading.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Footnote., August 28, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (Paperback)
Run-on sentences and bizarrely long footnotes are funny, in and of themselves, for a short time. Unforunately, they quickly become just plain run-on sentences and bizarrely long footnotes. Pretty much all this book then has left to offer is a set of tedious characters with tedious psychological problems.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars yup, another unsatisfied fan, June 17, 1999
By A Customer
Yup, another unsatisfied fan. I feel the need to preface any statement about the new book with my take on his previous work. It seems standard enough at this point. I absolutely loved Girl With Curious Hair, a book whose inventiveness is to this day the freshest thing I've ever found in the 98-cent bargain bin. I really liked a lot of Infinite Jest and just about all of A Supposedly Fun Thing. Broom in the System confounds me -- I can't understand why anyone published it, except for the fact that he went on to write such great stuff; so clearly people saw talent in Broom where I just saw a student's brave but not-ready-for-public-consumption work.
Though Wallace disowns it, I really like the rap book he did -- it covers very similar territory to Hideous Me: it's about the paralysis of self-consciousness, as others have phrased it here.
Which brings us to the new book. A number of the stories I found excellent -- especially the piece about the thirteen year old -- but the endless, despondent, soul-damaged monologues got to be too much after a while. Too much repetition, too much monotone.
I'm all for anti-heroes; I loved Cockpit, for example, but at least there Kosinski imbued his protagonist with something more than a litany of dissatisfactions. This book is like an id -- or a series of ids -- hooked up to a microphone; people are more complex than their complaints. By the end of the title piece, I actually found myself scanning rather than reading, which was a disorienting experience for me, because I'm so used to hanging on DFW's words, and watching brilliant transitions unfold. I found Neal Stephenson's extended tangents in his new one, Cryptonomicon, far more satisfying (if sloppy, too) than most of Hideous Men.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A unique and highly enjoyable read, December 10, 1999
By 
Stephen Kozle (Brighton, MI USA) - See all my reviews
David Foster Wallace has done it again, but in a grander fashion than ever before. The stories contained within "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men" are complex, funny, and at times irritating. Whether or not the latter is DFW's intention is unclear, but true none the less. Some of the stories are paralyzingly involving, while others have you looking ahead to see how many pages are left in the story. Luckily for us, the first kind are far more numerous. The annonymity of the characters in this book are sure to remind you of yourself or people you know, which gives the stories that extra zing of life that some books lack. I reccommend this work to anyone.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Disssssapointed Fan, July 13, 1999
By A Customer
I have to admit that I was waiting a long time for this one. I was pleased with most of "A Supposedly Fun Thing..." and was optimistic that this collection would be close to the perfection that was "Girl With..." Well, sadly, it wasnt close. The stories have drifted into self-mockery. DFW, as hard as this is to say, has become a parody of his earlier work. Sure some of the stories come close to recapturing that glory, but most fall pretty flat. The interviews themselves are the worst offenders..plodding and pretentions. Get back to the novel form, DFW. Stop with the collections and articles. Lets see something along the level of Infinite Jest or Broom of the System
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Get the Audiobook, February 26, 2003
This review is from: Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (Paperback)
I really can't explain why, but several different sources agree. On paper this is a pompous and annoying book. The Audiobook, on the other hand (which is read by the author) is engaging, funny, and cool. If you are drawn to David Foster Wallace and have never really gotten into this book, try it on tape. It may well be a whole different experience.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you Mr. Wallace!!, July 18, 1999
I don't generally read fiction. I prefer biographies, autobiographies, and occasionally I'll wade into philosophies...but I discovered Mr. Wallace when he wrote an hilarious article about the Illinois State Fair in Harper's Magazine..several years ago... This writer simply put is a genius...a modern day Marcel Proust...do not expect to travel traditional avenues while reading his work..but certainly be ready to question basic precepts that may be holding you up. Hideous is another great work..the nine words after the third date is my favorite..simply because I enjoy laughter..but the entire book is excellent...wish I would have had him when I went to Illinois State U. 30 years ago..instead of becoming a school teacher I may have become a carney.
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Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace (Paperback - April 1, 2000)
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