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Girl With Curious Hair Hardcover – August, 1989

3.9 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Wallace caused a critical stir with his first novel, The Broom of the System , and this volume of stories is likely to attract equal attention. His publisher talks about post -postmodernism, whatever that means, but there is a highly unusual eye and ear at work here, and an impressive armory of writerly skills. All too often, however, the stories seem like dazzling exercises, show-off pieces designed to provoke applause rather than expressions of a consistent vision. Two stories about the morbidly incestuous world of TV, "Little Expressionless Animals" and "My Appearance," catch perfectly the obsessiveness and fatuity of quiz- and talk-show people, and "Lyndon" is a tour de force in which the late president looms very large indeed. The title story is an experiment in the outre, about a grotesque Los Angeles yuppie and his punk friends, that seems designed to shock rather than illuminate. In "Say Never" Wallace enters an Isaac Bashevis Singer world, though naturally he gives it an odd twist. And the longest and most ambitious story, "Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way," deliberately flaunts writing-school experimentalism in its overwritten, satirical account of a Midwestern reunion of actors in McDonald's ads. Wallace has talent to burn, and is an endlessly inventive storyteller, but one wishes he wasn't also such an exhibitionist.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In assessing this book, comparisons with Don DeLillo, Tom Robbins, and Robert Coover seem accurate, for Wallace is playful, idiomatically sharp, and intellectually engage. Overwhelming in his long, torrential sentences and his wit, he at times subjects us to overwritten, almost showy, passages, but his talent is undeniable. Included in this collection is a novella that examines, among other things, post-modernism. His (generally overlong) stories explore popular culture through the lives of a variety of characters: a lesbian with a three-year winning streak on Jeopardy, an actress anxious about appearing on David Letterman, a wealthy Republican yuppie who has a disturbing connection with some punk rockers; and Lyndon Johnson in a closeup that shows how well a historical figure can be used in fiction. Impressive in scope and savvy.
- Peter Bricklebank, City Coll., CUNY
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 373 pages
  • Publisher: WW Norton Company; 1st edition (August 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393027570
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393027570
  • Product Dimensions: 3 x 0.6 x 3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,380,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Foster Wallace wrote the acclaimed novels Infinite Jest and The Broom of the System and the story collections Oblivion, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and Girl With Curious Hair. His nonfiction includes the essay collections Consider the Lobster and A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, and the full-length work Everything and More.  He died in 2008.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Ignoring all the fuzz about postmodern writing, I constantly found myself asking, what kind of impact did writers like Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo or William Gaddis might have had to other writers and, even more significant, what trace have they left in modern writing. In David Foster Wallace's collection of short stories, "Girl with curious hair", I found a large portion of my questions answered.
I've just finished it in almost one sitting, and like so often, when the book you've just finished didn't turned out to be total crap, you start missing its characters.
I miss Julie Smith from the "Jeopardy !" show, I wanna stick to "Sick Puppy" and his punky friends visiting a Keith Jarrett (!) concert. I feel sorry for old pal Chuck Nunn, jr., who, after a car accident, had his eyes constantly popping out their holes (!!). I deeply felt for the woman who "appeared in the David Letterman show", don't be nervous anymore ! And then finally there's David Boyd, first boy and close friend of the president of the United States, Lynton B.Johnson !
David Foster Wallace presents each of the five stories in a different tone, a different style: There's the more traditional narrative form in the first story, pure satire (with shades of Brett Easton Ellis's "American Psycho") in the second, and a haunting yet nightmarish and illogical atmosphere in the third one. The fourth story comes with a dry, almost documentary-like kind of prose, while the fifth and last story (the LBJ story) once again returns to more traditional grounds.
But don't worry: David Foster Wallace successfully manages to avoid pretentiousness or self-indulgence and never lets "Girl with curious hair" end up in a writing skill showcase !
This book is funny, it's brilliant, it should be regarded as a modern classic, but word comes around his other books are even better <...> oboy !
2 Comments 45 of 53 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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By A Customer on July 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
Why do so many reviews warn readers of the complexity of Infinte Jest? I found Infinite Jest to be a hundred times more readable than most of the stories in Girl with Curious Hair. The last story is ridicliously difficult to read and the ending makes no sense at all. Why would an author who deftly satirizes meta-fiction even in his first book (which some reviewers compared to the great metafictionists) purposefully try to be so difficult? Like the main character in Broom of the System tells Rick Vigorous: why don't you tell a real story instead of a story about a story? As a huge David Foster Wallace fan, I have to admit that I positively abhor Broom of the System and most of Girl With Curious Hair. They seem to be like cold, heartless exercises in how-avant-garde-can-I-be? and not at all pieces of writing that seemed like they were written by the author of Infinite Jest. But as my title eludes to, I am postively enamored with My Appearance. As an indictment of postmodern irony and its inability to truly accomplish anything, the story is flawless (well maybe the didactic dialogue can be a little off putting). More than any other living author, David Foster Wallace tackles the most important issues of the day to his generation and mine: drug abuse, depression, loneliness, irony, sex, and television. And, unlike other authors, he doesn't do it in a cute or ironic way. In an anthology of literary criticism from the 1950s, I read an article in which a critic expressed her feeling that writers of her decade had lost the ability to write about their culture and instead chose to focus on subjective explorations of individuals outside the bounds of society.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
True to form, D F W offers some very "literary" story, some po-mo fireworks, and caps it off with a silly sitcom feel. But I kept asking myself through the read, "Is this worth it?" Some stories, like "Little Expressionless Animals" yes, others like "John Billy" one has to ask, what's the point?

I agree with the earlier reviewers, Pynchon infiltrates this text, making these stories about rock stars, tv celebrities, and politicians seem less, well, unique. And while Pynchon steps back on the narrative and sort of accepts the absurdity of his premises (like in Vineland), Wallace also wants this sort of authenticity, this emotional punch, which at times seems contrived.

So, he is essentially writing for two (or three, including himself) audiences, the lit critics and the fans, and unfortunately he cannot hit both, so he settles on m.o.r. fare that's vaguely insulting to his characters. I mean, his characters, like Boyd in "Lyndon" come off as caricatures, silly stand-ins for the BIG POINT he wants to get across to the grad school audience.

I think D F W was talented and had a great deal to say, but I also think that he is best simply telling a story, instead of having to add literary value, because let's face it, there's only so much to the joke of a bunch of conservative "punkrockers" in "Girl with the Curious Hair."

My recommendation, pick this up, but do not feel beholden to finishing any one story.
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Format: Paperback
Fact: Wallace was a better writer than any of his contemporaries.

There are no bad stories here and three of them are brilliant; the title story, "Little Expressionless Animals" and "My Appearance" are all well worth a read. The standout however was "Lyndon" about the hapless american president. This story stayed with me long after I read it. It was emotionally affecting and believable as a piec of historical fiction. One of the best short stories I have ever read.
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