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40 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is funny, it's brilliant, it should...
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...
Published on November 12, 2001 by verill

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40 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth My Appearance alone...
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...
Published on July 27, 2002 by erudite98505


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40 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is funny, it's brilliant, it should..., November 12, 2001
This review is from: Girl With Curious Hair (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 !
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40 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth My Appearance alone..., July 27, 2002
By 
"erudite98505" (Olympia, WA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Girl With Curious Hair (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. I find current writers to be having the same difficulties, though instead of decadent novels about sex, drugs, and depression, todays writers write novels about mysterious byzantine paintings or soulless "satires" of the media in which the same sort of heartless humor and everyone's-a-whore philosophy found on late night TV is used to supposedly "skewer" that very phemenona. Those who are unafraid to face real, scary human realities like Wallace are the real heroes.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Just Not What I'm Looking For, June 23, 2009
By 
Jon Peters (Michigan, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Girl With Curious Hair (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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All the way with LBJ, March 27, 2011
This review is from: Girl With Curious Hair (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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DFW in the beginning, and still talented if not a little raw., May 10, 2013
This review is from: Girl With Curious Hair (Paperback)
After finishing David Foster Wallace's Girl With Curious Hair, I had to step back awhile before reviewing in fear I would simply come across as an overzealous cheerleader yelling `Give me a D!....Give me a F!...Give me a W!....'. Like a teenage romance, I was so blinded by my love for this collection and author that I wasn't sure exactly what it was I loved so much, and if this brightly burning passion was distracting me from the flaws and faults that I wouldn't realize were there until much later. After giving some time to reflect, my overzealousness has hardly died down and, through some helpful and insightful discussions and rereads of the stories with others (I highly recommend reading Garima's wonderfully comprehensive review!), I have not only been able to pinpoint my feelings on the book, but my appreciation has only continued to grow. The stories in this collection, while each varying dramatically at times in terms of style and voice, all seem to reflect upon the psychological implications of existing in the modern era of media and social pressures. Girl is an excellent introduction into the works of DFW, offering an exciting, page turning look at a wide variety of his chameleon-like styles and an introductory look into themes he would toy with and expand upon for the whole of his stunning career.

Written in his mid-20s, Wallace already demonstrates a piercing intellect coupled with a seemingly effortless and strikingly versatile writing ability. What finally convinced me to read DFW, who almost instantly rose through the ranks of `favorite authors', was a small discussion on him in James Wood's How Fiction Works. Although the Wood was using the story Mister Squishy from DFW's later short story collection Oblivion, Wood discusses how Wallace (as well as Pynchon and DeLillo) are ready and willing to `become, to impersonate what he describes, even when the subject itself is debased, vulgar, boring.' This ability is made most apparent in the title story where Wallace narrates from the poetically void perspective of an extremely narcissistic - and arguably sociopathic - young, republican attorney. Other good examples is the way he allows the society of his characters to control the narration and, most noticeably, the syntax of other stories as well, such as John Billy and Everything is Green. There are also several stories included whose characters and story allow for more of his own, personal, voice, making room for literary discussions, and terminology in Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way,, and, as in Here, a discussion on the blending of mathematics and poetry. (Wallace, as shown in this useful wiki article, majored in both English and Philosophy, focusing on modal logic and mathematics).

A major theme through the course of Wallace's work was his dissection of media and entertainment. Here the reader can see Wallace's early musings on the subject, examining popular entertainment in stories such as Little Expressionless Animals (which alone is worth the price of the book) and . It is interesting to see how the implications of these stories have only become more poignant with age. My Appearance, a story discussing the way late 80s entertainment such as David Letterman, made `money ridiculing the exact things that have put him in a position to make money ridiculing things', takes on a whole new meaning seeing it from todays standards where Letterman's ridiculing and humor is rather benign compared to much of the other, more insensitive and cutting media satires on television. DFW explores the way society has come to tear down anything and anyone that takes itself seriously, and the only defense is to be self-ridiculing and laugh at oneself. He argues that nobody really wants to see someone succeed, they want to see someone rise to the top merely to tear and claw at them as they fall from great heights and feast on their corpse. They don't want someone to talk about how great and serious they are, but only to mock the very things they take serious. In this story we see early examples of `using the joke to manipulate the very same audience that parodies had made fun of them for manipulating' that were thematically crucial to his later masterpiece Infinite Jest.

While exploring entertainment, Wallace is able to create a highly entertaining work as well. The method of which he delivers his stories takes on an almost Hollywood approach; when reflecting back on the final passage of the title story, a scene spiraling out of control narrated as if all of the action is occurring in slow motion, it rises in the mind as if it were a film I had viewed instead if a story I had read. He manages to construct such a vivid image through spatial diagramming the scene with his descriptions and flawlessly illustrating the flow of motion. The scenes of Little Expressionless Animals are cut up and rearranged like a Tarantino film, allowing for an emotional impact through the descriptions of a scene to occur before examining and explaining the emotional and psychological significance later on. It keeps the reader turning pages, seeking out the piece of the puzzle that, once fit to the rest, brings the whole picture into focus.

At times Wallace does tend to serve up a characters backstory to explain why they are the way they are in one big unsubtle scoop, but this scoop is served on a golden platter of intellect as a side to the delicious story that it is hardly worth criticizing him over. The most blatant example is in the story Girl With Curious Hair, when the sexual deviance of the narrator and the fiery consequences enforced by his father are revealed during an acid trip, which allows the reader to draw their own connections from his childhood to his current sociopathic behavior (1). To simply conclude as such would be cause to moan, yet Wallace offers a brilliant non-ending that allows for the reader to decide how the final scene plays out. Suddenly the reader must become aware of their own opinions on the character, judging for themselves if the narrator is able to change, or is purely a monster. There are several key moments in this collection where the significance of the ending is left ambiguous, most notably in the wonderful (and personal favorite) Luckily The Accountant Knew CPR, or, in the case of Everything Is Green, the whole story and all it's implications are ambiguous, and allows for a reader participation that offers both insight into the characters and the character of the reader.

The post-modernist are clearly an influence on Wallace, yet he manages to let his own voice and style take its own shape under their guidance in this collection. There were a few points (primarily the way each character or story has it's own little `quirk', something repeated a few times such as on character always taking Xanax) where I briefly caught comparisons to Chuck Palahniuk. I only mention this as the two authors seem to have a few similar influences, but to compare DFW at his earliest to Palahniuk at his best, is more to Wallace's credit than anything. Wallace grew to be mentioned in the same breath amongst his influences instead of a become a brief stepping stone in the reading career of a young reader on their way towards those influences as Chuck P became (at least that is how it happened for me, Chuck P led me to DeLillo and Pynchon at the end of high school when his style began to grate on me and I thirsted for something greater). There are times when Wallace is clearly `Pynchonesque', where Wallace openly expands on Barth's Lost in the Funhouse, or how the story Lyndon seems to have been influenced or inspired by Donald Barthelme's story Robert Kennedy Saved From Drowning, but it reads more as a celebration of genius, a salute to his influences as he marches forth into the fields of literature, than a mere rehash and nod to greater authors.

Despite all the love I've been spewing for this collection, I should probably touch on the downsides to offer a fair warning. John Billy, which being a great exercise in diction, something he would later employ with great talent in Jest, is cumbersome and leaves the reader feeling underwhelmed after exerting so much to follow the story. Say Anything is another that the word `exercise' should apply to. It felt more as if Wallace was attempting to sharpen his skills, narrating a story from the least interested, or possibly the least expected, member of the story, while demonstrating versatility over style within one story. The ideas can be deduced and examined, yet it felt lacking compared to the stand-out stories. While I loved Westward, those adverse towards metafiction should steer clear as it is essentially metafiction of metafiction. I have seen the argument that Wallace's sentencing is overly difficult and run on to the horizon, his techniques are something I greatly enjoy. It wasn't until after reading multiple complaints of his style that I noticed how long his sentences were. In his defense, Wallace is a self-declared grammar nerd, so at least you can be assured he keeps to proper form and grammar.

If you are looking for a great, accessible introduction to the man Himself, or are an old fan looking for more, I give the highest of recommendations to Girl With Curious Hair. While I must admit a few stories were less than loveable, on the whole this collection is a joy. His intellect shines brightly from every page and his acute observations, such as the fat man walking being described as `moving only via a shifting of weight from side to side, a humanoid balloon with too much air' will have you laughing while thinking `that's so true!' Each story demonstrates a young artist coming into his own and gives hope to the future of literature. This is more accessible than his other works, and while every book written later each displays a tremendous leap in growth, writing ability (compare the impressive vocabulary and technicalities of Oblivion to this one), and footnotes (none in this one), but Girl is still wildly addictive and entertaining. Crack it open and enter the mind of a genius.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Funny, clever, but not as great as other DFW., April 20, 2011
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This review is from: Girl With Curious Hair (Paperback)
This book was simply not as good as other David Foster Wallace writings I've read. However, it is probably the funniest, and possibly the most absurd plot-wise of his I've read. The first story was probably the funniest and the last (novella length) story, "Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way," was probably my favorite, in which he trashes postmodernism in oft-clever and funny ways. There's no footnotes/endnotes in this story collection which is a common element in his other writings and which I find to be one of my favorite things about his writing. I can't pinpoint all the things that make me feel this collection is inadequate, I think it's just not as good is plenty sufficient though. So overall, not as great as I'd expect from David Foster Wallace and definitely not a good place to start for new readers of Wallace.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DO IT, March 28, 2000
By A Customer
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This review is from: Girl With Curious Hair (Paperback)
I have not yet finished the last story, but I couldn't wait. This boy is so bizarrely talented I have no idea where to begin. For sure, not all of the stories are total winners, but damn can this kid write. The different voices, the moral tone, the evocation of time, space, time/space, the absolutely hallucinogenic skill and joy in language. "John Billy" is so damn strange and so damn wonderful, sporting, among other gems, the priceless: "The cleft rigger got levitationally joined by some other civilians." Get on the stick and ride this puppy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shows Wallace in a state where he's still growing, interesting for what it shows about his strengths and weaknesses as a writer, July 19, 2014
This review is from: Girl With Curious Hair (Paperback)
I'm sort of sad to finish this, it's the last of Wallace's fiction I haven't read. This collection, in a lot of ways, contains the seeds for all of Wallace's future novels and short stories, both in terms of his thematic interests and in the different prose styles he would utilize and innovate to often delirious effect later on.

You see here his budding interest in the world of media entertainment, of the sad, almost hermetically sealed off lives of the people who create game shows and late night television, as well as the jargon heavy world of technicians operating behind the scenes who actually make those entertainments happen. His prose in these is in a sort of Wallacian larval stage, you get the occasionally brilliant image or passage, but before he can really dig into it, he moves on to something else that's just clumsy, ham-fisted, or out of place. The basic syntactical complexity of his sentences was pretty much fully formed from this point, but there is still a long way to go from here to the radiant exuberance of his best fictional writing, he still occasionally gets bogged down with digressions and ideas that just don't really work some of the time.

And his weaknesses as a fiction writer (yes, David Foster Wallace had weaknesses) are really best examined here. His inability to really "end" a lot of his work is fully in evidence from these. The stories here don't conclude as much as they just sort of elide or completely peter out. Whether this was because he wasn't able to or he found it too conventional at the time the stories kind of suffer for it. And it's all the more glaring and problematic since he can't really compensate for it here with the massive range of crazed set pieces and delightful characters that he does in Infinite Jest.

But beyond that, these show that he really isn't that great at engaging with material that isn't in some way, about him and his personal interests/hangups. Wallace could wax gorgeously on depression, loneliness, morbidity, death, recursion, our consuming need to be entertained, etc. But when he tries to step out of that territory, as he does in some of these, he just ends up falling flat. The LBJ story is a complete mess even if it's a brilliantly researched piece. The title story feels more like a pot-shot parody of Bret Easton Ellis than like something Wallace would do, "Say Never" is (I think?) a sort of Rothian yiddish soap opera that doesn't really have wheels. And the final story (really more of a short novel) is an occasionally brilliant, often tiresome sort of aborted thing that kind of points the way towards the sprawling world of Infinite Jest but which itself falls completely apart at multiple points and whose final few pages are almost eye-rollingly bad.

Girl With Curious Hair was clearly the work of a fearsome, formidable literary mind that just needed a bit more time to gestate before coming into its own. It's incredible to go back and revisit some of the best parts of "Oblivion" and "Brief Interviews..." or "The Pale King" after reading this, to see just how much more powerful and disciplined his prose could become, and how intimidating it is that he was writing fiction like this when he was basically the age I am now. What am I doing with my life, anyway?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Arresting D.F.W. Read, February 27, 2011
This review is from: Girl With Curious Hair (Paperback)
There are some great stories in this D.F.W. collection, "Girl With Curious Hair." Unfortunately, with this being a D.F.W. book, there will probably be a few that the reader won't care for (At least that has been the case with some of the other D.F.W. essay/short story collections I've read). Fortunately, "Girl" opens on a really strong note, with "Little Expressionless Animals." The story follows Julie Smith. A woman who, without giving too much away, makes a living by appearing on the game show "Jeopardy." She is also dating one of the show's staff, Faye Goddard.

"Animals" is told in a non-linear manner, and it's through the use of flashbacks that the story touches on some of the more important people and events in Julie's life, in such a way that you get to know Julie better than you do most character's in full length novels. I know that after finishing "Animals," I wished that D.F.W had actually expanded on this story to the point where it was a full length novel. It's a memorable experience.

The next story that I really enjoyed was the book's namesake "Girl With Curious Hair," which follows a yuppie by the name "Sick Puppy," who is attending a Keith Jarrett show with his punk rock friends. After a few pages of reading Sick Puppy's masochistic schtick and racist remarks I started to think that this character was a parody of the way Bret Easton Ellis writes his character's, and, low and behold, when I did an search online to see what I could find out about this story I was proven correct. Apparently, D.F.W wasn't too enthusiastic for B.E.E.'s writing style, and skewers it, needing only to take up 20 pages to do so.

"Lyndon" is the first-person account of David Boyd, an intern who worked for Lyndon Baines Johnson while he was both a senator and president. The story hints at a possible homosexual relationship between the two, and the suspicion is further flushed out by quotes from other characters that are peppered through out the narration. The ending is both comical and weird, and left me wondering if any of Johnson's relatives have read this story.

"John Billy" is memorable simply for how funny it is. The story concerns a young man, who, after being in an car wreck, has the ability to pop his eyes out from their sockets. This seems to be the main point behind the story: to mention this as many times as possible (That's what I thought anyway, I'm probably wrong). The repetition reminds me of another D.F.W. piece "The Depressed Person" from "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men," where the narrator constantly reiterates just how depressed she is, but keeps saying it in different ways.

Finally there is "My Appearance," about a well-to-do-actress who goes on the David Letterman show. The actresses' husband and a close friend worn her about how Dave is going to make a fool of her and that to save face she should beat him to the punch by making deprecating remarks about herself first. They also get her to wear a small headset so that they can tell her what to say during the interview.

The other stories in this collection simply weren't my cup of tea, but hey, that's not to say that they're not anyone else's? I will say that even though it wears it's welcome out about seventy pages in, the novella "Westward the Course of Empire It's Way" has some interesting commentary on metafiction, postmodernism (Whatever you want to call it). And that while the premise was interesting (A reunion of everyone who's ever been in a McDonald's commercial, meeting together to take part in another McDonald's commercial), the characters, unfortunately just aren't.

Overall, "Girl With Curious Hair" makes for an engaging read whether you're D.F.W. virgin, or someone who's familiar with D.F.W.'s oeuvre.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not my favorite collection of Wallace material., December 18, 2000
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This review is from: Girl With Curious Hair (Paperback)
I don't mean to toot my own horn here, but I feel that I'm a pretty well-read guy. I love David Foster Wallace. I'm even on an e-mail list devoted to the guy, but I'm not a huge fan of this collection.
I loved 'Infinite Jest', 'A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again' and 'Broom of the System', but it seems that Wallace's short fiction is *very* difficult to read.
You could compare this collection to Wallace's more recent 'Brief Interviews with Hideous Men' if you wanted, but I think you'd find them terribly different. 'Brief Interviews' seems to have a coherent theme throught, but 'Girl' seems to be nothing but a terribly challenging puzzle.
There are, of course upsides. I found 'The Jeopary Story' to be terribly funny and I also thought that 'Westward the Course of Empire Makes Its Way' was very well written. Yet falling downs include the title piece and some of the other, sometimes terribly short, stories.
You have to wonder sometimes if Wallace isn't just being difficult on purpose. Thinking to himself, "could I possibly make this more difficult?"
If you're new to Wallace, pick up his collection of non-fiction essays, the previously mentioned 'A Supposedly Fun thing I'll Never Do Again'. Wallace is a terribly funny writer and his amazing talent shines in his non-fiction work. 'Infinite Jest' is damn good as well, but not for the casual reader.
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Girl With Curious Hair
Girl With Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace (Paperback - February 17, 1996)
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