Slate asks, "What happens when literary novelists experiment with science fiction."
I answer, "Lots of wonderful things."
Oh gosh, what to say about this book. Well, this is my first David Foster Wallace book. I've known people who think he's brilliant and then I've also talked to people who are not so fond of him. I'm not going to form an opinion off of one book, though.
Brief Interviews had its moment of brilliance for me. Some of the stories, and sometimes just parts of stories, really worked for me. The collection was meant to explore the difficulties men and women have when it comes to communicating and all the sexual frustrations that can stem from there. But it never took the issue too seriously, at least not on the surface.
I got the feeling that while Wallace is writing these stories to highlight or make fun of those frustrating and confusing interactions that take place between men and women, he wasn't doing it just to make light of the issue. It seemed to me it was more to point out the sheer ridiculousness of these interactions. To try and condemn this behavior, make us feel foolish for it, to try and set us on the path of not being a bunch of school children.
Is there a difference between the way men and women communicate? Sure. But there are better and healthier ways of handling it than constantly bitching to our friends or therapists (another topic that plays a heavy roll in the book). There's a lot that will need to be worked on to get over this weird, flirtatious, coy, manipulative way we all seem to have taken up when dealing with the opposite sex. Things like how men and society view women, how women view themselves, and at a basic level, good communication skills.
Alright, feel like I went off a bit there. Anyway, it wasn't my favorite read, but it was interesting and made me think about a lot of different things, even if that maybe wasn't the "author's point." But the author doesn't get to decide how a reader reacts to their work.
Weird and wonderful. One of three novels that convinced me not to pursue an MFA. I couldn't be that funny, or strange, or creative, although I did dress like Lenore for a while, well, sometimes.
It's never the same book twice. The book I read as a recent college grad, who was wondering about pursuing an MFA, is not the same book I read as a newlywed, is not the same book I read this weekend, having recently toured Mt. Holyoke with my eldest daughter. Almost thirty years after it was published, I find a number of the jokes so tired, so juvenile, so tiring. But I'm even more struck by the staggering difference it represented from everything else being published in the twentieth century. No minimalist, New Yorker, slice of life with insight. Oh, no, this is Dickensian, Victorian in its detail, Gothic in its backstory (there's a nanny, there's a mother cruelly kept from her children). Although set in the near future from its publication (mostly in late summer, early fall of 1990) it does strongly evoke the 80s, more than the other hot young authors of that day managed to do, and I'm not just talking about the cover. The ending hasn't aged well at all. But still, when I picked it up I didn't remember anything except the black Converse sneakers, and by the end I was as enchanted as I had ever been before.
Wallace is at his best, I tell other people, in his essays, which I think will remain interesting far longer than his fiction. But anyone who's enjoyed his novels must also still mourn his loss. My condolences, late but sincere, to his loved ones.