Girl With Curious Hair–David Foster Wallace

dfw.gif

Scott Martin was kind enough to loan me this book. Did he know that it would forever change the way I read? It was the first semester of my freshman year in college, and I was slowly reaching beyond stuff like Henry Miller, Wm Burroughs and Franz Kafka. David Foster Wallace’s short story collection Girl With Curious Hair introduced me to a whole new world of writing. Reading DFW is like having a very witty friend tell you a moving and funny story over a  few beers. He’s hilarious, thought-provoking, and not nearly as hard to read as people seem to think (by the way, simply googling “David Foster Wallace” will yield several vitriolic essays by people who think that DFW is somehow duping his readers. He’s not. These people don’t know a good story when they read one.)

Girl features “real people” like Alex Trebek, David Letterman, and Lyndon Johnson as characters, but constantly destabilizes any realism these figures might lend to the story. The novella included in this collection, Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way, alludes directly to John Barth’s Lost in the Funhouse (another book I’ve loaned out and never gotten back). Westward takes a critical but humorous look at how culture is commodified: the plot centers around a reunion for everyone who has ever acted in a McDonald’s commercial. At the reunion, plans are revealed for a series of real-life “Funhouses,” based on the work of “Dr. Ambrose” (Barth’s stand-in in Westward).

Girl with Curious Hair is probably the best starting point for anyone interested in DFW but daunted by 1000 pages of Infinite Jest (IJ is yet another one I loaned out and never got back). Girl‘s stories have a little more ‘pop’ to them than DFW’s latest collection, Oblivion, and Girl tends to be easier to find used than DFW’s other collections, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (actually a better collection, in my opinion) and A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (a collection of hilarious essays and nonfiction).

To sum up: if you still haven’t read DFW go consume this book; when you’re done you’ll be left wondering: “What other good stuff have I been missing out on?”

About these ads

3 comments

  1. DamonNoisettejavascript:void(0); · November 12, 2006

    I may have to borrow this from you if you still have it. I have Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and thoroughly enjoyed it. The scientific-sounding/reading interviews were a nice device for keeping the stories together…

    Did you read the DFW piece in the [New York] Times about Swiss tennis virtuoso Roger Federer as a Religious Experience? (If that link doesn’t work let me know)

    Like

  2. ed biblioklept · November 12, 2006

    Thanks Damon–
    I hadn’t read this piece, but it’s typical DFW…he’s able to write about something on which I have at best a marginal interest, and make that something seem vital. Plus, it’s funny.

    Like

  3. Pingback: Lost: Lost in the Funhouse « biblioklept

Your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s