Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Don't Only Love David Foster Wallace

So I'm not saying "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men" is bad or anything. It does figure that John Krasinski (aka Jim Halpert of The Office) would choose this of all of David Foster Wallace's various stories for his directorial debut, a film of the same name released last year. And that's not entirely meant to disparage Krasinski, either, whose film I admittedly have not yet seen and judging by the previews looks more than watchable with a very funny, talented cast. And I don't want to go all "me hating Jason Reitman" on Krasinski, either, because I honestly really respect his work as an actor to this point and don't doubt he is perceptive enough to direct a high-quality film / DFW adaptation. (I do fear it might be the perfect storm of cloyingly indie meets the specific talent of Wallace that I'm least impressed by, but cynical words on the table, I will try to reserve judgment till after I've seen it.)

But to "BIWHM" itself, while it is at times up to Wallace's usual standard of excellence in terms of being very funny and thoughtful, and though it definitely captures something unique with its repeated and experimental Q&(mostly just)As of the eponymous men, I think ultimately it gets a little too cute and a little too self-aware with respect to ironical use of quotation marks and meta-fictional elements that, for example, excessively involve the author in the narration -- or maybe not the author per se but a narrator planted by said author and who (this overly self-aware narrator) is sufficiently removed from the narrative so as to distract more than a little from it, more than is wanted by me to be sure. Yes, it is fair and correct to argue that this is what he's going for, but for my tastes his writing / artist "body" is overextended and it becomes a rather huge chore to read, almost to the point that I'd rather not.

I feel I'm being fair with regard to my criticism of "BIWHM" especially because I really enjoyed the more recent Wallace short story collection "Oblivion" and was drawn in by all of its stories (in particular "The Soul is Not a Smithy") save the one for which the book is named, i.e. the short story "Oblivion." And "Oblivion" matches the same ambitious but unfortunately irritating to me use of quotation (or finger flexion, in the case of one of the hideous being interviewed) and just simply put over-indulgent self-awareness that, again, while funny and interesting at times always leaves me trudging through one of his stories to get to the end, whereupon I hope for and often receive a different story that is more to my liking.

So that's it. That's all I've got.

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