Archive for the ‘Brief Interviews with Hideous Men’ Category

[LISTENED TO: End of October 2010] Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

There are three options for listening to Brief Interviews.

The first version is the original audio cassette which is read entirely by DFW (1999).  It’s out of print but you can download the audio for free at the David Foster Wallace Audio Project. The second version is the newly released audio book that coincides with John Krasinski’s film (2009).  This CD features some of the readings by DFW although most of the actual interviews are read by the actors from the film (see below for all details).  The third option is a collection of staged readings which were created by The Howling Fantods Brief Interviews Project.  They are available at the site and at the David Foster Wallace Audio Project.  [UPDATE Nov. 8: For the sake of accuracy, I wanted to state that George Carr is responsible for all of the work down for these recordings.  The Howling Fantods site simply hosted the results].

None of these recordings include all of the stories from the book.  Although the stories that they do include are unedited (this is officially listed as “unedited selections from the book”).  The stories that are not included in any of these recordings are:  creepy organ music

  • “The Depressed Person”  [this would have been a tour de force to read]
  • “The Devil Is a Busy Man”
  • “Think”
  • “Signifying Nothing”
  • Datum Centurio” [I can’t imagine trying to read this out loud]
  • “Octet”
  • “Adult World (I)”
  • “Adult World (II)” [I would have liked to hear how these were handled]
  • “The Devil Is a Busy Man”
  • “Church Not Made with Hands”
  • “Yet Another Example of the Porousness of Certain Borders (XI)”
  • “Tri-Stan: I Sold Sissee Nar to Ecko” [this is my least favorite bit of DFW work and I would have really liked to have heard it read aloud to see if I could get anything more out of it].
  • “On His Deathbed, Holding Your Hand, the Acclaimed New Young Off-Broadway Playwright’s Father Begs a Boon” (more…)

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topI learned about this soundtrack from a very cool article in The Believer (the beginning of which is online here).  In the piece, the author claims to have never seen the film (he was given the soundtrack by a friend) and he doesn’t want  to change his associations with the music by watching the film.  And now, I too can say I have never seen the film, and likely never will.  And I really enjoy the soundtrack too.

The soundtrack is sort of an excuse to showcase a bunch of bands from New Zealand’s Flying Nun record label.  Featured artists are The 3DS, The Bats, The Clean, Superette, Snapper, The Chills, Straightjacket Fits, and Chris Knox.

It’s nigh impossible to give an overarching style to these songs.  Even when the bands have multiple songs on the soundtrack, they are not repetitive at all.  Even trying to represent a genre would be difficult.  The opener “Hey Suess” is almost a surf-punk song, while Chris Knox’s gorgeous “Not Given Lightly” is a stunning ballad.  There’s a cool shoe-gazer song “Saskatchewan,” and some great simple indie rock (a bunch of other tracks).

The only thing these bands have in common is that they’re all from New Zealand.  And as with any large body of land, no two bands are going to sound alike.  Nevertheless, all of the bands fall under the indie rock umbrella.  It’s a great collection of songs that many people probably haven’t heard.  It’s worth tracking down for the great collection of tunes and, if all you know about New Zealand is The Flight of the Conchords.

[READ: September 24, 2009] Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

After finishing Infinite Jest I wasn’t sure just how much more DFW I would want to read right away (of course, seeing as how I have now read almost all of his uncollected work, that is a rather moot point).  But when I saw that John Krasinski (of TV’s The Office) was making a film of this book, I had to jump in and read it again.

Obviously, there are many questions to be asked about this film ().  Is it going to be based on all the stories in the book?  (Surely not, some are completely unrelated).  Is it going to be just the interviews? (Probably, and yet there’s no overall narrative structure there).  And, having seen the trailer, I know structure is present.  I’m quite interested in the film.  In part because I didn’t LOVE the stories.  Well, that’s not quite right.  I enjoyed them very much, but since they weren’t stories per se, just dialogue, I’m not afraid of the stories getting turned into something else.  The text isn’t sacred to me, which may indeed make for the perfect set-up for a film.

Anyhow, onto the stories.

The obvious joke is that the author of Infinite Jest has created a book with “Brief” in the title!  But indeed, many of these stories are quite brief.  Some are only a couple of paragraphs (which true, from DFW that could still be ten pages).  But, indeed, most of the interviews in the book are brief too (except the final one in the book, which is nearly 30 pages).   (more…)

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inf sum

Okay, now that I’ve had time to digest the book (and to cope with the ending) I wanted to give some final thoughts on the book.  I also wanted to tie up some loose ends by posting my original response to the Salon.com questions as well as my letter to the posted article (keeping all my IJ stuff in one place).  I also found a map of Enfield that places things nicely in context.  I’ve included that at the bottom of the page.

But on to the book:

My previous post ended with what feels like a somewhat bitter taste in my mouth.  And yet I the disappointment I felt at the end of the book was not so much at what was said, but was actually a sort of disappointment that the book is over.

The book, the world, these characters became a part of my life.  I know for a fact that I have never spent this much time and effort on a book before (I didn’t even spend as much time on Ulysses, which I’ve read twice for a class).  And I think having the book left so open keeps the characters floating around in my head without actually letting them rest.  (Wraith-like if you will).

When I finished the book, the first thing I did was to go back to the beginning and re-read the Year of Glad section (now, for the third time!) [And I now I’m not the only person to have done so….just how many posts will say that that’s what they did?]. And I know that’s sort of the set-up of the book, like Finnegans Wake or even Pink Floyd’s The Wall.  And, in re-reading, even more gaps were filled in.  And that is, of course, why people read it multiple times.  And yet, do any of the multiple-times readers come any close to filing in the gaps of that lost year, or do they just find more and more awesome details to obsess over (or both)?

But before I get wrapped up in trying to “figure out what happened” I have to mention just how much I enjoyed the book.  I’ve never read anything like it.  The details, the quotes, the laughs, the pain.  It all sounds so trite (“It was better than Cats!”)  And yet, whether it’s the work itself or the amount of time spent on it, these characters are now with me.

So, I had read IJ when it came out.  And sometime in 1997 or 1998 after DFW published A Supposedly Fun Thing… he did a promotional tour stop in Boston.  And I recall getting up there and getting his autograph and saying how much I loved IJ and how it has stayed with me two years later. And that was true then (of course, if you’ve read me fumbling around and not remembering anything, you’ll know the details didn’t stay with me for 13 years, but that’s okay…the writing and the imagery stayed there somewhere.)

I think also, given the amount of time I spent on the book, and the amount of effort I expended keeping track of things, having this vacancy (both in the fact that the book is over and in the gap of one year) is really weird.  I’ve since read a bunch of reviews of IJ and the one thing I cannot imagine is how anyone with an advanced readers copy of this book could hope to read it in a few days (typical reviewer turnover time) and actually have something useful to say about it in time for a slated book review date?  I would think that if you weren’t following quite so closely you wouldn’t feel the sense of loss at the end of the book.

But enough pontificating.

Let’s think about what happened from 11/20 YDAU to Whataburger in late November, Year of Glad. (more…)

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