Home » Girl With Curious Hair Stories by David Foster Wallace
Girl With Curious Hair Stories David Foster Wallace

Girl With Curious Hair Stories

David Foster Wallace

373 pages
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 About the Book 

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 Garimas 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.4.5/5(1) It has been suggested that the title story is Wallaces attempt to poke his elbow into the ribs of literary Brat Pack writers such as Bret Easton Ellis. It has been speculated that Ellis recent negative commentary on DFW spawned from stories such as this. Read the article by DFWs editor