My animosity toward David Foster Wallace, and my vow to never read anything he wrote, started while standing in the Fiction section of a Barnes & Noble on 8th Avenue while I was visiting New York City. Bookless and bored and battered by friends who said I needed to read Infinite Jest, I was anxious to hand over my cash and start devouring. Then I saw his picture:
on the book’s otherwise benign jacket. Bandanna, bandanna, impudent bandanna: it was too much! The wispy hair: adroitly plotted bedlam. The turtleneck, the well-planned beard growth, the soulful look: clearly executed by a man who possesses no soul! I swore him off.
For Christmas my little sister Jenny gave me a paperback copy of Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, his newish collection of short stories, despite knowing my questionably-justified loathing. Cross-legged under the tree, the two of us appointed heads of present distribution, I tried to push it back to her, but when you’re twenty-eight and your grandmother says, “leave your sissy alone and take your present like a Big Boy,” there is little room for rebuttal.