Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

Dear CF,

I started the evening rereading “Brief Interviews” and felt convicted and abased, recognizing in myself too much of what the Depressed Person says. And you, dear friend, are the beleaguered Support System with whom I (i.e. the depressed person) try constantly to really truly literally “share,” to whom I reach out for a glimmer of connectedness, for whom I try to Be There. To see myself thusly has only exacerbated my isolation-feelings, my anguish, my sense of injury, my feelings of abandonment. I’m nothing but a cracked bundle of need, a pail of neuroses. I think my three therapists would agree.

In that story the therapist dies “without leaving any sort of note or cassette or encouraging final words for any of the persons and/or clients in his life.”

For a moment I fantasized about DFW being my fourth therapist and indulged the ghoulish question that first struck me when I heard about his suicide:

Did he leave a note?

At any rate he left a cassette, and you found it. You’re right. It may be eleven years old, but Charlie Rose’s interview of David Foster Wallace covers 80% of what we’ve talked about, minus the sex. And I mean that literally–every time women appear, it’s a negative for him. He’s unhappy or exasperated with their role in his artistic world, and the feeling seems mutual.

On Unforgiven:

What’s interesting is that I don’t know a single female who likes the film. Females think ‘Western?’ It stinks. And if you can get them to watch it, it’s not a western at all. It’s a moral drama. It’s Henry James, basically. It’s very odd.”

Charlie gets worked up about this, agrees, and adds that this is the greatest rift his girlfriend and he have ever had about a movie.

(And there’s Henry James, king of the tragedy of manners, large as life. In a Western, no less–the one genre he might be least expected to appear in. I may have to watch Unforgiven after all.)

Wallace is even less happy with feminists who interpret the length of his books as having to do the length of his dick. I don’t blame him. First, it’s not true. Secondly, it’s not surprising that he prickles. The stakes of that sort of criticism are higher for him than they are for most. Returning for a moment to the irony of our generation constituting a Demographic, nothing would be quite so humiliating, for the culminating practitioner of a particular brand of artistic self-awareness, than to be found guilty of a truly unconscious influence.

But the dick’s not totally off the table. The Chronicle published an article on “intellectual crushes”–the brainy attraction a student feels to a certain kind of teacher. If anything, it’s the organ responsible for this feeling, the “intellectual dick,” that is the Firecracker’s great preoccupation (and Wallace is one, make no mistake). The writers he mentions—Delillo, Barthelme, Barth, Pynchon—were all well-hung in this department, and are all regular recipients of the male Firecracker’s admiration and energy. This isn’t penis envy, which Freud reserved for girls, and which it is evident, I think, that I suffer from. But it’s close.

Wallace says Lynch’s obsession is “The unbelievably grotesque existing in a kind of union with the unbelievably banal.” This truly brilliant take on Lynch gestures, I think, at what appeals to the cerebral Male. Let’s drag Henry’s brother William into this and call the Firecracker’s fierce (and not unjustified) admiration for Lynch, Barth et al. what it is, at least in part: a drive. Earlier than sex, but post-pre-Oedipal. It’s tribal and does not easily admit women–let’s be frank, it works better without them. It’s the universal desire to get lost in the funhouse and wee vigorously into the Po-Mo Stream of Consciousness (sponsored, alas, by the Depend Adult Undergarment).

Urinal cakes, mirrors, death diapers and the sublime, all in a tidy package.
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Pocketful of Miracles: Instant Replay of Two Scenes

Just to start us off, two scenes that seemed especially noteworthy:

Winning the Prize for Weirdest Exchange:

Joy Boy: “Why should Steve Darcey give the New York territory to Dave the Dude?”
Darcey: “You his mouthpiece?’
Joy Boy: “Call me his doormat.”

The Dude: “All my friends are nine feet tall and all my friends make very bad doormats.”
Darcey (rants for a bit, then): “You’re a big fish in the little pond, but all of a sudden all the little ponds are drying up. That’s where the king comes in… I’m gonna push some of you poor little gaspin’ sharks back into the water. My water. Gonna cover the whole country. Deep water.”
The Dude: “Deep, huh? How deep?”

Standout Crazy-Ass Scene: the fight. (to which I must add [!!!] [??] and yowZA).

  • 0:39: Joy Boy’s trying to hire the agent to protect the Dude.
  • 0:40: Cop Guy: “Mr. B has a touch of malgamary?”
  • 0:41: The Dude runs in, grabs her by the arm and throws her on the bed, all the while brandishing a rolled-up piece of newspaper.
  • They wrestle in a totally unsexy but realistic way, she rolls off the bed. He grabs her shirt and tears it off.
  • “You ain’t walkin’ out on me, Queenie,” Dave the Dude says. “I’m Dave the Dude!”
  • “I ain’t walkin’…” as she crawls away from him to the chair.
  • He grabs her shoe. Flash of knicker.
  • She gets up and heaves an enormous eggplant-shaped lamp at him.
  • Agent guy collects the coins that come out of the slot machine in his hat, plops it on his head.
  • Joy Boy yells at him. He lifts his hat and the coins spill out.
  • Are we supposed to think Joy Boy’s comment that “they’re just playing house” means this is normal?
  • “You owe me one thing, Queenie, and I’m gonna collect, you hear me?” Then he says something about her head that I can’t catch.
  • 0:42–She runs back to the bed and he literally jumps up into the air and on top of her. He’s airborne for a brief moment. He looks like a gazelle.
  • They roll off and out of view.
  • Silence.
  • Joy Boy walks in, says, “Isn’t this place like the inside of a goat’s stomach?”

Maybe the weirdest bedroom scene I’ve ever seen.