There are 10 more stories worth discussing, stories like "Adult World," which is about the way self-consciousness about sexual performance helps ruin a marriage; "Octet," a powerful piece of meta-metafiction that ought to re-energize John Barth about a form he once championed; "Tri-Stan: I Sold Sissee Nar to Ecko," a mock-heroic tour de force that uses a bizarre combination of epic conceits and Gen-X demotic code to tell a story about Hollywood; and "On His Deathbed . . .," a boisterously funny story about a father who despises his infant son for being, well, a selfish infant. "Why does no one tell you? Why do all regard it as a blessed event?" he begins; he then goes on to describe in indefatigable detail the unforeseeable trials that await all new fathers.
Wallace is, for my money, the most exciting fiction writer out there at the moment, right on top of the Zeitgeist and more attuned to the formal possibilities of fiction than anyone else. What's more, he is naming the secrets of the generation that is now coming to inherit America's cultural legacy, and so there is no way for it not to listen. He has fully arrived; he is major. And reading him, you realize that the world is more and more (insert adjective here).
Brief Interviews With Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace; Little, Brown. 273 pages. $24 hardcover.