Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

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Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men cover.jpg
First Edition hardcover
AuthorDavid Foster Wallace
Cover artistJohn Fulbrook III
CountryUnited States
GenreShort story
PublisherLittle, Brown and Company
Publication date
May 28, 1999
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Pages288 pp
813/.54 21
LC ClassPS3573.A425635 B65 1999

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men is a short story collection by the late American writer David Foster Wallace, first published in 1999 by Little, Brown. According to the papers in the David Foster Wallace Archive at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin,[1] the book had an estimated gross sales of 28,000 hardcover copies during the first year of its publication.

Themes and analysis[edit]

The 23 metafictional pieces in the collection are "difficult to categorise, roaming wilfully across the boundaries of genres and inventing new ones", which one story ("Octet") appears to "self-mockingly acknowledge".[2]

Four of the stories are titled "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men" and consist of numbered sections of varying length presented as transcripts of interviews with male subjects. The interviewer's questions are omitted from the transcripts, rendered merely as "Q". The collection is characterized by dark humor, alienation and irony.

As its title suggests, the book critiques aspects of modern masculinity and male chauvinism. "The 'hideous men' in Wallace's short stories are monstrous, parodic versions of Updikean characters, scrutinized with the eye of a pathologist ... Their sin is an implacable, and peculiarly American, strain of egoism."[3]

In light of revelations regarding Wallace’s abusive behavior toward Mary Karr,[4] some scholars have questioned the motives of Wallace’s stories, particularly in the collection which prominently featured misogynistic male characters. Amy Hungerford, a professor of English at Yale University, most notably in her book Making Literature Now,[5] posed the same question for the collection and whether we can separate the art from the artist. She concluded in the negative and argued that readers and academics should stop reading and teaching Wallace's work. Clare Hayes-Brady, a leading female Wallace scholar, responded to Hungerford's assertion in an interview with the Los Angeles Review of Books by emphasizing that it is the duty of a critic or scholar to engage with problematic authors and examine them closely for what they bring to the table rather than dismissing them outright.[6]

In recent times, Wallace's work, and this collection in particular, has attracted the attention of scholars and academics, with some arguing that although Wallace's behavior is unforgivable, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men can be a source of study for possible explanation on the misogynistic traits and behavior of the male gender.[7]

Critical reception[edit]

The collection was selected by The New York Times as one of the notable books of the year 1999.[8]

In 1997 Wallace was awarded the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction by the editors of The Paris Review for "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men #6",[9] which had appeared in the magazine and appears as "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men #20" in the collection.[10]

The collection is one of writer Zadie Smith’s favorite books.[11] She wrote an appreciation of both the collection and Wallace titled "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men: The Difficult Gifts of David Foster Wallace". The piece was included in her 2009 essay collection Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays.[12]

The British writer and literary critic for The Guardian, Chris Power, highlights the dilemma book critics face in reviewing Wallace's works: to reconcile the brilliance of his writing with the difficult and often problematic aspects of his subject matter. In a piece on Wallace’s contribution to the short story, Power writes, "His second collection, for example, Brief Interviews With Hideous Men (1999), is a brilliant book that is very difficult to enjoy."[13]

Writer and book critic Andrew Ervin writing in the San Francisco Chronicle was of the opinion that the collection "stands as Wallace's most compelling, brilliant and complete book."[14]

Performances and adaptations[edit]

The book has been adapted numerous times for stage and screen.

In August 2000, 12 of the "Interviews" were adapted into a stage play (Hideous Men) by Dylan McCullough, marking the first theatrical adaptation of any of Wallace's works.[15] McCullough directed the premiere at the New York International Fringe Festival.[16]

John Krasinski adapted and directed a 2009 film version of the "Brief Interviews" stories.[17] Julianne Nicholson plays Sara Quinn, the interviewer unnamed in the stories.[18]

Also in 2009, Hachette Audio released an abridged audiobook production of the book read by an ensemble cast similar to that of Krasinski's film, including Krasinski, Will Arnett, Bobby Cannavale, Chris Messina, Corey Stoll, Will Forte, and the author.[19]

In August 2012, British artists Andy Holden and David Raymond Conroy presented a stage adaptation of the book at the ICA, London,[20] which later toured to Arnolfini, Bristol.[21] The production adapted four of the interviews and one short story using a variety of multimedia techniques, and contained new music by the Grubby Mitts.

A stage production adapting 21 of the interviews and stories, titled "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men", was directed by David McGuff for Yellow Lab Productions. The production ran three nights, August 28–30, 2014, at the Hill Country Arts Foundation's Point Theater on the Elizabeth Huth Coates indoor stage.[22]

In 2021, the book was adapted for the stage in a German-language production titled Kurze Interviews mit fiesen Männern – 22 Arten der Einsamkeit.[23] The production was staged at the Schauspielhaus Zürich and directed by Yana Ross.[24][25]


The book has been translated into Italian, Spanish, Polish, Turkish, Portuguese, Czech, Finnish, Greek, German, Russian, Dutch, Serbian, French, Croatian and Hebrew.[26]


  1. ^ Harry Ransom Center (9 March 2010). "David Foster Wallace Archive". University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  2. ^ Stephanie Merritt (28 January 2001). "The good, the bad... Review:Brief interviews with hideous men". Guardian. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  3. ^ Adam Goodheart (20 June 1999). "Review: Brief interviews with hideous men". New York Times. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  4. ^ K.W. Colyard (8 May 2018). "Mary Karr has Always Said David Foster Wallace Abused Her..." Bustle. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  5. ^ Making Literature Now. Stanford University Press. OCLC 1198931290.
  6. ^ Steve Paulson (10 September 2018). "David Foster Wallace in the #MeToo Era". LA Review of Books. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  7. ^ Lauren Ray (Fall 2020). "Excusable Versus Explainable Misogyny in David Foster Wallace's Brief Interviews with Hideous Men" (PDF). Thesis University of North Carolina. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  8. ^ Archive (5 December 1999). "Notable Books of the Year". New York Times. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  9. ^ Editorial Paris Review (2021). "Paris Review Prizes". Paris Review. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  10. ^ Rachel Haley Himmelheber (13 October 2014). ""I Believed She Could Save Me": Rape Culture in David Foster Wallace's "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men #20"". Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction. 55 (5): 522–535. doi:10.1080/00111619.2013.829798. S2CID 161904004. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  11. ^ Radical Reads (14 January 2019). "Zadie Smith's Bookshelf". Radical Reads Writers. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  12. ^ Ella Taylor (15 November 2009). "Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith". LA Times. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  13. ^ Chris Power (25 May 2015). "A brief survey of the short story: David Foster Wallace". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  14. ^ Andrew Ervin (13 June 2004). "Wallace's all-over-the-map approach pays off". SF Chronicle. Archived from the original on 9 August 2007. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  15. ^ Christine Ehren (16 August 2000). "Hideous Men". Fringe Watch. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  16. ^ Theatre Mania (16 August 2000). "Hideous Men". Theater Mania. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  17. ^ IMDB (2009). "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men". IMDB. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  18. ^ Lane Brown (3 September 2009). "Vulture Premieres the Poster for John Krasinski's Brief Interviews with Hideous Men". Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  19. ^ Brief interviews with hideous men. WorldCat. OCLC 318877943.
  20. ^ "Andy Holden and David Raymond Conroy in conversation with Anna Gritz | Institute of Contemporary Arts". Archived from the original on 2015-01-05. Retrieved 2015-01-05.
  21. ^ "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men".
  22. ^ David McGuff (22 August 2014). "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men - A Yellow Lab Production". Facebook Event. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  23. ^ ""Kurze Interviews mit fiesen Männern" in Zürich - Porno und die große Einsamkeit unserer Zeit". Deutschlandfunk Kultur (in German). 2021-09-11. Retrieved 2022-08-18.
  24. ^ Kopitzki, Siegmund (2021-09-13). "Theater: 25 Sekunden Sex live auf der Bühne: Neues Stück am Zürcher Schauspielhaus sorgt für Aufsehen". SÜDKURIER Online (in German). Retrieved 2022-08-18.
  25. ^ Heintges, Valeria. "Kurze Interviews mit fiesen Männern. 22 Arten der Einsamkeit. – Schauspielhaus Zürich – Yana Ross inszeniert den Erzählband von David Foster Wallace". Retrieved 2022-08-18.
  26. ^ Good Reads. "Editions of Brief Interviews". Good Reads. Retrieved 27 May 2021.

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