Books: Sex, Lies and Semiotics

David Foster Wallace casts a wry eye on romance

David Foster Wallace's Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (Little, Brown; 274 pages; $24) is a mixed bag of 23 essays and short stories that display a range of intellect and talent that is unseemly for any one writer to have, let alone show off. Like the author's earlier work, this collection is designed to keep readers from getting too comfortable. You know the feeling if you had trouble keeping up with the plot lines, arcana and footnotes that spread like kudzu through the 1,000 pages of Wallace's 1996 novel, Infinite Jest.

Wallace is not what is now sneeringly called an elitist....

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