The pre-occupation with literary devices such as foot and end notes, his mix of Faulknerian ambition in sentence structure and Mamet-ian syntax, and his love of grotesquely comic turns of events will be familiar to any reader of Infinite Jest (all 6 of them).
In fact the structure of the brief interviews which form most of the book are lifted almost directly from a footnoted section of IJ. Of course, what constitutes a retread for Wallace would be groundbreaking on a palatial shift level for any other contemporary writer. What sets Brief Interviews apart from Wallace’s previous work is – to quote the renowned literary critic Bruce Lee – ’emotional content’.
Whereas Wallace’s older works could be faulted for being so precociously experimental that they lose track of the humanity they are purported to portray, Interviews manages to keep it real – “it” being character and emotional tone, as well as the misguided insertion of hip hop slang.
The hideous men of the title aren’t convicts, hunchbacks or deadbeat dads, but men who are likely to be among Wallace’s readership; men who end their relationships by saying that they “both need to grow,” men who only feel genuine emotions for their one night stands after hearing a personal rape history, men who are fascinated by the intricacies of the discussion leading up to bondage sex play.
Wallace is dealing with thoughts and emotions that fall between the cracks; the hideousness of many men lies not in their words or actions, but in their rationalizations. He’s holding a mirror up to his audience, and it’s not as much of a fun house mirror as his readership may like to believe.