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Oblivion: Storiesby David Foster Wallace
In a body of work earmarked by information overload and hyperawareness, this final collection of stories by the '90s wunderkind focuses on its titular state, oblivion. At turns bawdy and heart-stopping, the defining feature of these stories are characters who miss a fateful, telling detail, who lack awareness, who suffer blind spots. The stories here are the very finest examples of modern tragedy American letters have to offer.
Synopses & Reviews
One of the most prodigiously talented and original writers at work today returns with his first new fiction in five years.
In the stories that make up Oblivion, David Foster Wallace joins the rawest, most naked humanity with the infinite involutions of self-consciousness-a combination that is dazzlingly, uniquely his. These are worlds undreamt-of by any other mind. Only David Foster Wallace could convey a father's desperate loneliness by way of his son's daydreaming through a teacher's homicidal breakdown ("The Soul Is Not a Smithy"). Or explore the deepest and most hilarious aspects of creativity by delineating the office politics surrounding a magazine profile of an artist who produces miniature sculptures in an anatomically inconceivable way ("The Suffering Channel"). Or capture the ache of love's breakdown in the painfully polite apologies of a man who believes his wife is hallucinating the sound of his snoring ("Oblivion").
Each of these stories is a complete world, as fully imagined as most entire novels, at once preposterously surreal and painfully immediate. Oblivion is an arresting and hilarious new creation from a writer "whose best work challenges and reinvents the art of fiction" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution).
"In his best work, Infinite Jest, Wallace leavened his smartest-boy-in-class style, perfected in his essays and short stories, with a stereoscopic reproduction of other voices. Wallace's trademark, however, is an officious specificity, typical of the Grade A student overreaching: shifting levels of microscopic detail and self-reflection. This collection of eight stories highlights both the power and the weakness of these idiosyncrasies. The best story in the book, "Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature," assembles a typical Wallaceian absurdity: a paroled, autodidactic arachnophile accompanies his mother, the victim of plastic surgery malpractice ("the cosmetic surgeon botched it and did something to the musculature of her face which caused her to look insanely frightened at all times"), on a bus ride to a lawyer's office. "The Suffering Channel" moves from the grotesque to the gross-out, as a journalist for Style (a celebrity magazine) pursues a story about a man whose excrement comes out as sculpture. The title story, about a man and wife driven to visit a sleep clinic, is narrated by the husband, who soon reveals himself to be the tedious idiot his father-in-law takes him for. While this collection may please Wallace's most rabid fans, others will be disappointed that a writer of so much talent seems content, this time around, to retreat into a set of his most overused stylistic quirks." Publishers Weekly
"Profoundly intrigued with the paradoxes of being, the haphazard forging of the self, and the relentless cascade of consciousness, he has one of his obsessed narrators bemoan language's inability to convey the psyche's wildness, yet Wallace's torrential prose comes awfully close."Booklist
"Lots of weird stories from the irrepressible author of Infinite Jest, featuring such characters as a parolee who carefully guards his spider collection." Library Journal
"This ingenious anatomy of incompatibility perfectly illustrates Wallace's genius for combining intellectual high seriousness and tomfoolery with compassionate insight into distinctively contemporary fears and neuroses." Kirkus Reviews
"It would be best to state right and first off that David Foster Wallace's new collection of stories is very, very good....Oblivion contains stories that are utterly unprecedented." Newsday
"....Oblivion navigates maze-like psychology with verbal mastery and surrealistic glee." Village Voice
"No other writer now working communicates so dazzlingly what life will feel like the day after tomorrow." Elle
"Wallace is the best kind of show-off, a writer who is not complacent with his writerly gifts....He can risk magnificently, and when he succeeds, the result is startling, visionary fiction." San Francisco Chronicle
"One of the big talents of his generation, a writer of virtuosic talents who can seemingly do anything." New York Times
"Wallace is the dark prince of contemporary American fiction." Details
"The most exciting fiction writer out there." OC Weekly
"Wallace has planted himself firmly as the American writer of his generation to watch, to match, and, most urgently, to read." Salon
"Wallace masters every area he writes about....He has the vocabulary. He has the energy. He has the big ideas. He has the attitude." Walter Kirn, New York Times Book Review
"Breathtakingly smart." Joel Stein, Time
"Pay attention to this writer....He's telling us a lot about the hypocrisy and the sordidness of modern life, and he doesn't spare anyone." Debra Bruno, Chicago Sun-Times
"At once cool and intimate, Oblivion reads, to creepy effect, like an X-ray of one of John Updike's classics of marital strain....Wallace has dreamt up a new vocabulary for lives of quiet desperation." Troy Patterson, Entertainment Weekly
"David Foster Wallace has earned a place as one of America's most daring and talented young writers....His eye for cultural detail is ever sharp, his humor ever dry...." Scott Morris, Los Angeles Times Book Review
In the stories that make up this exuberantly praised collection, Wallace joins the rawest, most naked humanity with the infinite involutions of self-consciousness — a combination that is dazzlingly, uniquely his.
About the Author
David Foster Wallace is the author of Infinite Jest, The Broom of the System, and Girl With Curious Hair. His essays and stories have appeared in Harper's, The New Yorker, Playboy, Paris Review, Conjunctions, Premiere, Tennis, The Missouri Review, and The Review of Contemporary Fiction. Wallace has received the Whiting Award, the Lannan Award for Fiction, the Paris Review Prize for humor, the QPB Joe Savago New Voices Award, and an O. Henry Award.
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