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Oblivion: Storiesby David Foster Wallace
"With his new story collection, David Foster Wallace has perfected a particularly subtle form of horror story — so subtle, in fact, that to judge from the book's reviews, few of his readers even realize that's what these stories are. The oblivion in this collection's title is what most of his characters are after. They have a past they want to forget, a future they'd prefer to avoid, and things about themselves they'd rather not think about at all. When you find out what they're running from, you can't blame them." Laura Miller, Salon.com (read the entire Salon.com review)
"The interest level varies, but Wallace is always a technically interesting writer...Wallace requires the reader to treat reading as a process of interpretation and assembly.....Oblivion's characters are getting older and watching the promise of their youth dissipate. These are powerful stories about the quiet desperation of adult life, and the full horror of monotonous work." Stephen Burn, The Times Literary Supplement (read the entire Times Literary Supplement review)
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. Agent, Bonnie Nadell. 5-city author tour. (June 8)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Mr. Wallace's previous work shows that he possesses a heightened gift for what the musician Robert Plant once called the 'deep and meaningless.' But in these pages it more often feels like the shallow and self-conscious." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times Book Review
"[Wallace] offers more stories in Oblivion. His best stuff is a peerless combination of intelligence, compassion, and lyricism that needs no apology or qualification." Elle
"The prodigiously talented Wallace riffs his way through parts of the brain most of us have never visited." Time Out New York
"There's a certain familiarity about [these stories] that suggests that...Wallace can't seem to write himself out of his own obsessions....
"'Good Old Neon' and 'Incarnations of Burned Children' end up feeling more visionary than the rest of the collection, an encouraging sign from a writer too skilled to let himself collect dust." Daniel Handler, Newsday
"Wallace is an astonishing storyteller whose fiction reminds us why we learned to read in the first place....Oblivion contains Wallace's rare insights...and moments of unflinching self-examination, often on a societal scale." Andrew Ervin, San Francisco Chronicle
"The fun of watching [Wallace's] high-wire act — maintaining a style you'd never guess you'd want to exist — is topped by the pleasure of seeing him make it evocative. (Grade: B+)" Troy Patterson, Entertainment Weekly
"Data-dazed. Cybernetic. Overstimulated. Maybe this is the voice of the true now. Or maybe genius, like language, can't do everything." Walter Kirn, The New York Times Book Review
This is the first new fiction in five years from one of the most prodigiously talented and original writers at work today.
About the Author
David Foster Wallace is the author of several books including Infinite Jest and Brief Interviews With Hideous Men. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and numerous other awards.
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