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Oblivion: Stories [Paperback]

David Foster Wallace
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 April 2005

A visionary, a craftsman, a comedian ... He can do anything with a piece of prose, and it is a humbling experience to see him go to work on what has passed up till now as 'modern fiction'. He's so modern he's in a different time-space continuum from the rest of us. Goddamn him' ZADIE SMITH

A recognised master of form and a brilliant recorder of human behaviour, David Foster Wallace has been hailed as 'the most significant writer of his generation' (TLS). Each new book confirms and extends his genius, and this new short story collection is no exception. In the stories that make up OBLIVION, David Foster Wallace conjoins the rawest, most naked humanity with the infinite convolutions of self-consciousness - a combination that is dazzlingly, uniquely his.

'Wallace's talent is such that you can't help wondering: how good can he get?' TIME OUT

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Oblivion: Stories + Consider The Lobster: Essays and Arguments + A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again
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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (28 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349116490
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349116495
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 90,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Foster Wallace wrote the acclaimed novels Infinite Jest and The Broom of the System and the story collections Oblivion, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and Girl With Curious Hair. His nonfiction includes the essay collections Consider the Lobster and A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, and the full-length work Everything and More. He died in 2008.

Product Description


A visionary, a craftsman, a comedian ... He's so modern he's in a different time-space continuum from the rest of us. Goddamn him (Zadie Smith)

The heir apparent to Thomas Pynchon (Douglas Kennedy, THE TIMES)

David Foster Wallace comes with a high reputation to live up to, and in these superbly written stories, he does ... there is a strong element of jokiness in these tales, but it is a deadpan, cumulative humour, not satire of the stand aloof, easily mocking variety ... Here he has shown once again that his is a major and entirely distinct talent (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

With the exception of Don DeLillo, no writer better depicts the crushing effect of the information age on the soul. His strangely dignified characters fight desperately to maintain sovereignty over their inner lives against the onslaught of high technolo (Stephen Amidon, SUNDAY TIMES)

Book Description

* A brand new short story collection from 'the most significant writer of his generation' (TLS)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good place to begin with Wallace 13 July 2011
By Paul Bowes TOP 500 REVIEWER
Readers come to David Foster Wallace by any of a number different routes. During his life he published novels, short stories, a book on mathematics and collections of journalistic articles. Since his death in 2008, another collection, his unpublished thesis and an unfinished novel have emerged. Of all this varied production, the articles seem - rather worryingly - to be becoming more celebrated than the fiction. In addition, the long novel 'Infinite Jest' has erased much of his other writing in the public mind by virtue of its fabled length, ambition and difficulty, which has made it a novel arguably more talked about than read.

I have always felt that Wallace's best writing is in his short stories. The limits of the shorter form curb his single greatest weakness, which was his inability or unwillingness to rein in his tendency to digression. They make the concentration of his gaze and density of his prose at the level of the sentence and paragraph appear appropriate to the demands of the form rather than the accidental product of a failure to control larger structures - which is certainly a criticism that can be levelled at the novels.

I first read 'Oblivion' in 2005, and on rereading I find it to be both characteristic of Wallace and somewhat easier to approach than the early collections, and therefore a good place to start for the reader completely new to the author. In fact, it's the opening story, 'Mister Squishy', that presents the greatest test of endurance for the uninitiated, and I would actually recommend beginning with the shorter - and very funny - 'Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature' for the reader dipping a toe. But everything here - stories varying from a couple of pages to almost novella length - repays persistence.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Demanding, entrancing 18 Sep 2009
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Each of the stories in this collection is memorable and atmospheric and taken together they put the reader through a marathon of amazing writing.

In the first one, Mister Squishy, we are given the thoughts and thought -processes of a middling marketing officer for a large corporation in New York as he speaks to a focus group of men who are testing a cake bar called Felony, which has the company's logo Mr Squishy face behind bars. The idea is that this cake bar is so good it is almost illegal. This story is far too long and has a sub-plot that comes to nothing and as such it is the most disappointing story in this collection. However, I have to say that the impressive thing about it is the denseness of the writing. It is deep and reflexive and hugely digressive without ever seeming to leave its subject. That is, it goes deep into its subject, much more deeply than a writer usually has the capacity for, and this makes it both uncomfortable and complicated to read. The kind of concentration needed is not rewarded by much insight, other than the fact that the narrator knows how empty and pointless these kinds of marketing exercises are and how pointless are all the statistical and technical paraphernalia that surround them.

The title story Oblivion is about a couple whose daughter has left home for college leaving them to personal irritations concerning whether or not the husband snores. This is darkly comic and disturbing, but again, far too long.

The last story in this collection is a masterpiece and converted me to agreeing with the blurb, penned by Douglas Kennedy, that calls the writer "The heir apparent to Thomas Pynchon". It is surreal, believable and marvellous.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dark and funny 7 Aug 2014
By Curly
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was recommended this by a friend (a huge Wallace fan) and while I've only read a couple of the short stories (Good Old Neon and whichever comes after, with the unfortunate cosmetic surgery incident), I've come to love the sombre yet darkly humorous tone that is apparently characteristic of Wallace.

Get it!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious and depressing stories 6 Jan 2014
By Silentg
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I've read reviews like - "a book for intelligent readers", they make me laugh. I know Wallace committed suicide so no need to go into a lengthy trashing of the book. It is targetted at a specific type of reader, I can only compare reading it, to my studying of textbooks on Advanced Statistics. After a while I felt drained and there wasn't any enjoyment. As soon as i got interested in a character i would endure pages of complete technical detail. After reading most of thestories, all very depressing to boot, I moved on.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Olivion - DFW 26 Aug 2013
I don't particularly rate Wallace's first two short story collections, 'Girl With Curious Hair' and 'Brief Interviews With Hideous Men'. As the author himself commented on BIWHM: "There isn't really an agenda with this book, except for a certain amount of technical, formal stuff that I don't know if I want to talk about and I don't think people really want to hear about."

That was always my problem with both aforementioned collections of short fiction: they were overtly technical exercises for Wallace to show off his skillset and remind everyone just how smart a writer he was. The problem was there was no payoff for the hardwork involved, something that Wallace *knew* was required and explains why his novels feature as many hilarious sections as they do intricate technical passages. The point being, Wallace's short fiction often doesn't have the space to be both technical and engaging.

'Oblivion' is certainly the best stab at this combination in the short form that Wallace made, with "The Suffering Channel" being exactly what I wish more of his short stories were like: readable, true to his style, but dealing with heavyweight themes in a manner that interested, rather than alienated the reader. Even better is "Good Old Neon", which is without doubt the best short he wrote (much better than "The Depressed Person" to which it is, understandably, frequently linked). It makes for grim reading in retrospect of Wallace's death, but even had I read it before that event it still would have registered as a brilliant piece of writing. Its insight and conveyance of a particular mind is almost unmatched.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Sharp Edge of the Truth
If you lacked the patience to get through Infinite Jest or the Pale King, these short stories are the perfect way to get acquainted with a master wordsmith who can confuse you like... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Keizu
1.0 out of 5 stars What's not to hate?
The first story is a practically unreadable cross between George Saunders and Nicholson Baker, even skipping (which I hate doing). Read more
Published 22 months ago by Simon Barrett
5.0 out of 5 stars rare abstraction
dfw gives so much pleasure; he never seems to miss
what interests him interests the reader
brave observations
surely, only 10%/15% of his work was done
Published on 26 July 2011 by Mr. D. G. Baker
4.0 out of 5 stars Good collection of stories
Oblivion is a short story collection by the recently-deceased author David Foster Wallace comprising 8 stories and 329 pages. Read more
Published on 25 Sep 2008 by Guardian of the Scales
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best
Unless you work in market research, and as long as you like fiction, you'll be blown away by this. one of those treats that makes you realise we live in a literary sweet shop where... Read more
Published on 19 Dec 2007 by J. R. Collinson
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond any other living writer.
David Foster Wallace has been likened (not especially favourably) of late to Zadie Smith, Thomas Pynchon and even Salman Rushdie, as an exponent of, and member of, a new literary... Read more
Published on 13 May 2005 by Mr. J. A. Tawton
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