Oblivion [NOOK Book]

Overview

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 could explore the deepest and most hilarious aspects of creativity by delineating the office ...
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Oblivion

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Overview

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 could 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.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Lots of weird stories from the irrepressible author of Infinite Jest, featuring such characters as a parolee who carefully guards his spider collection. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Media overkill and other forms of contemporary paranoia and mendacity take their lumps in this third collection from the brainy postmodernist author (Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, 1999, etc.). The most conventional of its eight impressively varied stories is "The Surfing Channel," the raffish satirical account of trendy Style magazine's research into the personal history of a popular sculptor who works in the medium of human excrement. How he produces his art is about what you'd expect ("Maybe his colon somehow knows things his conscious mind doesn't"), and Wallace's deadpan depiction of his manufactured celebrity is both hilarious and, uh, fundamentally silly. Elsewhere, we encounter an ad agency manipulating public hunger for a cholesterol-laden product ("Mr. Squishy"), a possibly suicidal yuppie devoted to obsessive analysis of his own "fraudulence" ("Good Old Neon"), and the story (told in conversations overheard during a business flight) of an "omniscient child" born in a Third World rain forest and commercially exploited by his fellow villagers ("Another Pioneer"). But Wallace is as versatile as he is facile, capable of such contrasting stunners as a blistering vignette that describes in headlong charged prose the accidental severe burning of a toddler and his parents' panicked efforts to save his life ("Incarnations of Burned Children") and the volume's two standout pieces. In "The Soul is Not a Smithy," a depressed, lonely father sorrowfully recalls a violent episode at his son's elementary school, an episode that the distracted boy survived almost without noticing it: a terrific story, in which the generation gap yawns unbridgeably. Then there's "Oblivion," the narrative ofa 40-ish husband whose wife objects to his nonexistent snoring, leading him to an Orwellian Sleep Clinic, and to question everything he thinks he knows about himself. 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. One of our best young writers just keeps getting better. Agent: Bonnie Nadell/Frederick Hill Bonnie Nadell Literary Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780759511569
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 6/8/2004
  • Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 358,763
  • File size: 371 KB

Meet the Author

David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace was born in Ithaca, New York, in 1962 and raised in Illinois, where he was a regionally ranked junior tennis player. He received bachelor of arts degrees in philosophy and English from Amherst College and wrote what would become his first novel, The Broom of the System, as his senior English thesis. He received a masters of fine arts from University of Arizona in 1987 and briefly pursued graduate work in philosophy at Harvard University. His second novel, Infinite Jest, was published in 1996. Wallace taught creative writing at Emerson College, Illinois State University, and Pomona College, and published the story collections Girl with Curious Hair, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, Oblivion, the essay collections A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, and Consider the Lobster. He was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Award, and a Whiting Writers' Award, and was appointed to the Usage Panel for The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. He died in 2008. His last novel, The Pale King, was published in 2011.

Biography

Born in Ithaca, NY, and raised in Champaign, IL, David Foster Wallace grew up athletically gifted and exceptionally bright, with an avid interest in tennis, literature, philosophy, and math. He attended Amherst and graduated in 1985 with a double major in English and Philosophy. His philosophy thesis (on modal logic) won the Gail Kennedy Memorial Prize. His English thesis would become his first novel, The Broom of the System. Published in 1987 during his second year of grad school at the University of Arizona, the book sold well, garnering national attention and critical praise in equal measure. Two years later, a book of short stories, Girl with Curious Hair, was published to admiring reviews.

In the early 1990s, Wallace's short fiction began to appear regularly in publications like Playboy, The Paris Review, and The New Yorker, along with excerpts from his second novel, a complex, enormously ambitious work published in 1996 as Infinite Jest. Surpassing 1,000 pages in length, the novel was hailed as a masterpiece ("[A]n entertainment so irresistibly pleasurable it renders the viewer catatonic," raved Newsweek. "[R]esourceful, hilarious, intelligent, and unique," pronounced Atlantic Monthly), and Wallace was crowned on the spot the new heavyweight champion of literary fiction.

Hyperbole aside, Infinite Jest, with its linguistic acrobatics (challenging complex clauses, coined words, etc.) and sly, self-referential footnotes, proved to be the template for a new literary style. Subversive, hip, and teeming with postmodernist irony, the book attracted a rabid cult following and exerted an influence on up-and-coming young writers that is still felt today. The scope of Wallace's achievement can be measured by the fact that one year after the publication of Infinite Jest, he was awarded the MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant."

Nearly as famous for his nonfiction as for his novels and stories, Wallace produced mind-boggling essays on assignment for magazines like Harper's. In contrast to his sad, dark, disturbing fiction, these essays -- subsequently collected into such bestselling anthologies as A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again (1997), Everything and More (2003), and Consider the Lobster (2007) -- were ridiculously exuberant, fairly bursting with humor, energy, and good cheer. Yet Wallace himself suffered from clinical depression most of his adult life. He was treated successfully with anti-depressants, until side effects from the drugs began to interfere with his productivity. At his doctor's suggestion, he stopped taking the medication.The depression returned, and he did not respond to any further treatment. In September of 2008, at the age of 46, he committed suicide.

Wallace's influence on contemporary literature cannot be overstated. Descended from post-war superstars like Thomas Pynchon and Don De Lillo, his style is clearly visible in the work of postmodernists like Jonathan Safran Foer and Dave Eggers. His untimely death was mourned by critics, writers, and millions of adoring fans. As author David Lipsky stated in a tribute that aired on NPR in September, 2008: "To read David Foster Wallace was to feel your eyelids pulled open."

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    1. Date of Birth:
      February 21, 1962
    2. Place of Birth:
      Ithaca, NY
    1. Date of Death:
      September 12, 2008
    2. Place of Death:
      Claremont, CA
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English & Philosophy, Amherst College, 1985;MFA, University of Arizona, 1987

Table of Contents

Mister Squishy 3
The soul is not a smithy 67
Incarnations of burned children 114
Another pioneer 117
Good old neon 141
Philosophy and the mirror of nature 182
Oblivion 190
The suffering channel 238
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 16 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(9)

4 Star

(3)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2004

    An Acquired Taste

    David Foster Wallace is a unique writer and has developed a following who seem enchanted with the emperor's new clothes. That is in no way a put-down: there are many writers who have a style of writing that appeals to certain readers and not others, and that does not discount those writers' gifts. For example, there are many readers who have yet to wade through all the volumes of Marcel Proust's 'A la Recherché du Temps Perdu (In Search of Lost Time),' or have struggled through James Joyce's 'Ulysses' or 'Finnegan's Wake¿, or have been frustrated with TS Eliot's phrasing, Virginia Wolff's and Gertrude Stein's styles, etc. My frustration with reading David Foster Wallace in general, and OBLIVION in particular, is that it all seems so self indulgent. Yes, we all love to be challenged into following thought lines that meander for pages, sometimes as a single sentence, if the thought pursued is additive. Wallace is obviously bright and is most assuredly clever and can write hilarious insights into the foibles of living in 2004. Some of these stories are uncommonly terse and complete: 'Incarnations of Burned Children' is a masterpiece of short story development in a matter of a few dense pages. But for the most part, for this reader, Wallace puts us on a roller coaster ride that feels more like an intellectual sideshow gag than one concerned with a story. 'Mister Squishy' is more a novella that just doesn't seem to know how to get where it wants to go. Yes, a healthy dollop of patience and indulgence and extended periods of time will uncover some excellent wordsmithing, but Wallace is an acquired taste. I just haven't acquired it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2005

    Difficult, at first, but worth it

    This book is tough to read. Having said that however, this was the first book of Wallace's I attempted to read. Wallace starts out the collection with probably the most difficult story of the group, mostly because of marketing jargon. The story is interesting enough to keep you reading but the catch with this story, this entire book, is you have to read carefully. This book is not for a beginner reader, not that anyone can't understand it, but when sentences run on for pages and paragraph breaks are few and far between, you can find yourself stranded on a verbal island with no real idea how you got there. I'm waiting for the paperback later this spring, to re-read and make sure I got the full understanding. Easily one of the most gifted writers currently writing, Wallace is brainy--this is not a casual beach-read type, but extremely interesting and original.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2012

    V

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2013

    A solid work

    Not DFW's best, but if you're a fan, you'll likely enjoy nonetheless. And if you're new to checking him out, it's an enjoyable and accessible book that might pique your interest for more.

    -SB

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2013

    Two words:

    Hysterical realism. Buy geektionary and look it up.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2012

    Sparrow

    Whats going on?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2012

    TROLL

    Yup!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2012

    Storm

    A friend.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2012

    Daybreak

    Why was Troll trying to "save" you?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2012

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    Posted December 19, 2009

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    Posted January 19, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2008

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2009

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    Posted December 27, 2009

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    Posted January 12, 2010

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    Posted January 5, 2010

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    Posted March 24, 2011

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    Posted April 29, 2009

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