by David Foster Wallace


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316010764
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 08/30/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 125,442
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

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.

Date of Birth:

February 21, 1962

Date of Death:

September 12, 2008

Place of Birth:

Ithaca, NY

Place of Death:

Claremont, CA


B.A. in English & Philosophy, Amherst College, 1985;MFA, University of Arizona, 1987

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Oblivion 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
marck on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When news of David Foster Wallace's death reached me, my first temptation was to reach for his collection of essays, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. Alas, I had long ago loaned this book to someone, and both loaner and loanee have forgotten its proper home. So instead, I thought: why not read one of his works you have not yet read? This left me with either Oblivion or Brief Interviews with Hideous Men ... and as it turns out, Oblivion fell into my hands first.What surprised me was HOW LONG it would take me to get through this. Perhaps it was my state of mind, but Oblivion feels like a collection of stories where DFW was trying to figure out where to go next after the epic Infinite Jest -- playing with storytelling and prose styles ... with the predictable success.For me, the strongest story by far was the final "novella" (the second strongest being the first one) ... and by the time I had reached "The Suffering Channel" I had come to terms that, with this book at least, it's much more about the journey than the result. Even if you're a big DFW fan, I think to enjoy this book you need to be a writer, and the kind of writer who goes "meta" while reading, becoming aware of what the author is doing and pondering why he might be doing it. I know, I know: this sounds like a HORRIBLE thing to be doing with your time, doesn't it? So even though in the end I can say I enjoyed the book, it WAS quite a bit of work, and I can't say I'd recommend it to others -- or at least not unless I had a conversation with them first about where there "head is at" before they take it on.I'm also pleased to say that, thanks to Bookmooch, a new copy of A Supposedly Fun Thing ... is winging its way to me right now, and I look forward to immersing myself in the DFW I first fell in love with and really, truly missing him.
lssian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I made myself read the whole thing and it felt like an unwelcome chore. The stories felt labored, so that the humor and interest got buried.
rivkat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I¿ve decided that Wallace¿s extraordinarily complex sentences and paragraphs, digressive to the point of parody and out the other side, are best in nonfiction, though I¿m still going to try Infinite Jest because so many people I respect love it. In short fiction, though, Wallace¿s loopy, recursive stream of consciousness¿often revealing very bizarre and possibly even compelling circumstances that are quickly lost behind his narrators¿ self-obsession¿seems pointless. I learned something about cruise ships by reading his essay on the subject, but when you make your characters/situations too ridiculous in fiction, it¿s hard for me to care.
amydross on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow, what a head trip. I'll admit, some of these stories (particularly the first one) were hard to read thanks to what seems like Wallace's willful attempt to be flat out boring in places. I have no problem with convoluted sentences that go on for pages, but when they're only describing the minute details of a fictional marketing strategy, it's hard not to tune out.And yet, even in that story, once I slogged through I couldn't help be dazzled by Wallace's literary pyrotechnics. Forget everything you thought you knew about point of view or the demands of narrative or structure or character... Wallace never met a rule he couldn't break. And while it doesn't work 100% of the time, it works a lot more often than it should.The other stories in the collection were a lot more accessible, but still full of trippy examinations of narrative and mimesis and the illusion of memory. Most of these stories are, in one way or another, grasping attempts to describe the indescribable, to put the unspeakable into words. Even when it doesn't quite work, you can't help but admire the ambition.
piccoline on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As one would expect from such an aggressively experimental writer, not all the experiments here work fully, but each story is interesting, at the very least. My recent reread convinces me that three are in fact brilliant, perhaps even masterpieces: The Soul is Not a Smithy, The Suffering Channel, and (a flat out classic) Good Old Neon. Formally inventive, funny and sad, and moving, especially Good Old Neon.

DFW works very interestingly with narrative time throughout these stories as well, sometimes working almost in real-time, other times zooming in so close on the overwhelming rush of internal life that time seems hardly to move at all.

Read Good Old Neon at the very least.
saibancho on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first I have read by Wallace which I picked up after having read about his posthumous work The Pale King. I am so glad I found him and so sad that he won't be writing any more (RIP). The style is difficult with footnotes, acronyms, obscure vocabulary and a quite dense convoluted prose. But its well worth persevering with him. Oblivion is a collection of short stories and range from humour to existential despair of modern American life (especially the for want of a better word a focus on the emptiness of the lives of affluent sections of society - I wonder what a book about low downs would have been like). Entertaining, detailed, funny and creepy, otaku-maniac hyperprose style. I am looking forward to reading his 1000 page work Infinite Jest and The Pale King. Heavy stuff to get into and read but worth the puffs of steam and grinding cog work required to digest. Not for intellectual lightweights since this guy is coming from a serious math and philosophy area and you will need to have done some of both to really appreciate his peculiar brand of autistic counterblasting against the mundanity of life and the insanity of other people.
Reverend30 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Eh...I guess I'm kinda *off* DFW - I did a project on form in postmodern short stories when I was finishing my degree, and I kind of OD'd on him.There are some good ones in here, and some weak ones. The opener is the best of the bunch.
jbushnell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Strong collection from Wallace, with the opening and closing stories ("Mister Squishy" and "The Suffering Channel") being the high-water marks. These two stories are perhaps the strongest pieces of fiction I have ever read about life in corporate America, revealing yet another vast field of human experience that Wallace has seemingly obtained mastery over. Impressive.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hysterical realism. Buy geektionary and look it up.
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A friend.
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Whats going on?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Why was Troll trying to "save" you?