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Oblivion: Stories by David Foster Wallace
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Oblivion: Stories (original 2004; edition 2005)

by David Foster Wallace

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1,797283,895 (3.88)43
Member:jSummer
Title:Oblivion: Stories
Authors:David Foster Wallace
Info:Back Bay Books (2005), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
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Oblivion by David Foster Wallace (2004)

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» See also 43 mentions

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"Mr. Squishy"
The complexity of "Mr. Squishy" has been compared to a Magic Eye poster. Reading and rereading will yield varying results. Getting up close will show you something different than if you backed away or circled it, growling like a battle-ready rabid dog. As readers, we step into the scene as it is already underway, a focus group talking about an initially unnamed product. Then we discover we are focused on a chocolate dessert food product under the brand name of Mr. Squishy. The company is trying to market a chocolate dessert with the name "Felonies!" At the same time, unrelated to the scene on the inside is an individual climbing the outside glass wall. The duality of scenes implies an inside looking out/outside looking in desire.

"The Suffering Channel"

Brint Molke is an artist. His medium is not oils or watercolor. He specializes in his own excrement. Not to say he is a sculpture in sh!t. He just happens to defecate art. This astonishing feat caught the attention of Skip Atwater, writer for Style magazine. The title of Wallace's short story comes from Skip's coverage of a cable channel called...wait for it...the suffering channel. A 24/7/365 channel where, you guessed it, one can watch images of all kinds of suffering. There is more to the story than this, but the overlaying detail that shrouds everything is Style magazine is located in one of the World Trade Center Towers and it's September 10th, 2001. In other words, nothing in the story matters because in a day's time everything will change. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Jun 7, 2016 |
The titular story blew my mind. Awesome. ( )
  evamat72 | Mar 31, 2016 |
Anche qui DFW - non si puo' dire che supera se' stesso, non paiono esserci limiti a quello che questo ragazzaccio capelluto [su YouTube c'e' una sua intervista dove lo si vede abbigliato buffamente] puo' fare con il linguaggio scritto e con le visioni letterarie che lo accompagnano - fa centro. Otto romanzi brevi, dove il piu' breve - 4 pagine appena - fa letteralmente rabbrividire per la tragica possibilità che ciò che vi è scritto accada *esattamente* cosi' come è descritto. Ho provato a riaprirlo ora, per cercare una frase che non ricordavo - e che non ho trovato - e ho dovuto chiudere. "Caro vecchio neon" è un altro acutissimo racconto, che forse neppure nei sogni di uno psicoterapeuta junghiano potrebbe essere narrato meglio. "Mr Squishy" un po' - volutamente - sopra le righe e intenzionalmente difficile, con varie trame che si intersecano, acronimi che appesantiscono il testo e svolgimento non del tutto comprensibile - almeno, ad una prima lettura. Gli altri 5 racconti prosa di alto livello, comunque. Libro che va letto in concentrazione, per lasciarsi condurre senza distrazioni nei periodi di 20-30 righe, densi di vocaboli, punteggiati perfettamente e con costruzioni logiche esteticamente deliziose. ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
Perhaps it was a mistake to follow up minimalist master Amy Hempel's short story collection with Mr. Wallace's sprawlingly verbose collection of never-ending sentences. But I wanted to get a taste of his prose before tackling Infinite Jest. However, I now fear this is headed for the DNF pile, and Infinite Jest is destined to be put on indefinite hold. Thinking of digging into some Raymond Carver as an antidote... ( )
  S.D. | Apr 4, 2014 |
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. "Mister Squishy" is interesting in its portrayal of boring business matters in America, somehow remaining interesting in spite of tedious subject matter; a talent more fully developed in The Pale King.

The other stories in this collection whilst not such standout efforts certainly didn't bore me in the way that certain stories from both GWCH and BIWHM did. With a few exceptions Wallace does away with the footnotes and endnotes that characterised his earlier work and were in danger of becoming a cliche. Oblivion is definitely a more mature work than his other short story collections and the best of the bunch. Overall, it still doesn't scale the heights that Wallace's novels reached - given his maximalist style Wallace needed the breathing space that novels permit - but there are gems here that are an essential part of Wallace's output and not to be missed. ( )
  DRFP | Aug 26, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316010766, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:26 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

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 disconcertingly 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).… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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