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Oblivion: Stories Hardcover – Jun 8 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (June 8 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316919810
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316919814
  • Product Dimensions: 2.7 x 15.9 x 24.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #252,227 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stone Junction on July 14 2004
Format: Hardcover
The sentence is possibly the most basic grammatical tool used by writers, a standard format by which information is conveyed to a reader. But there are sentences, and there are SENTENCES, and American author David Foster Wallace most indeed writes SENTENCES.
These are sentences that defy easy categorization - sensational amalgams of disparate thoughts and hidden meaning. These are sentences that push the boundaries of both style and length, wherein the format itself is as important as the content.
When they work, the result is breathtaking in its audacity and verve. With sentences as perfect as "the angle of his shoulders as he leaned into the door had the same quality of his eyes," Wallace truly earns the accolades he had accumulated.
Be forewarned: reading Wallace can be exhausting. He makes you work. And in Oblivion, his uneven collection of short stories, the rampaging prose overwhelms everything else in its path.
Wallace is in the higher ranks of modern writers, often mentioned in the same breath with postmodernist icons Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo. His award-winning prose, most vibrantly on display in his mountainous bestseller Infinite Jest, takes modernist techniques to their most extreme, threading themes and motifs in an artificially self-conscious style that is now Wallace's trademark.
With Oblivion, Wallace presents a bewildering display of bizarre narratives, each notable for never once treading familiar roads. A boy daydreams his father's existence while a teacher slowly goes insane. A man recounts his suicide. A husband goes to great lengths to prove he does not snore.
In the very funny "The Suffering Channel", Wallace tackles "the paradoxical intercourse of audience and celebrity.
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Format: Hardcover
... do others see an unfortunate emerging stagger in David Foster Wallace's experiments in free-wheeling prose?
I may be totally wrong in my theoretical problem with Oblivion; given the extreme level of reader interest and cooperation that DFW's stories and novels require, I can't be certain that I'm not just one of the other dufuses who just plain DONT GET HIM. I have tried, however, and am proud to place Infinite Jest in my top ten favorite novels list (I actually read that monster twice! Woof!)
So here goes: my theory is that the most fundamental "Jest" in Infinite Jest is the lack of resolution of the story and the myriad plotlines. If you manage to plow through the dense but enjoyable prose, you are actually pretty engaged in the plights of the dozen or so demi-protagonists, and actively speculating to yourself what the resolution will be. DFW actively encourages this, to the extent that ultimate denoument for Hal, Don and the Veiled lady is denied; in other words, you have to actively put the non-chronological pieces of the puzzle together in your mind, because it ain't spelled out for you in the manner that most of us (quite reasonably) expect from thier fiction. The joke, in other words, is on the reader, because the reader has to actively participate in the conclusion of the story in order to "get it;" and in the end, there is no difinitve answer to the question "What the hell actually happend to...?" so the jest is effectively infinite.
Ugh, I know, that's a chewy mouthful of an opening paragraph, but I'll wrap this up quickly. Oblivion uses this device so frequently in the short stories that it inspires frustration, rather than awe at the author's story-telling acumen.
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By Grady Harp TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 9 2004
Format: Hardcover
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 Recherche 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.
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