5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely amazing
i'm a big david foster wallace fan and have read all of his other works. this one is my favorite so far (in a very tight race with Infinte Jest). these stories are PERFECTLY structured (you can tell this guy is a mathematician). but along with this perfect structure is also (surprise!) a deep undercurrent of philosophy by a mind that seems to really SEE what makes up...
Published on July 5 2004 by Karin S. Chenowith
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3.0 out of 5 stars Wallace lets loose the dogs of war
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...
Published on July 14 2004 by Stone Junction
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wallace lets loose the dogs of war,
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." While a magazine editor anguishes over how to correctly market an artist of magical faecal manifestations, a television executive takes reality television to its logical next step, wondering, "How far along the final arc would Slo Mo High Def Full Sound Celebrity Defecation be?"
Wallace's overall style, when it works, captures those moments and thoughts "that flash through your head so fast that [italics] flash isn't even the right word, they seem totally different from or outside of the regular sequential clock time we all live by and they have so little relation to the sort of non-linear, one-word-after-another-word English we all communicate with each other with that it could easily take a whole lifetime just to spell out the contents of one split-second's flash of thoughts and connections, etc."
Yet unlike the brilliant stories in Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, which manage to combine his manic vigour with subtle restraint, Oblivion ultimately never satisfies. Many of the tales trail off to nothing, their ultimate arguments lost in the raging sea of Wallace's text. Oblivion displays all of the worst tendencies of an author lost to his talent, refusing to reign himself in, running roughshod over the page.
In the end, Oblivion functions best as a Wallace primer. If his convoluted expressions exhilarate the reader, Wallace's better works beckon. If, however, the reader is confounded more than engaged, tackling his Infinite Jest may seem like just that.
3.0 out of 5 stars Is it just me, or...,
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. DFW repeatedly sets up mesmerising plots with his trademark narrative quirks (footnotes, three-page long sentences, metafictional third-wall breaking etc.) but denies the reader a tidy ending. Despite the fact that the intent reader can see the ending coming, DFW habitually denies the reader of this convenient pleasure.
I continue to be amazed by DFW's intellect, style, and breadth of subject matter, but I'm really getting frustrated with the meta-fictional crap. David, write a novel for God's sake. Or stick with the non-fiction that you do so so very well (Everything and More, his "compact history" of infinity is the genre-bending tour de force that you expect it to be -- check it out.) Or, if you insist on focusing on short stories, think up some new tricks. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Shame, shame on me.
3.0 out of 5 stars An Acquired Taste,
5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely amazing,
4.0 out of 5 stars I Haven't Read It Either--But That's Not The Point Is It?,
I freaking LOVED "Infinite Jest" and --hey--they can't ALL be gems.
you know David Foster Wallace is not dead yet. Give the guy a chance to hit another one out of the ballpark.
Sounds like you DO need to read this collection of stories as a WHOLE.
And I like the way his sentences and paragraphs require a Long Attention Span----hey, that's a GOOD thing. People used to have trouble reading Faulkner a long time ago, too.
As for the Reviewer Above who compared Wallace to Candace Bushnell---that's brilliant!
It may or may not be accurate, but it's the kind of Visceral analogy that Wallace himself would appreciate.
4.0 out of 5 stars Much Better Than Brief Interviews and Girl w Curious Hair,
As for comparing Wallace to Candace Bushnell, whoever said that should have their library card revoked, "stat."
4.0 out of 5 stars Calm down, people,
This is, unfortunately, only half the truth, because there really are magical moments in Wallace's writing, and just when you're about to get absolutely fed up with him he pulls out something beautiful, or shocking, that for whatever reason stays with you. Even in a two page story like "Incarnations of Burned Children" I went through all of the probable reactions to the stories in this volume: initial interest, confusion with the prose style, impatience, boredom, and then suddenly a moment where the story seems to open up and become incredibly moving.
The story is about a mother accidentally scalding her toddler, and is told in the long clause-filled breathless sentences that Wallace uses - with occasional good taste. At first, the prose is frustrating, because it seems to be getting in the way of actually enjoying the story, but eventually it falls into a certain rhythm, and as the parents are frantically trying to cool down their child it starts to imitate their panic, until both the parents and reader realize with horror that the hot water inside the diaper is still burning the child, and despite knowing nothing about this family, in just this little story we can start to understand what it's like to feel terrified for a child that is ours.
When a writer enjoys goofing around, and seems to be scared of clarity, it's occasionally hard to judge his genuine value. Reading an early novel of Beckett's, with its incessant clowning around and self-conscious erudition, I wasn't really sure what the big deal was about him - he just seemed like an aggravatingly precocious little kid. But there were glimmers of a profound talent there. And I think there are here too. Instead of complaining about the obvious surface clutter - which, who knows, might be inextricably linked to the virtues, although I hope not - I'm pleased enough with what he can give us.
2.0 out of 5 stars B minus,
By A Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Keep a dictionary handy,
Read these stories for the occasional approach to brilliance, but don't be too disappointed when they don't quite make it. Being previously published in the New Yorker is a sure sign of literary snobbery.
Wallace has, in the past proven to have more talent, and if he stops being pseudo-intellectual he can return to his roots and be much more successful.
2.0 out of 5 stars More of the same,
By A Customer
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Oblivion: Stories by David Foster Wallace (Paperback - Aug 30 2005)
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