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Oblivion: Stories Paperback – August 30, 2005
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From 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Some critics scream self-indulgence, while others lash back with claims of genius. No one denies the verbal wizardry of the MacArthur Grant-winning author of Infinite Jest. And yet Wallace’s prose style lies at the epicenter of the debate. Does his wordiness obscure a lack of substance, or is the key to his intent found in that same verbosity? Reactions to his stories elicited similar controversy. More than one of his boosters notes a welcome turn towards naked emotion, most notably in “Good Old Neon.” Others question his maturity and moral sense, and criticize the unfinished quality of some of the stories. These polarized opinions, however, seem to ensure that Wallace will not fade into oblivion.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
The stories are beautiful and absurd and more accessible
Scanning other customer reviews I saw much reference to DFW's self-indulgence. To be fair he is that, but that's what books are. To avoid self-indulgence, you need to not write. And would you rather have covert or overt self-indulgence? I want overt, because it is honest, and whatever faults he has, DFW was as honest a writer as one can ask for.
In the land of D. F. Wallace's fiction long sentences are the norm. I quote one as a nibble of the whole. This is taken from "Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature". A son comments on the effect of botched plastic surgery on his mother's appearance. The two are on a bus. The italicized two words are present in the original.
We had learned through experimental method to not sit further back in the rows of more regular seats which face frontally
because of the way certain fellow passengers would visibly react when they board and perform the seemingly reflexive action as they start moving down the aisle to a seat of briefly scanning the faces facing them from the narrow rows of seats extended backward through the bus and would suddenly see Mother's distended and soundlessly screaming face appearing to gaze back at them in mindless terror.
Longer sentences than this occur, some extending several screens of a Kindle Paper White. Now there is nothing wrong with long sentences per se; only, as in other literary quirks, percentage makes the difference between acceptable and overdone just as the amount of heat makes the difference between a roast well done and over done. And to be fair, Wallace shows in the stories he is as capable of short sentences as anyone, yet there are areas where long sentences follow each other like a crowd of millipedes.
Now here I descend to personal bias. I prefer stories with more of an Aristotelian plot line. Yes, Wallace packs his stories with vivid detail. Yes, his delineation of character shows a sure hand. Yes, his transitions as in "Mr. Squishy" between a board meeting and the ascent of a building climber are deft. But some of the stories which approach novella length puzzle me as to what their point is. There is humor in "The Suffering Channel" a tale of excrement being taken as high art, but is Wallace satirizing literary criticism or implying that art is intrinsic every where? Does my age dull or even obliterate insight into the underlying premises? Or am I too moribund in, say, the fiction of Fielding, Defoe, Dickens, Conrad, Hemingway, or Updike to perceive the gem in the soup? No one has told me more often than myself I'm no genius. Yet, I dare to think I'm capable of discerning the trust of a tale, given enough hint in the telling.
That said, I don't condemn Oblivion the collection. Wallace, as the blurb at the end lists, achieved in his relatively short life, numerous awards. Ridden by depression he hung himself at the age of 46, an age at which an author has the advantages of an apprenticeship behind him/her, and the possibility of further and greater achievements ahead. Still, what I've read so far doesn't entice me to venture further into the David Foster Wallace oeuvre.