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.
©2012 David Foster Wallace (P)2012 Hachette Audio
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
"What goes on inside is just too fast and huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketch the outlines of at most one tiny little part of it at any given instant."
Let me get my biases out in the open. I love DFW. I have to be careful somedays to not fall-down and worship his novels. Wallace's nonfiction talent also hits me as evidence that the universe is not even slightly unfair. But, I've always been just a little unsettled (and occasionally freaked out) by his short stories. 'Oblivion', like his earlier story collections ('Brief Interviews with Hideous Men' and 'Girl with Curious Hair') is one of those tortured works of fiction that both attract and repel me at the same time. It is a little spooky how some of the stories ("Mister Squishy" and "Another Pioneer") anticipate his last unfinished novel 'The Pale King' while "Good Old Neon" was hard to listen even though it has been almost four years since his suicide. Anyway, these stories are quirky, stylized, experimental, and brilliant in their beauty and their suffering.
Robert Petkoff, who also narrated DFW's 'The Broom of the System', 'The Pale King', 'Girl with the Curious Hair', enunciates a Wallace sentence like it's his JOB.
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