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Oblivion: Stories

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  9,677 Ratings  ·  685 Reviews
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 homici ...more
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Published June 8th 2004 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 2004)
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David My suggestion is to start with the beginning. "Mister Squishy" showcases DFW's ability to evoke humor from banal events such as a focus group meeting.…moreMy suggestion is to start with the beginning. "Mister Squishy" showcases DFW's ability to evoke humor from banal events such as a focus group meeting. It is the second-longest story in the book. If you find yourself struggling to get through it, I suggest you set the book aside for the rest of the day and then read only a page or two per day after that. You might find that the depth and density of his prose begins to grow on you and you find your reading sessions stretching into the hours. (less)
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Community Reviews

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Samadrita
Caution:- Long review ahead.

I finally understand what the word 'tedium' means. Interestingly enough I have neither associated this particular term with books making use of the much revered and equally feared stream-of-consciousness as a narrative device nor with hefty tomes worth more than 1000 pages.

But getting through even 1 page of DFW's writing requires a Herculean effort on the reader's part. Wallace commands your undivided attention and let's say if you are demanding the luxury of a split
...more
Oriana
Oh boy. Oh man, do I have a lot to say about this here book. I can't even begin to tackle it as a whole entity, so I'm going to do a review of each story, unless I get tired and have to smoosh.

Also: I am the kind of person who listens to all my music on shuffle, which means I clearly have no respect for the artist's conception of a complete work. Consequently I read these stories totally out of order, and will review them the same way.

"The Suffering Channel" and "Mister Squishy"
I think these a
...more
MJ Nicholls
Jan 03, 2012 MJ Nicholls rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don’t think collections serve Foster Wallace well: it seems to me his stories would read better as stand-alones on some thoroughly modern internet webshite, with accompanying artwork or explanatory hyperlinks, rather than modishly festering on some fading acid paper alongside all the other fuddy-duddies. (PS Abacus, your paper is cheap and lousy). Case in point is ‘Mister Squishy,’ which seems to cry out for its own accompanying glossary, appended addenda and so on, but sits uneasily on the pa ...more
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
From my favorite story, "Good Old Neon":

"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."

Oblivion is not as consistently solid as his first short stories collection Girl With Curious Hair, but hands down is amazing nonetheless.

Only slight complaint: The very first story is a bit difficult as it's loaded with corporate marketing, PR and advertising jargon, but it
...more
Jimmy
If nothing else, this book really made me think. Maybe even over-think. This book invites it. There is a lot to mull over in each of these stories, and DFW is very rarely direct about anything, preferring to leave clues along the way.

I think it’s interesting that each story has its own specific vocabulary and/or verbal tics from Mister Squishy's ad agency lingo to Oblivion’s strange use of latin/pace/'air-quotes' to Suffering Channel’s magazine-speak; it’s almost as if the characters in one sto
...more
Scribble Orca
)(^*&^%$*^#$$)*($*(%*(_Q_^*#%&^!

Oblivion - consigned to, by some class act who deleted the pdf and the accompanying seven reviews and 103 ratings of Good Old Neon without the simple foresight to MERGE said pdf listing with the final collection (and for those of you who don't think it was sufficient as a standalone check out the Mighty Jumbuck's review of this listing) of join-the-dots-as-stories by DFW.

Read no further if you've read already (with apologies to the appreciated commenters w
...more
Leo Robertson
Jul 05, 2013 Leo Robertson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For we die every day; oblivion thrives
Not on dry thighbones but on blood-ripe lives,
And our best yesterdays are now foul piles
Of crumpled names, phone numbers and foxed files.

- from Nabokov's Pale Fire

Okay! So here’s some music to listen to while you read this review :)

But it’s not really a review, as always.
I have this picture in my head of what a review would constitute, and it’s not this.
Also, in the interest of improving my own writing, all “I think”s are removed from the below (…I think) b
...more
Franco  Santos
2.5

Señor Blandito: No me gustó en absoluto. Creo que es el relato más pesado, insufrible y lento que he leído en mi vida. Admiro muchísimo la capacidad que tenía Wallace para analizar y describir hasta la más ínfima minucia; sin embargo, fue tanto lo que desmembró y analizó que mi voluntad para seguir pasando la página quedó gravemente herida. Pude terminarlo, pero el daño ya estaba hecho. No se lo recomiendo a nadie: un hastío interminable. (1.5/5).

El alma no es una forja: Me gustó. Es interesa
...more
Oscar
Lo que está claro es que los libros de David Foster Wallace, o te gustan o no te gustan. Personalmente, prefiero cuando le da más importancia al fondo de la historia, que a la forma de contarla. Cuando no me gusta es cuando experimenta. En este sentido, 'Extinción' es el libro que más me ha gustado por ahora de DFW.

La característica más destacable de la escritura de DFW, no es su calidad literaria, que la tiene y mucha, ni las historias que cuenta, que son magníficas, todo un prodigio de imagina
...more
Nate D
May 05, 2008 Nate D rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nate D by: Anne, again.
David Foster Wallace inspires many complaints -- he is overly self-conscious, he abuses the footnote, he is at times impenetrable -- but here happily, none of these are especially true. Even the post-modern playfulness is reigned in somewhat. Unlike the layered interviews and broken portraits of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, these are more properly stories (or even novellas, perhaps, as many are quite lengthy), winding and carefully plotted, and fully invested in the narrative. Only a singl ...more
Patrizia O
I racconti di Oblio, molto diversi per stile e per lunghezza (si va dalle quattro pagine di Incarnazioni di bambini bruciati a brevi romanzi di un centinaio di pagine), sembrano avere come denominatore comune la disillusione e la rassegnazione dell’età adulta.
Se ne La scopa del sistema c’è l’onnipotenza giovanile di chi pensa di poter superare tutti problemi e di poter provare infinite sperimentazioni; se in Infinite Jest c’è la consapevolezza di chi di chi ha dovuto lottare e soffrire per giun
...more
Sentimental Surrealist
Author's note: review and rating both subject to change. I've already bumped it a star; the second will depend on what a rereading of the title story brings.

You know, I hate to say this about my favorite author, but a lot of this book is just kind of... boring. "The Suffering Channel" and "Oblivion" are the two problem children here, taking up about 130 pages of space; they desperately need the human touch Wallace applies to his distinct brand of experimental fiction. I get that they're transiti
...more
Hannah Messler
Apr 01, 2009 Hannah Messler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've only got a few pages left of the last story in this collection and the whole thing has just been so excruciatingly beautiful I am almost palpably sad to see its end approach. That the guy whose mind from whence this sprung had to want to die so bad is just the worst the worst the worst.

Done. Buh. So sad.
Núria
Sep 21, 2007 Núria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Raül
Mi DFW favorito hasta la fecha. Antes de leer 'Extinción', David Foster Wallace me gustaba: escribía bien, era postmoderno, original y divertido, pero sus cuentos eran sólo anécdotas, algunas más incisivas que otras, pero anécdotas al fin y al cabo. En cambio 'Extinción' va mucho más allá. Sus cuentos alcanzan una profundidad impresionante y, detrás de la anécdota, nos acaba hablando de cosas universales que nos afectan a todos, básicamente acaba hablando del sufrimiento, del horror, de la trage ...more
Dave
Aug 05, 2007 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I get a little depressed after reading DFW books because I realize how far my writing skills fall short. This book is insanely dense and show-offy in the best sense (like when a magician draws attention to himself to fool you...then leaves you breathless after the bangs and flashes). This is a book of short stories, though some should technically be called novellas, each with totally implausible plots...until Wallace pulls it off. Faulknerian sentences were sort of his schtick in Infinite Jest-- ...more
César
Oct 30, 2013 César rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: relato
"¿Sabéis? ¿Nunca tuvisteis cuando erais pequeñas ese rollo en el que pensabais en vuestra mierda como en vuestro bebé y a veces queríais abrazarla y hablar con ella y casi llorabais y os sentíais culpables por tirar de la cadena, y a veces pensabais en vuestra mierda dentro de una especie de carrito de bebé con un gorrito y un biberón, y a veces os quedabais mirando en el cuarto de baño y os despedíais de ella con la mano, adiooós, mientras se iba, y luego sentíais un vacío?"
Axolotl
Aug 23, 2015 Axolotl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: obtained-2015-bc
Oblivion--it is just the perfect title to unify these strange and maddening gems.
You could really lose yourself in this book, indefinitely, if you're not careful.
Recommended to readers of Postmodernism and Quiet Horror.
David Beavers
Jan 25, 2008 David Beavers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After I finished reading it a few years ago, this book did not make me sad. Or at least, it made me sad in the way that we like art to make us sad; where we allow ourselves to mistake sadness for poignancy, peaking a flashlight into our dark bits through someone else's work. Now? I don't know how I could re-read this and not feel incredibly saddened. DFW was my favorite living author, just a raging cyclone of genius tearing his way through the short story and laughing (literally?) off the idea o ...more
Maria
Feb 06, 2015 Maria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
These stories are exhilarating but demanding. His ironic use of corporatese reminds me of George Saunders. From the density of his prose, and from his use of metanarrative, I guessed a few lines in that DFW is a fan of Borges, a hunch that was confirmed by Google. I love the way DFW's mind works, and the nerd in me even enjoyed the formula, written in symbolic logic, that was inserted into one story, a mathematical proof of the narrator's despair. The best stories: "The Soul is Not a Smithy", ab ...more
Sheri
Dec 01, 2013 Sheri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am not a huge fan of short stories (as those of you who have read other reviews will note). I am especially not a fan of short stories that take a while to get into; I prefer reading one long story (even a 1000 page book) to several small stories.

That said, this volume does hold together thematically. Several of the stories have quintessentailly "perfect" people who are really depressed underneath; several of them end at the point at which the action would normally occur; several characters de
...more
SurferRosa
Jan 06, 2017 SurferRosa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americana
In uno dei saggi contenuti in "Considera l'aragosta", DFW argomenta in modo critico (e autocritico) a proposito della tandenza di certa letteratura contemporanea ad aderire ad alcuni schemi ormai "alla moda", quindi diventati ripetitivi e prevedibili e alla lunga anche insopportabili, indicandoli brillantemente come "cinica menata postmoderna".
Mi pare che DFW, per lo meno in riferimento a tutto quello che finora ho letto di suo - cioè quasi tutto -, si sia sempre salvato grazie al suo desiderio
...more
Pete
May 09, 2007 Pete rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ummmmmmm
Oh, man. Do you see how I couldn't really recommend this book to anybody, despite the fact that I voted it five stars? That's because I genuinely felt haunted by some of the enclosed stories. Now, let's think about that for a second: "haunted." What that means, basically, is that I felt like the stories were inside of me and that I really, really wished that they weren't there. Especially the title story, which is hands down the most powerful piece of written-word language ever to wrack my psych ...more
Richard F. Schiller
The darkest, but arguably best work of Wallace I've read yet. The stories in this collection lack Wallace's typical linguistic playfulness, quirky humour - what remains is a cloud of seriousness. This was not necessarily a bad thing however - I felt that there were several moving scenes in Infinite Jest with Don Gately that were essentially ruined by a crude fart joke. "Mr. Squishy" is reminiscent of "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again", as Wallace tears apart the advertising industry. H ...more
Christopher
One of the most interesting things happening in American literature is the degree to which writers are getting inside the language and really making it work. With David Foster Wallace, you feel as if every punctuation mark, every comma, is fine tuned and well-honed.

Yep, you buy this book for the language. It is the only comfort you will get from this series of bleak tales about the futility of existence for the average man in the American street; the futility of resistance, the eternal bleakness
...more
Δέσποινα
Aug 09, 2016 Δέσποινα rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I hardly made it to read two out of the eight stories. I really wonder how low should modern literature level be, so that writings like this be considered masterpieces . Wallace's writing style is quite different from what I personally think of as artistic- boring, pointless descriptions that fill pages and pages, sentences that can reach up to 15 lines, and NO ACTION AT ALL, not even a psychological approach of the characters, not even a pioneering idea or a contermporary questioning of the ame ...more
Hadrian
Aug 07, 2011 Hadrian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Phew - what a collection.

I can see traces of DFW's later work in here - the first part of the beginning story reminds me of the tedium of jargon in The Pale King. He's still fumbling a bit, and some of these stories seem rambling and pretentious and just bad compared to the rest of his work (!), but his incredible talent with language is here, not a doubt.

As for my humble recommendations, Good Old Neon, The Soul is not a Smithy, and Incarnations of Burned Children were brilliant.
Isabelle
Aug 26, 2012 Isabelle rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A humbling experience for me...
I read Malraux or Hemingway, and I know I am reading some great literature... I know it, and yet I remain unmoved, uninvolved, unable to embrace what I read. So is it with David Foster Wallace. My very great loss...
All but "Incantations of burned children" which actually terrorized me.
Κατερίνα Μαλακατέ

http://www.diavazontas.blogspot.gr/20...

"The heir apparent to Thomas Pynchon*", λέει η κριτική των Times στο πίσω μέρος του paperback που έχω στα χέρια μου. Κι αν και οι γνώσεις μου για τον Pynchon είναι πολύ περιορισμένες, μιας και οι πρόσφατες προσπάθειες μου με το «Ουράνιο τόξο της βαρύτητας» δεν ξεπέρασαν ποτέ την 50η σελίδα, νιώθω πως ο κριτικός των Times έχει τα δίκια του. Μιλάμε κι εδώ για μια γραφή δύσκολη και συνειρμική, που καθώς προχωρά βυθίζεται στις λεπτομέρειες, με μια αίσθηση σπιρ
...more
Frank
Jul 31, 2011 Frank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: acquisto
Parlare bene della scrittura di David Foster Wallace e di un suo libro in particolare, probabilmente è anche diventata una moda.

Così come è difficile trovare qualcuno a cui non piacciano personaggi come Benigni oppure Vasco (anche se qui è già più facile), altrettanto difficile è trovare una forte lettore che non apprezzi DFW.

Le ragioni possono essere tante, alcune personali, altre più allargate, fino ad arrivare ai commenti degli altri scrittori.

Dal mio punto di vista devo dire che non mi fido
...more
Leland William
A great collection of short stories.

Edit: 11/4/15:Three months ago, I was having a little trouble getting back on the reading saddle. I had invested in some books that were disappointing, and in an effort to cheer myself I picked up this slim collection off my shelf and read the story 'Good Old Neon'. Wallace's unique prose was a perfect antidote to the subpar work I had been struggling with.

This is my second time reading this collection, and it is once again deserving of five stars. Wallace's
...more
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  • Forty Stories
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  • Understanding David Foster Wallace
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  • In the Heart of the Heart of the Country and Other Stories
  • Samuel Johnson Is Indignant
  • Venus Drive
  • The Rainbow Stories
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  • David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest: A Reader's Guide
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David Foster Wallace worked surprising turns on nearly everything: novels, journalism, vacation. His life was an information hunt, collecting hows and whys. "I received 500,000 discrete bits of information today," he once said, "of which maybe 25 are important. My job is to make some sense of it." He wanted to write "stuff about what it feels like to live. Instead of being a relief from what it fe ...more
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“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.” 296 likes
“The truth is you already know what it's like. You already know the difference between the size and speed of everything that flashes through you and the tiny inadequate bit of it all you can ever let anyone know. As though inside you is this enormous room full of what seems like everything in the whole universe at one time or another and yet the only parts that get out have to somehow squeeze out through one of those tiny keyholes you see under the knob in older doors. As if we are all trying to see each other through these tiny keyholes.

But it does have a knob, the door can open. But not in the way you think...The truth is you've already heard this. That this is what it's like. That it's what makes room for the universes inside you, all the endless inbent fractals of connection and symphonies of different voices, the infinities you can never show another soul. And you think it makes you a fraud, the tiny fraction anyone else ever sees? Of course you're a fraud, of course what people see is never you. And of course you know this, and of course you try to manage what part they see if you know it's only a part. Who wouldn't? It's called free will, Sherlock. But at the same time it's why it feels so good to break down and cry in front of others, or to laugh, or speak in tongues, or chant in Bengali--it's not English anymore, it's not getting squeezed through any hole.

So cry all you want, I won't tell anybody.”
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