Libby's Reviews > Oblivion

Oblivion by David Foster Wallace
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's review
Jun 17, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: summerreading09, year-of-dead-white-male-european-au
Read in July, 2009

Overall, a hugely varied collection of short stories whose common thread is skillful storytelling through tiny gestures, wild eccentricities, and enormous words.

Mister Squishy: One of my favorites in the collection, the story chronicles two, and eventually three stories. A vaguely disturbing man free-climbs a Chicago skyscraper, a slightly disturbing description of how market research has made itself meaningless,, and a not-at-all-disturbing scene with a focus group that becomes very disturbing as we try to figure out if the leader of the group is committing mass murder by snack cake. No quick answers here nor definite endings.

The Soul is Not a Smithy: a man with an attention disorder recalls a terrifying event that occurred in his grade school classroom while he was distracted by imagining worlds in the diamonds of window glass. Wow. The summary version does this one no favors. Trust me, it's extraordinary and wonderfully creepy.

Incarnations of Burned Children: Hemingway wrote the most devastating six word story of all time (For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.) This is the most devastating three-page story I've ever read.

Another Pioneer: a know-nothing know-it-all who relates a story that "a friend" overheard once on a plane with some muddle thoughts on society and culture. It features an intricately unreliable narrator, but this story wasn't my favorite.

Good Old Neon: the story of a man who decides to kill himself, which is made all the more poignant by DFW's own suicide.

Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature: A strange little piece about a man whose mother won a medical suit and used the proceeds to have a face-lift, which has rather horrific results.

Oblivion: an exquisitely painful look at what happens when people who have been married a long time forget that they love one another. Really excellent.

The Suffering Channel: The closest story in tone to DFW's magnum opus "Infinite Jest," it's the story of a writer for Style Magazine attempting to determine the veracity of a midwestern man who excretes feces in perfect sculptures and convince his superiors to print the story, also the founding of a cable television channel devoted to seeing awful things happen to real people, all in the months prior to September 11, 2001. It's the most fun story of the collection, especially if you have ever lived in the midwest, for all that we know that some of the characters will be dead in a few months. Such is DFW.

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06/17/2009 page 22

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