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Oblivion    by David Foster Wallace order for
by David Foster Wallace
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Little, Brown & Co., 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by Sally Selvadurai

David Foster Wallace's Oblivion, a collection of short stories, is not for the faint hearted. These are not cheerful, buoyant pieces; they are dark and depressing, mining the depths of the self-conscious and coming up with more questions than answers. I did not get any measure of satisfaction at the end of each of the eight stories; I was left feeling wretched and despairing, that life should make others feel so alone and incapable of finding a way to mould their destinies.

Wallace not only provides his narrator with a life of abject misery at the time that the stories take place, he also has other characters suffer immense pain and a lifetime of regret, as in 'Incarnations of Burned Children', the shortest story in this collection but in many ways the one with the most powerful message. The title story, 'Oblivion', takes place in the narrator, Randall Napier's head; it is a seemingly disconnected recollection of events, tied together by the thread of insomnia and a touch of madness, as he comes to terms with his daughter's departure for college and the growing chasm between himself and his wife.

David Foster Wallace has crafted these stories well, although not to my taste. He explores the convolutions of the mind and the tricks it plays upon itself, detailing the consequent effects on both the individual and those around him. The detail is there, but getting to the crux of any of the stories takes time, often through repetitive thoughts that appear, at the time of reading, random and unconnected, but mirror to a certain extent what our own minds convey to us as we sit and daydream. Overall, Oblivion dwells on the more depressing side of life, leaving this reader to hope that this is not as good as it gets!

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