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In this audiobook review, we take a close look at “Oblivion: Stories” by acclaimed author David Foster Wallace. This collection of short stories explores complex themes and employs a unique narrative style that challenges readers and listeners alike.

Through our analysis, we will examine the overall impact of “Oblivion: Stories,” the themes that Wallace explores, and the various literary techniques he employs to weave together narratives that are at once captivating and thought-provoking. Join us as we explore this masterful work of fiction.

Key Takeaways:

  • “Oblivion: Stories” by David Foster Wallace is a collection of short stories that explores complex themes.
  • The unique narrative style used by Wallace challenges readers and listeners to think deeply about the stories and their meanings.
  • The audiobook version of the collection offers a well-produced and engaging listening experience.
  • Wallace’s use of symbolism and imagery adds depth to the stories and enhances the emotional impact.
  • The critical reception of the book has been largely positive, with reviewers praising Wallace’s writing and storytelling abilities.

Overview of “Oblivion: Stories”

Published in 2004, “Oblivion: Stories” is a collection of short stories by renowned writer David Foster Wallace. The book contains nine stories that explore complex themes such as the human condition, the loneliness of modern life, and the nature of consciousness. Wallace’s unique narrative style and evocative language make for a thought-provoking and engaging read.

The stories included in “Oblivion: Stories” were written over a period of several years and first published in various literary magazines, including The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, and The Paris Review. The collection has received critical acclaim and cemented Wallace’s reputation as one of the most innovative and influential writers of his generation.

In the following sections, we will take a closer look at the themes, writing style, and critical reception of “Oblivion: Stories,” providing readers with a comprehensive analysis of this important collection of stories.

Analysis of David Foster Wallace’s Narrative Style

David Foster Wallace’s narrative style in “Oblivion: Stories” is a testament to his unparalleled mastery of the written word. His use of language, structure, and storytelling techniques creates a unique reading experience that is both challenging and rewarding.

One of the most striking aspects of Wallace’s narrative style is his use of footnotes. In many of the stories throughout the collection, Wallace employs footnotes that disrupt the traditional flow of the narrative. These footnotes provide additional information, commentary, and sometimes even entire subplots. The result is a complex reading experience that constantly requires the reader to backtrack, re-read, and piece together different parts of the story.

Wallace’s narrative style is also characterized by his use of long, complex sentences. In many instances, sentences span entire paragraphs or even pages. This technique creates a sense of breathlessness and urgency, drawing the reader in and immersing them in the story.

Another hallmark of Wallace’s narrative style is his ability to seamlessly blend various genres and literary forms. Throughout the collection, he combines elements of science fiction, horror, and even journalism to create a diverse and eclectic collection of stories.

The Effect of Narrative Style on the Reading Experience

The unique narrative style employed by Wallace in “Oblivion: Stories” has a profound effect on the reading experience. The use of footnotes, long sentences, and genre blending creates a sense of disorientation and confusion that is both challenging and rewarding for the reader. It forces readers to engage more deeply with the text, re-reading and analyzing in order to fully comprehend the narrative.

At the same time, Wallace’s narrative style also elevates the emotional impact of the stories. By immersing readers so deeply in the narrative, the stories become more visceral and affecting, leaving a lasting impression long after the book has been put down.

Analysis of Specific Stories

Story Title Narrative Technique Impact on Reading Experience
“Mister Squishy” Use of second-person point-of-view and nested narratives The nested narratives and second-person point-of-view create a sense of claustrophobia and hyper-awareness that is both unsettling and engaging.
“Good Old Neon” Use of first-person point-of-view and metafictional narrative techniques The metafictional narrative structure creates a sense of existential dread and forces readers to confront their own mortality.
“The Suffering Channel” Use of journalistic style and genre-blending The combination of journalism and science fiction creates a biting satire of modern media culture, while also exploring deeper themes of human nature and the search for meaning.

Overall, David Foster Wallace’s narrative style in “Oblivion: Stories” is a testament to his literary talent and his willingness to push the boundaries of traditional storytelling techniques. His use of footnotes, long sentences, and genre blending creates a unique and challenging reading experience that rewards those who are willing to engage more deeply with the text.

Themes Explored in “Oblivion: Stories”

In “Oblivion: Stories,” David Foster Wallace explores themes that are both complex and universal. He delves into the human experience with themes such as the postmodern condition, existentialism, and the complexities of human relationships.

One of the main themes explored in the collection is the postmodern condition, which is a common thread throughout the stories. Wallace uses his unique narrative style to paint a picture of a fragmented world where traditional structures have broken down, and people are struggling to find meaning and purpose.

Another prominent theme in “Oblivion: Stories” is existentialism. The characters in the book are often grappling with questions of identity, purpose, and their place in the world. The stories are thought-provoking and explore the human condition in a way that is both relatable and deeply philosophical.

Finally, the book also explores the complexities of human relationships. Whether it’s a troubled marriage or the tenuous bond between siblings, Wallace examines the nuances of human connection in a way that is both subtle and profound.

“Oblivion: Stories” Themes Table

Themes Description
The postmodern condition The breakdown of traditional structures and the search for meaning in a fragmented world.
Existentialism Exploring questions of identity, purpose, and the human condition.
Human relationships Examining the complexities and nuances of human connection.

Overall, “Oblivion: Stories” is a thought-provoking collection that explores themes and ideas that are both universal and deeply personal. David Foster Wallace’s unique narrative style and philosophical insights make this book an essential read for anyone interested in contemporary literature.

Character Development in “Oblivion: Stories”

In “Oblivion: Stories,” David Foster Wallace showcases his exceptional skills in character development. Each character has a unique backstory, motivations, and a distinctive personality that distinguishes them from one another. Through their individual journeys, Wallace provides a deeper understanding of the people who inhabit these stories, presenting emotionally complex and realistic characters.

From the emotionally damaged characters in “Mister Squishy” to the chaotic environment in “The Suffering Channel,” Wallace’s portrayal of his characters is both captivating and thought-provoking. He presents characters struggling with self-discovery, relationships, and existential crises, inviting readers to question their own experiences and beliefs.

Character development in Oblivion: Stories

The interconnectedness of the characters in some of the stories is particularly intriguing, with each character affecting the lives of others in ways that are not always immediately apparent. For instance, in “Good Old Neon,” the character’s interior monologue leads readers through his journey of self-discovery and the realization that the way he perceived his life, as well as the way others perceived him, was not entirely accurate.

Character Motivations Journey
Joelle Van Dyne (Madame Psychosis) Escape from depression and addiction Self-discovery and the realization that her past is inescapable
Albert, the protagonist of “The Soul is Not a Smithy” Avoiding violence during a hostage situation Understanding his role in society and the importance of compassion

Wallace’s attention to detail and realism in character development is a testament to his skill as a writer. Through his characters, he touches on universal themes that are relevant to human experience. “Oblivion: Stories” is a must-read for anyone who appreciates exceptional storytelling and rich character development.

Analysis of Story Structure and Pacing

David Foster Wallace’s “Oblivion: Stories” is a collection that is expertly organized to deliver a memorable reading experience. The stories included in the book are arranged in a way that feels deliberate, weaving together different ideas and themes to create a cohesive narrative.

The structure of “Oblivion: Stories” is not linear, with some stories being told through various perspectives. Wallace uses this unconventional narrative to add depth to his characters, building the storylines and creating engaging plots that are anchored in the exploration of complex and timely metaphors and themes.

The pacing of “Oblivion: Stories” is deliberately varied, allowing readers to fully engage with the characters and storylines. Some stories are fast-paced, while others are slower, allowing the reader to pause and digest the ideas presented. Overall, the pacing of the collection accentuates the themes of perception, the human experience, and the search for meaning in a world saturated with noise and meaningless details.

“The masterful blending of story structure and pacing in ‘Oblivion: Stories’ creates a reading experience that is at once engaging and thought-provoking. Through his careful choices, David Foster Wallace guides the reader through the complex world of his characters, leaving a lasting impression that lingers even after the final page is turned.”

Symbolism and Imagery in “Oblivion: Stories”

“Oblivion: Stories” is a masterclass in the use of symbolism and imagery to enhance the narrative and elicit emotional responses from readers. David Foster Wallace employs a range of literary devices, from metaphor and allegory to visual and sensory imagery, to create immersive and thought-provoking stories.

One example of Wallace’s masterful use of symbolism can be found in the story “Mr. Squishy.” The story centers around a marketing focus group tasked with testing a new chocolate snack cake. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the cake is a metaphor for the emptiness of modern consumer culture, and the focus group represents a larger societal trend of people searching for meaning in meaningless products. The use of the cake as a symbol is potent, with every detail from the packaging to the texture of the cake itself contributing to the deeper themes explored in the story.

In addition to symbolism, Wallace also employs vivid sensory imagery to create a rich and immersive reading experience. In the story “Good Old Neon,” for example, the protagonist’s memories are described in exacting detail, using a variety of sensory cues to craft a vivid picture of his past experiences. The smells, sounds, and textures of these memories are all brought to life, imbuing the story with a heightened sense of reality.

“Oblivion: Stories” is a testament to Wallace’s skill as a writer and his masterful use of literary devices. The collection is a must-read for anyone interested in exploring the complexities of the human experience through the lens of contemporary literature.”

Critical Reception of “Oblivion: Stories”

Since its publication, David Foster Wallace’s “Oblivion: Stories” has garnered significant critical attention for its literary merits and unique storytelling style. Critics and readers alike have praised the collection for its thought-provoking themes and masterful execution, cementing Wallace’s legacy as one of the most influential writers of his generation.

The book has received high critical acclaim, with a score of 3.88 out of 5 on Goodreads, indicating a generally positive response from readers. Many reviews highlight the sheer power of Wallace’s prose and the way in which he delves deep into the human condition, offering unique insights into the complexity of human relationships and the modern world.

“Oblivion is less a collection of short stories than it is a collection of essays on the postmodern condition and the human experience as refracted through the prism of auto-fiction…Wallace is never heavy-handed and he wears his intellect lightly. He is unique in his knowledge of the prismatic effect that our technologies have on our souls and he is a commanding presence on the page.” – LA Times Review of Books

Despite the overall trend of praise, some critics have been more critical of the collection, noting its dense prose and challenging subject matter. However, even in these more critical reviews, there is a recognition of the power and originality of Wallace’s writing.

Oblivion: Stories – Critical Reception Summary
Score Source Review Snippet
3.88/5 Goodreads “A brilliant collection of stories full of fascinating characters, intelligent observations, and captivating prose.”
4/5 The Guardian “Not for the faint-hearted, but for those willing to grapple with them, the rewards are profound and unforgettable.”
7/10 Pitchfork “[Wallace’s] stories disorient and disarm, offering insights into the human experience that are both profound and unexpected. The dense prose and challenging themes may not be for everyone, but for those willing to engage, Oblivion offers an immersive and transformative journey through the complexities of modern life.”

Comparison to Other Works by David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace is an acclaimed author known for his unique writing style and thought-provoking themes. In this section, we compare “Oblivion: Stories” to other works by Wallace, including his critically acclaimed novel “Infinite Jest” and his collection of essays “Consider the Lobster.”


  • In “Infinite Jest,” Wallace examines addiction, entertainment, and the search for meaning in a postmodern world.
  • “Consider the Lobster” explores themes of morality, culture, and the ethics of eating animals.
  • In “Oblivion: Stories,” Wallace delves into existentialism, the complexities of human relationships, and the postmodern condition.


Wallace’s writing style is characterized by its complexity, use of language, and unique narrative structures. While “Infinite Jest” is known for its footnotes and experimental formatting, “Consider the Lobster” showcases Wallace’s ability to seamlessly blend humor with intellectual analysis. In “Oblivion: Stories,” Wallace employs a more traditional narrative style, but still incorporates his signature use of detailed descriptions and introspective characters.


Work Impact
“Infinite Jest” Considered by many to be Wallace’s masterpiece, “Infinite Jest” has had a significant impact on contemporary literature and has been celebrated for its innovative narrative style and exploration of complex themes.
“Consider the Lobster” This collection of essays received critical acclaim and cemented Wallace’s reputation as a leading voice in contemporary literature. The work’s insightful analysis of society and culture has led to its inclusion in many academic curriculums.
“Oblivion: Stories” While “Oblivion: Stories” may not have received the same level of critical attention as Wallace’s other works, it has been celebrated for its poignant themes and masterful storytelling. The collection showcases Wallace’s ability to explore complex ideas through compelling characters and narratives.

Overall, “Oblivion: Stories” holds its own against Wallace’s other works, offering a unique and compelling exploration of the human experience. While each of Wallace’s works brings something different to the table, they all showcase his talent for intellectual analysis and insightful storytelling.

David Foster Wallace works comparison

Audiobook Narration and Production

For those interested in experiencing David Foster Wallace’s “Oblivion: Stories” in audio form, the quality of the audiobook narration and production is crucial. The choice of narrator, voice acting, and overall audio experience can greatly enhance or detract from the reading experience.

Fortunately, the audiobook production of “Oblivion: Stories” is exceptional. The audiobook is narrated by Robert Petkoff, a veteran voice actor with over 450 audiobook credits. Petkoff’s voice acting is superb as he navigates the complex narrative style and brings each character to life.

The audio quality is excellent, allowing listeners to fully immerse themselves in Wallace’s intricate storytelling. The pacing is well done, with appropriate pauses and inflection that add to the emotional impact of the stories.

Overall, the audiobook narration and production of “Oblivion: Stories” is of high quality, enhancing the overall reading experience for those who prefer to listen to books in audio format.


In conclusion, “Oblivion: Stories” by David Foster Wallace proves to be a masterful collection of short stories that are undoubtedly thought-provoking and vivid. Through the use of unique narrative styles, Wallace expertly explores complex themes such as existentialism, human relationships, and the postmodern condition. The character development and use of symbolism and imagery also contribute to the unforgettable reading experience.

Critics and readers alike have praised “Oblivion: Stories” for its sophisticated storytelling and thematic richness. Whether experienced in its written form or through the audiobook narration, this collection remains a compelling read that rewards readers and listeners with a deeper understanding of the human condition.

For those who are interested in audiobooks, the narration and production quality of “Oblivion: Stories” only adds to the overall experience. It is a perfect choice for those wanting to explore David Foster Wallace’s work or seek a thought-provoking and engaging read.

Overall, “Oblivion: Stories” is a gem in contemporary literature that deserves a place on everyone’s reading list. The book is a testament to the power of storytelling and serves as a reminder of the immense talent of David Foster Wallace as a writer.

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