Books: The Horror Of Sameness

In Oblivion, David Foster Wallace delivers short stories about the fear of not being great

David Foster Wallace writes so beautifully, is so show-offishly smart and understands the intricacies of human emotion so keenly that a reasonable person can only hope he is terribly unhappy. Which, if this collection of short stories is any indication, he is. His characters in Oblivion (Little, Brown; 329 pages) are corroded by a desperation to express their uniqueness: a marketing analyst who feels so inconsequential that he injects ricin into snack cakes (Mister Squishy), a homicidal substitute civics teacher whose students are not even paying attention when they're taken hostage (The Soul Is Not a Smithy), a therapy patient who...

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