Bryan A. Garner has posted an excerpt from his excellent interview with David Foster Wallace, Quack This Way, over at ABA Journal, David Foster Wallace’s advice on arguing persuasively:
[...]Garner: A lot of lawyers say to me they’re writing for judges who themselves don’t write very well, who write a lot of jargon-laden stuff, so they think the best expressive tactic is to mimic the style of the judges for whom they are writing. Does that make sense to you?
Wallace: This gets very tricky. The same thing happens in academia. When students enter my classes, very often what I end up doing is beating out of them habits they were rewarded for in high school—many of them having to do with excessive abstraction, wordiness, overcomplication, excessive reliance on jargon, especially in literary criticism.
But it gets tricky because they will point out that some of the other professors in the department appear to expect this kind of writing. It’s the sort of prose in which their syllabus and handouts are written. So to a certain extent, it’s tricky. What I say to these students is: “Between you and me, different people have different levels of skill at writing.”[...]
Keep reading the excerpt here at ABA Journal.
Quack This Way at Amazon.com.
Last Updated on Sunday, 01 December 2013 15:36
I've posted about Paul Debraski's I Just Read About That... blog in the past because he regularly writes about his experiences reading David Foster Wallace, and does so with insight and great attention to detail.
There have been a couple of Wallace posts in the last few weeks. The first about David Foster Wallace's review, ”The Empty Plenum: David Markson’s ‘Wittgenstein’s Mistress’” (Review of Contemporary Fiction 1990) and just a few days ago Debraski's review of the most recent collection of Wallace non-fiction, Both Flesh and Not.
I like this review because it delivers on the enthusiasm Wallace's non-fiction writing inspires in his readers, and it has none of the negativity about this collection that was present in more than a few of the reviews last year (you can find some here). Yes, there's nothing really new in the collection for the fans who have read everything, but there's plenty in there to like if you've only ever read bits and pieces of Wallace's non-fiction:
[...] when I recently read Wittgenstein’s Mistress, I decided to reread his essay, so i looked in the book. And it all spiraled from there–so much that I’m going to compare the book versions to the original articles next week.
And but so, this is a very enjoyable collection of essays. The essays are arranged chronologically from 1988-2007 (except for the first article which gives the book its title and is a great opener, but which I argue is the one that should be read after a different essay). There’s a couple of essays on tennis, some book reviews, some essays about writing, and some thoughts on the (then) current political climate. Nothing is too too academic (well, a couple are), and while many of the stories do come from DFW’s younger writing days when he was a little pedantic, his later ones are a lot of fun (and his love for tennis is palpable).[...]
I'm also looking forward to Debraski's comparison to the original articles because when I started to compare them shortly after release I didn't find many differences at all in the first couple of essays (superficial corrections mostly), at least not enough to put in the effort go through the rest of them as carefully as I expect we'll see over at I Just Read About That...
Continue reading, David Foster Wallace–Both Flesh and Not: Essays (2012)
Last Updated on Sunday, 01 December 2013 14:55
This post is completely motivated by the comment Terrence Blake added to an old news update about the Wallace chapter in All Things Shining Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age (2011). I recall reading criticisms that the chapter was a misreading (my words) of Wallace so it's nice to have some critical discussion around this issue.
Terrence posted three links to clarify just why Dreyfus and Kelly were so off the mark and I've reproduced the comment in full below. I love how the third link refers to the recent Quack this Way interview as evidence to counter the take on Wallace (it's worth reading).
Over to Terrence Blake:
All Things Shining is a great book in many ways, but it gets DFW totally wrong. I have tried to discuss its chapter on DFW productively here, DAVID FOSTER WALLACE (1): individuation beyond the individual.
Adam S. Miller takes a similar view here, All Things Shining: Maps on Fire but he takes a very critical view not just of the chapter on Wallace but of the whole project of the book.
I try to reconcile both our views here, GRACE, SHINING, AND INDIVIDUATION: Adam Miller, Hubert Dreyfus, and Sean Kelly on David Foster Wallace.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 November 2013 16:30
Joe Winkler's review of Quack This Way for Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Lessons in Language from David Foster Wallace and Bryan Garner: A Review of “Quack This Way” [7/11/13]:
Of course, this being a David Foster Wallace interview, an unedited one at that, we receive some gems and experience the frustration in a brain that just won’t stop, ever. Numerous times, Wallace worries that he needs to constantly sharpen his statements, and numerous times he notes that this will likely be cut, and should be cut because he didn’t say it right. This tic is at turns endearing and frustrating, but ultimately a nice conduit into what it felt like to think as Wallace. For him, all statements required essays given the complexity of simple words.
Order Quack This Way from Amazon.com
I posted about these in early October, but since then they've both had covers added to the listings.
"Asked in 2006 about the philosophical nature of his fiction, the late American writer David Foster Wallace replied, "If some people read my fiction and see it as fundamentally about philosophical ideas, what it probably means is that these are pieces where the characters are not as alive and interesting as I meant them to be."
Gesturing Toward Reality looks into this quality of Wallace's work—when the writer dons the philosopher's cap—and sees something else. With essays offering a careful perusal of Wallace's extensive and heavily annotated self-help library, re-considerations of Wittgenstein's influence on his fiction, and serious explorations into the moral and spiritual landscape where Wallace lived and wrote, this collection offers a perspective on Wallace that even he was not always ready to see. Since so much has been said in specifically literary circles about Wallace's philosophical acumen, it seems natural to have those with an interest in both philosophy and Wallace's writing address how these two areas come together."
Of the twelve books David Foster Wallace published both during his lifetime and posthumously, only three were novels. Nevertheless, Wallace always thought of himself primarily as a novelist. From his college years at Amherst, when he wrote his first novel as part of a creative honors thesis, to his final days, Wallace was buried in a novel project, which he often referred to as "the Long Thing." Meanwhile, the short stories and journalistic assignments he worked on during those years he characterized as "playing hooky from a certain Larger Thing." Wallace was also a specific kind of novelist, devoted to producing a specific kind of novel, namely the omnivorous, culture-consuming "encyclopedic" novel, as described in 1976 by Edward Mendelson in a ground-breaking essay on Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow.
David Foster Wallace and "The Long Thing" is a state-of-the art guide through Wallace's three major works, including the generation-defining Infinite Jest. These essays provide fresh new readings of each of Wallace's novels as well as thematic essays that trace out patterns and connections across the three works. Most importantly, the collection includes six chapters on Wallace's unfinished novel, The Pale King, that will prove to be foundational for future scholars of this important text.
Last Updated on Sunday, 01 December 2013 14:59
Bryan A. Garner's (@BryanAGarner) interview with David Foster Wallace, Quack this Way, was waiting for me when I arrived home this afternoon.
I need to savour every moment of this.
I'm finding it difficult to express just how great this is. The majority of this 137 page publication is the transcript of a 96 minute conversation between Garner and Wallace in 2006. The interview is Wallace at his best speaking about his craft and writing in general. Wallace is so comfortable.
It is completely captivating and invigorating.
I'm already taking notes for things to share with my students about writing.
And it's lovely to 'hear' Wallace's voice again. Garner has done a wonderful thing to share not only the interview with us but a beautiful introductory tribute, unflinchingly written about a dear friend. To top it off royalties support the Wallace literary archive at the Harry Ransom Center.
Do not hesitate. Buy this volume. You won't regret it.
Quack this Way at Amazon.com