Quack This Way is an excellent book.
Adroitness, precision, economy and clarity. These words will appear in heavily bolded font on posters across the front of my English classroom. These are the terms Wallace discusses with Garner that makes for impactful writing. Throughout the interview Wallace attempts to explain his frustrations at the differences between what is good writing against what is perceived as good writing. His annoyance on the over reliance of abstraction, wordiness, over complication and jargon, particularly in the professional sector, is refreshingly clear.
And this is what comes through the entire interview. Wallace’s directness and clarity, not always found in his writing, when discussing the writing process and the ideas of writing as communication rather than expression allows you to better understand his work and even identify flaws or successes immediately in your own writing. Wallace and Garner have an obvious respect for each other which allows the conversation to be both natural and technical. This IS Wallace’s voice, relaxed, humorous and direct, something which was seemingly difficult to capture in an interview. It does sadly, in a way, make Wallace seem as if he is alive again. It certainly made me wish he was my teacher.
As an English Teacher, I have made a page of instructions Wallace gives throughout the interview to share with my students, which if heeded, will make their writing and my reading improve dramatically. Understanding at 15 that the reader doesn’t want to read about me, rather than communicate with me, would have saved many of my teachers and lecturers from reading what Wallace calls “almost well-structured diary entries which say this is me, this is me!”
Garner’s Quack This Way is a book about Wallace, the teacher and student. Easy to read, easy to process. Simple and clean. He would have appreciated that.
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