20 August 2011

Maud Newton's right about two things in her essay "Another Thing To Sort Of Pin On David Foster Wallace": Qualifiers have snuck into our written language recently, and the Internet has a lot to do with it. But I disagree with her diagnosis of this type of language as "soothing." -- I personally find it interruptive at first until I get the hang of the rhythm of it. If anything I strive to eliminate those qualifiers from speaking and let them slide when I'm writing, say, a blog post. (Also to consider: Have qualifiers truly -- ha! -- been sneaking into the written work as a whole, or is it largely confined to online writing? Just because it's more common in this medium doesn't say anything about the medium as a whole. Given how much of, say, INFINITE JEST is from the perspective of one teenager or another, that's a more accurate picture of how they talk and put word pictures together. There are far fewer qualifiers in a work like EVERYTHING AND MORE.) Ultimately, the argument takes a turn into "There is the correct way to write, and then there are the other ways."


theoncominghope said...

I feel like blogs were established directly in opposition to the "serious" writing that Newton espouses, which doesn't actually make it less serious. In fact, I find stream-of-consciousness blogging to generally be more sincere and more revelatory about the writer than the sort of "opinions" you get in the NY Times.

I couldn't resist wading into this debate.

On Maud Newton vs. David Foster Wallace and "folksiness." http://theoncominghope.blogspot.com/2011/08/on-maud-newton-vs.html

Ellen said...

I like your point that there is no single "blog style" that governs Internet discourse. It's odd that someone who blogs as much as she does (and well!) would make that kind of error -- I would expect that more of a Sam Tanenhaus or Bill Keller.

And to take a more cynical view, the editors had to know that if they brought David Foster Wallace into it, it would be a huge traffic driver, as opposed to saying that this is happening without naming a particular offender or leader.

theoncominghope said...

So cynical, but so true. I really do wonder what David Foster Wallace would say about becoming the de-facto target for all sorts of critical canards.