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Customer Discussions > Garner's Modern American Usage forum

David Foster Wallace review of this book

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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 28, 2008 7:28:28 PM PDT
David Foster Wallace wrote a novella-length review of this book called:

"Authority and American Usage"

published in his book `Consider the Lobster`. It is probably the most brilliant book review of any book I've ever read, and a great tribute to this book and its significance.

Posted on Apr 24, 2009 1:10:58 PM PDT
You're absolutely right!

Posted on Oct 22, 2009 5:47:10 PM PDT
MTrousdale says:
DFW also published a brilliant novella-length review of GMAU entitled "Tense Present" in Harper's Magazine (April 2001) - they may be one and the same. Anyway: Genius. Fantastic article, fantastic Garner.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 5, 2010 3:42:39 PM PST
They are indeed one and the same article.

Posted on Dec 9, 2010 4:55:19 PM PST
mao_soup says:
Suck it! Oh....sorry, wrong David Wallace...

Posted on Oct 1, 2013 12:15:09 PM PDT
Megarat says:
Actually, I need to point out that David Foster Wallace made a massive number of factual errors in that review, specifically about the controversy surrounding the differences between Webster's 2nd and 3rd editions.

In short, he got the story very wrong, and in most of his arguments, not only were they factually incorrect, but he was parroting claims that have long been refuted and illustrated what little he actually knew about the topic. In other words, his arguments and ideas, while being a compelling read, were almost completely without true substance.

Worse than getting the facts wrong, there are parts of that essay where DFW claims to have read certain source material himself (dictionary introductions, etc.), but clearly, based on the errors in his text, he never did. I.e., by all appearances, he was deliberately trying to make himself look smart, and that much of his reputation of being knowledge and erudite is really just artifice.

And these don't seem to be accidental mistakes, but rather knee-jerk regurgitations of the popular polemic of the time, itself chock-full of factual mistakes and propaganda that he didn't actually confirm (but yet claimed that he confirmed). It's a horrible mess, and for a one-time DFW fan, really depressing. "Infinite Jest" had a big impact on my view of literature, but now I can't help but regard DFW as being an ego-driven literary poseur.

Don't just take my word for it. For more details, check out The Story of Ain't: America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published, or locate Skinner's related article ("Ain't That the Truth") with "Humanities" magazine online.

All of that said, I don't want to accidentally impugn Garner's book (Garner's Modern American Usage, 3rd Ed.), because it's fantastic.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 23, 2013 5:59:17 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 23, 2013 5:59:51 AM PDT
Sarpi Olgre says:
I just read DFW's essay, "Authority and American Usage," and based on it, have decided to buy this book. I am troubled, however, by Megarat's charges. Can anyone respond to these criticisms (I mean of Wallace's review of the book?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2013 9:51:26 PM PST
You didn't give a single example of an error made by DFW. That's pretty remarkable.
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Participants:  8
Total posts:  8
Initial post:  Sep 28, 2008
Latest post:  Dec 2, 2013

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Garner's Modern American Usage by Bryan A. Garner (Hardcover - October 30, 2003)
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