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Quack This Way: David Foster Wallace & Bryan A. Garner Talk Language and Writing Paperback – October 15, 2013
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One of many gems I enjoyed: After commenting about how he used to laugh with his mother about the ridiculousness of the phrase "Save up to 50% and more!" in a local advertisement, Wallace notes that it is "possible that [the phrase] has been shown statistically to increase your ability to memorize the 50%. The point is not that this is okay. I think it's damaging to the language as a beautiful thing, and to interhuman communication, but I've stopped thinking that it's just idiots who weren't paying attention in eighth grade and don't know how to do this stuff."
I am grateful that Garner has provided us with this wonderful interview. Complete with its heartfelt introduction, it is a great addition to Wallace's legacy. One can only hope Garner takes Wallace up on his suggestion to write Garner's Dictionary of Dialectal English Usage: "[A]dvertising English, bureaucratic English, corporate English, hipster English . . . because I will bet that just trying to figure out some of the codes and motives behind them would just be fascinating." If he does, there is no doubt about the book's dedication.
I think there comes a point in every writer's career when they realize they either have to get serious about their work or move on to another occupation. If you've come to that point... if you are a serious author, you needs serious books. Quack This Way is like Garner's Modern American Usage in that respect. Every serious author needs to own both these books, to study them, to soak up the information being offered.
I love Wallace's work. I hate it that he committed suicide, and I hate it that, now that he's dead, he gets the reverent treatment that he does. Suicide is one of the cruelest things anyone can ever do to another person. So I find it hard to swallow the cover, most of all. That's why the four stars.
I also love and admire Garner's work. The combination of a smart interviewer with someone who knows a thing or two about writing as subject makes for a great guide for people who might want to learn how to write. The things that made Wallace's writing good, but, probably more so his teaching, i.e, his ability to cut to the quick in a charming way and state things really plainly, such as very basic stuff that his undergraduates might never have thought about, like, "the reader doesn't care about you") are evident in abundance here.
If you're expecting another Infinite Jest, you're not going to find it here. If you're someone who has to have every last little bit of wallaciana it's possible to find, see a therapist. If you want to refresh your memory on what makes good writing, or learn it firsthand, this is for you.