Maud Newton’s piece earlier this week, on the impact of David Foster Wallace’s writing style on blogging and intellectual rigor, has stirred quite a debate online. She writes:
Wallace’s slangy approachability was part of his appeal, and these quirks are more than compensated for by his roving intelligence and the tireless force of his writing. The trouble is that his style is also, as Dyer says, ‘catching, highly infectious’. . . . In the Internet era, Wallace’s moves have been adopted and further slackerized by a legion of opinion-mongers who not only lack his quick mind but seem not to have mastered the idea that to make an argument, you must, amid all the tap-dancing and hedging, actually lodge an argument.
One vociferous response comes from Edward Champion, who tries to deconstruct her position using linguistic anthropology. He suggests that, “If Newton were genuinely interested in language or people or the often magical way that words are transmitted in our culture, she wouldn’t be so quick to condemn.” Further reactions, including a thoughtful one by Alexander Chee, are linked at the bottom of the piece. There’s enough hurricane reading for the whole afternoon here. I’d say Newton’s essay succeeded.