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August 23, 2011


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Fabian W.

I love that sentence. This sickens me.

A propos, Glenn: Have you ever come across that Channel 4 documentary called "Hardcore", about a young porn actress new in L.A.? Max Hardcore appears in a sequence that has to be one of the most disturbing things in the history of film.


Of same said generation... My three yr old niece has discovered the infinite pleasure of repeating back what adults have just said, endlessly. Surprised at how many er's and um's I use when speaking. Kind of the same thing?


Jesus, that was awful. Thanks for nothing, Glenn. So her point -- her argument -- is partly that the people on the internet who copy Wallace aren't as good as he was (but also that's almost not his fault) and that this sort of writing is constructed to soothe and render the author likable? Because what's more soothing than the ending of INFINITE JEST? Never mind the bizarre tendency these days to want highly stylized and individual artists to be less like they are so we wouldn't have to deal with it. Never mind further that Wallace's use of ungrammatical, conversational English is often *funny*.

And Geoff Dyer...you "wish" that Wallace would...do something (I've already forgotten what)? Well, I "wish" you had never written "phat loquacity." Seriously, if I found a lamp on the beach and cleaned it and a genie came out and granted me three wishes by way of thanking me for freeing him from his prison, my first wish would be that you had never done that. My second wish would address "beanie-baroque. "

Edward Champion

Glenn: Thanks so much for clarifying the purpose of DFW's fillers. Lexical reactionaries like Maud Newton will never get beyond their own delusional hangups about language and purpose, and mythical connections that they can't be bothered to cite. If anyone's interested, I have offered a thorough response to Newton's piece here:



The best thing about that essay was learning that Feed's archives are now available. Also, Geoff Dyer has put a lot of good writing into this world. Let's hope that "phat loquacity" never appears in print or speech ever again.


Newton's article is funny, albeit inadvertently. Look at her big example: the way that Wallace repeats the word "whole" no less than twenty times in an essay on pornography. "Not just sloppy and imprecise but argumentatively, even aggressively, disingenuous," says Newton. Strong words! Twenty times *is* an awful lot; it does call for explanation. But if you repeat that word, "whole," enough times (twenty should do) you will notice that it has a certain sound—it's a homonym. And once you start hearing the "hole" in every "whole," then you'll hear the repetitions differently, and this essay on pornography and on the masculine response thereto will be correspondingly enriched.
Newton is a good enough reader to notice Wallace's flourishes, but not good enough to say anything interesting about them, with the result that she misses the point with truly wonderful precision. Is she "not just sloppy and imprecise but argumentatively, even aggressively, disingenuous"? That's too strong; qualifications are necessary. She's merely a bit foolish.

Glenn Kenny

Let's not forget unimaginative, too, Richard. There's that.

As one of the first editors to let all of those "whole"s through, I suppose I bear some measure of blame/guilt. Maybe I should make like Jason Miller at the end of "The Exorcist" and offer myself to Maud: "Take ME! Take ME!"

I know it's kind of maybe churlish and fish-in-barrel-shooting to point out this fact, but fuck it, now I'm actually even more sort of genuinely pissed off: the chances of Newton ever writing anything as compelling as a random footnote in "Big Red Son" are precisely nil.


I'm still trying to figure out how somebody named Maud Newton isn't a 1920s suffragette, or possibly the head of some temperance group. In any case, I see from her website that she has a "novel in progress" thing going, and she once wrote an essay, which was subsequently published, about why she chose to write a novel instead of a memoir. Do tell!

Oliver Bloch

Pissing on DFW (now that he's dead, of course) is the easiest and surest way of garnering attention right now in Lit Crit circles. And Dyer is a typical Brit: bitchy and petty when he finds out that he's not the smartest guy in the room.


I like how people are snooping through her website for stuff to mock, assuming Maud is trying to piss on DFW's grave and thinking she published this in the NYT out of vanity instead of putting it on her blog. Hivemind.

Pete Segall

To echo Joel, Dyer is phenomenal writer. His opinion of Wallace doesn't change that. (Nabokov thought Bellow was a bore, as well.) Don't turn a defense of one guy into an assault on another for no reason other than he offers a judgment. Dyer's next book is about Stalker, so I imagine there'll be more to say about him in the coming months.

Glenn Kenny

Oh, you "like" that, do you, Jake? Why's that, because you think publication in the NYT should render you impervious to scrutiny of all your other activities? You can "hivemind" all you want, pal, but as I once heard a tranny hooker tell a john, "Forget it, darling; I know what your asshole smells like." NYT or not, Newton's an internet-enabled creation. Deal with it. "Snooping around her website," that really IS rich.

And she's not "trying" to piss on DFW's grave. She's fully crouched and flowing. She can own it and so can you, whoever you are.


"I like how people are snooping through her website for stuff to mock..."

Well shit, what else am I supposed to do with my day?

And Pete, I don't know if you're addressing me, or Oliver, or both of us, but I personally have no problem with Dyer disliking Wallace (Kingsley Amis didn't like Nabokov). I have an enormous problem with somebody using the phrase "phat loquacity" while running down the prose of another.


Also: I agree with him and not you = hivemind.

Brian Dauth

Gosh, I hope Maud Newton never tries to read Faulkner. He uses a great number of adjectives -- almost as if he trying both to capture an ever-changing reality while admitting that to do so was an impossible -- and potentially impious -- act on the part of the writer.


Why's that, because you think publication in the NYT should render you impervious to scrutiny of all your other activities?

Nope. I just like how people who disagree with Maud give her a character assessment alongside whatever problems they have with her arguments about Wallace's rhetoric. At least no one has asked Maud to to do better than him. Wait...

Pete Segall

@bill: It was a general response to the Dyer shots so, yes, I guess by that logic you'd be covered by that. Honestly, I think the guy is a solid enough writer to overlook one misguided phrase. If that's all he's going to be hung for... You've clearly read the Prospect essay - why boil it down to two dumb words that Newton chose to quote?

Glenn Kenny

Not asking and not expecting. But given all the qualifiers I used (get it?) I kind of counted on my comment being taken as at least slightly tongue in cheek. And excuse me for getting personally piqued about an attack on a piece I was personally involved in, and still have a personal investment in. I should be better than that, I know.

These fucking literary climbers and their grandstand plays and the way their "friends" prepare the fainting couch when someone calls bullshit on them. No wonder Dave hated New York.


Pete - who the hell said I was boiling down anything? I hate that phrase, and found it ironic that anyone capable of such a thing would use it while calling out the prose of another, and said so. Where did I say anything like "The phrase 'phat loquacity' is representative of Geoff Dyer's work in the following ways..." Jesus, and us Wallace fans are supposed to be defensive!

And incidentally, I also said that I hated "beanie-baroque."

Pete Segall

@bill: okay, I apologize for extracting an indictment of Dyer as a whole out of your original post. But you go looking for genies to undo four words? That's enough to derail the entire thing (that you couldn't bother to remember)? I'm sorry but that's pretty selective.

Glenn Kenny

I think Bill was hyperbolizing. To put across a point, rhetorically and stuff. I can't say I blame him. I'm sympathetic to Dyer's larger project, but man, "phat loquacity" is a LOT to forgive. ("Beanie-baroque" I consider merely very infelicitous by comparison.)

On a not entirely unrelated note. Dave's manners were such that he always became very sheepish on the infrequent occasions that "Signifying Rappers" came up.


What Glenn said (see that? Hivemind), and besides that...I don't know what you want me to say, Pete. Blame Maud Newton. She did the selecting.


I'm really curious why Dyer was even interviewed here. He seems not to fit in with the demographic of those (young Americans) who were "influenced" by Wallace in the way that Newton describes. I think that what Newton missed was the fact that Wallace joined his informal vocabulary with a rigorously formal syntax, so that half-page long sentences would still scan correctly while using phrases like "and but so." I don't see that in too much of the post-Wallace generation that Newton cites. I guess that I'm really just agreeing with Edward's excellent linked reply. Except that I always associated this aspect of Wallace's writing with Gaddis, and the kind of hyper-verisimilitude found in the dialogue (i.e. most of) JR, instead of Sir John Vanbrugh, whose awesome name and obscurity make me hope that Edward invented him.

Pete Segall

@bill: Kingsley Amis didn't like Martin Amis, either, at least not his writing. What's that worth in this context? Not a lot. As an admirer of Dyer and Wallace, sorry if I took too hard a swipe at your lament.

Glenn Kenny

My main problem with Dyer is, as someone old enough to recall the best-sellerdom of "Your Erroneous Zones," whenever Geoff comes up, the mental picture I get is one of Wayne. Blech.

That Fuzzy Bastard

I actually read Signifying Rappers back when it first came out, when DFW was nobody famous and I was a li'l Public Enemy-lovin' punk rock kid. And I really liked it! And still do! Yes, it's obviously a book by a white college kid about an art form he's not part of, but that's no small part of what's good about it. It's still some of the better writing about the genre's fraught relationship with the white audience and (just as or more important) the white-owned distribution network. And for those interested in consistency of themes, it anticipates nicely with what would become a major theme for Wallace: the tension between the posing to communicate anything, and the fear that the post of authenticity is all there is. Most memorably, the analysis of "My Uzi Weighs A Ton" is one of the sharpest paragraphs ever written about "conscious" hip-hop.


Well, I, of course, think Maud is entirely right, and I look forward to the day when Wallace and his ilk are forgotten. But your coming to Wallace's defense is touching, and I don't mean that in some sort of obnoxious sarcastic way.

Yashoda Sampath

Newton seems to believe that one cannot write in the style she describes and still be sincere in intent and objective, which is frankly ridiculous and an idea that scarcely bears thinking about. Nonetheless, I thought on it, and wrote this rebuttal:

On Maud Newton vs. DFW and "folksiness."

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