On DFW, On Blogging

August 24, 2011 | 10

Practically everyone read Maud Newton‘s riff on David Foster Wallace‘s influence this weekend, but Edward Champion had some issues with it.

works on special projects for The Millions. He lives in Baltimore and he frequents dive bars. His interests can be followed on his Tumblr, Nick Recommends and Twitter, @nemoran3.


  1. Ed Champion’s pretty harsh on Maud, but I also thought the piece was ridiculously random & willful, tracing the slacker caveats and qualifications to DFW.

  2. The whole thing seems a bit foolish to me. I think it’s fairly standard that someone who is talented and breaks ground in their field is followed by imitators who are just annoying. Ed’s piece would manage to be readable if it wasn’t filled with the same leaps over gaps of logic and proof that he rails against Newton for.

  3. Thanks for the link, Nick. It’s always interesting when those who claim to welcome directness fail to clarify their nonexistent argument when it’s been thoroughly exposed as a sham. It’s also interesting when those who lack the intellectual rigor to address another argument — one backed up by proof, citation, and examples — prop up the same straw men occupying the maize of disordered minds.

  4. Ed, your essay, when it had “proof,” was utterly besides the point. You quote Newton objecting to the rise of “um” and “sort of” and other colloquial styles into essays, and then you prove her wrong in her objection by quoting dialogue. That’s as disordered as can be. You toss it in so that you can ask the rhetorical “If Vanbrugh’s dialogue had been scrubbed, how then might we have known — in a time before movies, gramophones, and computers — how people talked?” But again, that’s just worthless distraction meant to have a reader nodding along like you made a point, when you did nothing of the sort, what with Newton discussing essays and you discussing dialogue in a play. No one, not Newton, raised the idea that “um” should be entirely scrubbed from the English language.

    And where’s some citation for Newton striking a “self-same ‘regular gal schtick'” or any evidence of the accusation that she “cribbed” criticism of Wallace’s “aw-shuckism” from Stephen Dodson, besides the fact that his “aw-shucks” bit is addressed by nearly everyone who writes on him.

  5. Also, a tip: when you go ad hominem on someone, it’s almost effective if you don’t say things that apply to yourself: “careless and needlessly furious blogger “

  6. I think the real issue with Newton’s piece is that the David Foster Wallace reference is only there so that she and the Times can make a diatribe against all writing styles that aren’t their own. The idea that the speech of half a million blogs can all be attributed to one set of authors is laughable at best, especially given that David Foster Wallace is, in many ways, one of the most difficult writers in the English language.

    So she asks us to accept this causational fallacy willy-nilly, and proceed to outline a dangerously myopic view of what blogospheric “style” is, as if there’s one hegemonic voice.

  7. Somebody dusted off an old, unmarketable DFW take-down, re-shaped it to confirm a few more irrational prejudices… and sold it (to a bastion of the irrationally-prejudiced) for a nominal fee. Please tell me the author was nursing a mint julep on the veranda while scowling over her Selectric!

    But, seriously, folks. I have 200+ blogs bookmarked on my Virtual Sort Of Devil-Print Machine (PC) and not one of those sites (from Fafblog to FecalFace to ContraJamesWood) is DFW-derivative, or sticky with verbal slacker-tics. I know Miss Newton was being “highly-selective” when she wrote the article in question, but I’m suggesting that the kind of “highly-selective” she has mastered is the least interesting or useful.

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