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Quack This Way

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  666 ratings  ·  98 reviews
Two friends, both of them vocational snoots, sat down to film an interview in February 2006. Their subjects: language and writing. The interviewee drove more than an hour, from Claremont to downtown Los Angeles. The interviewer flew from Dallas. They spoke on film for 67 minutes and then walked uphill to a nearby seafood restaurant, where they continued the running convers ...more
Paperback, 137 pages
Published October 14th 2013 by Penrose Pub
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Average rating 4.21  · 
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karen
this book is the transcript of a video interview/conversation between david foster wallace and bryan a. garner that took place in 2006, several years after dfw wrote this amazing essay/review of bryan a. garner's Garner's Modern American Usage:

http://harpers.org/wp-content/uploads...

i was lucky enough to have attended a similar interview/conversation between dfw and george saunders many years ago, and this book reminded me just how good he was in this context, how simultaneously awkward and natu
...more
Lee Klein
Jul 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
For a transcript of an interview about English language usage and writing, this is about as entertaining and enlightening as a book of this sort could possibly be. Five LOLs and as many genuine insights into the language, usually occurring simultaneously. Filled with infectious DFW phrases -- "gooey-hearted humanists" who want to " vivify and facilitate . . . inter-human relationships of various sorts." Great bits about the religious aspects of art, clarity, efficiency, George W. Bush's solecism ...more
George
Jun 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-read, dfw
A great transcript of the interview. Great insight from DFW, as always.
Jack Waters
Oct 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2013
Bryan A. Garner’s Garner's Modern American Usage was reviewed in Harper’s by David Foster Wallace and an unlikely bond was formed, which led to things like DFW meeting an oppositely-political Justice Scalia of the Supreme Court as well as this book. The book is a transcription of more than an hour’s worth of video taken by BAG. He interviews DFW about language, grammar, usage, proper subjectivity of words, et cetera.

It’s a wonderful glimpse into the minds of two precocious SNOOTS. There’s plenty
...more
muthuvel
Jul 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-writing
This audio transcript of the interview with DFW by Bryan Garner focussed upon some of the tools and techniques involved in English language usage and writing. People who aren't familiar with David Wallace's works and interested in the book might find this review useful.

"You'll cut this out but a Usage dictionary is one of the greatest bathroom books of all time."

DFW discussed his necessities of a thesaurus book, usage dictionary while (re)writing the sixth or seventh draft. How he had taught wr
...more
Josh
Mar 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is probably the epitome of a pointless review. The essential idea behind a review is to encourage others to read or to avoid a book, and Quack This Way is one of those for-completists-only books impervious to reviews and ratings; i.e., if you're among the target market for this book, you're going to read it no matter what anyone says.

Just thought I'd get that out of the way.

Okay so yes, a whole cottage industry has formed around David Wallace, this void-filling proliferation of collected re
...more
Andrew
Working at a law firm, I'm rarely far from Garner's reference books, and when I found out he had a lengthy interview with Saint David of Downstate Illinois, my curiosity was piqued. What I found was a fairly good -- if by no means mind-blowing -- interview that mirrors so much else of what I've heard from DFW. This is how we use language. This is how language creates communities, with all the good and bad that entails. Hardly essential reading, but good enough.
Tony Reinke
May 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
By the time I came to know and appreciate David Foster Wallace he was already dead by suicide, which really stinks because I now have so many questions for him about his life, his writings, his ideas, and I can only interact with his books (as I did in my book *The Joy Project*).

Thankfully, others did have time to talk at length with him including Bryan A. Garner, the lexicographer (think: *Garner’s Modern English Usage*). Their paths crossed after Wallace’s monster book review of Garner’s lexi
...more
Bruce
Oct 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I am a DF Wallace-alholic, so any book that promulgates David's wisdom is, to me, a must-read. This is a must-read.

Setting that aside, though, I would also consider this a must-read for anyone who wants to be an impactful writer. Dave's insights on what makes for effective writing are based on many years of his writing novels and nonfiction pieces that opened our minds in new ways, made us laugh, made is think, and sometimes scared us stiff. His key insight is one you have probably heard from hi
...more
Zach Bumgardner
Nov 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
They read usage manuals in the bathroom just like the rest of us.
Nick Craske
Aug 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A satisfying and inspiring espresso shot of DFW.
Simon Stegall
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interview with DFW by Brian Garner, author of Garner's Dictionary of Modern American Usage which DFW so loved. Fascinating to see that DFW talked with the same vocabulary that he wrote with.
Pete Wung
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My review is in my blog. Please follow the link to read it. Thanks.

https://polymathtobe.blogspot.com/202...
...more
Steve
Apr 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At the bottom of page 4 in Quack This Way there is a link (see below) to an NPR interview hosted by one Judy Swallow and featuring guests David Foster Wallace and Bryan Garner. Wallace had written about as glowing a review about Garner's new Dictionary of Modern American Usage (now titled Garner's Modern American Usage) as any author could hope to receive, and this conversation was the first time the two men had met (if you call Wallace sitting in an Illinois studio and Garner on a long distance ...more
Kirby Gann
Nov 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Probably only for DFW freaks, and yet anyone interested in American usage will find much of interest here. Garner, author of Garner's Modern American Usage (which was the basis of the great essay on usage that appears in DFW's Consider the Lobster collection), became friends with Wallace after Wallace's essay appeared--they had the language-"snoot" quality in common. Quack This Way is a transcription of a long interview Garner made for part of his own research--evidently he teaches, or leads wor ...more
John Cooper
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Essential for fans of Bryan Garner and near-essential for fans of David Wallace, Quack This Way is a short but fascinating transcript of a dialogue about language and usage between two of the best modern practitioners. Garner and Wallace became friendly after Wallace's essay "Tense Present," an extended essay and review of Garner's Modern American Usage, was published in Harper's. Wallace's views on English and on the teaching of English to young writers, although expressed off the cuff, are cog ...more
Franc
Apr 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is the transcript of a 67 minute interview, which (if you're a "snoot" like me) will take twice as long to read because you'll be underlining and reading sections again. DFW’s spoken prose is so clear and precise, as opposed to his fictional prose that is spectacular but often in the way Mariah Carey’s singing is spectacular — she can do unbelievable things with her voice in a song, but should she?
Spencer
May 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A torturously brief exchange between two of the indisputably greatest logical and grammatical minds of our time. Delightful. Wish it was 100 times as long as it was. I think a further collaboration between these two would have been nothing short of magical. More detailed analysis to follow, but too excited to keep all this enthusiasm to myself. Loved it!
Tortla
Jun 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Some great bits about writing and usage and empathy. I don't always agree with DFW, and his verbosity can be tiresome (especially because it's so self-effacing), but he and Garner shared some great insights and quotable-quotes for word-nerds like me.
Donald
Sep 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Good book to get from the library - probably not worth owning.
Gaetano Venezia
May 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
Two snoots* review a few linguistic communities in Quack This Way. Perhaps my favorite David Foster Wallace interview, Bryan Garner's deep love for and knowledge of standard English pushes DFW to expound his views on very specific debates and ideas in linguistics, academia, writing, and grammar. The conversation focuses on "dialects" central to daily life (business-speak, advertising, officialese and government doublespeak, and political propaganda) as well as one central to Wallace's career (ac ...more
Katrina Sark
Jun 17, 2017 rated it did not like it
p.25-26 – BAG: What’s the best way to learn to write well?

DFW: In the broadest possible sense, writing well means to communicate clearly and interestingly and in a way that feels alive to the reader. Where there’s some kind of relationship between the writer and the reader – even though it’s mediated by a kind of text – there’s an electricity about it.
In order to write effectively, you don’t pretend it’s a letter to some individual you know, but you never forget that what you’re engaged in is
...more
Ben
Aug 26, 2020 rated it liked it
The call-to-action that I experienced:
Adopt a form-follows-function approach to communication, because the effectiveness of a piece of communication should be measured in terms of audience-outcomes! (there are "functions" that one should mindfully try to detach oneself from, and doing so should result in a more efficient "form")

Since this piece is rather short, I picked a sentence from each chapter to give a flavor of its contents

Chapter 1:
DFW: "... in many tight, insular communities - where me
...more
Scott Eggerding
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have accepted that I am a snoot, so I have no choice but to relish every word of Quack This Way. As a transcript of a conversation that really began with the writing and subsequent publication of an essay about a style guide, it seems impossible to write a review that would get anyone, other than a fellow snoot, to pick this book up. But pick it up you should! You will learn why it was OK for me to start a sentence with a conjunction. You will learn how to write for someone other than yourself ...more
Shweta Ramdas
Sep 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reading DFW's work is a pleasure. His words seem to find a direct line to the sub-cortical part of your brain, bypassing any conscious processing. Reading Wallace on writing, then, is a sheer gift. Wallace's relationship with Bryan A Garner is an unusual one: Wallace's review of Garner's book (American English Usage) contributed more than anything else to the original book's acclaim and celebrity. In this book, Garner sits down with Wallace for an interview on writing. Like with Wallace's essays ...more
Moeen
A quick, inspiring read. Gave me some ideas about my own writing life:
“It’s also true that we go through cycles. Right? At least in terms of my own work, I’ve been through three or four of these, and I’m in one now, where it feels as if I’ve forgotten everything I’ve ever known. I have no idea what to do. Most of what I want to do seems to me like I’ve done it before. It seems stupid.
And except on the days I’m really depressed, I realize I’ve been through this before. These are actually good —
...more
James Klagge
Dec 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Some good things in the interview, and some wasted space. But the good things are worth reading--about the process of writing. The large print, extra spacing between paragraphs, and the false starts, suggest that this would have been better as an article, or perhaps collected with other interviews.
There is an interesting discussion near the end (pp. 106ff) about George W Bush and the debasement of language in the Presidency. It seems quaint now, in light of the trashing of language in the Presid
...more
L.E.
Feb 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Simple conversation between two very different authors, with somewhat of a plug for Garner’s excellent usage dictionary.

Nothing extraordinary being said, of course. But, perhaps, therein lies the archival significance of such books - to remind us that, much like any lover of words, even brilliant writers, like Wallace, often question the purpose and use of language without totally delving into the linguistics or philology of the matter. If anything at all, this little conversation is pure curios
...more
Jess D
Oct 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book definitely a page turner if you're into literature that takes a perspective on certain concepts the structure of the book is also quite interesting. It's written as though it's a play which is different form many other pieces of literature that I have read. I don't want put any spoilers but let's just say this book is literally a dialogue between two people talking about the perception of Writing and it's meaning in society. Highly recommend it if something like that intere ...more
Miles
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I loved this transcript of a conversation between DFW and Bryan Garner about language, grammar, and writing. Wallace is one of my favorite writers and this discussion provides some real insight into his writing process and his thoughts about language and grammar, in particular. The actual conversation took 67 minutes, so you can read the book in much less time than that. Enjoy.
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David Foster Wallace worked surprising turns on nearly everything: novels, journalism, vacation. His life was an information hunt, collecting hows and whys. "I received 500,000 discrete bits of information today," he once said, "of which maybe 25 are important. My job is to make some sense of it." He wanted to write "stuff about what it feels like to live. Instead of being a relief from what it fe ...more

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“If you spend enough time reading or writing, you find a voice, but you also find certain tastes. You find certain writers who when they write, it makes your own brain voice like a tuning fork, and you just resonate with them. And when that happens, reading those writers—not all of whom are modern . . . I mean, if you are willing to make allowances for the way English has changed, you can go way, way back with this— becomes a source of unbelievable joy. It’s like eating candy for the soul. So probably the smart thing to say is that lucky people develop a relationship with a certain kind of art that becomes spiritual, almost religious, and doesn’t mean, you know, church stuff, but it means you’re just never the same.” 250 likes
“Reading is a very strange thing. We get talked to about it and talk explicitly about it in first grade and second grade and third grade, and then it all devolves into interpretation. But if you think about what’s going on when you read, you’re processing information at an incredible rate.

One measure of how good the writing is is how little effort it requires for the reader to track what’s going on. For example, I am not an absolute believer in standard punctuation at all times, but one thing that’s often a big shock to my students is that punctuation isn’t merely a matter of pacing or how you would read something out loud. These marks are, in fact, cues to the reader for how very quickly to organize the various phrases and clauses of the sentence so the sentence as a whole makes sense.”
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