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Did David Foster Wallace Inspire Bloggers’ ‘Worst Tendencies’?

If you dislike the style of some writing on some blogs, blame David Foster Wallace. According to Maud Newton's essay "Another Thing to Sort of Pin on David Foster Wallace" in this week's New York Times Magazine, Wallace's "slangy approachability" might have been part of his appeal, but it's far less appealing in other people. "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," she writes. Newton says that "Wallace isn't responsible for his imitators," but she cites Wallace's 1993 essay "E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction" as the "ur-text" of this "movement." According to Newton, "In its soaring romanticism, its Orwellian fears, its I’m-just-riffing-here backtracking and its infuriating absence of question marks following interrogatories, this essay prefigures many of the worst tendencies of the Internet." Is it fair to pin the pervasive use of ironic punctuation on David Foster Wallace? Are equivocations and self-doubt a cultural byproduct of admiring Wallace's work? Did Wallace create this style, or did he just popularize it? Bring on the theories.

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