words

Desire and Endeavour

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Many of you area already aware that I’m an avid David Foster Wallace fan. This is a fairly recent development. I read Brief Interviews with Hideous Men in high school, but that was a mistake. I don’t think I was mature enough to understand it and the book made almost no impression on me; I only remember coming away with an association between Wallace and footnotes.

The real addiction didn’t begin until last year when an ex-boyfriend made me read “Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage,” an essay from April, 2001 in which Wallace reviews the latest edition of a dictionary of modern American usage. The essay is excellent (it will introduce you to a troubled world of lexicographical politics, juicier than you could possibly imagine), but its contents and the rest of my relationship with Wallace are stories for a different post. This event was significant for another reason: it began my love affair with usage dictionaries. (more…)