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Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

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cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

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cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Monday, September 15, 2008

“How to Be an Asshole,” by John Ziegler*

Posted by Scott Eric Kaufman on 09/15/08 at 11:30 PM

1. Use someone’s suicide to repeat cheap talking points:

I was neither as surprised, nor as upset by this tragedy as the many in the elite realm of reputable literature seemed to be.

2. Use someone’s suicide to assert your own importance:

I have a truly unique perspective on David Foster Wallace’s suicide.

3. Criticize someone for being polite and modest:

I found him to be more than a bit eccentric, but certainly nice enough not to be bothered too much by his presence.

4. Claim someone spent:

[A]t least two months following my every move before and during the broadcast of my show.

5. Then claim this person:

[H]ad intended to write a hit piece on talk radio and use me as the easy and naïve target.

6. Flaunt your ignorance:

I am embarrassed to say that I did not even know who David Foster Wallace was and I was too stupid or lazy to bother to simply “Google” him. It was only when the article was finally published that I realized what a “big deal” he was supposed to be.

7. Remind people of it:

[A]nyone who attempts to read the 23-page cover story is immediately struck by the use of many boxes off to the side of each page where Wallace shares his parenthetical thoughts/statements to his undisciplined telling of the story.

8. Once you’ve admitted surprise at the foonotes—thereby demonstrating you did no more research after you allowed him access than you did before—speak hard truths about his talent:

But I also believe that there is an equally fine line between real genius and just plain weirdness. In my experience, Wallace had very little of the former, so he exaggerated the latter.

9. Glory in the evaluative freedom your ignorance affords you:

It is therefore far better to be weird and thought, at worst, to be “too smart for the room,” than to play it straight and be revealed as a “one hit wonder” or even a total fraud.

10. Despite “absolutely no evidence to backup [sic] this assertion,” claim this fraud committed suicide for personal gain:

While I have absolutely no evidence to backup this assertion, I also think it is quite possible that he knew that killing himself in his “prime” and before he had been totally exposed as being a mere mortal in the literary realm would cement his status as a “genius” forever.

11. Be a talentless AM radio hack whose name no one will remember tomorrow and write this:

David Foster Wallace was an overrated writer in life. His suicide should not be used to elevate him even further beyond what he deserved, in death.

12. Acknowledge this:

I know that it is considered bad form, or worse, to speak ill of the newly dead[.]

13. Then do it anyway.

*Pardon my French, but sometimes—just sometimes—nothing less will do.


Wow. I must have really hit a nerve! Nice job taking almost everything I wrote out of context.

By John Ziegler on 09/16/08 at 12:27 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Yeah, I read Ziegler’s piece. Nothing taken out of context.

Another context: McCain campaign. Similar lack of concern for truth and decency. Bravo.

By on 09/16/08 at 12:56 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Actually, the 13 point format makes JZ look like less of a twerp than his article actually makes him look like, by making it more abstract.

And the “must have really hit a nerve” is a classic attention-seeking jerk phrase.  As in: did I just call your mom a prostitute?  You seem mad about that—I must have really hit a nerve!

Really Ziegler isn’t worth paying attention to.  Let him go to hell on his own, depressed and solitary.

By on 09/16/08 at 01:19 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I’m with Rich.  JZ crossed the line into bad taste and beyond.

By on 09/16/08 at 02:03 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I’m so relieved that I have never before heard of John Ziegler; I intend to promptly forget him. David Foster Wallace, on the other hand, I will continue to read and ponder for a long time.

By Carolyn Kellogg on 09/16/08 at 02:39 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Have no fear, Rich--I’m following Carolyn Kellogg’s advice and stuffing the sad little man down the memory hole.

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 09/16/08 at 05:07 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Ziegler isn’t the only evil lowbrow hoping to ride a famous corpse into the spotlight:


By Steven Augustine on 09/18/08 at 12:22 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Wow, Steven.  I seriously could not read through that entire Counterpunch article.  “I’ve never read Whitman, but I’ve heard that he sung about himself a lot.  Why was he so into himself?  Maybe this arrogance was why he did himself in.  Whitman, from the reviews I’ve read of your poetry, you would have been better off”—gah, can’t continue even in parody.

The above paragraph was a mistake on my part.  I should have let whoever it was go uncommented even as Ziegler.  But really, I can see why no one reads Counterpunch any more.

By on 09/18/08 at 03:44 PM | Permanent link to this comment

And Ziegler isn’t the only self-obsessed, self-serving, corporate-bought megaphone for the squirming self-regard of his own ego (as well as being a shamelessly opportunistic grave stomper): there’s also OJ Simpson. These two make good bedfellows. I hope they don’t forget to kiss each other goodnight; we wouldn’t want them to become worried at hearing the twin howling echo from their empty souls, now would we…

By on 10/09/08 at 10:42 AM | Permanent link to this comment

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