Sunday, 24 June 2012

Windbags and "fringe" defamers

False modesty aside, I am a writer. Whether I'm a good one or a bad one is up for question, but I am a writer by the simple virtue that I write a lot. Or, perhaps a better descriptor of me would be that I'm a connoisseur of good writing and eloquence who dabbles in writing.

Succinct thought, as opposed to demogoguery, forms the basis of great politics so I'm also naturally drawn into political discourse. Ditto with social commentary. And great dialogue/monologue in plays, movies and radio.

I'm always and constantly on the lookout for great writing material but there is a lot that is bad out there so I end up analysing and reflecting upon bad writing and speech-making. I think people who know me know that I don't think much of people like Rex Murphy and Conrad Black and Vic Toews and Stephen Harper. I don't know these people from Adam so my dislike is not personal but rather technical and political.

I find Mr Murphy's writing wanting of soul and authenticity. He's memorized a lot of big words and mistook them for eloquence (like, I own a guitar and know some music theory but I don't consider myself a real musician). The same goes for Mr Black. Except, Mr Black has less talent than Mr Murphy if such case be possible - and it is if the measure of pedantry is countered with content. Where Mr Murphy has kept trying to craft that perfect line, Mr Black is a case of an arrested development (pun merely coincidental).

Years ago, when Gorbachev almost got himself killed in a failed coup attempt, Bush Sr. talked about the "coup plotters" and the words just struck me as sophomoric and too obvious for a man of such stature (disregarding his politics for the moment). I'm also struck by the talking points of Harper's regime when they say expressions like "baseless smears"; "solid, stable conservative majority"; etc. etc. -I also misheard Mr Black in the interview with Peter Mansbridge when he reacted badly to Mulcair's words and slipped in something to the effect: "I could call him a fringe ("French" is what he actually said) defamer but I won't".

Bad writing (or weak choice of words) stems from intellectual laziness and/or unadornable vulgarity. I'm not talking Peter Griffin bad - the writers of The Family Guy are excellent, talented writers and utter joy to experience as a connoisseur of good writing: I'm talking poorly-thought-out as in an old man with jet black hair bad. All that money wasted on an education: truly, one cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

As a kid I was taught that I should try and write in the active voice and avoid superfluous brush-strokes: to strive for elegance. Sometimes one leads the imagination with well-crafted sentences, but immodesty is unbecoming of an artiste. It is exactly the same as the scientific principle of parsimony (or, that elusive beauty of a mathematical equation that the English mathematician Hardy valued so). It is like that wonderful title of Tolstoy: how much land does a man need? -Pure genius. There is no mistaking quality for quantity though quantity of words is not a weakness of Tolstoy's.

Jay

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