overwriting

 

 

The following is the text of an email of mine to a relative, dated February 17, 2000.  It was buried in one of my file cabinets:

 

From today’s New York Post

“Lake Placid: My Winter Blunder-Land,” feature article by Gersh Kuntzman:

At 22, [Oksana] Baiul still looks like the day she won the Olympic gold in Lillehammer in 1994. Her face is the classic Russian mix of Dostoevskian brashness, Tokstoyan grace and Chekhovian petulance.

Would you not agree that this verbally gifted writer has — with dashing brio and a wonderful mélange of ingredients comprised of piquancy, élan, brio, and mellifluence, admixed with a dollop of not un-Russian tartar sauce and relish — brilliantly grasped the essence of the Slav “mystique”? [RWS comment]

 

 

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Addendum: Taking another look at this over the top sentence (the second one from the Post article, above), it strikes me how some writers, in their eagerness to dazzle, have scant regard for anything approaching accuracy. The mot juste, the phrase which nails an impression or idea are desiderata — nicht wahr? The writer no doubt thought calling Oksana Baiul the epitome of “Dostoevskian brashness” would impress readers. But, are Dostoevsky’s characters known for brashness? And, what is “Chekhovian petulance,” I would like to know? Is it different from Dostoevskian petulance?

Goes to show that, proves the point: the first responsibility of a writer to his readers is accuracy . Once the reader can trust you on that score, you can go ahead and try to be clever. But even that might blow up in your face.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

    June 2018

3 thoughts on “overwriting

  1. Neha Sharma

    I agree so much with this. You don’t ever want to make your reader feel cheated. What a writer wants with their reader is a long-term bond, not a one-time hustle, and that only comes with building trust.

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