Tuesday, October 18, 2011

VOR’s Turn: The Strange Case Of The Telepathic Magazine.


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I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that magazine, The Atlantic, is telepathic; or, at least, its web site is.

There, you can not only peruse the monthly magazine, but have your brain revved up by reading its daily articles.

They are all eminently readable but, not infrequently require the reader to think. Extraordinary!

Indeed, in that regard they display an almost un-American attitude. The dumbing-down of the U.S. is not accepted. Perhaps that is where the name, The Atlantic, comes in.

But where does telepathy come in? Well, although it is ostensibly a general interest publication, rarely a day passes that it doesn’t come up with at least one piece that gives a fresh perspective on a subject that I’m keenly interested in. They have me triangulated. Beyond that, its writers seem to have mastered The Art of The Second Question.

The Second Question issue refers to the fact that an alarming number of U.S. journalists, after asking the first question about an issue, fail to ask a follow-up question, even when the answer they have been given, is either incomplete, false or inadequately explained; which is more common than not.

Why is this? Are they inadequately knowledgeable, or is there a convention in U.S. media that it’s impolite to push too hard. Advertisers might get upset. Future interviewees might decline to see you. I don’t profess to know the answer (though I have my suspicions). I do hold the view that U.S. democracy would be better served if American journalists were more tenacious. If you want an example of what I mean, listen to the BBC, or watch Jeremy Paxman on BBC’s Newsnight (which makes an appearance in the U.S. once a week).

Paxman not only looks world weary and sceptical, but has a voice and body language to match, and is cowed by no one. Some might regard him as aggressive. I think the words “Well briefed, frighteningly intelligent, and thoroughly professional,” describe him better. Nonetheless, I will admit that just before an interview starts, he can look like a beast of prey awaiting his dinner. And he eats his fill.

Which brings me back to The Atlantic. Today, amongst other gems, there is a marvelous article by Derek Thompson headed: What Does A U.S. Worker Really Cost which, typically, adds fresh insight; and then a gem – clearly written specially for yours truly by Clive Crook – headed: How To Write Fiction.

What can I say! I need all the help I can get. Let me close by quoting from the piece.

Speaking of novels, I'm a fan of Geoff Dyer, ("Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi") as you may recall. I recommend this short article of his on how to write fiction.

The satisfactions of writing are indistinguishable from its challenges and difficulties. It is constantly testing all your faculties and skills (of expression, concentration, memory, imagination and empathy) on the smallest scale (sentences, words, commas) and the largest (the overall design, structure and purpose of the book) simultaneously. It brings you absolutely and always up against your limitations. That's why people keep at it - and why it's far easier to give advice about writing than it is to do it.

The word “awesome” is used far too much. It is applicable here.





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