Category Archives: Journalism
My first op-ed for Al Jazeera appeared this week. A shout-out to their editorial team, and especially to Naz, for a seamless experience.
WHAT TO DO
March 5 . But what does all this scribbling amount to? What is now scribbled in the heat of the moment one can contemplate with somewhat of satisfaction, but alas! to-morrow — aye, to-day — it is stale, flat and unprofitable — in fine, is not, only its shell remains, like some red parboiled lobster-shell which, kicked aside never so often, still stares at you in the path.
In a CIA review of various attempts between 1960 and 1963 to assassinate Fidel Castro…an internal report prepared in 1967 by the Inspector General of the CIA and declassified in 1978 for release to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, there appears, on the matter of Washington language, this instructive reflection:
… There is a third point, which was not directly made by any of those we interviewed, but which emerges clearly from the interviews and from reviews of files. The point is that of frequent resort to synecdoche – the mention of a part when the whole is to be understood, or vice versa. Thus, we encounter repeated references to phrases such as “disposing of Castro,” which may be read in the narrow, literal sense of assassinating him, when it is intended that it be read in the broader, figurative sense of dislodging the Castro regime. Reversing the coin, we find people speaking vaguely of “doing something about Castro” when it is clear that what they have specifically in mind is killing him. In a situation wherein those speaking may not have actually meant what they seemed to say or may not have said what they actually meant, they should not be surprised if their oral shorthand is interpreted differently than was intended.
Joan Didion, We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order To Live, 472-3
It is the fault of some excellent writers – De Quincey’s first impressions on seeing London suggest it to me – that they express themselves with too great fullness and detail. They give the most faithful, natural, and lifelike account of their sensations, mental and physical, but they lack moderation and sententiousness….they say all they mean. Their sentences are not concentrated and nutty. Sentences which suggest far more than they say, which have an atmosphere about them, which do not merely report an old, but make a new, impression; sentences which suggest as many things and are as durable as a Roman aqueduct; to frame these, that is the art of writing. Sentences which are expensive, towards which so many volumes, so much life, went; which lie like boulders on the page, up and down or across; which contain the seed of other sentences, not mere repetition but creation. If De Quincey had suggested each of his pages in a sentence and passed on, it would have been far more excellent writing.
Thoreau recorded this entry in his journal on August 22, 1851.