Monday, August 10, 2015

the last book I ever read (The Speechwriter by Barton Swaim, excerpt four)

from The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics by Barton Swaim:

Our first task was mastering the language we already had; the second, for me, was developing the capacity to produce it anew. This wasn’t going well. I took great pains with my compositions; I groped for just the right word, rearranged sentences to make them strike the ear in just the right way. That’s the difficult thing about writing well: you labor for a long time over a single paragraph, as I have this one, and in the end, if you’re successful, it looks as if it took no work at all. I anticipated that the governor would sense the difference between what I produced and what my colleagues and predecessors produced.

I did not feel superior to them in other respects. They were far more intelligent and capable than I was and worked faster. They understood the import of complicated policy decisions. They could speak credibly about the differences between competing bills on income tax reduction and the principles underlying each one. They seemed to have a natural and instantaneous grasp of things like labor force growth and global GDP. Yet when they tried to put their understanding into written form, they sounded like morons. Nat was a partial exception here, but even he seemed to think that writing was good only if it sounded grandiose, which to him meant using blistering sarcasm, cute analogies, and of course alliteration.

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