Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Power of Words

It takes my breath away when writers do it well. In this passage quoted at the blog First Things, three co-authors labor to bring forth this beautiful passage--beautiful on many levels:

[A Newsweek columnist and editor together are] speaking . . . in familiar tropes and fused-phrases and easy clich├ęs. They’re trying to convey a feeling, really, rather than an argument: Jesus loves us, love is good, homosexuals love one another, marriage is love, love is loving–a sort of warm bath of words, their meanings dissolved into a gentle goo. In their eyes, all nice things must be nice together, and Jesus comes to seem (as J.D. Salinger once mocked) something like St. Francis of Assisi and “Heidi’s grandfather” all in one.

This little passage refers to the use of language as a tool, then demonstrates how it is being done in a particular instance, then comments on the effect, helping us identify it for ourselves with a reference to other cultural referents. To understand the paragraph we need to know Heidi's grandfather AND St. Francis AND Salinger AND what tropes are. (Or at least we need to be able to link on to how tropes might be like fused-phrases and easy cliches--that's how readers cheat.) Reading this passage and enjoying it is like meeting someone we realize will be a fast friend very soon--we have so much in common!

Please use the link above to explore the post from which I have drawn, and from there then the review from another publication, as well as the original article.

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