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Is eloquence dead? 
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Post Is eloquence dead?
The radio played some D-Day radio news clips the other day in remembrance of the anniversary. I was struck not so much by the violence, (which they downplayed by today's standards) but by the eloquence, including the relative sophistication of the vocabulary and of course the passion and heartbreak that said eloquence was able to communicate so clearly.

Is there a place for eloquence anymore? Was that part of Obama's magic? That he was able to tell such a good story? Or is there still a feeling among many people that eloquence is somehow suspect - an indication that the speaker is some sort of "East Coast Elite" and therefore unable to empathize with the travails of Johnny Lunchbucket?

I do not mean to confuse overblown generalities or turgid prose with eloquence - there is a very simple beauty to statements such as "the data shows ......",

But there is a much more obvious (and terrible) beauty to the newscasts from D-day. They inspired almost a prurient desire to keep listening. (at least in me.)

Do any of you find enough eloquence in your lives? Is it welcome there? Is it just for the few of us that read or is the storyteller's magic still potent? And if so how can they world be made a better place using this?

Just wondering,

Audrey


Mon Jun 08, 2009 5:42 pm
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Post Re: Is eloquence dead?
The last President who was "clasically" eloquent was John Kennedy, and that was mostly Ted Sorenson's doing. Obama's speech suggests to me "law professor" mixed with the practiced cadences of the old black preachers. I think it works very well. Other than the black church, there is little eloquence (of the spoken variety) remaining in the U.S. today.

To find eloquent contemporary English speakers, you need to look to Great Britain, where the tradition is still alive.

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Mon Jun 08, 2009 6:26 pm
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Post Re: Is eloquence dead?
audrey wrote:
The radio played some D-Day radio news clips the other day in remembrance of the anniversary. I was struck not so much by the violence, (which they downplayed by today's standards) but by the eloquence, including the relative sophistication of the vocabulary and of course the passion and heartbreak that said eloquence was able to communicate so clearly.

Is there a place for eloquence anymore? Was that part of Obama's magic? That he was able to tell such a good story? Or is there still a feeling among many people that eloquence is somehow suspect - an indication that the speaker is some sort of "East Coast Elite" and therefore unable to empathize with the travails of Johnny Lunchbucket?

I do not mean to confuse overblown generalities or turgid prose with eloquence - there is a very simple beauty to statements such as "the data shows ......",

But there is a much more obvious (and terrible) beauty to the newscasts from D-day. They inspired almost a prurient desire to keep listening. (at least in me.)

Do any of you find enough eloquence in your lives? Is it welcome there? Is it just for the few of us that read or is the storyteller's magic still potent? And if so how can they world be made a better place using this?

Just wondering,

Audrey

I tried, believe me, to swring out any eloquence I could for this biography; I don't mean frilly words, but matching the man's rational sentiment in its larger context, and getting to the core of the meaning of the thing. That's exactly what has been put most under attack by the editors.

You can't have eloquence if they won't let it be published.


Mon Jun 08, 2009 6:32 pm
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Post Re: Is eloquence dead?
Bill says, "You can't have eloquence if they won't let it be published."

Yes, that is my point. Is it because there is truly no longer a demand for it? Or because that is what the marketing department thinks, but they may be wrong? In fact, is it still be capable of touching the hearts of enough of us to bring it out of the shadows?

Audrey


Mon Jun 08, 2009 7:04 pm
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Post Re: Is eloquence dead?
audrey wrote:
Yes, that is my point. Is it because there is truly no longer a demand for it? Or because that is what the marketing department thinks, but they may be wrong? In fact, is it still be capable of touching the hearts of enough of us to bring it out of the shadows?


As an author, I know that proofreaders and editors have standards for readability that perpetually lower the bar on sentence length and vocabulary. Eloquence is more than those things, of course - Hemmingway fans would argue so - but nevertheless the effect of the pressure is measurable. I can take children's books from my youth and demonstrate that they employ constructions now only permitted in adult books. I recall children's books from the 1920s that employed constructions likely now nor permitted in any books.


Tue Jun 09, 2009 4:47 am
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Post Re: Is eloquence dead?
audrey wrote:
Do any of you find enough eloquence in your lives? Is it welcome there? Is it just for the few of us that read or is the storyteller's magic still potent? And if so how can they world be made a better place using this?
Audrey


Not enough, and it's not a skill that's practiced in any real way by most. I attempt to work on it with those under my direct supervision at work. With my kids, it's not dumbing down my vocabulary (I make them ask what a word means, but don't make them feel bad for asking) and helping the kids learn to express themselves properly. Seems to be working pretty well so far.

But I suspect you've got a choir here that you are preaching to, Audrey. ;)


Tue Jun 09, 2009 6:24 am
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Post Re: Is eloquence dead?
audrey wrote:
Bill says, "You can't have eloquence if they won't let it be published."

Yes, that is my point. Is it because there is truly no longer a demand for it? Or because that is what the marketing department thinks, but they may be wrong? In fact, is it still be capable of touching the hearts of enough of us to bring it out of the shadows?

Audrey

My best guess is it's exactly the "touch the heart" quality they are afraid of.

One of the main goals of the writing was to bring home to an ordinary reader who was not familiar with Heinlein why it was that he inspired in some people such intensity.

You know, when I was doing readings from my original raw draft of the biography at conventions, I several times had people buttonhole me with comments like it caused them to remember why they felt special about Heinlein, or that it moved them in some other way. However that quality came about in the writing, I think it's been obliterated in the editing.


Tue Jun 09, 2009 6:29 am
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Post Re: Is eloquence dead?
Bill Patterson wrote:
You know, when I was doing readings from my original raw draft of the biography at conventions, I several times had people buttonhole me with comments like it caused them to remember why they felt special about Heinlein, or that it moved them in some other way. However that quality came about in the writing, I think it's been obliterated in the editing.


I suspect these words won't be included in the publisher's marketing blurbs. ;) However "non-eloquent" the finished product is, just getting it to publication is a huge milestone, and I'm sure it will be quite successful.

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Tue Jun 09, 2009 7:14 am
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Post Re: Is eloquence dead?
Peter Scott wrote:
I recall children's books from the 1920s that employed constructions likely now nor permitted in any books.


Is this one of them?

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Tue Jun 09, 2009 11:45 am
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Post Re: Is eloquence dead?
beamjockey wrote:
Peter Scott wrote:
I recall children's books from the 1920s that employed constructions likely now nor permitted in any books.


Is this one of them?

Now you're just being mean :P


Tue Jun 09, 2009 5:47 pm
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