Sunday, April 26, 2009

Aspirins for atoms

Over at You Don't Say the other day was an interesting question and a nicely tuned reply: Why not write more about good writing? Before doing just that for a measure or two, John points out that the idea (however regrettably) is sort of at cross purposes with the job: "Those of us in the dwindling ranks of copy editors are not engaged to sit at the desk for eight hours admiring the work. Our specialty is pathology; we are looking for things that have gone wrong."

True enough, but all else equal, we'd rather read good stuff than bad stuff. So to move the ball along a bit in line with John's examples, here's a nice bit of journalism-about-journalism: The Chicago Tribune, described by A.J. Liebling in January 1950.

The visitor to Chicago, awakening unalarmed in his hotel room and receiving the Tribune with his breakfast tray, takes a look at the headlines and finds himself at once transported into a land of somber horror, rather like that depicted by the science-mystery magazines, with additional points of resemblance to True Detective and The Musket Boys of Old Boston, a book about the Revolutionary War that I read when I was young. As he turns the pages of the Tribune, the stranger is likely to get the feeling that some of the people and events he is reading about superficially resemble people and events he remembers having read about in the world outside, but he never can be sure.

... The effect on the adrenal glands of the morning dip into the
Tribune's cosmos is amazing. The Tribune reader issues from his door walking on the balls of his feet, muscles tense, expecting attacks by sex-mad footpads at the next street corner, forewarned against the smooth talk of strangers with a British accent, and prepared to dive behind the first convenient barrier at the sound of a guided missile approaching -- any minute now -- from the direction of northern Siberia.

Sound like anything we know?


Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Hey! Who'd have thunk Fox World started in the Second City?

1:03 PM, April 27, 2009  

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