In addition to all the usual post-graduation, pre-college confusion going on hereabouts now, this is our street these days:
Our street was in desperate need of resurfacing; it hadn’t been done, as near as anyone can tell, since it was built in 1947. We passed a road bond for $10 million a year or so ago, and ours was among the first streets on the priority list, so yay! We get a new street! Then they came to do the work, and the asphalt came up, and then they dug one side down to the Indian burial-ground level, and then the gas lines were a problem and then the rains came. We already lost one park-strip tree. The guy from the gas company rang the doorbell and said, “I have good news. You’re going to get more sunshine in your yard. Because we’re taking down that maple. Its roots are right over a break in the gas line.” Well, we never liked it that much anyway, fewer leaves to rake and no gas explosions = big plus.
Last night, I heard someone knocking around in the bathroom at 2 a.m. It was Kate, coming in, elated, from seeing the Rolling Stones at Comerica Park. My first question: How was the show? Answer: Amazing. My second: Where did you park the car? Two blocks away, because that’s what we do when the road is nearly unnavigable. Then I went back to bed.
I’ll be relieved when all this is over.
You don’t need to be a speechwriter to realize that the phrase “I won’t begin in any particular spot” is a wretched way to start a public address. Yet those were the opening words of one of the more remarkable political spectacles in recent years: Mark Sanford’s rambling and teary news conference of June 24, 2009, in which South Carolina’s then-governor confessed that rather than hiking the Appalachian Trail, he’d been hooking up with his Argentine mistress.
In the crowd that afternoon at the statehouse rotunda in Columbia, S.C., was the man responsible for crafting Sanford’s speeches. People still ask Barton Swaim, “Did you write that speech?” He can’t even answer. “I just chuckle miserably,” he explains.
No, Swaim didn’t write that speech, but now he has authored something just as revealing and unusual: a political memoir that traffics in neither score-settling nor self-importance but that shares, in spare, delightful prose, what the author saw and learned. “The Speechwriter” feels like “Veep” meets “All the King’s Men” — an entertaining and engrossing book not just about the absurdities of working in the press shop of a Southern governor but also about the meaning of words in public life.
Read the review. It sounds hilarious:
He learned the boss’s tics. Sanford liked to have three points in a speech, never two. Never. “I’m not getting out there to talk about two stupid points,” the governor said when presented with a pair of rebuttals to a bill. “I need three points, first, second, third. Got that?” He loved referring to an amorphous “larger notion” in his remarks. Larger than what? It didn’t matter. “When we drafted a release or a press statement and weren’t sure if he would approve it, someone would say, ‘Stick a “larger notion” in there and it should be fine.’ ” The governor would often deploy an “indeed” when trying to rescue a trite phrase, as in “we’re indeed mortgaging our children’s future.” Also, Sanford always looked for chances to mention Rosa Parks in a speech. He just really wanted to do that.
I always thought it might be fun to be a speechwriter. Obama’s speechwriter, maybe. Sanford’s? Eh…
A good profile of the Awl, a website I find myself paying more attention to lately. This passage hit me:
In 2003, Gawker’s Nick Denton hired Sicha to run Fleshbot, the company’s now-abandoned porn site, then Gawker itself. Meanwhile, Balk was in advertising and writing a culture blog on the side; he landed at Gawker a few years later. Sicha left for The Observer after a year, then returned briefly in 2007. The style that he developed at Gawker, conversational with bursts of enthusiasm and ironic swerves, exerted a deep influence on the voice of the early web.
“That style became internet parlance,” says Andrew Womack of The Morning News, where Sicha freelanced while at Gawker. “You almost can’t think of a bigger effect. I can’t look at anyone type an exclamation point without thinking of Choire’s first stint at Gawker. It wasn’t snarky; it was honest and had this fuck-it-all attitude I think we’ve all had.”
Voice is one of those things I find most intriguing about writing. It’s the voodoo magic, hard to teach, sometimes hard to even describe. I wasn’t enough of a fan of early Gawker to describe Sicha’s voice with any authority, but now that I think of it, voice is one of those things that drives me most insane about Mitch Albom — that plodding, early-newspaper, listen-to-me-for-I-know-all voice that hasn’t changed since he first dipped his quill into an ink pot. Some day, when I have the time and inclination, I’ll do an explication de texte on a sample and try to show you what I mean.
But for now, it’s getting on towards Friday, and I’m-a gonna turn in. Happy weekend to all of you.