November 12, 2010

My Writer, My Mouthpiece

Filed under: Ann the Columnist:Essays — Ann @ 9:35 am

I have opinions. Probably this became apparent when I created a blog. But sometimes, for whatever reason, I’m not able to adequately express my opinions. Perhaps it is a topic about which I feel too passionate, or about which I’m not well-informed. All I know is that sometimes, all I can do is the written equivalent of sputtering.

That’s when other writers come in handy. Part of the great fun of being a reader is that, very often, you will encounter the perfect turn of phrase which tidily, eloquently and impressively sums up precisely how you feel on a topic. What usually happens is that the writers who are able to elicit from us that “Oh-my-god-that’s-exactly-how-I-feel!” reaction are the writers who become our favorites. I’ve found that Jon Carroll and Leonard Pitts, Jr. often access that place in me. Others have been Adair Lara, Ellen Goodman, and the late, great Molly Ivins.

Back in the 80s, before cutting-pasting and social networking made sharing so easy, I used to clip out this-is-how-I-feel columns and tuck them away into a manila folder marked “Good Stuff.” I think my fantasy was that someday I’d be in an argument with someone better equipped to verbally spar than I, and I’d whip out, say, a tart Miss Manners response and read it as my comeback. Take that!, I’d fantasize. Of course, it never happened, but good writers make me want to do that — borrow (but never plagiarize) their words in order to impress, inspire awe, or even to win a particular argument.

Which is why I got so excited this morning while reading Nancy Franklin’s November 15, 2010 New Yorker review of Sarah Palin’s upcoming TLC show. I have strong feelings about Palin which I’ve never been able to put into just the right words. Therefore, I’m seriously considering clipping the following excerpt and keeping it in my wallet. Ms. Franklin writes:

“When it comes to Palin specifically, there is the fundamental problem that some of us don’t want to see or hear any more of her than we have to. And there are those whose objections have a physiological basis as well as an ideological one: the pitch and timbre of her voice, the rhythms of her speech, her syntax, and the way she coats acid and incoherence with cheery musical inflections join together in a sickening synergy that distresses the listener, triggering a fight-or-flight reaction. When Palin talks, my whole being wails, like Nancy Kerrigan after Tonya Harding’s ex-husband kneecapped her: ‘Why? Why? Why?‘”

If anyone ever wants to know how Sarah Palin affects me, I will whip out Nancy Franklin’s words and reply, “What she said.” Franklin is my new mouthpiece.

Thank God and grace for giving us those whose ideas, words and interpretations make us nod, smile, and cut-and-paste. I realize my tastes lean left; others may become enthused by David Brooks and that’s okay, too. But if you’ve ever put something on Facebook with the Status Update, “This is a must read!” then you know how I feel. We owe it all to our writers, those wordsmiths who take our opinions, polish them, remove the rough edges and extraneous punctuation, and hold them up for the rest of the world to appreciate — or dispute. It’s sharing — and America — at its best.

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