As a companion piece to that little post before last, did you catch David Brooks’ columnin NYT the other day? He had a wrap-up of some award winning articles from 2008. One such piece, from the June edition of The Atlantic, jumped out at me because it was about exactly the same subject. A good read, I thought, and funny to happen upon it right after the other as it isn’t exactly something one hears about everyday.
Fundamentally, I suppose, I appreciate the Atlantic article’s author’s utilization of narrative as political commentary. If one is not going to rely on statistics or specific examples (and neither really do), then weaving a story around it is an interesting approach. The trick, of course, is not mistaking the forest for the trees and losing the broader context in one’s own anecdotes. In that respect, I think he succeeded brilliantly.
I think my favorite class in college was an English seminar on political literature. We read all sorts of novels and essays that are generally acclaimed for their literary value (i.e. a few had found their way into bestseller lists). They all dealt with a range of political, social, cultural, and economic issues but were the kinds of things the “average” person would still pick up in an airport giftshop as a gripping work of fiction to pass the time with on the plane. Almost none of us were English majors, so we read, wrote, and discussed the books from the context and understanding of our own fields of study (government, economics, sociology, etc.). Definitely gained an appreciation for the different ways, stylistically, one can write about public policy questions. His achievement, in that respect, is what I like about the Atlantic piece and it gave me more to think about re: my own writing.