Spence Green

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I work at Lilt. In addition to computers and languages, my interests include travel, running, and scuba diving. more...

How People Once Wrote

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While in Atlanta last week I was digging through the magazines that tend to wash up at my family’s house. We’ve lived there for 25 years, and my dad never seems to cancel subscriptions. In Sports Illustrated I found this historical article from 16 August 1954:

The art of running the mile consists, in essence, of reaching the threshold of unconsciousness at the instant of breasting the tape. It is not an easy process, for the body rebels against such agonizing usage and must be disciplined by the spirit and the mind. It is infinitely more difficult in the amphitheater of competition, for then the runner must remain alert and cunning despite the fogs of fatigue and pain; his instinctive calculation of pace must encompass maneuvers for position, and he must harbor strength to answer the moves of other men before expending his last reserves. Few events in sport offer so ultimate a test, and the world of track has never seen anything equal to the “Mile of the Century,” which England’s Dr. Roger Gilbert Bannister–the tall, pale-skinned explorer of human exhaustion who first crashed the four-minute barrier–won last Saturday from Australia’s world-record holder, John Michael Landy.

Here is the difference between describing and articulating. Good writers describe what they see, but in an artful manner that informs the reader. Thus fatigue becomes “agonizing usage,” and we grasp the difference between running as exercise and the very different requirements of competition.  This kind of writing is increasingly hard to find in the popular press.

Written by Spence

January 9th, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Posted in Commentary,Writing

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