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Author Topic: Retrospective: Charming take on writers as not-so-great conversationalists  (Read 49 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: November 11, 2017, 12:39:39 AM »

Writers are not necessarily brilliant conversationalists, American essayist Arthur Krystal argued in a 2009 New York Times essay, but he said that was understandable. It might be disappointing to watch a great writer like Vladimir Nabokov of Lolita fame fumble with his lines during a TV interview or awkwardly read the TV idiot board, but Kristal said “it’s not their job to be smart except, of course, when they write.”

DURING A TV INTERVIEW, VLADIMIR NABOKOV FUMBLED WITH HIS LINES
AND THE IDIOT BOARD. AND BECAUSE HONORE BALZAC WAS SO WILDLY
GARRULOUS AT DINNER, HE WAS MISTAKEN FOR A CERTIFIABLE
LUNATIC INSTEAD OF THE REAL LUNATIC BESIDE HIM.

Like most writers, Krystal admitted, he finds himself smarter in print than in person: “In fact, I am smarter when I’m writing. I don’t claim this merely because there is no one around to observe the false starts and groan-inducing sentences that make a mockery of my presumed intelligence, but because when the work is going well, I’m expressing opinions that I’ve never uttered in conversation and that otherwise might never occur to me.”

So Krystal suggested that people be more forgiving of the conversational inadequacies and trespasses of writers. Along this line, he retold an anecdote on how the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, invited by a Parisian doctor to meet a certifiable lunatic as Humboldt had requested as a matter of professional interest, got seated at the dinner table between two men—one polite and reserved while the other so wildly garrulous and prone to making horrible faces. Humboldt understandably mistook the latter as the certifiable lunatic, but the man turned out to be the French novelist-playwright Honoré Balzac, celebrated author of the classic series of novels “La Comédie Humaine” (“The Human Comedy”) and not the real lunatic beside him.

Read Arthur Krystal’s “When Writers Speak” in the September 25, 2009 issue of The New York Times now!

Look up the Forum’s original 2009 post on Arthur Krystal’s “When Writers Speak” under the  Forum’s omnibus article “A bumper crop of thought-provoking readings on language”

« Last Edit: November 11, 2017, 05:00:46 PM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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