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That was a truly amazing piece of writing. Thank you for posting it, jgmacg.
This piece is what any writer should strive for in any writing, especially deadline writing. It's not about telling people what happened, it's about showing people what happened. The color in that story, written amazingly on deadline, is something I'll strive to match for my entire, hopefully long, career. Not to get all sappy, but it's really an inspirational piece.
Quote from: RedHotChiliPrepper on June 14, 2006, 02:24:14 PMThis piece is what any writer should strive for in any writing, especially deadline writing. It's not about telling people what happened, it's about showing people what happened. The color in that story, written amazingly on deadline, is something I'll strive to match for my entire, hopefully long, career. Not to get all sappy, but it's really an inspirational piece.But consider this:What do you think would happen today if you were assigned to cover a race and you filed "Death of a Racehorse" on deadline?(this is not a plagiarism question: we're assuming Death of a Racehorse hasn't been written)My question is, does the story get into the paper?Or does someone on the desk scratch his head and say, "What the fuck is this shit and where is your nut graph?"Did Heinz write this as a column? Or was this his "gamer?"
Now cut and paste your post and sign the petition, preppy.
Sirs, Madames,I think mr daemon makes a good pt. This sort of came up at Poynter when John Lardner was held up as a model for writers--the fact is, in Lardner's case his story wouldn't have run. Logorrhea, purple prose, too much those-were-the-days. Heinz's DOAR would run today--easy to see what he'd do with Barbaro--but I'm sure it would look a helluva lot different--it would stand out like a sore thumb otherwise. Look, Hamlet is still a model of dramatic writing--but it is equally timeless and of its time. Stuff must work within the conventions of the times. DOAR is timeless at some levels, but of its time in others. Look at speechwriting: Ask Not and other Ted Sorenson classics are definitive stuff but coming out of a pol's mouth in 2006, well, you'd wonder what the hell he'd be doing.YHS, etc
The piece is great because it treats a powerful story simply. He builds the story a word at a time, every word necessary in every sentence, every sentence built to persuade the reader to read the next. It's great because Heinz resists the all but irresistible temptation of melodrama. At the end, the poignancy of the son/brother allusions derives from the promise the same simple words offer at the start. All that, plus this: Heinz was there. He saw it, he heard it, he told it. There's no evidence he asked even one question. It's great reporting by a man who first recognized the story, got his ass out of the press box, paid attention, and went to his typewriter with the full maturity of a reporter who built his career on the idea that the story is the thing, not the storyteller.One quibble with previous posts: perhaps the piece was done "on deadline." We don't know that from the reading. We do know that Heinz's paper, the Sun, was in 1949 an afternoon paper. Its deadlines likely gave him plenty of time to work on a piece about the fifth race of the day before.
Was watching Seabiscuit for the first time last night when this came to mind...this thread, to be exact. What a story. For a 23-year-old kid, shows just what can happen with pace and tempo of a story, over grand statements and wild opinion. THIS is what a column looks like, IMO.So I'll bite... How'd he do it?
Quote from: SuperflySnuka on May 25, 2007, 10:01:09 AMWas watching Seabiscuit for the first time last night when this came to mind...this thread, to be exact. What a story. For a 23-year-old kid, shows just what can happen with pace and tempo of a story, over grand statements and wild opinion. THIS is what a column looks like, IMO.So I'll bite... How'd he do it? There's so much going on here that's remarkable, let's just talk a little about story architecture. Check the meter and the sentence length at the beginning. And then at the end. Compare the sentence, "'Air Lift,' Jim Roach said. 'Full brother of Assault.'" to the last sentence in the piece. Compare the long sentence beginning "Assault, who won the triple crown..." to the last sentence in the piece. Notice the reiteration of the statement, "Full brother of Assault," in the middle of the piece. The column is built a little like a poem or concerto. Certain meters and phrases recur and repeat. Heinz knows going in how he wants the column to land, so he front loads the phrase "Full brother of Assault," then reinforces it again halfway along. By the time he strings together that last long sentence, with its inexorable drive, those now-familiar meters and phrases have the rhythm and power of music in them, and the story resolves, like a great song, on a chord that is not only completely satisfying, but at once surprising and inevitable. Hence the chill most people feel when reading it. This piece is a tiny, nearly perfect machine of art and engineering. There's a lot to learn here about story structure, and lyric, and what's possible in only a small space. Heinz learned a lot of that from Hemingway. Heinz's powers of observation and description and his matchless ear for dialogue are his own, of course, but he was a true student of Hemingway's work, and often reread him very closely in order to figure out exactly how a certain effect had been achieved. So maybe part of the lesson here is that to become better writers, we need to become better readers.
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