Death, Taxes, and Anacondas

Whether looseness of language is a consequence or a cause of looseness of thought I cannot say. No doubt it is sometimes the one and sometimes the other. Perhaps—to indulge in a little looseness of thought and language of my own—the relationship between them is dialectical. But certainly there is often a hinterland of notions, even an entire world outlook, behind certain loose ways of putting things.

Looking at the Guardian website I noticed two instances of looseness almost straight away. The first was in an article reporting the death of For Good and Evil: The... Charles Adams Best Price: $4.28 Buy New $5.72 (as of 08:10 UTC - Details) New York Times columnist, a man called David Carr, in the newspaper’s office. He was a man unknown to me, either personally or through his writing, though a passage of his work quoted in the Guardian’s article, presumably selected as a representative sample of his style and wit, does not encourage me to read much further in his work:

If you’re gonna get a job that’s a little bit of a caper, that isn’t really a job, that under ideal circumstances you get to at least leave the building and leave your desktop, go out, find people more interesting than you, learn about something, come back and tell other people about it—that should be hard to get into. That should be hard to do. No wonder everybody’s lined up, trying to get into it. It beats working.

This is to writing what T-shirts are to dress: sloppy and inelegant. The style is not always the man himself, but it sometimes is. Against the State: An ... Rockwell Jr., Llewelly... Best Price: $5.02 Buy New $5.52 (as of 11:35 UTC - Details)

However, one does not expect elegance of the New York Times, a journal that somehow manages to combine the utmost dullness and earnestness with frivolity, and whose front page resembles a particularly verbose Victorian tombstone. Nor was it the example of the late Mr. Carr’s work that most exercised me: it was the first sentence of the article in the Guardian:

David Carr, a man who escaped the clutches of drug addiction to become the celebrated media columnist of the New York Times, has died after collapsing in his office at the age of 58.

The “clutches of drug addiction”: in other words, drug addiction is like, say, the Dormidera, the 80-foot-long anaconda for which Colonel Fawcett went searching in the jungles of South America, from whose mortal coils it was all but impossible to escape and which lay in wait for the unwary in the rivers and marshes of that continent.

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