Thursday, December 16, 2010

Around The Word

Does President Obama need a better editor? Last year, Politico's John F. Harris suggested that Obama and his team won the 2008 election "in part because they were better storytellers than the opposition." Lately, though, the media has been fixated on the president's "'narrative' problem." "Click on cable television or flip to the opinion pages, and you'll discover that whenever things aren't going the president's way, it's because he has lost control of the narrative," writes Samuel P. Jacobs. And who better to turn to in times of narrative crisis than some veteren storytellers?

In The Daily Beast, Jacobs collects strategy advice from a handful of novelists. But while Alex Berenson argues for the intoduction of "an enemy who is not John Boehner" and Sam Lipsyte suggests the Prez reexamine his "first chapters,"  not everyone is convinced Obama's problem is his story-arc. "Truth is," opines thriller writer Joseph Finder, "I actually think the 'narrative' notion is a preoccupation of journalists and political professionals, and not the real engine of political shifts."

We want to know what you think: does "narrative" drive politics or is this fixation on plot a red herring? 

"Patagonian toothfish" was cheap until one very clever importer rechristened it "Chilean sea bass." The life insurance industry avoids "death" by talking about "post retirement." In swinging 1970s London, "discussing the situation in Uganda" meant talking politics until one embarrassed lover used it to mean...something distinctly more amorous. On NPR's Talk of the Nation, Euphemania author Ralph Keyes discusses the history of such coded discourse, arguing that using euphamisms "isn't necessarily lazy or evasive; it can actually be harder to not say what we mean and still get our point across."

1 comment:

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