READ IT AND WEEP: Recently Published Sentences That Would Have Made Winston Churchill Laugh Out Loud, or Simply Cry
by Barry Singer
Not only was Winston Churchill a writer by profession (a Noble Prize winner, in fact,), he also was a consummate editor. “He pulled out his red pen and slowly and patiently corrected what I had written,” Denis Kelly would recall, as one of the team of research assistants that had helped Churchill compile his memoirs of the Second World War. “My sloppy, verbose sentences disappeared. Each paragraph was tightened and clarified, and their true meaning suddenly stood out. It was like watching a skillful topiarist restoring a neglected and untidy garden figure to its true shape and proportions.”
In the style and spirit of Churchill, the literary topiarist, and inspired by the astoundingly ill-edited inanities I increasingly find myself reading in print and online these days, I’ve decided to initiate a new feature here: READ IT AND WEEP: Recently Published Sentences That Would Have Made Winston Churchill Laugh Out Loud, or Simply Cry.
We begin with a sentence of unintended hilarity that appeared in The New York Times just last week on May 22. The author was, of all things, one of the Times’s regular weekly book critics, Dwight Garner. Reviewing a new biography of the writer Richard Brautigan, Garner wrote:
“Happiness meant seeing plenty of movies. Once he began making money, in the early 1970s, it also meant good food (oysters, pork buns, the most expensive lobsters at The Palm steakhouse) and guns,” noted Garner, “which, when drunk, he would frequently discharge indoors.”
Think about it.