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sfmike

Yes, you are clever, and your ruminations about journalists and quotes is dead-on.

Just saw a DVD of "Shattered Glass," the movie about Stephen Glass making up stories out of whole cloth at "The New Republic" (and no, we're not talking about the magazine's articles concerning the Middle East). It's a well-made film, although the de-ethnicized casting of Hayden Christensen for the stereotypically East Coast neurotic Mr. Glass was very weird (the real Glass is on the DVD in the form of a "60 Minutes" interview and finally the character made sense).

Anyway, my favorite line in the entire film was when the middle-aged blonde receptionist chides the editor, played beautifully by Peter Sarsgard, with the reproach, "This wouldn't have happened if there had been pictures." As a photoblogging journalist myself, this was music to my ears.

Case in point: At the San Francisco Chronicle, our terrible daily newspaper, a couple of right-wing, reactionary political gossip columnists included a jab at a leftist city supervisor for barging into the Mayor's Office in jeans and a T-shirt during a reception for the Venezuelan ambassador in the ornate Mayor's Office at City Hall. The only problem is that somebody took a few picture phone photos and the supervisor was actually in a suit and tie, and a week later they were published on the internet. The "Chronicle" columnists made a grudging correction a week after that, and never did explain why they were writing outright lies.

So let's see the frigging photos of the bookstore and the clerk and the sweating patrons, and maybe we'll believe it. Until then, I'm leaning toward Wolcott's view that the story was poorly executed fiction.

Nance

Ah, how well I recall those evening debriefing sessions between Lance and the Blonde:

TB: So then I said, "Screw you, Joe, find someone else to write this story, because I'm not your personal servant!"

[Pause.]

L: What did you really say?

TB: Umm, "OK."

Exiled in New Jersey

I wanted to say, "Hey, pilgrim! You forgot your pop-gun!" but you went on and pretty well nailed it, but in reality we don't know what they said because everyone is trying to say something at the same time.

Howard Hawks had it right when he portrayed the newsroom and the press room at the prison. People don't haul off and give speeches; they shout to grab the floor and drown each other out talking at cross purposes, and this is why the scene where Sheriff holds the gun on the desk is not quite true since it gives each man there his own line, for the first time in the film.

ClaireOwerly

I'm happy to see you're tuning into the Tudors, you lend intellectual credibility to one of my favorite shows. I was wondering your take on the lead role of Jonathan Rhys Meyers as King Henry VII. I first saw him as the face of Hugo in the US campaign, www.hugofragrances.us/, later I saw him in Matchpoint where I thought he did a pretty good job, though I like him in this more aggressive role. I loved season 1 and am anxiously awaiting season 2!

ClaireOwerly

I'm happy to see you're tuning into the Tudors, you lend intellectual credibility to one of my favorite shows. I was wondering your take on the lead role of Jonathan Rhys Meyers as King Henry VII. I first saw him as the face of Hugo in the US campaign, www.hugofragrances.us/, later I saw him in Matchpoint where I thought he did a pretty good job, though I like him in this more aggressive role. I loved season 1 and am anxiously awaiting season 2!

Ken Muldrew

Nice post, Lance. I've long thought that good writers have a lot of power, but I didn't really think about how poor writers might also be far too influential as long as they write dialog. It's not just the poets who lie too much.

For me, the Nixon tapes really showed how inarticulate humans are in face-to-face conversation. You take someone who is usually heard reading prepared speeches, and then listen to their candid conversations, and the amount of gibberish and humming-and-hawing is just overwhelming. That and the obscenities. And the drunken, lunatic ravings. It would be nice to discover some secret tapes of G.W. that showed him speaking like Cicero. Nice, in a preposterous-universe kind of way, but I don't expect it to happen.

OutOfContext

I have a tendency to take everything as fiction for many of the reasons you list. As a result I don't look for accuracy and, especially, reality, but truth and authenticity. That comes from the authority and skill of the writer. A practiced and attentive reader can use experience, context and the internal logic of a piece to get at the truth, but in the end, even the most realistic description is still someone else's experience and how they choose to tell it is as much about them and the process as something objective.

mac macgillicuddy

"She's doing what we all tend to do when we wish a conversation had gone more our way; she's remembering what she wants to have happened."

This reminds me of the very funny bit from Seinfeld in which George thinks about all the things he SHOULD have said in meetings, and then tries to recreate events so that he'll have the chance to deliver the stunning comebacks he thought up after the fact.

Funny, because it's true, as I always say. Or was it someone else who said that, and I only thought it was mine...

Rana

That, right there, is one of the clearest explanations of why I avoid dialogue in my own writing, nine out of ten times. I have a lousy verbal memory for the exact phrasings (unless I chant them to myself repeatedly, and the subsequent words obviously are drowned out if I do that). Visual setting and physical actions, yes, but dialogue - and even sequence of events - not so much.

It's hard being an authentic witness of the moment, let alone a while after the fact.

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