Bad Writing

I’m reading an autobiographical book called, “Looking for Trouble,” by journalist and producer Leslie Cockburn.

She’s done a lot of really exciting stuff all over the scariest parts of the globe, and her story is fascinating. But God do I hate her writing.

It’s not that it’s flat, or dull, or without style. It’s that it’s really hard to understand what the hell she’s talking about. Like when a friend tells you a story, but leaves out a few key details, and you’re confused and tense because you WANT to understand, but can’t seem to.

She seems to want to have a way with words, and those words get dead in the way of the information she’s trying to get across. She mixes metaphors, yes, but she also uses metaphors when she shouldn’t. That is, the reality is new and hard to understand, but she throws in a few metaphors and parentheticals and I’m left wondering what happened.

A sample sentence. She and her crew have just arrived at the airport in Nicaragua. Here’s how she starts the paragraph describing the drive to the hotel:

“The night drive from Sandino Airport, named after a totemic guerrilla who fought the U.S. Marines, following the cold embrace of an airport security bureaucracy infatuated with forms (one slip of the pen and I was ordered to start again), was a revelation.”

Am I crazy, or is that some mind-bendingly bad writing?

She also has a habit, like lot of writers, of not ending a list with “and.” That is, she’ll say something like, “we jumped, ran, fell” instead of, “we jumped, ran, and fell.” I recognize this as a stylistic choice, and I can even get behind it for certain sentences (like jump ran fell) where the writer wants to make the events happen very quickly, one two three. But it annoys me in longer, complex sentences. I want my “and.”

But the stories are pretty cool.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe without commenting

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes