March 15th, 2009

Something to strive for

“That language still dazzles and delights. The usual thing is to insist that Runyon had an amazing “ear” for natural idiom, but, as Cy Feuer points out, Runyon’s dialogue is essentially unplayable, too far removed from any human idiom to be credible in drama. What Runyon wasn’t doing while he was sitting in Lindy’s was just listening and taking dialogue down. Writers with a good ear (Salinger, John O’Hara) certainly listen more acutely than the rest of us, but what they really have is a better filter for telling signal from noise, and then turning it into song….

“Writers with a great ear, like Chandler and Runyon, give us their words, but they also give us a license to listen–a license to listen to street speech and folk speech with a mind newly alive to the poetry implicit in it….one grasps that Mamet’s aim is to capture not their voices but their souls….”
–Adam Gopnik, “Talk It Up”, The New Yorker, March 2, 2009

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