An aspiring author confronts the literary demons of the world and sets off in search of an agent.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Of Lou Gehrig, Kate DiCamillo and Yamashiro Tomoe

Argh! The Demon is greatly annoyed. Why?  He came upon a list of the Top 100 Speeches as deemed by scholarly experts. Guess what? Lou Gehrig's farewell speech was dissed! It ranked  #73 on the list. 

The Demon wishes no disrespect to the other speeches rated higher, but c'mon! With a mere 277 words, Lou Gehrig established a heartfelt connection with 61,000 fans at Yankee Stadium and with many more for generations to come. Two hundred and seventy-seven words - that's all it took.

And that recalls an earlier post on this blog about the power imbued in the economy of a few words:

I found the following observation (confession?) from Kate DiCamillo at The Pippin Insider: "Telling stories is hard work; the stories that I like, the ones that seem most powerful to me, have an ineffable quality of one word seeming to do the work of ten words."

One word for ten? Sounds daunting, eh? How about one word for a hundred? Let flash back to an earlier post of mine where I asked whether it was possible for one hundred words to the job of ten thousand. (i.e., a ratio of one word for one hundred).  Here’s what I wrote:

Is it possible for one hundred words to the job of ten thousand?

I've been contemplating this question since reading a wonderful short story, Bog Rhubard Shoots, by Yamashiro Tomoe (it's from the book, Reflections on the Way to the Gallows). It tells the tale of Mitsuko, a young Japanese woman, who, in the 1940s, was sent to prison for her involvement in the left-wing political movement (as was her husband, who was assigned to different prison).

Under the terms of her conviction, Mitsuko "could write only one letter of postcard length each month. Even though the frequency and length of the letters were limited, they still had to be checked over by four persons: the guard, the chief guard, the chaplain, and the supervisor of the guards. Under these circumstances, one hundred words had to do the job of ten thousand in the letters that Mitsuko and her husband exchanged. If a letter written under restricted conditions failed to pass the censors and was stamped 'To be handed over upon release,' the letter itself would probably shed tears."
And one last thing: " I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." That's the line everyone associates with Gehrig's speech. But there was another line: "When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed, that's the finest I know." That's the line that sends shivers up my back. It's why his speech is finest I know of.

'nuff said!

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