… grabbing my right arm just as my fishing line goes taut. Undaunted, I shift the pole to my left hand while pummeling the brute with my right, when, out of the deep, the glorious Rainbow at the end of my line explodes from the stream, catching the first rays of the rising sun as he arcs, and, somersaulting back toward the ice-cold waters, insolently ejects my fly, leaving me forty feet of slack line, the eternal image of living quicksilver, an ineffable sense of loss, and a still-unresolved bear problem.
This kind of supercharged literary fodder is a staple of adventure novels and outdoorsman’s mags. But what works there would be inappropriate in the hushed precincts of, say,
The Wall Street Journal:
‘We’re sinking, we’re sinking! All hands on deck! We’ve got to pump, damn it, we’ve got to pump!’ cries sweat-soaked Janet Yellen from the bridge to her beleaguered Federal Reserve crew as they struggle valiantly against a third straight month of plummeting job figures.
Or Optometry – Journal of the American Optometric Association:
Rigid in the chair, my head gripped by a diabolical contraption of metal and glass, I fight desperately to make the two tiny red points of light converge, only to be assaulted by the letter E, backward, upside-down, downside-up, then the maddening pressure to decide, ‘Which is clearer, this (click) or this? Well, which (click) is it? Come on (click) come on, dammit! Spill your guts!’
Just as disorienting would be picking up Sports Illustrated and reading:
A wooden slab — ash — carefully lathed and polished into a 38-inch cylinder, which, just above the knob at one end, gradually increases in diameter from slightly more than an inch to approximately four inches at its far extremity.
A spheroid with a circumference of approximately 3.75 x 3.14159 inches, made from a rubberized cork core, wrapped with yarn, over which are sewn two interlocking figure-eight pieces of cowhide.
These are the implements — a baseball bat and a ball — with which, on April 8, 1974, in Atlanta, Georgia, Henry Louis Aaron surpassed the home run record of George Herman Ruth.
Or Rodeo News, and finding:
Billy Joe Collins, 28, of Fowler, Colorado, while riding a bull at the El Paso (CO) County Fair’s annual rodeo yesterday, remained seated for 3.7 seconds subsequent to egress from the chute. During that time, the bull executed two leaps, one reaching 4.8 feet off the ground, with a clockwise spin of 98 degrees, the second — counterclockwise — 3.45 feet and 122 degrees, which rendered Mr. Collins airborne for 2.3 seconds, during which time he reached an altitude of 8.4 feet above the arena surface and underwent a multi-planar spin that measured 345 degrees on the vertical axis and 270 degrees on the horizontal. Mr. Collins complained of not feeling well following his return to earth.
When we read The National Enquirer, we expect exhibition wrapped in invention. When we read George Will, we expect erudition wrapped in condescension. It’s all in the context.