The Electric Commentary

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Great Writing. Great Story. Great Zucchini.

In Sunday's Washington Post, you will find this piece by Gene Weingarten. It is, without question, one of the greatest displays of writing that I have seen. It is everything that a story should be. One of my favorite bits of writing is Malcolm Gladwell's Ketchup article. This is better. It reminds me of Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson.

It is long, but it is worth it. No excerpt will do it justice. Well, maybe if I start here:

By the time the show began, more than a dozen kids were assembled on the floor. The Great Zucchini's first official act was to order the birthday boy out of the room, because -- a little overwhelmed by the attention -- Trey had begun to cry. "We'll re-transition him back in," the Great Zucchini reassured Allison as she dutifully, if dubiously, whisked her son away.

And then go here:

But while you're winning, anything seems possible. Eric is at the moment a heroic character, a romantic lead, a suave Bogart or Bond, rolling sixes and nines and never a losing seven, and the cheering continues. The classy illusion holds right up until the moment that the bellowing woman falls silent, sways, hiccups, and vomits all over the table.

It's now just after midnight. We'd arrived at 7, and Eric shows no sign of tiring. He's lost some money at blackjack but is making it back on a craps table, again. Beside him is a sweet, funny, attractive woman named Mollie, in a low-cut black blouse and white pants with a big belt. Mollie's maybe 30, a businesswoman from Texas. She'd arrived with friends whom she seems to have jettisoned.

And end up here:

Five years earlier, Paula Adams had been a chief lieutenant of the Rev. Jim Jones, the brilliant, messianic madman who led 900 followers to a mass suicide in the jungles of Guyana. Adams survived the holocaust in Jonestown and fled to the United States with her lover, the man whose government influence had given her safe haven. His name was Laurence Mann, and he had been the Guyanese ambassador to the United States.

You might get some idea.

Read the whole thing.

I am indebted to Jim Lindgren for the pointer.


  • As a writer, I wonder if some of you are moved more by the life story of the "great zucchini" than by Weingarten's writing.

    The facts of his life are very emotional, that is for sure, and it's unusual to see men responding to such emotions, so they credit the writing, not the story. Perhaps they can relate to this character more than other sympathetic stories about similar people, from other demographics?

    A better test of good writing might be seeing what a writer can do with less emotionally charged facts, or unusual feature story.

    Not to discredit this piece -- it's good -- but I don't think you need be indebted to anyone for calling it to your attention.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:53 AM  

  • It is good writing. The facts and background behind the story are nothing novel, extraordinary, or all that interesting to me, but I couldn't stop reading it, despite not really having the time.

    By Anonymous Scott H, at 12:55 PM  

  • Nothing novel?
    If it's all true, the guy has a novel life.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:25 PM  

  • I thought it was awesome too. It was extremely well written in my opinion. Sometimes "writers" aren't too good at spotting great writing.

    By Blogger JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe, at 4:11 PM  

  • Yeah anon,

    The story is OK, but not out-of-this-world. The writing is absolutely outstanding. This guy has real talent.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 11:41 PM  

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