The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Commentary November 4, 2005

I don’t get it

To adopt the writing style of OCRD member Mark Chesler, the recent commentary “Wal-Mart flap smacks of Watergate” was risible, abstruse and overweening. If any of those words needed to be looked up, my pain is understood. Chesler seems to think that the use of very large and sophisticated words in (often alliterative) pairs and trios enhances one’s argument greatly; he writes that “the Board’s unilateral, unequivocal, unorthodox decision to deprive the public of verbatim archive is myopic, insipid” and whatever. His writing is so fueled by arrogance concerning whatever it was he was talking about that the letter was completely unreadable. And not only does the reader have to navigate through such superfluous text, but Chesler further complicates matters by displaying his vast knowledge of wiser men’s quotes and affairs. Each paragraph is characterized by a reference to some famous person, followed by Chesler’s wordy nothingness and finally capped by another reference to some famous person. Furthermore, much of his rhetoric seems completely out of place. Consider this sentence: “The Delphic oracle of self-delusion can be intoxicating.” In any context, what could that possibly mean?!

I do not mean to be trivial in criticizing the writing style of a letter to the editor. However, I feel that in order to get one’s point across, quoting Mark Twain and using a thesaurus heavily not only undermines the point, but it also comes off as ridiculous and arrogant. If Chesler means to tell us something about Wal-Mart and The Oberlin Review, he should simply say it, instead of cluttering his thoughts with fancy words and clever allusions.


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