Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy

Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
the Nanty Glo in My Mind'

Allusiveness (or, it's about the writing)

Someone sent a complaint recently that went something like: "if you want to write for people like me, you'll have to come down to our level. Get realistic about who your audience is. Don't make us 'dig' for what you're trying to get across; just say it." My reactions are mixed as you might expect. I think I avoid writing that "puts on airs" in any sense or tries to obscure my meaning. As the critic rightly said, such writing would defeat the purpose of writing, which is to communicate, get points across, and usually in my writing, persuade. But there is more to it.

All my life I've been aware of my target audiences. When I was writing for the Valley's teenagers in the 1950s and '60s, I had a certain tone and voice that seemed effective. In most of my adult life my readership was more intellectual, my magazines and essays directed at college students who were tuned into "reaching" to grasp the meaning of what they were reading. Later, I had a general population as the audience of the newspaper group that I edited in Silicon Valley, which happens to be the most highly educated population of any metropolitan area in the United States. So although newspaper writing is traditionally described as being aimed at a fifth-grade reading level, I could aim a bit higher and not risk losing much of my audience.

After the community newspaper editing ended, I dabbled in several Intenet projects and came back to Nanty Glo. I thought most of what I had to say would be received more readily in "Home Page Country" than anywhere else. Or, to word the same thought differently, I thought maybe I had a ready-made audience there not so much because of the journalism work there in my youth but because of my love of the valley, its history and people, shared with those who live there. I still think so.

Still, there's more. There's the desire to approach the writing as a craft and even at times an art, something of value. The great majority of journalistic writers never rise above the routine reports based on five w's in a sparse and highly efficient outline. Even most columnists are more about the news than the way it's presented. But there are many, nonetheless, who transcend these categories and are worth reading just for the writing's sake. So I admit it; that's what I aspire to. That's what keeps me writing in these thrice-weekly Jonals. So maybe they are "reaching" now and then. Sometimes they elude some members of my audience or at times I'm misjudging who my readers are.

It's likely sometimes elusive to you, but it is usually meant to be "allusive" by me. "Allusiveness" is, according to a professor of aesthetics I admire, the nitty gritty of art, the qualifier that turns turgid journalism into writing with some literary attractiveness. The meaning of "allusive" is a bit "elusive"; Webster's "an implied or indirect reference especially in literature" barely gets at the heart of it. As my professor acquaintance has put it, it's pointing to something greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, it has some transcendent quality. It's that spark that causes us fans of Jack Kerouac or Flannery O'Connor to just stop and smile and "take it in" a bit because it's something more. "Beautiful" doesn't quite contain it, but the reaction is like the reaction you have when you're struck by beauty. It's awwwwe-some, if not ahhhhh-some.

So I confess. It's sometimes not as much about the "point" as the way the point is set up, examined, and enhanced. It's more about the writing itselt, sometimes, than the information it's there to convey. Maybe it's about trying to get to a man's (or woman's) mind by going through her (or his) heart.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

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Today's chuckle

Kids' prayers

Dear God, it is great the way you always get the stars in the right place. Why can't you do that with the moon? Jeff

—Sent by Trudy Myers

Thought for today

To handle yourself, use your head. To handle others, use your heart.

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