Monday, May 14, 2007

One bad sentence, one good review

From a review of a new biography of Aimee Semple McPherson comes one of the worst sentences I've read in a long time. I know that the author of the review, John Updike, is a master prose stylist, one of the greatest American authors alive, but this sentence is confusing and terrible, and made worse because it sounds like it's trying so hard to impress.
Nor, herself a feminist symbol, though not a member of any feminist organization, did she neglect the cause of gender equality.
This sentence could be reworded ten different ways, each time making it clearer and less showy. To wit: "Though she was a feminist symbol who attended to the cause of gender equality, she did not belong to any feminist organization."

Other than this ugly sentence, the review is interesting, making the book, and the subject of the book, sound fascinating.
In 1927, she established a temple commissary that, as the Depression settled in, emerged as “one of the region’s most effective and inclusive welfare institutions.” According to Epstein:

When the schools stopped feeding children free lunches, Aimee took over the program. When city welfare agencies staggered under the load of beggars, the women of Angelus Temple sewed quilts and baked loaves of bread by the thousands. When bread lines stretched for city blocks . . . Angelus Temple was the only place anyone could get a meal, clothing, and blankets, no questions asked.

She brushed aside the distinction between the “deserving” and the “undeserving” poor, and that between legal and illegal residents. One Mexican, the actor Anthony Quinn, who as a teen-ager acted as a translator for her, told an interviewer, “During the Depression . . . the one human being that never asked you what your nationality was, what you believed in and so forth, was Aimee Semple McPherson. All you had to do was pick up the phone and say, ‘I’m hungry,’ and within an hour there’d be a food basket there for you. . . . She literally kept most of that Mexican community . . . alive.” In an era when anti-black racism was freely expressed, not least loudly by fundamentalist white Protestants, she persistently tried to make “interracial revival a reality at Angelus Temple,” bringing a series of black leaders to its pulpit and welcoming into the congregation poor Southern blacks who had recently immigrated to a Los Angeles of increasing racial tensions. The same week of the Detroit race riots, in June of 1943, McPherson publicly converted the notorious black former heavyweight champion Jack Johnson on the Temple stage, and embraced him “as he raised his hand in worship.”

Read the entire article here.


MC said...

Sorry to keep comenting on stuff other than the post here, of which I agree, sounds intersting. But I noticed your Listening Side Bar which is intriguing for me. For example, I recently heard some Los Lobos, which got lost from my collection for some reason or other, at a friend's home party the other day and I thought I needed to get some again.

I also got the Kings of Leon and I'm still not sure what I think of it. I like the music, but I think the lead singer sounds a little bit like Randy Newman, and not in a good way-the jury's still out on them.

I'm also intrigued by your choices of Rockpile and Violent Femmes--"Old School." That being said I never had any Rockpile, but I did have Hallowed Ground on cassette back in the day-might have worn it out. Were you with me at the first Lollapolluza? The Femmes played as did Fishbone, two bands I know you liked back in the day.

Eric said...

I'm listening to the Violent Femmes on vinyl, and I'm loving it. The Rockpile came up on shuffle the other day, and I liked the song so much I went to the whole record, and it's really great. It's a record that crosses a lot of musical boundaries--you could give it to almost anyone as a gift, and they'd like it.

Sadly, I was not with you at that Lollapalooza (sniff).

The McGuffin said...

The wording in that sentence reminds me of "News on the March" from Citizen Kane:

"In Xanadu last week was held 1941's biggest, strangest funeral."

"All of these years he covered, many of these he was."

Interesting article...

Eric said...

While I agree that this sentence sounds like "News on the March," the Updike sentence is much worse. Also, the NOTM was SUPPOSED to sound puffed up and overdramatic.