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The Cruel Radiance: Notes of a Prosewriter in a Visual Age

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The dominance of the electronic media has altered the way we think and write, Ron Powers observes in this collection of essays, stories, and literary nonfiction. A noted journalist whose work in print and television has earned both a Pulitzer Prize and an Emmy Award, Powers decries the effects of the mass media on the quality and nature of American life and letters. Broadcasting's emphasis on sound bytes and stark visuals performs a kind of linguistic lobotomizing that has weakened the fabric of American ...
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1994 Library Binding New 874516900. As New; 1.04 x 8.82 x 5.87 Inches; 269 pages.

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Overview

The dominance of the electronic media has altered the way we think and write, Ron Powers observes in this collection of essays, stories, and literary nonfiction. A noted journalist whose work in print and television has earned both a Pulitzer Prize and an Emmy Award, Powers decries the effects of the mass media on the quality and nature of American life and letters. Broadcasting's emphasis on sound bytes and stark visuals performs a kind of linguistic lobotomizing that has weakened the fabric of American community because it has undermined the craft of writing. For Powers, writing and culture are inextricably intertwined; good storytelling is as central to the American temperament as jazz or baseball because it helps perpetuate our unique character: "In telling the people of a certain place the elemental tales about themselves and their place, the teller creates the common consciousness necessary for community. Likewise, the common consciousness of a community at once enhances the need for a teller." But Powers does not just defend good storytelling; he practices it, and the selections here serve as clear examples of the kind of thoughtful, well-turned writing he argues for. Bread Loaf Writers' Conference lectures, excerpts from the fiction of social issues, and journalistic pieces about TV's quirks and influences all embody the high prose standards of a consummate craftsman. As a chronicle of Powers's ongoing inquiry into the effects of rapid social change on American life, The Cruel Radiance illustrates both his resistance to the engineering of mass-produced thought and his affirmation of the value of human community.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This collection of lectures, fiction excerpts and criticism by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Powers has as its theme the author's faith in the redemptive power of the written word and his parallel belief that exploitative broadcast media are eroding our cultural heritage. In five well-written, inspirational speeches delivered to the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference from 1983 to 1993, Powers examines the characteristics of forceful nonfiction writing as exemplified by James Agee (Let Us Now Praise Famous Men) and advocates a return to narrative journalism as storytelling. Several selections from Powers's novels (Face Value; Toot-Toot-Tootsie) deal with dehumanizing aspects of the TV industry. Five critical pieces written when he was a columnist for GQ magazine satirize and indict popular programs, including the Morton Downey Jr. Show and thirtysomething as either destructive or trivial. A provocative and thoughtful collection. (Jan.)
Library Journal
This is a book that will appeal to people who are writers, hope to be writers, or are just interested in writing. Powers, television critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and author of White Town Drowsing (LJ 11/1/86) and Far from Home (LJ 4/15/91), believes that the impact of broadcast media on writing has been disastrous for the country and our sense of community. The first five essays are adapted from addresses Powers gave at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference in Vermont over a period of ten years. He discusses writing, the visual aspects of writing, and the effects of photography, TV, and other graphic images. Powers concludes with examples of his writing, both nonfiction, which particularly interests him, and fiction. A good addition to academic libraries.-Rebecca Wondriska, Trinity Coll. Lib., Hartford, Conn.
Denise Perry Donavin
Collected from Powers' books, lectures, newspaper columns, and magazine pieces are these essays on television and life. The lectures (written with great seriousness for audiences of fellow writers at a hallowed conference that has been a tradition since 1926) give way to idiosyncratic essays on "the face of television in the twentieth century." The collection really loses momentum when Powers sums up with reviews of long-dead TV shows like "thirtysomething" and "L.A. Law". Perhaps he simply could not resist including lines like "Hope is the June Allyson of the Junk Bond age," from "thirtysomething". Or perhaps, Powers is only seeking to demonstrate a point made in one of his lectures: "The most corrosive, insidious effect of broadcasting is its influence on the world of writers."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780874516906
  • Publisher: Middlebury College Museum of Art
  • Publication date: 11/1/1994
  • Pages: 269
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 8.56 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Pt. 1 Five Bread Loaf Lectures 1
Bread Loaf Lecture, 1983: Tilting at What Is Not There: The Journey into Nonfiction 5
Bread Loaf Lecture, 1985: On Memory as Destiny: My Rediscovery of Hannibal 22
Bread Loaf Lecture, 1988: "Don't Think of It as Art": Nonfiction and the Inflected Voice 37
Bread Loaf Lecture, 1991: Toward the Light: Finding Truth Amidst the Virtual Reality 57
Bread Loaf Lecture, 1993: Before We Disappear: Affirming Words in the Age of the Gun 79
Pt. 2 Excerpts from Books 99
from Face Value (A Novel) 103
from Toot-Toot-Tootsie, Good-Bye (A Novel) 126
from Super Tube: The Rise of Television Sports, The Iceman Clowneth 150
from White Town Drowsing: Journeys to Hannibal 171
Pt. 3 "Sha-Da-Boom!" (A Story) 189
Pt. 4 TV Criticism 197
The Cool, Dark Telegenius of Robert Pittman 199
Joe "the Living Legend" Franklin Is a Very Lovely Guy. We've Got Proof! 215
Real (Sick) People 222
It Came from New Jersey 229
L.A. Law: D.O.A. 238
Trivial Pursuits 245
Acknowledgments 251
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