Thursday, January 13, 2011

Topic: A cliche

Question: Is a picture worth a thousand words?

Answer: Isaac Asimov: “Don’t you believe it….” “Consider, for instance, Hamlet’s great soliloquy that begins with ‘To be or not to be,’ the poetic consideration of the pros and cons of suicide. It is 260 words long. Can you get across the essence of Hamlet’s thought in a quarter of a picture—or, for that matter, in 260 pictures? Of course not. The pictures may be dramatic illustrations of the soliloquy if you already know the words. The pictures by themselves, to someone who has never read or heard Hamlet, will mean nothing.” May 1986.

Comment: Pictures are pictures. They do their job, which is mainly illustrations of ideas, usually expressed in words. Consider the endless pictures of automobile accidents in the daily local newspapers or local newscasts. Those pictures may suggest ideas, but Karl Shapiro’s “Auto Wreck” formulates impressions and questions that the pictures of auto wrecks may suggest to individual readers, but cannot convey, certainly not in captions. RayS.

Title: The Writer’s Digest Guide to Good Writing. Thomas Clark, ed., et al. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer’s Digest Books, 1994.

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