Soapbox on wheels

Do a writer’s words take on new meaning when spoken?
By Aubrey Everett, Writer Managing Editor | Published: June 5, 2013


Over the weekend I attended Book Expo America at the Javitz Center in New York City. Whenever I visit the city I take the opportunity to spend time with my sister, and one of our favorite activities is to walk the streets of Manhattan. And you couldn’t do that last week without seeing the lengths of bright blue bikes and bike stands, part of the city’s new bikeshare program.

Similar programs have proven to be successful in many cities worldwide, and a bikeshare program was introduced to Boston, home of The Writer, two summers ago. New York’s program is cheap to use, provides bikes at many convenient locations, and gives users a bit of a workout amidst an often-busy life.

Wall State Journal columnist Dorothy Rabinowitz doesn’t see it that way. Response to her fiery comments first popped up on my news feed from a friend who is a staunch bicycling advocate in a European city. Then I saw another friend post the story. After two Facebook mentions, I typically deem something worthy of a click. What I saw was not a written editorial, as I expected, but a video shot in the WSJ newsroom.

Interesting.

Rabinowitz spouted about how bikers disrupt the natural traffic flow in New York City, labeled Mayor Bloomberg’s administration “totalitarian,” and claimed that the majority of New Yorkers were against the program. Well, I guess that still remains to be seen.

While live reports from print newsrooms are certainly not a new concept, it did get me thinking about how writers speak rather than, well, write. Do a writer’s words take on a different meaning when you see them being spoken, rather than reading them on a page? Are they more powerful? Less?

  • Charles Gulotta

    I don’t think the spoken words take on a different meaning, but the sound of the writer’s voice can be seductive enough to fool the listener into thinking the prose is better than it is. I belong to a writers’ group, and a new member came to our latest session. He has one of those professional-narrator voices — resonant and dramatic. I found myself struggling to ignore those qualities, and to listen to the way he wrote, rather than the way he spoke. I don’t think I succeeded.

    • Aubrey Everett

      You bring up a good point Charles. I also wonder about the impact of someone else reading your words. Does he or she provide the inflection you intended? Does it have the same impact?