Style, Voice, Tone, and All That

The writer I most admire is David James Duncan, author of The River Why, which I think is the perfect book about fly fishing. He’s worth listening to; the following is from his My Story as told by Water: confessions, druidic rants, reflections, bird-watchings, fish-stalkings, visions, songs and prayers refracting light, from living rivers, in the age of the industrial dark:

“Language has vertical limits. Not just any speaker can pack up his speech and tote it at will to a higher elevation. Where there is a will, there is as often a major embarrassment as there is a way. Like a gymnast on parallel bars, the speaker or writer who successfully conveys exaltation must possess sufficient mental muscle to hoist himself above the level of everyday verbiage without appearing to strain. Again like the gymnast, he must be able to lift all of himself, all by himself.”

What Duncan has done here–and why I quoted him at length–is to eloquently articulate how to elevate your style and tone in the eloquent, articulate style and tone that best serves essayists like you!