Quote: “David Halberstam. Halberstam, that was what everybody called him (after all, it was his name). They always said that what Halberstam needed was a good editor, his sentences ran on and on, he piled phrase upon phrase and clause upon clause, he used commas the way other men used periods.” The New Republic, quoted in the Washington Post.
Figure of Speech: mimesis, the figure of mimicry. From the Greek, meaning “imitation.”
A great journalist died in a car crash recently. Figaro once called him to see if he would write an essay about his love for baseball. Halberstam immediately proposed a piece about a game he had watched 30 years before. He described every detail over the phone, with obvious relish, apparently without notes. We think that was the secret behind his famous energy. It was fueled by minutiae — by the accumulation of facts into an undeniably credible story.
Alas, Halberstam’s writing reflected that passion all too well. The New Republic lovingly lampooned his style in the very act of describing it. This is an ironic example of a mimesis, in which the writer or orator imitates another speaker’s words, voice, or gestures.
The figure doesn’t have to lampoon its subject. Hillary Clinton used a mimesis and ended up lampooning herself. Mimicry is a dangerous weapon. Watch where you point it.
Snappy Answer: “Still, he was the best and the brightest.”