Examples of my understanding of the definition of an elevator speech:
You’re a bright young businesswoman with credentials waiting for an elevator on the first floor and you’re on your way to the eleventh floor for an important meeting at a high class firm. The door opens, and as you step in, Warren Buffett appears behind you, enters the elevator, and pushes the button for the tenth floor. You’re the only two people in the elevator. He notices you and not only asks you what you do for a living but is interested in your career goals. The elevator starts to move. What you say is your elevator speech–and you’ve got a very short time to impress him.
Or…you’re an unpublished novelist and a similar situation occurs but this time it’s your favorite writer, one that you know has influence and helps new writers get in the door with major publishers. You introduce yourself and tell him you’ve written your first novel. He is gracious and then says, “What’s it about?” You’ve got maybe thirty seconds to knock his socks off.
In his 1956 book, Your God is Too Small, theologian J. B. Phillips expressed this idea regarding good intentions: “To Christ the most serious sin was not the misdirection of the love-energy, which might be due to ignorance or mere carelessness, but the deliberate refusal to allow it to flow out either to God or to other people…Christ’s time, in the circumstances, was short and He wasted none of it in dealing with mere symptoms. It was with motive and attitude of the heart, i.e. the emotional centre, that He was concerned. It was this that He called on men to change, for it is plain that once the inner affections are aligned with God the outward expression of the life will look after itself.”
I see how that can work…but I think motivations are too easily manipulated by our own ego, where then inappropriate actions are self-justified.
The Founding Brothers—The Revolutionary Generation, by Joseph J. Ellis (2000)
Just six chapters, the author basically tells stories rather than explaining chronological events. A history professor, Ellis does an excellent job covering some of the key characters of our founding. In the Preface, he says: “ The republican experiment launched so boldly by the revolutionary generation in America encountered entrenched opposition in the two centuries that followed, but it thoroughly vanquished the monarchical dynasties of the nineteenth century and then the totalitarian despotisms of the twentieth, just as Jefferson predicted it would…it seems safe to say that some form of representative government based on the principle of popular sovereignty and some form of market economy fueled by energies of individual citizens have become the common ingredients for national success throughout the world” I note this because it was written prior to 9/11/2001 and I wonder if Ellis would make so bold a statement today—some in the world really don’t like “market economies fueled by energies of individual citizens”—although to be fair, it was a broad statement and he wasn’t engaging in speculation of current global or national politics.
I recently heard a speech by a literary man who has been in the book industry for over thirty years. He said that publishers love good books that sell…and bad books that sell. The only real criteria is that they sell. He made reference to Robert James Waller’s The Bridges of Madison County, which was reviled by the cultured despisers but sold millions of copies—an example of the “bad” but highly successful book. Although I saw the movie, I never read The Bridges of Madison County. I did read Waller’s Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend, which was unmemorable.One could safely say that Waller isn’t in the league of Steinbeck (not many are), but I surely did enjoy Puerto Vallarta Squeeze. Goodness, I read it in 1995 and again in 2003. The 2004 movie was unfortunately, quite mediocre. Continue reading →
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989); published 1946
Robert Penn Warren, America’s first Poet Laureate, won a Pulitzer Prize for this 600- page novel, considered by many as one of the greatest works by any American author. Set in the 1930’s, it traces the rise and fall of a dictatorial demagogue loosely based on Huey “Kingfish” Long, governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1931. Long was loved by his supporters and hated by his detractors and ultimately assassinated in 1935 after he announced his run for the Democratic nomination for presidency against FDR. Warren was a professor at LSU during Long’s rise in politics.
The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant—1968
This is less a book review and more an outline of the Durant’s remarkable little summary. It is one of my favorite non-fiction books, although that is often a moving target. It’s also fodder for further exploration and possibly forthcoming essays. All items emphasized are mine, not the authors.
The Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), published 1958
The Dharma Bums was published a year after Kerouac’s more famous novel, On the Road. I read them both in the 1960’s and remember his free-flowing writing style and his general enthusiasmbut with On the Road I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. It may have been a seminal work but being original doesn’t necessarily mean it is engaging. Lacking confidence, I assumed it was my fault. I read it again in the mid 1980’s and, with confidence, understood less “what all the fuss was about.” I recalled that I had liked The Dharma Bums better—way back then—but I couldn’t remember why. So after forty some years, I revisited it.
In February 2007, I decided to take guitar lessons—an old guy with small slightly arthritic hands—amazing or ridiculous, take your pick. It was a commitment to do something for its own sake—to finally, in retirement, fulfill a latent desire. It was also a commitment to keep my mind sharp and, selfishly, for my personal enjoyment. On September 13, 2010, I stopped my weekly lessons. This is a story of my journey: