Authors I recommend to my Authors #2: Jonathan Meades

Authors Writers I recommend to my Authors #2: Jonathan Meades

"Torrentially articulate" is how he was described (by Nancy Banks-Smith of The Guardian Newspaper) on the appearance of the first "Abroad" series. Meades has a mastery of English whose match I have never heard. Of all the writers I know, he is the only one where I never really care what he is talking about — though it always fascinates and entertains — because listening to his English is like listening to Bach's Well Tempered Keyboard; it has been perfected with practice. Every word slots into your listening senses with not only precision, but care.

Meades' urbanity; his appearance of disinterest; his trademark suit and trademark gait; his lazy old-fashioned middle-class tones act as an inverted camouflage to his passion for his subject matter. Some writers may be said to make the language work for them. Meades makes his meaning work for him.

His language is disarming: apparently simple. His meaning is exactly the same; apparently simple.

"Belgium is exotic precisely because it is so close, yet so subtly different: mayo rather than vinegar."

A typical sentence structure for Meades, this example uses careful, simple precision in the theory (first clause) balances and contrasts this with an example from vernacular eating—what you put on your chips.

But because Meades is also a broadcaster, he is worth watching with your eyes open. Every shot is part of his meaning: the contrived wordless demonstration of what Belgium's neighbours think of Belgians (about 1.10 into the film); regular appearance of uncommented images as if they make his point for him.

Meades' humour is unusually accessible in this film; he always seems a little ill at ease with getting a laugh, which I suppose is part of his enduring preoccupation with the British middle class that spawned him.

What makes Meades' articulacy torrential is what happens when he combines his sense of visual experience - visual articulation - with his distinctive verbal idiom. From the 1994 series "Futher Abroad", Get High is all about vertigo. The excerpt below is from the middle. Try to listen carefully and watch carefully at the same time. I would love to be able to achieve this effect just with words...

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