Vigor is a quality that you can almost count on. You sometimes hear and author’s writing described as strong or vigorous: terms that are easier to illustrate than to define. Usually they mean that a writer shows the readers what is happening through active verbs and clear images, that he or she uses specific examples and striking metaphors to get ideas across, that the writing is concrete, direct, and efficient. It moves along like a person walking vigorously and confidently toward a goal.
Vigor is a quality that you can almost count on finding in the writing of first – rate journalists and essayists like Garry Wills, Thomas Friedman, Ellen Goodman, or Anna Quindlen, and in books by essayists like Nikki Giovanni and Henry Louis Gates Jr.
The following passage from Nikki Giovanni vibrates with simplicity and strength. Its rhythms are quick and its images and personal reference bring the writer right into the reader’s presence:
[…] am a sixties person. It’s true that I didn’t do tie – dyed T – Shirts or drugs, and I never went to jail. I argued a lot in the coffeehouses and tried at one point to be social drinker. It didn’t work. I can’t hold liquor at all. But I was nonetheless a sixties person and continue to be today because I actually believe in the people. That was never just rhetoric to me although it has often been my undoing. Believing in the people is dangerous because the people will break your heart. Just when your know in your heart that white people are not worth a tinker’s damn and the future depends on us, some Black person will come along with some nihilistic crap that makes you rethink the whole thing.