Seeing People Off

by Max Beerbohm I am not good at it. To do it well seems to me one of the most difficult things in the world, and probably seems so to you, too. To see a friend off from Waterloo to Vauxhall were easy enough. But we are never called on to perform that small feat. It is only when a friend is going on a longish journey, and will be absent for a longish time, that we turn up at the railway station. The dearer the friend, and the longer the journey, and the longer the likely absence, the earlier do we turn up, and the more lamentably do we fail. Our failure is in exact ratio to the seriousness of the occasion, and to the depth of our feeling. In a room or even on a door step, we can make the farewell quite worthily. We can express in our faces the genuine sorrow we feel. Nor do words fail us. There is no awkwardness, no restraint on either side. The thread of our intimacy has not been snapped. The leave-taking is an ideal one. Why not, then leave the leave-taking at that? Always, departing friends implore us not to bother to come to the railway station next morning. Always, we are deaf to these entreaties, knowing them to be not quite sincere. The departing friends would think it very odd of us if we took them at their word. Besides, they really do want to see us again. And that wish is heartily reciprocated. We duly turn up. And then, oh then, what a gulf yawns! We stretch our arms vainly across it. We have utterly lost touch. We have nothing at all to say. We gaze at each other as dumb animals gaze at human beings. We make conversation -- and such conversation! We know that these friends are the friends from whom we parted overnight. They know that we have not altered. Yet, on the surface, everything is different; and the tension is such that we only long for the guard to blow his whistle and put an end to the farce. On a cold grey morning of last week I duly turned up at Euston, to see off an old friend who was starting for America. Overnight, we had given him a farewell dinner, in which sadness was well mingled with festivity. Years probably would elapse before his return. Some of us might never see him again. Not ignoring the shadow of the future, we gaily celebrated the past. We were as thankful to have known our guest as we were grieved to lose him; and both these emotions were made manifest. It was a perfect farewell. And now, here we were, stiff and self-conscious on the platform; and framed in the window of the railway-carriage was the face of our friend; but it was as the face of a stranger -- a stranger anxious to please, an appealing stranger, an awkward stranger. `Have you got everything?' asked one of us, breaking a silence. `Yes, everything,' said our friend, with a pleasant nod. `Everything,' he repeated, with the emphasis of an empty brain. `You'll be able to lunch on the train,' said I, though the prophecy had already been made more than once. `Oh, yes,' he said with conviction. He added that the train went straight through to Liverpool. This fact seemed to strike us as rather odd, We exchanged glances. `Doesn't it
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stop at Crewe?' asked one of us. `No', said our friend, briefly. He seemed almost disagreeable. There was a long pause. One of us, with a nod and a forced smile at the traveller, said `Well!' The nod, the smile and the unmeaning monosyllable were returned conscientiously. Another pause was broken by one of us with a fit of coughing. It was an obviously assumed fit, but it served to pass the time. The bustle of the platform was unabated. There was no sign of the train's departure. Release--ours, and our friend's, -- was not yet. My wandering eye alighted on a rather portly middle-aged man who was talking earnestly from the platform to a young lady at the next window but one to ours. His fine profile was vaguely familiar to me. The young lady was evidently American, and he was evidently English; otherwise I should have guessed from his impressive air that he was her father. I wished I could hear what he was saying. I was sure he was giving the very best advice; and the strong tenderness of his gaze was really beautiful. He seemed magnetic, as he poured out his final injunctions. I could feel something of his magnetism even where I stood. And the magnetism like the profile, was vaguely familiar to me. Where had I experienced it? In a flash I remembered. The man was Hubert Le Ros. But how changed since last I saw him! That was seven or eight years ago, in the Strand. He was then as usual out of an engagement, and borrowed half a crown. It seemed a privilege to lend anything to him. He was always magnetic. And why his magnetism had never made him successful on the London stage was always a mystery to me. He was an excellent actor, and a man of sober habit. But, like many others of his kind, Hubert Le Ros (I do not, of course, give the actual name by which he was known) drifted speedily away into the provinces; and I, like every one else, ceased to remember him. It was strange to see him, after all these years, here on the platform of Euston, looking so prosperous and solid. It was not only the flesh that he had put on, but also the clothes, that made him hard to recognize. In the old days, an imitation fur coat had seemed to be as integral a part of him as were his ill-shorn lantern jaws. But now his costume was a model of rich and somber moderation, drawing, not calling attention to itself. He looked like a banker. Any one would have been proud to be seen off by him. `Stand back, please!' The train was about to start, and I waved farewell to my friend. Le Ros did not stand back. He stood clasping in both hands the hands of the young American. `Stand back, sir, please!' He obeyed, but quickly darted forward again to whisper some final word. I think there were tears in her eyes. There certainly were tears in his when, at length, having watched the train out of sight, he turned round. He seemed, nevertheless, delighted to see me. He asked me where I had been hiding all these years; and simultaneously repaid me the half-crown as though it had been borrowed yesterday. He linked his arm in mine, and walked with me slowly along the platform, saying with what pleasure he read my dramatic criticisms every Saturday.
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I told him, in return, how much he was missed on the stage. `Ah, yes,' he said, `I never act on the stage nowadays.' He laid some emphasis on the `stage', and I asked him where, then, he did act. `On the platform,' he answered. `You mean,' said I, `that you recite at concerts?' He smiled. `This,' he whispered, striking his stick on the ground, `is the platform I mean.' Had his mysterious prosperity unhinged him? He looked quite sane. I begged him to be more explicit. `I suppose,' he said presently, giving me a light for the cigar which he had offered me, `you have been seeing a friend off?' I assented. He asked me what I supposed he had been doing. I said that I had watched him doing the same thing. `No,' he said gravely. `That lady was not a friend of mine. I met her for the first time this morning, less than half an hour ago, here', and again he struck the platform with his stick. I confessed that I was bewildered. He smiled. `You may,' he said, `have heard of the Anglo-American Social Bureau?' I had not. He explained to me that of the thousands of Americans who annually pass through England there are many hundreds who have no English friends. In the old days they used to bring letters of introduction. But the English are so inhospitable that these letters are hardly worth the paper they are written on. `Thus,' said Le Ros, `The A.A.S.B. supplies a long-felt want. Americans are a sociable people, and most of them have plenty of money to spend. The A.A.S.B. supplies them with English friends. Fifty per cent of the fees is paid over to the friends. The other fifty is retained by the A.A.S. B. I am not, alas! a director. If I were, I should be a very rich man indeed. I am only an employee. But even so I do very well. I am one of the seers-off.' Again I asked for enlightenment. `Many Americans,' he said, `cannot afford to keep friends in England. But they can all afford to be seen off. the fee is only five pounds. (twenty-five dollars) for a single traveller; and eight pounds (forty dollars) for a party of two or more. They send that in to the Bureau, giving the date of their departure and a description by which the seer-off can identify them on the platform. And then--well, then they are seen off.' `But is it worth?' I exclaimed. `Of course it is worth it,' said Le Ros. `It prevents them from feeling "out of it." It earns them the respect of the guard. It saves them from being despised by their fellow-passengers -- the people who are going to be on the boat. It gives them a footing for the whole voyage. Besides, it is a great pleasure in itself. You saw me seeing that young lady off. Didn't you think I did it beautifully?' `Beautifully,' I admitted. `I envied you. There was I --' `Yes, I can imagine. There were you, shuffling from head to foot, staring blankly at your friend, trying to make conversation. I know. That's how I used to be myself, before I studied, and went into the thing professionally. I don't say I'm perfect yet. I'm still a martyr to platform fright. A railway station is the most difficult of all places to act in, as you have discovered for yourself.' `But,' I said with resentment, `I wasn't trying to act. I really felt!' `So did I, my boy,' said Le Ros, `You can't act without feeling. What's - his - name, the Frenchman -- Diderot, yes -- said you could; but what did he know about it
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Didn't you see those tears in my eyes when the train started? I hadn't forced them. I tell you I was moved. So were you, I dare say. But you couldn't have pumped up a tear to prove it. You can't express your feelings. In other words, you can't act. At any rate,' he added kindly, `not in a railway station.' `Teach me!' I cried. He looked thoughtfully at me. `Well,' he said at length, `the seeing-off season is practically over. Yes, I'll give you a course. I have a good many pupils on hand already; but yes,' he said, consulting an ornate notebook, `I could give you an hour on Tuesdays and Fridays.' His terms, I confess, are rather high. But I don't grudge the investment.

Sunday before the War
by A. Clutton-Brock On Sunday, in a remote valley in the West of England, where the people are few and scattered and placid, there was no more sign among them than among the quiet hills of the anxiety that holds the world. They had no news and seemed to want none. The postmaster had been ordered to stay all day in his little post-office, and that was something unusual that interested them, but only because it affected the postmaster. It rained in the morning, but the afternoon was clear and glorious and shining, with all the distances revealed far into the heart of Wales and to the high ridges of the Welsh mountains. The cottages of that valley are not gathered into villages, but two or three together or lonely among their fruit-trees on the hillside; and the cottagers, who are always courteous and friendly, said a word or two as one went by, but just what they would have said on any other day and without any question about the war. Indeed, they seemed to know, or to wish to know, as little about that as the earth itself, which, beautiful there at any time, seemed that afternoon to wear an extreme and pathetic beauty. The country, more than any other in England, has the secret of peace. It is not wild, though it looks into the wildness of Wales; but all its cultivation, its orchards and hopyards and fields of golden wheat, seem to have the beauty of time upon them, as if men there had long lived happily upon the earth with no desire for change nor fear of decay. It is not the sad beauty of a past cut off from the present, but a mellowness that the present inherits from the past and in the mellowness all the hillside seems a garden to the spacious farmhouses and the little cottages; each led up to by its own narrow, flowery lane. There the meadows are all lawns with the lustrous green of spring even in August, and often overshadowed by old fruit-trees--cherry, or apple, or pear; and on Sunday after the rain there was an April glory and freshness added to the quiet of the later summer. Nowhere and never in the world can there have been a deeper peace; and the bells
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from the little red church down by the river seemed to be the music of it, as the song of birds is the music of spring. There one saw how beautiful the life of man can be, and how men by the innocent labours of many generations can give to the earth a beauty it has never known in its wildness. And all this peace, one knew, was threatened; and the threat came into one's mind as if it were a soundless message from over the great eastward plain; and with it the beauty seemed unsubstantial and strange as if it were sinking away into the past, as if it were only a memory of childhood. So it is always when the mind is troubled among happy things, and then one almost wishes they could share one's troubles and become more real with it. It seemed on that Sunday that a golden age had lasted till yesterday, and that the earth had still to learn the news of its ending. And this change had come, not by the will of God, not even by the will of man, but because some few men far away were afraid to be open and generous with each other. There was a power in their hands so great that it frightened them. There was a spring that they knew they must not touch, and like mischievous and nervous children, they had touched it at last, and now all the world was to suffer for their mischief. So the next morning one saw a reservist in his uniform saying goodbye to his wife and children at his cottage-gate and then walking up the hill that leads out of the valley with a cheerful smile still on his face. There was the first open sign of trouble, a very little one, and he made the least of it; and, after all, this valley is very far from any possible war, and its harvest and its vintage of perry and cider will surely be gathered in peace. But what happiness can there be in that peace, or what security can there be in the mind of man, when the madness of war is let loose in so many other valleys? Here there is a beauty inherited from the past, and added to the earth by man's will; but the men here are of the same nature and subject to the same madness as those who are gathering to fight on the frontiers. We are all men with the same power of making and destroying, with the same divine foresight mocked by the same animal blindness. We ourselves may not be in fault today, but it is human beings in no way different from us who are doing what we abhor and they abhor even while they do it. There is a fate, coming from the beast in our own past, that the present man in us has not yet mastered, and for the moment that fate seems a malignity in the nature of the universe that mocks us even in the beauty of these lonely hills. But it is not so. For we are not separate and indifferent like the beasts; and if one nation for the moment forgets our common humanity and its future, then another must take over that sacred charge and guard it without hatred or fear until the madness is passed. May that be our task now, so that we may wage war only for the future peace of the world and with the lasting courage that needs no stimulant of hate.

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Too Many Books
by Gilbert Norwood When Julius Caesar allowed the Library of Alexandria to burn, excellent people no doubt exclaimed. "Lo, another cord added to the scourge of war!" Certainly countless students since the Revival of Learning have looked upon that conflagration as one of the world's disasters. It was no such thing, but a vast benefit. And one of the worst modern afflictions is the printing-press; for its diabolical power of multiplication has enabled literature to laugh at sudden mischance and deliberate enmity. We are oppressed, choked, buried by books. Let not the last sentence mislead. I do not mean that we, or some few of us, are asphyxiated by barren learning; that is another story. Nor am I adding yet another voice to the chorus which reviles bad literature--the ceaseless nagging at Miss Ethel M.Dell. I have read none of her books; and in any case that too, is another story. No; I mean good literature--the books (to take contemporary instances) of Mr. Arnold Bennett and Pierre Loti, of Schnitzler and Mr. Max Beerbohm, and countless others ancient and modern, European, American, Asiatic, and Polynesian (an epoch-making novel from Otaheite is much overdue). And when I say "good," I mean "good." I have no intention of imitating those critics whose method of creating a frisson is to select the most distinguished author or artist and then, not call him bad, but imply that he is already recognised as bad by some unnamed and therefore awe-inspiring coterie. They do not write: "Mr. Hardy is a bungler," but: "Unless My. Jugg takes more pains, his work will soon be indistinguishable from Mr. Hardy's." It was a famous, almost a proverbial, remark that Sappho’s poems were "few, but roses." What should we say if we found roses on every table, rose-trees along the streets, if our tramcars and lamp-posts were festooned with roses, if roses littered every staircase and dropped from the folds of every newspaper? In a week we should be organising a "campaign" against them as if they were rats or house-flies. So with books. Week in, week out, a roaring torrent of novels, essays, plays, poems, books of travel, devotion, and philosophy, flows through the land -- all good, all "provocative of thought" or else "in the best tradition of British humour"; that is the mischief of it. And they are so huge. Look at "The Forsyte Saga," confessedly in itself a small library of fiction; consider the "Golden Bough," how it grows. One is tempted to revolt and pretend in self-defence that these works are clever, facile, and bad. But they are not; far from it. The flood leaves you no breath. What is to be done? Various remedies are in vogue, none efficacious, indeed -- that is my point -- all deleterious. There is nothing for it but burning nine-tenths of the stuff. For consider these remedies. First, of course, comes the man who simply gives up, who says: "I haven't the time," and goes under. Virtue, they say, is its own reward. Not for him. He tries to pass it off
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blusteringly but he is ashamed of himself till death. Second is the man who, swindler though he be, yet merits applause as paying back the "everyone" journalist in his own base coin. He defines in his mind the little patch of literature that he can read, then condemns all the rest on general grounds evolving a formula which shall be vaguely tenable and shall vaguely absolve him. An eager youth asks: "Pray, Sir, what is your opinion of Mrs. Virginia Woolf?" He replies: "No opinion of mine, my dear Guildenstern, would be of much use to you, as regards Mrs. Woolf. I fear I am an old fogey. These modern people seem to me to have lost their way. Fielding and Jane Austen are good enough for me." Guildenstern retires, suitably abashed, and vaguely classing Mrs. Woolf with Mrs. Bertram Atkey, Alice Meynell with Ella Wheeler Wilcox. The third man gallantly faces the insoluble problem by following the fashion. Setting his jaw, he specialises in the moderns of whom one reads most in the Times Literary Supplement. Feverishly he cons the work of all authors enshrined in that austere mausoleum; feverishly, because he may at any moment be caught napping by some more alert practitioner. This third section forms the bulk of the educated class. Members are everywhere and spoil everything. Literature has two great uses: The fundamental use is that it creates and satisfies a keener taste for life; the superficial use is that it provides a precious social amenity. Our third man not only knows nothing of the first; he ruins the second. Decent people converse about books with a view to finding common ground and exchanging delight (deep or frivolous) thereon. But the Third Man is mostly anti-social. He selects some voluminous author and catechises his victim till he has found a work which the victim has not read. With a hoot of joyous disgust he leaps upon the confession and extols the unread book as the finest of the list. Such a man will always be found smacking his lips in public over Stevenson's "Wrong Box" to Lewis Carroll's "Sylvie and Bruno." Chief of this tribe, apparently, was no less a person than Coleridge, of whom Hazlitt reports: "He did not speak of his [Butler's] `Analogy,' but of his `Sermons at the Rolls Chapel,' of which I had never heard. Coleridge somehow always contrived to prefer the unknown to the known." Exactly; for the great aims of such people are (1) to avoid being scored off; (2) to score off others. It is this ignoble competition which has ruined taste, for to carry it on we must needs follow the crowd. It would never do to enter a room full of persons discussing Masefield or Walter de la Mare and explain wistfully: "I've been reading Whittier all day." Masefield and de la Mare are good -- yes, maybe; but we keep up with them not for that reason, but because they are the gods of the literary weeklies. Our notion that commerce is the first of human activities has ruined noble art of reading; for though competition is the life of trade it is the death of social intercourse and of social arts. The greatest things in life flourish by being shared, not by being monopolised. Our Fourth Class is by far the most respectable. It advocates what may be termed the Cream Theory. "Since we cannot read all the good books, let us attempt to know the best that has been written in all times and places." So after a solid banquet of English, they move
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off to Dante (a great man for this class, and read by scarcely anyone else), Goethe, Tolstoi, Racine, Ibsen, Cervantes, Virgil, Homer. A respectable kind of person, we said; but not necessarily sagacious. In fact, they are utterly, almost horribly, mistaken. For it is an error to suppose that because an author has by the world in general been placed upon a pinnacle, every reader can derive much good from him. Do we not see that a bright boy of twelve finds nothing particular in Milton or Thackeray? (Someone objects: "Oh, but he does!" One in a million, my friend; anything beyond that is propagandist falsehood.) Why? Because he is not yet ready for them. They are magnificent, but they wrote for adults -- as, unfortunately, most authors have written. Let him gain by experience the needful equipment, and he will appreciate them well enough. And the analogous proposition is true of the Cream Theory. Take a person who has completed the first stage, namely a reading of English, and place him suddenly before those foreign Great Ones. They will bore him to tears. Any dramatic canons drawn exclusively from Shakespeare prove that Racine is a simpleton; any poetical canons, that Virgil is affected, Homer childish, and Dante no poet at all; any psychological canons, that Ibsen is "a dirty old blackguard" (a quotation, this, from a man deeply read in English). Yes, they are bored to tears; but since our national temperament understands not aesthetic right, only moral right, they feel that they must be wicked if they are bored by great authors. The familiar result follows. Thousands of otherwise honest folk sit flogging themselves through "Andromaque" or "Don Quixote" with a dazed sense that they are making the Almighty somehow their debtor. Works like these depend for their true effect upon a whole literary tradition, a whole national culture, unrevealed to the worshipper. Every writer needs a considerable equipment in his reader, and it is precisely the greatest writers ("simple" though they are called by the critics) who demand most. They sum up gigantic experiences of the race in politics, religion, philosophy, literature. Nevertheless our friend plods on, head bowed and muscles tense. The Cream Theory, even for its most genuine and respectable adherents, is a delusion. That is not the way in which literature "works," or life. As well saw off the topmost six feet of the Jungfrau, set the mass up in your back-garden, and take your guests out to admire the terrific grandeur of the scenery. The Cream Theory finds its best expression in those dreadful lists of the World's Best Books. Everyone who has glanced through those catalogues knows how repellent they are; but does he realise why? It is because they are inhuman. The list is nobody's list, though it contains something which would be in everybody's list. So much for the various types of reader. None of them solves the difficulty. What, then, is to be done? It is no answer to say: "Read what you can, and leave the rest," because the size of the unread mass has positive and evil effects. In the honest it causes worry, a sense of waste; in the dishonest it causes snobbery and the desire to outshine. There is but one remedy: a wholesale destruction. Quite nine-tenths of the good books should be burnt;
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of the bad we need say, here as elsewhere, nothing -- they are drawn towards the pulpingmachine by a force persistent as gravitation. "But," say some, quoting perchance their own reviews, "your suggestion raises more difficulties than it solves." Scarcely; but I see two problems, which are by no means so hard to solve as might appear: What are we to destroy? How are we to destroy it? Let me answer the second question first. When a book is condemned, all public libraries burn their copies with whatever rites may seem fitting to its subject-matter and the occasion. It becomes illegal to possess, buy, sell the book or to expose it for sale. All copies secretly preserved are stripped of their value by an enactment that any person quoting them, referring to them, or in any manner whatsoever seeking personal credit from them, shall be prosecuted under a Disturbance of the Realm Act. A fixed sum should be paid for each copy handed over to the police; that is the way, more or less, in which wolves were extirpated. That great army of persons who thrive on the various forms of bibliography, the booksellers, the librarians, the makers and printers of catalogues, the ghouls who (like vultures on the battle-field) hover over the twopenny box should be told that the state is not robbing them either of livelihood or of excitement. "Of whatever thing a man is a smart guardian," says Plato, "of that he is also a smart thief." Let these experts continue their function of tracking books, but for destruction, not preservation. They will not care. What they love is their hardwon knowledge of the quarry, its appearance, methods of concealment, and habitat; not its ultimate destiny. Does the enthusiast who follows the scent of a First Folio across England and at last runs it to earth in an apple-loft, sit down forthwith and read The Merchant of Venice? Not he. If he ever reads the play at all (which is highly doubtful) he prefers a popular edition with pink pictures of the Rialto. For him the chase is all. The new regime will alter his life and enjoyment surprisingly little. He will give interviews with the title, "How I Stamped Out Fielding." Nor is this the only way in which our newspapers will be brightened. During the first years of the new Golden Age we shall read of a fanatic who, hearing a Cabinet Minister quote the words "as well almost kill a man as kill a good book," instantly shot him through the head, and of detectives at peril of their lives raiding a den of Wordsworth-printers. Before we consider the second problem in its main aspect, the selection of the extant works which are to be banned, let us complete the minor task of diminishing heavily the future output. I should favour the absolute prohibition of all novels for the next ten years. Then, during five years only those novels, hitherto held up, should be issued which both publisher and author still thought worth while. After that, if people persisted in writing novels, the Government might refuse permits to those treating the following topics: (a) the Great War, (b) girls dressed in salad and living beside lagoons, (c) imaginary kingdoms with regents called Black Boris, (d) any type of "lure." As for indigenous works other than novels, they might be allowed freedom of publication so long as the price were not less than one penny a page. This would keep down the output effectually and would also give
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Cambridge University Press an equal chance with other publishing concerns. There remains the chief and most arduous task, to decide which books already extant should perish, The work is enormous, and must be spread over many years. The thousand per annum seems a likely figure, which could be rapidly increased as the public grew accustomed to the system and observed that the sky did not fall. A committee of fifty (ten of whom must, and all of whom might, be women) should each year promulgate its list, to appear simultaneously with the New Year Honours list. The Committee should contain representatives of every class and -- an unusual thing in committees -- of every age. First, that the more nervous might be in some degree reassured, they would make a list of books which in any case should be preserved -- books which almost everyone really likes and really reads. It would be a surprisingly small list, but there is no danger of our losing Shakespeare, most of Dickens, the Sherlock Holmes stories. This done, they would on each New Year's Day promulgate their list of ten thousand books. Nothing, however, is further from my intention than tyranny. All I aim at is effecting what the public in its heart desires. Therefore any of these ten thousand may be saved if it can be shown that the public really wishes to save it. The proof must, however, be given in deeds, not words as heretofore and should be conducted on the following lines. The list is promulgated on January 1st, but the destruction does not begin until August 1st. During July all publishers and librarians are to make a return of the number of persons who during the preceding six months have purchased or read each of the books prescribed. Anyone claiming to have read a book owned by himself would be subjected to a brief oral examination. The works would then be arranged in three categories. Any which had been read by ten thousand people should be struck from the list and given immunity for fifteen years. Those which had been read by less than ten but more than five thousand should be immune for five years. Each work which had found less than five thousand supporters should be retained for one year if any single person could be found to prove his love for it by making a sacrifice to ensure its preservation. This would form the sound test of that "revelling in" authors of which we hear so much.

Rivalry
by E. V. Lucas From Mrs. Horace Spong to the Rev. Samson Spong Dear Samson, ---- I was so glad to hear from Lydia that you are better. We have been rather nervous about you, for a cold at this time of year is often difficult to throw off. Horace is better too, and we are making our plans for Mentone as usual. I don't pretend to care much
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for this annual exile from home, but Horace counts on it. I am, Your affectionate Sister, Grace Spong The Rev. Samson Spong to Mrs. Horace Spong Dear Grace, ---- I can't think what Lydia was about, to tell you that I am better. I am not better. If anything I am worse. Indeed it is within the bounds of probability that I shall never be anything but a wreck, for this cold is the most malignant that I've ever had and gives me no peace. I am miserable all day and at night unable to sleep. Either I am coughing or I have the feeling of being smothered. Tell Horace that I envy him his recovery: he was always so much stronger than I. In fact, our dead mother often expressed surprise that as an infant I survived at all. You are fortunate in being able to get to the south of France and avoid this terrible climate. I should like nothing better, but I dread the journey too much; nor would my straitened means, much deplenished by excessive taxation, permit it. Horace has always been so richly blessed in worldly goods. Your affectionate Brother, Samson Spong Mrs. Samson Spong to Mrs. Horace Spong My Dear Grace, ---- Please don't write to Samson again about his condition. He much resented my telling you that he was better, although as a matter of fact he is -- much better. He eats better, is more cheerful, except when he recollects that he is an invalid, and sleeps well. He may not always sleep right through the night, but like all men, if he is awake five minutes he thinks it is two hours. Yours, Lydia Mr. Horace Spong to the Rev. Samson Spong Dear Samson, ---- Grace has given me your message about my recovery. I only wish I had earned it; but, alas! I feel anything but a convalescent. In fact, in confidence, for I should not like every one to know, I am conscious of increasing weakness daily, I have even kept it a secret from Grace. There are some colds that seem to strike deeper the more you nurse them, and mine is one of them. I am sorry for the pessimistic tone of your letter, but I feel sure that things are not so bad with you as you say. It is possible to take, too gloomy a view of oneself, especially when one is weak, and I have discounted your remarks in consequence. You are a stronger man au fond and you will shake this off very soon. I am convinced.
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We are off to Mentone next week. It is a dreary business, but Grace likes it there, and what she likes is law with me. Yours. Horace The Rev. Samson Spong to Mr. Horace Spong Dear Horace, ---- I wish you wouldn't write nonsense about my being strong. I am not strong and never was. I was always delicate, even before cold after cold enfeebled me, and now I am a wreck. Surely I am the best judge as to how ill I am! Now you, I consider, really are stronger, though you may not look it. Only a strong man could undertake a journey to Mentone at this time of year. I will say good-bye, my dear brother, as it is exceedingly unlikely that you will find me here when you return in the spring. Yours, Samson Miss Hilda Spong to the Rev. Samson Spong Dear Uncle Samson, ---- I was very glad to hear the other day from mother that you are better. I send you a little present now as at Christmas I shall be far away in Switzerland and with a Winter Sports Party. We are going to some place thousands of feet up, where skating and skiing and bob-sleighing are a cert. I will send you a card from there. Your affectionate Niece, Hilda The Rev. Samson Spong to Mrs. Horace Spong Dear Grace, ---- If you are writing to Hilda you might give her a hint that it would be kinder not to send me a card as she has undertaken to do. I feel sure it would suggest snow and be harmful to me in my present delicate state. She is a dear girl, but her letter about those Alpine heights, although meant, I am sure, in all good faith, gave me a severe shock. I have just now to be very, very careful. Your affectionate Brother, Samson P.S. ---- Tell Horace that what he wants is more employment. It is when one is idle that one broods on one's health. He should take up some hobby.

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Mr. Horace Spong to the Rev. Samson Spong My dear Samson, ---- I really must protest against the suggestion in your letter to Grace that I am a malade imaginaire. Fortunately Grace and I understand one another and there is no fear of any mishap; but I can believe that there are households which might be undermined by such insinuations. So far from being idle, as you put it, I am continually busy. There is not a penny spent in this establishment, indoors or out, that I am unaware of; I see all the tradesmen's books; I know exactly how much petrol the car uses from day to day; in fact, I am constantly vigilant and interested. Please do not again refer to the matter. While on this subject, let me say that it is increasingly borne in upon me that you made a terrible mistake when you gave up your living. You were far less faddy about yourself when you had your duties to perform. You were also more considerate for others. Your very gloomy reference in your last letter to your imminent decease might have caused me a really serious relapse, had I not just run into Corder in our London hotel and had a talk with him about you. But from what he says you are getting along famously. My love to Lydia. Yours, Horace The Rev. Samson Spong to Richard Corder, M.D Dear Corder, --- I am sorry that after all these years we should have to part, but I must ask you for your account. I cannot continue with a medical man who gossips about his patient. I was much distressed this morning to learn from my brother that you had told him I was better. Apart from the fact that I am not, I hold that a doctor's first duty is not to tell. You have greatly shaken me. I am, yours sincerely, Samson Spong

Notes on the English Character
by E.M. Forster First note. I had better let the cat out of the bag at once and record my opinion that the character of the English is essentially middle class. There is a sound historical reason for this, for, since the end of the eighteenth century, the middle classes have been the dominant force in our community. They gained wealth by the Industrial Revolution, political power by the Reform Bill of 1832; they are connected with the rise and organization of the British
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Empire; they are responsible for the literature of the nineteenth century. Solidity, caution, integrity, efficiency. Lack of imagination, hypocrisy. These qualities characterize the middle classes in every country, but in England they are national characteristics also, because only in England have the middle classes been in power for one hundred and fifty years. Napoleon, in his rude way, called us "a nation of shopkeepers." We prefer to call ourselves "a great commercial nation" -- it sounds more dignified -- but the two phrases amount to the same. Of course there are other classes: there is an aristocracy, there are the poor. But it is on the middle classes that the eye of the critic rests -- just as it rests on the poor in Russia and on the aristocracy in Japan. Russia is symbolized by the peasant or by the factory worker; Japan by the samurai; the national figure of England is Mr. Bull with his top hat, his comfortable clothes, his substantial stomach, and his substantial balance at the bank. Saint George may caper on banners and in the speeches of politicians, but it is John Bull who delivers the goods. And even Saint George-- if Gibbon is correct-- wore a top hat once; he was an army contractor and supplied indifferent bacon. It all amounts to the same in the end. Second Note. Just as the heart of England is the middle classes, so the heart of the middle classes is the public school system. This extraordinary institution is local. It does not even exist all over the British Isles. It is unknown in Ireland, almost unknown in Scotland (countries excluded from my survey), and though it may inspire other great institutions-Aligarh, for example, and some of the schools in the United States--it remains unique, because it was created by the Anglo-Saxon middle classes, and can flourish only where they flourish. How perfectly it expresses their character -- far better for instance, than does the university, into which social and spiritual complexities have already entered. With its boarding-houses, its compulsory games, its system of prefects and fagging, its insistence on good form and on esprit de corps, it produces a type whose weight is out of all proportion to its numbers. On leaving his school, the boy either sets to work at once -- goes into the army or into business, or emigrates -- or else proceeds to the university, and after three or four years there enters some other profession -- becomes a barrister, doctor, civil servant, schoolmaster, or journalist. (If through some mishap he does not become a manual worker or an artist.) In all these careers his education, or the absence of it, influences him. Its memories influence him also. Many men look back on their school days as the happiest of their lives. They remember with regret that golden time when life, though hard, was not yet complex, when they all worked together and played together and thought together, so far as they thought at all; when they were taught that school is the world in miniature and believed that no one can love his country who does not love his school. And they prolong that time as best they can by joining their Old Boys' society: indeed, some of them remain Old Boys and nothing else for the rest of their lives. They attribute all good to the school. They worship it. They quote the remark that "The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton." It is nothing to them that the remark is inapplicable historically and was never made by the
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Duke of Wellington, and that the Duke of Wellington was an Irishman. They go on quoting it because it expresses their sentiments; they feel that if the Duke of Wellington didn't make it he ought to have, and if he wasn't an Englishman he ought to have been. And they go forth into a world that is not entirely composed of public-school men or even of Anglo-Saxons, but of men who are as various as the sands of the sea; into a world of whose richness and subtlety they have no conception. They go forth into it with well-developed bodies, fairly developed minds, and undeveloped hearts. And it is this undeveloped heart that is largely responsible for the difficulties of Englishmen abroad. An undeveloped heart--not a cold one. The difference is important, and on it my next note will be based. For it is not that the Englishman can't feel -- it is that he is afraid to feel. He has been taught at his public school that feeling is bad form. He must not express great joy or sorrow, or even open his mouth too wide when he talks--his pipe might fall out if he did. He must bottle up his emotions, or let them out only on a very special occasion. Once upon a time (this is an anecdote) I went for a week's holiday on the Continent with an Indian friend. We both enjoyed ourselves and were sorry when the week was over, but on parting our behaviour was absolutely different. He was plunged in despair. He felt that because the holiday was over all happiness was over until the world ended. He could not express his sorrow too much. But in me the Englishman came out strong. I reflected that we should meet again in a month or two, and could write in the interval if we had anything to say; and under these circumstances I could not see what there was to make a fuss about. It wasn't as if we were parting forever or dying. "Buck up," I said, "do buck up." He refused to buck up, and I left him plunged in gloom. The conclusion of the anecdote is even more instructive. For when we met the next month our conversation threw a good deal of light on the English character. I began by scolding my friend. I told him that he had been wrong to feel and display so much emotion upon so slight an occasion; that it was inappropriate. The word "inappropriate" roused him to fury. "What?" he cried. "Do you measure out your emotions as if they were potatoes?" I did not like the simile of the potatoes, but after a moment's reflection I said: "Yes, I do; and what's more, I think I ought to. A small occasion demands a little emotion just as a large occasion demands a great one. I would like my emotions to be appropriate. This may be measuring them like potatoes, but it is better than slopping them about like water from a pail, which is what you did." He did not like the simile of the pail. "If those are your opinions, they part us forever," he cried, and left the room. Returning immediately, he added: "No--but your whole attitude toward emotion is wrong. Emotion has nothing to do with appropriateness. It matters only that it shall be sincere. I happened to feel deeply. I showed it. It doesn't matter whether I ought to have felt deeply or not." This remark impressed me very much. Yet I could not agree with it, and said that I valued emotion as much as he did, but used it differently; if I poured it out on small occasions I was afraid of having none left for the great ones, and of being bankrupt at the
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crises of life. Note the word "bankrupt." I spoke as a member of a prudent middle-class nation, always anxious to meet my liabilities, but my friend spoke as an Oriental, and the Oriental has behind him a tradition, not of middle-class prudence but of kingly munificence and splendour. He feels his resources are endless, just as John Bull feels his are finite. As regards material resources, the Oriental is clearly unwise. Money isn't endless. If we spend or give away all the money we have, we haven't any more, and must take the consequences, which are frequently unpleasant. But, as regards the resources of the spirit, he may be right. The emotions may be endless. The more we express them, the more we may have to express. True love in this differs from gold and clay, That to divide is not to take away. Says Shelley. Shelley, at all events, believes that the wealth of the spirit is endless; that we may express it copiously, passionately, and always; that we can never feel sorrow or joy too acutely. In the above anecdote, I have figured as a typical Englishman. I will now descend from that dizzy and somewhat unfamiliar height, and return to my business of notetaking. A note on the slowness of the English character. The Englishman appears to be cold and unemotional because he is really slow. When an event happens, he may understand it quickly enough with his mind, but he takes quite a while to feel it. Once upon a time a coach, containing some Englishmen and some Frenchmen, was driving over the Alps. The horses ran away, and as they were dashing across a bridge the coach caught on the stonework, tottered, and nearly fell into the ravine below. The Frenchmen were frantic with terror: they screamed and gesticulated and flung themselves about, as Frenchmen would. The Englishmen sat quite calm. An hour later, the coach drew up at an inn to change horses, and by that time the situations were exactly reversed. The Frenchmen had forgotten all about the danger, and were chattering gaily; the Englishmen had just begun to feel it, and one had a nervous breakdown and was obliged to go to bed. We have here a clear physical difference between the two races--a difference that goes deep into character. The Frenchmen responded at once; the Englishmen responded in time. They were slow and they were also practical. Their instinct forbade them to throw themselves about in the coach, because it was more likely to tip over if they did. They had this extraordinary appreciation of fact that we shall notice again and again. When a disaster comes, the English instinct is to do what can be done first, and to postpone the feeling as long as possible. Hence they are splendid at emergencies. No doubt they are brave--no one will deny that--bravery is partly an affair of the nerves, and the English nervous system is well equipped for meeting physical emergency. It acts promptly and feels slowly. Such a combination is fruitful, and anyone who possesses it has gone a long way toward being brave. And when the action is over, then the Englishman can feel.
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There is one more consideration -- a most important one. If the English nature is cold, how is it that it has produced a great literature and a literature that is particularly great in poetry? Judged by its prose, English literature would not stand in the first rank. It is its poetry that raises it to the level of Greek, Persian, or French. And yet the English are supposed to be so unpoetical. How is this? The nation that produced the Elizabethan drama and the Lake Poets cannot be a could, unpoetical nation. We can't get fire out of ice. Since literature always rests upon national character, there must be in the English nature hidden springs of fire to produce the fire we see. The warm sympathy, the romance, the imagination, that we look for in Englishmen whom we meet, and too often vainly look for, must exist in the nation as a whole, or we could not have this outburst of national song. An undeveloped heart--not a cold one. The trouble is that the English nature is not at all easy to understand. It has a great air of simplicity, it advertises itself as simple, but the more we consider it, the greater the problems we shall encounter. People talk of the mysterious East, but the West also is mysterious. It has depths that do not reveal themselves at the first gaze. We know what the sea looks like from a distance: it is of one color, and level, and obviously cannot contain such creatures as fish. But if we look into the sea over the edge of a boat, we see a dozen colors, and depth below depth, and fish swimming in them. That sea is the English character--apparently imperturbable and even. These depths and the colors are the English romanticism and the English sensitiveness--we do not expect to find such things, but they exist. And -- to continue my metaphor--the fish are the English emotions, which are always trying to get up to the surface, but don't quite know how. For the most part we see them moving far below, distorted and obscure. Now and then they succeed and we exclaim, "Why, the Englishman has emotions! He actually can feel!" And occasionally we see that beautiful creature the flying fish, which rises out of the water altogether into the air and the sunlight. English literature is a flying fish. It is a sample of the life that goes on day after day beneath the surface; it is a proof that beauty and emotion exist in the salt, inhospitable sea. And now let's get back to terra firma. The Englishman's attitude toward criticism will give us another starting point. He is not annoyed by criticism. He listens or not as the case may be smiles and passes on, saying, "Oh, the fellow's jealous"; "Oh, I'm used to Bernard Shaw; monkey tricks don't hurt me." It never occurs to him that the fellow may be accurate as well as jealous, and that he might do well to take the criticism to heart and profit by it. It never strikes him--except as a form of words -- that he is capable of improvement; his self-complacency is abysmal. Other nations, both Oriental and European, have an uneasy feeling that they are not quite perfect. In consequence they resent criticism. It hurts them; and their snappy answers often mask a determination to improve themselves. Not so the Englishman. He has no uneasy feeling. Let the critics bark. And the "tolerant humorous attitude" with which he confronts them is not really humorous, because it is bounded by the titter and the guffaw.
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Turn over the pages of Punch. There is neither wit, laughter, nor satire in our national jester--only the snigger of a suburban householder who can understand nothing that does not resemble himself. Week after week, under Mr Punch's supervision, a man falls off his horse, or a colonel misses a golfball, or a little girl makes a mistake in her prayers. Week after week ladies show not too much of their legs, foreigners are deprecated, originality condemned. Week after week a bricklayer does not do as much work as he ought and a futurist does more than he need. It is all supposed to be so good-tempered and clean; it is also supposed to be funny. It is actually an outstanding example of our attitude toward criticism: the middle-class Englishman, with a smile on his clean-shaven lips, is engaged in admiring himself and ignoring the rest of mankind. If, in those colorless pages, he came across anything that really was funny -- a drawing by Max Beerbohm, for instance -- his smile would disappear, and he would say to himself, "The fellow's a bit of a crank," and pass on. This particular attitude reveals such insensitiveness as to suggest a more serious charge: is the Englishman altogether indifferent to the things of the spirit? Let us glance for a moment at his religion -- not, indeed, at his theology, which would not merit inspection, but at the action on his daily life of his belief in the unseen. Here again his attitude is practical. But an innate decency comes out: he is thinking of others rather than of himself. Right conduct is his aim. He asks of his religion that it shall make him a better man in daily life: that he shall be more kind, more just, more merciful, more desirous to fight what is evil and to protect what is good. No one could call this a low conception. It is, as far as it goes, a spiritual one. Yet -- and this seems to be typical of the race -- it is only half the religious idea. Religion is more than an ethical code with a divine sanction. It is also a means through which man may get into direct connection with the divine, and, judging by history, few Englishmen have succeeded in doing this. We have produced no series of prophets, as has Judaism or Islam. We have not even produced a Joan of Arc, or a Savonarola. We have produced few saints. In Germany the Reformation was due to the passionate conviction of Luther. In England it was due to palace intrigue. We can show a steady level of piety, a fixed determination to live decently according to our lights -- little more. Well, it is something. It clears us of the charge of being an unspiritual nation. That facile contrast between the spiritual East and the materialistic West can be pushed too far. The West also is spiritual. Only it expresses its belief, not in fasting and visions, not in prophetic rapture, but in the daily round, the common task. An incomplete expression, if you like. I agree. But the argument underlying these scattered notes is that the Englishman is an incomplete person. Not a cold or an unspiritual one. But undeveloped, incomplete. I have suggested earlier that the English are sometimes hypocrites, and it is not my duty to develop this rather painful subject. Hypocrisy is the prime charge that is always brought against us. The Germans are called brutal, the Spanish cruel, the Americans superficial, and so on; but we are perfide Albion, the island of hypocrites, the people who
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have built up an Empire with a Bible in one hand, a pistol in the other and financial concessions in both pockets. Is the charge true? I think it is; but what we mean by hypocrisy? Do we mean conscious deceit? Well, the English are comparatively guiltless of this; they have little of the Renaissance villain about them. Do we mean unconscious deceit? Muddle-headedness? Of this I believe them to be guilty. When an Englishman has been led into a course of wrong action, he has nearly always begun by muddling himself. A publicschool education does not make for mental clearness, and he possesses to a very high degree the power of confusing his own mind. How does it work in the domain of conduct? Jane Austen may seem an odd authority to cite, but Jane Austen has, within her limits, a marvelous insight into the English mind. Her range is limited, her characters never attempt any of the more scarlet sins. But she has a merciless eye for questions of conduct, and the classical example of two English people muddling themselves before they embark upon a wrong course of action is to be found in the opening chapters of Sense and Sensibility. Old Mr. Dashwood has just died. He has been twice married. By his first marriage he has a son, John; by his second marriage three daughters. The son is well off; the young ladies and their mother -- for Mr. Dashwood's second wife survives him -- are badly off. He has called his son to his death-bed and has solemnly adjured him to provide for the second family. Much moved, the young man promises, and mentally decides to give each of his sisters a thousand pounds: and then the comedy begins. For he announces his generous intention to his wife, and Mrs. John Dashwood by no means approves of depriving their own little boy of so large a sum. The thousand pounds are accordingly reduced to five hundred. But even this seems rather much. Might not an annuity to the stepmother be less of a wrench? Yes -- but though less of a wrench it might be more of a drain, for "she is very stout and healthy, and scarcely forty." An occasional present of fifty pounds will be better, "and will, I think, be amply discharging my promise to my father." Or, better still, an occasional present of fish. And in the end nothing is done, nothing; the four impecunious ladies are not even helped in the moving of their furniture. Well, are the John Dashwoods hypocrites? It depends upon our definition of hypocrisy. The young man could not see his evil impulses as they gathered force and gained on him. And even his wife, though a worse character, is also self-deceived. She reflects that old Mr. Dashwood may have been out of his mind at his death. She thinks of her own little boy -- and surely a mother ought to think of her own child. She has muddled herself so completely that in one sentence she can refuse the ladies the income that would enable them to keep a carriage and in the next can say that they will not be keeping a carriage and so will have no expenses. No doubt men and women in other lands can muddle themselves, too, yet the state of mind of Mr. and Mrs. John Dashwood seems to me typical of England. They are slow -- they take time even to do wrong; whereas people in other lands do wrong quickly. There are national faults as there are national diseases, and perhaps one can draw a parallel between them. It has always impressed me that the national diseases of England
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should be cancer and consumption -- slow, insidious, pretending to be something else; while the diseases proper to the South should be cholera and plague, which strike at a man when he is perfectly well and may leave him a corpse by evening. Mr. and Mrs. John Dashwood are moral consumptives. They collapse gradually without realizing what the disease is. There is nothing dramatic or violent about their sin. You cannot call them villains. Here is the place to glance at some of the other charges that have been brought against the English as a nation. They have, for instance, been accused of treachery, cruelty, and fanaticism, In these charges I have never been able to see the least point, because treachery and cruelty are conscious sins. The man knows he is doing wrong, and does it deliberately, like Tartuffe or Iago. He betrays his friend because he wishes to. He tortures his prisoners because he enjoys seeing the blood flow. He worships the Devil because he prefers evil to good. From villainies such as these the average Englishman is free. His character, which prevents his rising to certain heights, also prevents him from sinking to these depths. Because he doesn't produce mystics he doesn't produce villains either; he gives the world no prophets, but no anarchists, no fanatics--religious or political. Of course there are cruel and treacherous people in England -- one has only to look at the police courts -- and examples of public infamy can be found, such as the Amritsar massacre. But one does not look at the police courts or the military mind to find the soul of any nation; and the more English people one meets the more convinced one becomes that the charges as a whole are untrue. Yet foreign critics often make them. Why? Partly because they are annoyed with certain genuine defects in the English character, and in their irritation throw in cruelty in order to make the problem simpler. Moral indignation is always agreeable, but nearly always misplaced. It is indulged in both by the English and by the critics of the English. They all find it great fun. The drawback is that while they are amusing themselves the world becomes neither wiser nor better. The main point of these notes is that the English character is incomplete. No national character is complete. We have to look for some qualities in one part of the world and others in another. But the English character is incomplete in a way that is particularly annoying to the foreign observer. It has a bad surface -- self complacent, unsympathetic, and reserved. There is plenty of emotion further down, but it never gets used. There is plenty of brain power, but it is more often used to confirm prejudices than to dispel them. With such an equipment the Englishman cannot be popular. Only I would repeat: there is little vice in him and no real coldness. It is the machinery that is wrong. I hope and believe myself that in the next twenty years we shall see a great change, and that the national character will alter into something that is less unique but more lovable. The supremacy of the middle classes is probably ending. What new element the working classes will introduce one cannot say, but at all events they will not have been educated at public schools. And whether these notes praise or blame the English character -- that is only incidental. They are the notes of a student who is trying to get at the truth and would value
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the assistance of others. I believe myself that the truth is great and that it shall prevail. I have no faith in official caution and reticence. The cats are all out of their bags, and diplomacy cannot recall them. The nations must understand one another and quickly; and without the interposition of their governments, for the shrinkage of the globe is throwing them into one another's arms. To that understanding these notes are a feeble contribution -- notes on the English character as it has struck a novelist.

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Insouciance
by D. H. Lawrence My balcony is on the east side of the hotel, and my neighbours on the right are a Frenchman, white-haired, and his white-haired wife; my neighbour on the left are two little white-haired English ladies. And we are all mortally shy of one another. When I peep out of my room in the morning and see the matronly French lady in a purple silk wrapper, standing like the captain on the bridge surveying the morning, I pop in again before she can see me. And whenever I emerge during the day, I am aware of the two little white-haired ladies popping back like two white rabbits, so that literally I only see the whisk of their skirt-hems. This afternoon being hot and thundery, I woke up suddenly and went out on the balcony barefoot. There I sat serenely contemplating the world, and ignoring the two bundles of feet of the two little ladies which protruded from their open door ways, upon the end of two chaises longues. A hot, still afternoon! The lake shining rather glassy away below, the mountains rather sulky, the greenness very green, all a little silent and lurid, and two mowers moving with scythes, downhill just near; slush! slush! sound the scythe-strokes. The two little ladies become aware of my presence. I become aware of a certain agitation in the two bundles of feet wrapped in two discreet steamer rugs and protruding on the end of two chaises longues from the pair of doorways upon balcony next me. One bundle of feet suddenly disappears; so does the other. Silence! Then lo! with odd sliding suddenness a little white-haired lady in grey silk, with round blue eyes, emerges and looks straight at me, and remarks that it is pleasant now. A little cooler, say I, with false amiability. She quite agrees, and we speak of the men mowing: how plainly one hears the long breaths of the scythes. By now we are tête-à-tête. We speak of cherries, strawberries, and the promise of the vine crop. This somehow leads to Italy, and to Signor Mussolini. Before I know where I am, the little white-haired lady has swept me off my balcony, away from the glassy lake, the veiled mountains, the two men mowing, and the cherry trees, away into the troubled ether of international politics. I am not allowed to sit like a dandelion on my own stem. The little lady in a breath blows me abroad. And I was so pleasantly musing over the two men moving: the young one, with long legs in bright blue cotton trousers, and with bare black head, swinging so lightly downhill, and the other, in black trousers, rather stout in front, and wearing a new straw hat of the boater variety, coming rather stiffly after, crunching the end of his stroke with a certain violent effort. I was watching the curiously different motions of the two men, the young thin one in bright blue trousers, the elderly fat one in shabby black trousers that stick out in front, the different amount of effort in their mowing, the lack of grace in the elderly one, his jerky
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advance, the unpleasant effect of the new "boater" on his head -- and I tried to interest the little lady. But it meant nothing to her. The mowers, the mountains, the cherry trees, the lake, all the things that were ACTUALLY there, she didn't care about. They even seemed to scare her off the balcony. But she held her ground, and instead of herself being scared away, she snatched me up like some ogress, and swept me off into the empty desert spaces of right and wrong, politics, Fascism and the rest. The worst ogress couldn't have treated me more villainously. I don't care about right and wrong, politics, Fascism, abstract liberty, or anything else of the sort. I want to look at the mowers, and wonder why fatness, elderliness, and black trousers should inevitably wear a new straw hat of the boater variety, move in stiff jerks, shove the end of the scythe-strokes with a certain violence, and win my hearty disapproval, as contrasted with young long thinness, bright blue cotton trousers, a bare black head, and a pretty lifting movement at the end of the scythestroke. Why do modern people almost invariably ignore the things that are actually present to them? Why, having come out from England to find mountains, lakes, scythe-mowers and cherry trees, does the little blue-eyed lady resolutely close her blue eyes to them all, now she's got them, and gaze away to Signor Musolini, whom she hasn't got, and to Fascism, which is invisible anyhow? Why isn't she content to be where she is? Why can't she be happy with what she's got? Why must she CARE? I see now why her round blue eyes are so round, so noticeably round, It is because she "cares." She is haunted by that mysterious bugbear of "caring." For everything on earth that doesn't concern her she "cares." She cares terribly because far-off, invisible, hypothetical Italians wear black shirts, but she doesn't care a rap that one elderly mower whose stroke she can hear, wears black trousers instead of bright blue cotton ones. Now if she would descend from the balcony and climb the grassy slope and say to the fat mower: "Cher monsieur, pourquoi porlez-vous les pantalons noirs? why, Oh, why do you wear black trousers?" -- then I should say: what an on-the-spot little lady! -- But since she only torments me with international politics. I can only remark: What a tiresome off-the-spot old woman! They care! They simply are eaten up with caring. They are so busy caring about Fascism or Leagues of Nations or whether France is right or whether Marriage is threatened, that they never know where they are. They certainly never live on the spot. They inhabit abstract space, the desert void of politics, principles, right and wrong, and so forth. They are doomed to be abstract. Talking to them is like trying to have a human relationship with the letter x in algebra. There simply is a deadly breach between actual living and this abstract caring. What is actual living? It is a question mostly of direct contact. There was a direct sensuous contact between me, the lake, mountains, cherry trees, mowers, and a certain invisible but noisy
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chaffinch in a clipped lime tree. All this was cut off by the fatal shears of that abstract word FASCISM, and the little old lady next door was the Atropos who cut the thread of my actual life this afternoon. She beheaded me, and flung my head into abstract space Then we are supposed to love our neighbours! When it comes to living, we live through our instincts and our intuitions, Instinct makes me run from little over-earnest ladies; instinct makes me sniff the lime blossoms and reach for the darkest cheery. But it is intuition which makes me feel the uncanny glassiness of the lake this afternoon, the sulkiness of the mountains, the vividness of near green in thundersun, the young man in bright blue trousers, lightly tossing the grass from the scythe, the elderly man in a boater stiffly shoving his scythe strokes, both of them sweating in the silence of the intense light.

My Adventures with a Paint Brush
by Winston S. Churchill To have reached the age of 40 without ever handling a brush, to have regarded the painting of pictures as a mystery, and then suddenly to find oneself plunged in the middle of a new interest with paints and palettes and canvases, and not to be discouraged by results, is an astonishing and enriching experience. I hope it may be shared by others. For to be really happy and to avoid worry and mental overstrain we ought all to have hobbies, and they must all be real. Best of all, and easiest to take up, are sketching and painting. They came to my rescue at a most trying time. When I left the Admiralty at the end of May 1915, I still remained a member of the Cabinet and of the War Council. In this position I knew everything and could do nothing; I have vehement convictions and no power to give effect to them; I had enforced leisure at a moment when every fiber of my being was inflamed to action. And then it was, one Sunday in the country, that the children's paint box came to my aid. My first experiments with their boy water colors led me to secure, next morning, a complete outfit for painting in oils. The next step was to begin. The palette gleamed with beads of color; fair and white rose the canvas; the empty brush hung poised, heavy with destiny, irresolute in the air. Very gingerly I mixed a little blue paint with a very small brush, and then with infinite precaution made a mark about as big as a small bean upon the affronted snow-white shield. At that moment a motorcar was heard on the drive and from it there stepped none other than the gifted wife of Sir John Lavery, the distinguished portrait painter. "Painting! But what are you hesitating about? Let me have a brush, a big one." Splash into the turpentine, wallop into the blue and white, frantic flourish on my palette, and
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then several large, fierce strokes of blue on the absolutely cowering canvas. The spell was broken. My sickly inhibitions rolled away. I seized the largest brush and fell upon my victim with berserk fury. I have never felt any awe of a canvas since. This beginning with Audacity is a very great part of the art of painting. We must not be too ambitious. We cannot aspire to masterpieces. We may content ourselves with a joy ride in a paint box. And for this, Audacity is the only ticket. I write no word in disparagement of water colors. But there is really nothing like oils. First of all, you can correct mistakes more easily. One sweep of the palette-knife "lifts" the blood and tears of a morning from the canvas; the canvas is all the better for past impressions. Secondly, you can approach your problem from any direction, beginning if you will with a moderate central arrangement of middle tones, and then hurling in the extremes when the psychological moment comes. Lastly, the pigments are so nice to handle. You can build them on layer after layer if you like and can change your plan to meet the exigencies of time and weather. Matching them with what you see is fascinating. Try it, if you have not done so -- before you die. As one slowly begins to escape from the difficulties of choosing the right colours and laying them on in the right places and in the right way, wider considerations come into view. One is astonished to find out how many things there are in the landscape one never noticed before. And there is a tremendous new pleasure that invests every walk or drive with an added object. So many colours on the hillside, each different in shadow and in sunlight; such brilliant reflections in the pool, each a key lower than what they repeat; such lovely lights gilding or silvering surface or outline. I found myself instinctively as I walked noting the tint and character of a leaf, the dreamy purple shades of mountains, the exquisite lacery of winter branches, the dim, pale silhouettes of far horizons. And I had lived for over 40 years without ever noticing any of them except in a general way, as one might look at a crowd and say, "What a lot of people!" I think this heightened sense of observation of nature is one of the chief delights that have come to me through trying to paint. And if you do observe accurately and with refinement, and record what you have seen with tolerable correspondence, the result follows on the canvas with startling obedience. Then, the art galleries take on a new and -- to me at least -- a severely practical interest. You see the difficulty that baffled you yesterday; and you see how easily it has been overcome by a great painter. You look at the masterpieces of art with an analyzing and a comprehending eye. Chance one day led me to a secluded nook near Marseilles where I fell in with two disciples of Cezanne. They viewed nature as a mass of shimmering light in which forms and surfaces are comparatively unimportant, indeed hardly visible, but which gleams and glows with beautiful harmonies and contrasts of colour. Each of these little points of colour sets up a strong radiation of which the eye is conscious without detecting the cause. Look at the
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blue of the sea. How can you depict it? Certainly not by any single colour that was ever manufactured. The only way in which that luminous intensity of blue can be simulated is by this multitude of tiny points of varied colour all in true relation to the rest of the scheme, Difficult? Fascinating! I was shown a picture by Cezanne of a blank wall of a house, which he had made instinct with the most delicate lights and colours. Now I often amuse myself when I am looking at a wall or a flat surface of any kind by trying to distinguish all the different tints which can be discerned upon it, and considering whether these arise from reflections or from natural hue. You would be astonished the first time you tried this to see how many and what beautiful colours there are even in the most commonplace objects. Obviously, then, armed with a paint box, one cannot be bored or left at a loose end. How much there is to admire and how little time there is to see it in! For the first time one begins to envy Methuselah. It is interesting to note the part memory plays in painting. When Whistler guided a school in Paris he made his pupils observe their model on the ground floor, and then run upstairs and paint their picture on the floor above. As they became more proficient he put their easels up a story higher, till at last the elite were scampering up six flights into attic. All the greatest landscapes have been painted indoors, and often long after the first impressions were gathered. In a dim cellar the Dutch or Italian master recreated the gleaming ice of a Netherlands carnival or the lustrous sunshine of Venice. Here, then, is required a formidable memory of the visual kind. So painting may be a very useful exercise for the development of a trained, accurate, retentive memory. Again, there is really nothing like painting as a spur to travel. Every day is provided with its expedition and its occupation--cheap, attainable, absorbing, recuperative. The vain racket of the tourist gives place to the calm enjoyment of the philosopher. Every country you visit has a theme of its own and even if you cannot portray it as you see it, you know it, you feel it, and you admire it forever. But after all, if only the sun will shine, one does not need to go beyond one's own country. The amateur painter wanders and loiters contentedly from place to place, always on the lookout for some bright butterfly of a picture which can be caught and carried safely home. Painting is complete as a distraction! I know of nothing which, without exhausting the body, more entirely absorbs the mind. Whatever the worries of the hour or the threats of the future, once the picture has begun to flow there is no room for them on the mental screen. They pass out into shadow and darkness. All one's mental light becomes concentrated on the task. When I have stood up on parade, or even, I regret to say, in church, for half an hour at a time, I have always felt that the erect position is not natural to man and is only with fatigue and difficulty maintained. But no one who is fond of painting finds the slightest inconvenience in standing to paint for three or four hours at a stretch. Buy a paint box and have a try. It would be a sad pity to shuffle along through one's
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playtime with golf and bridge, when all the while, if you only knew, there is waiting for you close at hand the wonderful new world of thought and craft, a sunlit garden gleaming with colour. Inexpensive independence, new mental food and exercise, an added interest in every common scene, an occupation for every idle hour, an unceasing voyage of entrancing discovery--these are high prizes. I hope they may be yours.

Politics and the English Language
George Orwell Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language--so the argument runs--must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes. Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. ................................................................................................................. In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning. Words like romantic, plastic, values, human, dead, sentimental, natural, vitality, as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly ever expected to do so by the reader. When one critic
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writes, "The outstanding feature of Mr. X's work is its living quality," while another writes, "The immediately striking thing about Mr. X's work is its peculiar deadness," the reader accepts this as a simple difference of opinion. If words like black and white were involved, instead of the jargon words dead and living, he would see at once that language was being used in an improper way. Many political words are similarly abused. The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies "something not desirable." The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice, have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using the word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. Statements like Marshal Petain was a true patriot, The Soviet Press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed to persecution, are almost always made with intent to deceive. Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality. Now that I have made this catalogue of swindles and perversions, let me give another example of the kind of writing that they lead to. This time it must of its nature be an imaginary one. I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes: I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. Here it is in modern English: Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account. This is a parody, but not a very gross one. It will be seen that I have not made a full translation. The beginning and ending of the sentence follow the original meaning fairly closely, but in the middle the concrete illustration--race, battle, bread--dissolve into the vague phrase "success or failure in competitive activities." This had to be so, because no
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modern writer of the kind I am discussing--no one capable of using phrases like "objective consideration of contemporary phenomena"--would ever tabulate his thoughts in that precise and detailed way. The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness. Now analyze these two sentences a little more closely. The first contains forty-nine words but only sixty syllables, and all its words are those of everyday life. The second contains thirty-eight words of ninety syllables: eighteen of its words are from Latin roots, and one from Greek. The first sentence contains six vivid images, and only one phrase ("time and chance") that could be called vague. The second contains not a single fresh, arresting phrase, and in spite of its ninety syllables it gives only a shortened version of the meaning contained in the first. Yet without a doubt it is the second kind of sentence that is gaining ground in modern English. I do not want to exaggerate. This kind of writing is not yet universal, and outcrops of simplicity will occur here and there in the worst-written page. Still, if you or I were told to write a few lines on the uncertainty of human fortunes, we should probably come much nearer to my imaginary sentence than to the one from Ecclesiastes. As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier--even quicker, once you have the habit--to say In my opinion it is not an unjustifiable assumption that than to say I think. If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don't have to hunt about for words; you also don't have to bother with the rhythms of your sentences, since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphonious. When you are composing in a hurry--when you are dictating to a stenographer, for instance, or making a public speech--it is natural to fall into a pretentious, Latinized style. Tags like a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind or a conclusion to which all of us would readily assent will save many a sentence from coming down with a bump. By using stale metaphors, similes and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself. This is the significance of mixed metaphors. The sole aim of a metaphor is to call up a visual image. When these images clash--as in The Fascist octopus has sung its swan song, the jackboot is thrown into the melting pot--it can be taken as certain that the writer is not seeing a mental image of the objects he is naming; in other words he is not really thinking. A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you--even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent--and at need they
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will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear. In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a "party line." Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestos, White Papers and the speeches of undersecretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, home-made turn of speech. When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phases--bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder--one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker's spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. and this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance towards turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity. In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, questionbegging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machinegunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, "I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so." Probably, therefore, he will say something like this: While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which
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the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement. The inflated style is itself a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outlines and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics." All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find--this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify--that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten to fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship. But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation, even among people who should and do know better. The debased language that I have been discussing is in some ways very convenient. Phrases like a not unjustifiable assumption, leaves much to be desired, would serve no good purpose, a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind, are a continuous temptation, a packet of aspirins always at one's elbow. Look back through this essay, and for certain you will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am protesting against. By this morning's post I have received a pamphlet dealing with conditions in Germany. The author tells me that he "felt impelled" to write it. I open it at random, and here is almost the first sentence that I see: "[The Allies] have an opportunity not only of achieving a radical transformation of Germany's social and political structure in such a way as to avoid a nationalistic reaction in Germany itself, but at the same time of laying the foundations of a cooperative and unified Europe." You see, he "feels impelled" to write-feels, presumably, that he has something new to say--and yet his words, like cavalry horses answering the bugle, group themselves automatically into the familiar dreary pattern. This invasion of one's mind by ready-made phrases (lay the foundations, achieve a radical transformation) can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anaesthetizes a portion of one's brain. I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable. Those who deny this would argue, if they produced an argument at all, that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we cannot influence its development by any direct tinkering with words and constructions. As far as the general tone or spirit of a language goes, this may be true, but it is not true in detail. Silly words and expressions have often disappeared, not through any evolutionary process but owing to the conscious action of a minority. Two
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recent examples were explore every avenue and leave no stone unturned, which were killed by the jeers of a few journalists. There is a long list of flyblown metaphors which could similarly be got rid of if enough people would interest themselves in the job; and it should also be possible to laugh the not un- formation out of existence,1 to reduce the amount of Latin and Greek in the average sentence, to drive out foreign phrases and strayed scientific words, and, in general, to make pretentiousness unfashionable. But all these are minor points. The defense of the English language implies more than this, and perhaps it is best to start by saying what it does not imply. To begin with it has nothing to do with archaism, with the salvaging of obsolete words and turns of speech, or with the setting up of a "standard English" which must never be departed from. On the contrary, it is especially concerned with the scrapping of every word or idiom which has outworn its usefulness. It has nothing to do with correct grammar and syntax, which are of no importance so long as one makes one's meaning clear, or with the avoidance of Americanisms, or with having what is called a "good prose style." On the other hand it is not concerned with fake simplicity and the attempt to make written English colloquial. Nor does it even imply in every case preferring the Saxon word to the Latin one, though it does imply using the fewest and shortest words that will cover one's meaning. What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way about. In prose, the worst thing one can do with words is to surrender to them. When you think of a concrete object, you think wordlessly, and then, if you want to describe the thing you have been visualizing you probably hunt about till you find the exact words that seem to fit it. When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning. Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one's meaning as clear as one can through pictures or sensations. Afterwards one can choose--not simply accept-the phrases that will best cover the meaning, and then switch round and decide what impression one's words are likely to make on another person. This last effort of the mind cuts out all stale or mixed images, all prefabricated phrases, needless repetitions, and humbug and vagueness generally. But one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases: 1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. 2. Never use a long word where a short one will do. . One can cure oneself of the not un- formation by memorizing this sentence: A not unblack dog was chasing a not unsmall rabbit across a not ungreen field.
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3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. 4. Never use the passive where you can use the active. 5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. 6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous. These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable. Political language--and with variations this is true of all political parties, from conservatives to Anarchists--is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase--some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno or other lump of verbal refuse--into the dustbin where it belongs.

Stephen King on Writing
In the early 1980s, my wife and I went to London on a combined business/pleasure trip. I fell asleep on the plane and had a dream about a popular writer (it may or may not have been me, but it sure to God wasn’t James Caan) who fell into the clutches of a psychotic fan living on a farm somewhere out in the back of the beyond. The fan was a woman isolated by her growing paranoia. She kept some livestock in the barn, including her pet pig, Misery. The pig was named after the continuing main character in the writer’s best-selling bodicerippers. My clearest memory of this dream upon waking was something the woman said to the writer, who had a broken leg and was being kept prisoner in the back bedroom. I wrote it on an American Airlines cocktail napkin so I wouldn’t forget it, then put it in my pocket. I lost it somewhere, but can remember most of what I wrote down:

She speaks earnestly but never quite makes eye contact. A big woman and solid all through; she is an absence of hiatus. (Whatever that means; remember, I’d just woken up.) “I wasn’t trying to be funny in a mean way when I named my pig Misery, no sir. Please don't think that. No. I named her in the spirit of fan love, which is the purest love there is. You should be flattered.” Tabby and I stayed at Brown’s Hotel in London, and on our first night there I was unable to sleep. Some of it was what sounded like a trio of little-girl gymnasts in the room directly above ours, some of it was undoubtedly jet lag, but a lot of it was that airline cocktail napkin. Jotted on it was the seed of what I thought could be a really excellent story,
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one that might turn out funny and satiric as well as scary. I thought it was just too rich not to write. I got up, went downstairs, and asked the concierge if there was a quiet place where I could work longhand for a bit. He led me to a gorgeous desk on the second-floor stair landing. It had been Rudyard Kipling’s desk, he told me with perhaps justifiable pride. I was a little intimidated by this intelligence, but the spot was quiet and the desk seemed hospitable enough; it featured about an acre of cherrywood working surface, for one thing. Stoked on cup after cup of tea (I drank it by the gallon when I wrote… unless I was drinking beer, that is), I filled sixteen pages of a steno notebook. I like to work longhand, actually; the only problem is that, once I get jazzed, I can’t keep up with the lines forming in my head and I get frazzled. When I called it quits, I stopped in the lobby to thank the concierge again for letting me use Mr. Kipling’s beautiful desk. “I’m so glad you enjoyed it,” he replied. He was wearing a misty, reminiscent little smile, as if he had known the writer himself. “Kipling died there, actually. Of a stroke. While he was writing.” I went back upstairs to catch a few hours’ sleep, thinking of how often we are given information we really could have done without. The working title of my story, which I thought would be a novella of about 30,000 words, was “The Annie Wilkes Edition.” When I sat down at Mr. Kipling’s beautiful desk I had the basic situation – crippled writer, psycho fan—firmly fixed in my mind. The actual story did not as then exist (well, it did, but as a relic buried—except for sixteen handwritten pages, that is – in the earth), but knowing the story wasn’t necessary for me to begin work. I had located the fossil; the rest, I knew, would consist of careful excavation. I’d suggest that what works for me may work equally well for you. If you are enslaved to (or intimidated by) the tiresome tyranny of the outline and the notebook filled with “Character Notes,” it may liberate you. At the very least, it will turn your mind to something more interesting than Developing the Plot. (An amusing sidelight: the century’s greatest supporter of Developing the Plot may have been Edgar Wallace, a bestselling potboiler novelist of the 1920s. Wallace invented—and patented—a device called the Edgar Wallace Plot Wheel. When you got stuck for the next Plot Development or needed an Amazing Turn of Events in a hurry, you simply spun the Plot Wheel and read what came up in the window: a fortuitous arrival, perhaps, or Heroine declares her love. These gadgets apparently sold like hotcakes.) By the time I had finished that first Brown’s Hotel session, in which Paul Sheldon wakes up to find himself Annie Wilkes’s prisoner, I thought I knew what was going to happen. Annie would demand that Paul write another novel about his plucky continuing character, Misery Chastain, one just for her. After first demurring, Paul would of course agree (a psychotic nurse, I thought, could be very persuasive). Annie would tell him she intended to sacrifice her beloved pig, Misery, to this project. Misery’s Return would, she’d say, consist
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of but one copy: a holographic manuscript bound in pigskin! Here we’d fade out, I thought, and return to Annie’s remote Colorado retreat six or eight months later for the surprise ending. Paul is gone, his sickroom turned into a shrine to Misery Chastain, but Misery the pig is still very much in evidence, grunting serenely away in her sty beside the barn. On the walls of the “Misery Room” are book covers, stills from the Misery movies, pictures of Paul Sheldon, perhaps a newspaper headline reading FAMED ROMANCE NOVELIST STILL MISSING. In the center of the room, carefully spotlighted, is a single book on a small table (a cherrywood table, of course, in honor of Mr. Kipling). It is the Annie Wilkes Edition of Misery’s Return. The binding is beautiful, and it should be; it is the skin of Paul Sheldon. And Paul himself? His bones might be buried behind the barn, but I thought it likely that the pig would have eaten the tasty parts. Not bad, and it would have made a pretty good story (not such a good novel, however; no one likes to root for a guy over the course of three hundred pages only to discover that between chapters sixteen and seventeen the pig ate him), but that wasn’t the way things eventually went. Paul Sheldon turned out to be a good deal more resourceful than I initially thought, and his efforts to play Scheherazade and save his life gave me a chance to say some things about the redemptive power of writing that I had long felt but never articulated. Annie also turned out to be more complex than I’d first imagined her, and she was great fun to write about—here was a woman pretty much stuck with “cockadoodie brat” when it came to profanity, but who felt absolutely no qualms about chopping off her favorite writer’s foot when he tried to get away from her. In the end, I felt that Annie was almost as much to be pitied as to be feared. And none of the story’s details and incidents proceeded from plot; they were organic, each arising naturally from the initial situation, each an uncovered part of the fossil. And I’m writing all this with a smile. As sick with drugs and alcohol as I was much of the time, I had such fun with that one. If “read a lot, write a lot” is the Great Commandment—and I assure you that it is— how much writing constitutes a lot? That varies, of course, from writer to writer. One of my favorite stories on the subject—probably more myth than truth—concerns James Joyce. According to the story, a friend came to visit him one day and found the great man sprawled across his writing desk in a posture of utter despair. “James, what’s wrong?” the friend asked. “Is it the work?” Joyce indicated assent without even raising his head to look at the friend. Of course it was the work; isn’t it always? “How many words did you get today?” the friend pursued. Joyce (still in despair, still sprawled facedown on his desk): “Seven.” “Seven? But James… that’s good, at least for you!” “Yes,” Joyce said, finally looking up. “I suppose it is… but I don’t know what order
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they go in!” At the other end of the spectrum, there are writers like Anthony Trollope. he wrote humongous novels (Can You Forgive Her? is a fair enough example; for modern audiences it might be retitled Can You Possibly Finish It?), and he pumped them out with amazing regularity. His day job was as a clerk in the British Postal Department (the red public mailboxes all over Britain were Anthony Trollope’s invention); he wrote for two and a half hours each morning before leaving for work. This schedule was ironclad. If he was in midsentence when the two and a half hours expired, he left that sentence unfinished until the next morning. And if he happened to finish one of his six-hundred-page heavyweights with fifteen minutes of the session remaining, he wrote The End, set the manuscript aside, and began work on the next book. John Creasey, a British mystery novelist, wrote five hundred (yes, you read it correctly) novels under ten different names. I’ve written thirty-five or so—some of Trollopian length—and am considered prolific, but I look positively blocked next to Creasey. Several other contemporary novelists (they include Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine, Evan Hunter/Ed McBain, Dean Koontz, and Joyce Carol Oates) have written easily as much as I have; some have written a good deal more. On the other hand—the James Joyce hand—there is Harper Lee, who wrote only one book (the brilliant To Kill a Mockingbird). Any number of others, including James Agee, Malcolm Lowry, and Thomas Harris (so far), wrote under five. Which is okay, but I always wonder two things about these folks: how long did it take them to write the books they did write, and what did they do the rest of their time? Knit afghans? Organize church bazaars? Deify plums? I’m probably being snotty here, but I am also, believe me, honestly curious. If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it? My own schedule is pretty clear-cut. Mornings belong to whatever is new—the current composition. Afternoons are for naps and letters. Evenings are for reading, family, Red Sox games on TV, and any revisions that just cannot wait. Basically, mornings are my prime writing time. Once I start work on a project, I don’t stop and I don’t slow down unless I absolutely have to. If I don’t write every day, the characters begin to stale off in my mind— they begin to seem like characters instead of real people. The tale’s narrative cutting edge starts to rust and I begin to lose my hold on the story’s plot and pace. Worst of all, the excitement of spinning something new begins to fade. The work starts to feel like work, and for most writers that is the smooch of death. Writing is at its best—always, always, always —when it is a kind of inspired play for the writer. I can write in cold blood if I have to, but I like it best when it’s fresh and almost too hot to handle. I used to tell interviewers that I wrote every day except for Christmas, the Fourth of July, and my birthday. That was a lie. I told them that because if you agree to an interview you have to say something, and it plays better if it’s something at least half-clever. Also, I
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didn’t want to sound like a workaholic dweeb (just a workaholic, I guess). The truth is that when I’m writing, I write every day, workaholic dweeb or not. That includes Christmas, the Fourth, and my birthday (at my age you try to ignore your goddam birthday anyway). And when I’m not working, I’m not working at all, although during those periods of full stop I usually feel at loose ends with myself and have trouble sleeping. For me, not working is the real work. When I’m writing, it’s all the playground, and the worst three hours I ever spent there were still pretty damned good. I used to be faster than I am now; one of my books (The Running Man) was written in a single week, an accomplishment John Creasey would perhaps have appreciated (although I have read that Creasey wrote several of his mysteries in two days). I think it was quitting smoking that slowed me down; nicotine is a great synapse enhancer. The problem, of course, is that it’s killing you at the same time it’s helping you compose. Still, I believe the first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season. Any longer and—for me, at least—the story begins to take on an odd foreign feel, like a dispatch from the Romanina Department of Public Affairs, or something broadcast on high-band shortwave during a period of severe sunspot activity. I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words. That’s 180,000 words over a three-month span, a goodish length for a book—something in which the reader can get happily lost, if the tale is done well and stays fresh. On some days those ten pages come easily; I’m up and out and doing errands by eleven-thirty in the morning, perky as a rat in liverwurst. More frequently, as I grow older, I find myself eating lunch at my desk and finishing the day’s work around one-thirty in the afternoon. Sometimes, when the words come hard, I’m still fiddling around at teatime. Either way is fine with me, but only under dire circumstances do I allow myself to shut down before I get my 2,000 words. The biggest aid to regular (Trollopian?) production is working in a serene atmosphere. It’s difficult for even the most naturally productive writer to work in an environment where alarms and excursions are the rule rather than the exception. When I’m asked for “the secret of my success” (an absurd idea, that, but impossible to get away from), I sometimes say there are two: I stayed physically healthy (at least until a van knocked me down by the side of the road in the summer of 1999), and I stayed married. It’s a good answer because it makes the question go away, and because there is an element of truth in it. The combination of a healthy body and a stable relationship with a self-reliant woman who takes zero shit from me or anyone else has made the continuity of my working life possible. And I believe the converse is also true: that my writing and the pleasure I take in it has contributed to the stability of my health and my home life.

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Education and Discipline
Bertrand Russell Any serious educational theory must consist of two parts: a conception of the ends of life, and a science of psychological dynamics, i.e., of the laws of mental change. Two men who differ as to the ends of life cannot hope to agree about education. The educational machine, throughout Western civilization, is dominated by two ethical theories: that of Christianity, and that of nationalism. These two, when taken seriously, are incompatible, as is becoming evident in Germany. For my part, I hold that where they differ, Christianity is preferable, but where they agree, both are mistaken. The conception which I should substitute as the purpose of education is civilization, a term which, as I meant it, has a definition which is partly individual, partly social. It consists, in the individual, of both intellectual and moral qualities: intellectually, a certain minimum of general knowledge, technical skill in one's own profession, and a habit of forming opinions on evidence; morally, of impartiality, kindliness, and a modicum of self-control. I should add a quality which is neither moral nor intellectual, but perhaps physiological: zest and joy of life. In communities, civilization demands respect for law, justice as between man and man, purposes not involving permanent injury to any section of the human race, and intelligent adaptation of means to ends. If these are to be the purpose of education, it is a question for the science of psychology to consider what can be done towards realizing them, and, in particular, what degree of freedom is likely to prove most effective. On the question of freedom in education there are at present three main schools of thought, deriving partly from differences as to ends and partly from differences in psychological theory. There are those who say that children should be completely free, however bad they may be; there are those who say they should be completely subject to authority, however good they may be; and there are those who say they should be free, but in spite of freedom they should be always good. This last party is larger than it has any logical right to be; Children, like adults, will not all be virtuous if they are all free. The belief that liberty will insure moral perfection is a relic of Rousseauism, and would not survive a study of animals and babies. Those who hold this belief think that education should have no positive purpose, but should merely offer an environment suitable for spontaneous development. I cannot agree with this school, which seems too individualistic, and unduly indifferent to the importance of knowledge. We live in communities which require cooperation, and it would be utopian to expect all the necessary cooperation to result from spontaneous impulse. The existence of a large population on a limited area is only possible owing to science and technique; education must, therefore, hand on the necessary minimum of these. The educators who allow most freedom are men whose success depends upon a degree of benevolence, self-control, and trained intelligence which can hardly be generated
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where every impulse is left unchecked; their merits, therefore, are not likely to be perpetuated if their methods are undiluted. Education, viewed from a social standpoint, must be something more positive than a mere opportunity for growth. It must, of course, provide this, but it must also provide a mental and moral equipment which children cannot acquire entirely for themselves. The arguments in favor of a great degree of freedom in education are derived not from man's natural goodness, but from the effects of authority, both on those who suffer it and on those who exercise it. Those who are subject to authority become either submissive or rebellious, and each attitude has its drawbacks. The submissive lose initiative, both in thought and action; moreover, the anger generated by the feeling of being thwarted tends to find an outlet in bullying those who are weaker. That is why tyrannical institutions are self-perpetuating: what a man has suffered from his father he inflicts upon his son, and the humiliations which he remembers having endured at his public school he passes on to "natives" when he becomes an empire-builder. Thus an unduly authoritative education turns the pupils into timid tyrants, incapable of either claiming or tolerating originality in word or deed. The effect upon the educators is even worse: they tend to become sadistic disciplinarians, glad to inspire terror, and content to inspire nothing else. As these men represent knowledge, the pupils acquire a horror of knowledge, which, among the English upper class, is supposed to be part of human nature, but is really part of the well-grounded hatred of the authoritarian pedagogue. Rebels, on the other hand, though they may be necessary, can hardly be just to what exists. Moreover, there are many ways of rebelling, and only a small minority of these are wise. Galileo was a rebel and was wise; believers in the flat-earth theory are equally rebels, but are foolish. There is a great danger in the tendency to suppose that opposition to authority is essentially meritorious and that unconventional opinions are bound to be correct: no useful purpose is served by smashing lamp-posts or maintaining Shakespeare to be no poet. Yet this excessive rebelliousness is often the effect that too much authority has on spirited pupils. And when rebels become educators, they sometimes encourage defiance in their pupils, for whom at the same time they are trying to produce a perfect environment, although these two aims are scarcely compatible. What is wanted is neither submissiveness nor rebellion, but good nature, and general friendliness both to people and to new ideas. These qualities are due in part to physical causes, to which old-fashioned educators paid too little attention; but they are due still more to freedom from the feeling of baffled impotence which arises when vital impulses are thwarted. If the young are to grow into friendly adults, it is necessary, in most cases, that they should feel their environment friendly. This requires that there should be a certain sympathy with the child's important desires, and not merely an attempt to use him for some abstract end such as the glory of God or the greatness of one's country. And, in teaching, every attempt should be made to cause the pupil to feel that it is worth his while to know
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what is being taught--at least when this is true. When the pupil cooperates willingly, he learns twice as fast and with half the fatigue. All these are valid reasons for a very great degree of freedom. It is easy, however, to carry the argument too far. It is not desirable that children, in avoiding the vices of the slave, should acquire those of the aristocrat. Consideration for others, not only in great matters, but also in little everyday things, is an essential element in civilization, without which social life would be intolerable. I am not thinking of mere forms of politeness, such as saying "please" and "thank you": formal manners are most fully developed among barbarians, and diminish with every advance in culture. I am thinking rather of willingness to take a fair share of necessary work, to be obliging in small ways that save trouble on the balance. It is not desirable to give a child a sense of omnipotence, or a belief that adults exist only to minister to the pleasures of the young. And those who disapprove of the existence of the idle rich are hardly consistent if they bring up their children without any sense that work is necessary, and without the habits that make continuous application possible. There is another consideration to which some advocates of freedom attach too little importance. In a community of children which is left without adult interference there is a tyranny of the stronger, which is likely to be far more brutal than most adult tyranny. If two children of two or three years old are left to play together, they will, after a few fights, discover which is bound to be the victor, and the other will then become a slave. Where the number of children is larger, one or two acquire complete mastery, and the others have far less liberty than they would have if the adults interfered to protect the weaker and less pugnacious. Consideration for others does not, with most children, arise spontaneously, but has to be taught, and can hardly be taught except by the exercise of authority. This is perhaps the most important argument against the abdication of the adults. I do not think that educators have yet solved the problem of combining the desirable forms of freedom with the necessary minimum of moral training. the right solution, it must be admitted, is often made impossible by parents before the child is brought to an enlightened school. Just as psychoanalysts, from their clinical experience, conclude that we are all mad, so the authorities in modern schools, from their contact with pupils whose parents have made them unmanageable, are disposed to conclude that all children are "difficult" and all parents utterly foolish. Children who have been driven wild by parental tyranny (which often takes the form of solicitous affection) may require a longer or shorter period of complete liberty before they can view any adult without suspicion. But children who have been sensibly handled at home can bear to be checked in minor ways, so long as they feel that they are being helped in the ways that they themselves regard as important. Adults who like children, and are not reduced to a condition of nervous exhaustion by their company, can achieve a great deal in the way of discipline without ceasing to be regarded with friendly feelings by their pupils.
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I think modern educational theorists are inclined to attach too much importance to the negative virtue of not interfering with children, and too little to the positive merit of enjoying their company. If you have the sort of liking for children that many people have for horse or dogs, they will be apt to respond to your suggestions, and to accept prohibitions, perhaps with some good-humoured grumbling, but without resentment. It is no use to have the sort of liking that consists in regarding them as a field for valuable social endeavor, or-what amounts to the same thing--as an outlet for power-impulses. No child will be grateful for an interest in him that springs from the thought that he will have a vote to be secured for your party or a body to be sacrificed to king and country. The desirable sort of interest is that which consists in spontaneous pleasure in the presence of children, without any ulterior purpose. Teachers who have this quality will seldom need to interfere with children's freedom, but will be able to do so, when necessary, without causing psychological damage. Unfortunately, it is utterly impossible for overworked teachers to preserve an instinctive liking for children; they are bound to come to feel towards them as the proverbial confectioner's apprentice does toward macaroons. I do not think that education ought to be any one's whole profession: it should be undertaken for at most two hours a day by people whose remaining hours are spent away with children. The society of the young is fatiguing, especially when strict discipline is avoided. Fatigue, in the end, produces irritation, which is likely to express itself somehow, whatever theories the harassed teacher may have taught himself or herself to believe. The necessary friendliness cannot be preserved by self-control alone. But where it exists, it should be unnecessary to have rules in advance as to how "naughty" children are to be treated, since impulse is likely to lead to the right decision, and almost any decision will be right if the child feels that you like him. No rules, however wise, are a substitute for affection and tact.

Thinking as a Hobby
William Golding While I was still a boy, I came to the conclusion that there were three grades of thinking; and since I was later to claim thinking as my hobby, I came to an even stranger conclusion--namely, that I myself could not think at all. I must have been an unsatisfactory child for grownups to deal with. I remember how incomprehensible they appeared to me at first, but not, of course, how I appeared to them. It was the headmaster of my grammar school who first brought the subject of thinking before me--though neither in the way, nor with the result he intended. He had some statuettes in his study. They stood on a high cupboard behind his desk. One was a lady wearing nothing but a
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bath towel. She seemed frozen in an eternal panic lest the bath towel slip down any farther; and since she had no arms, she was in an unfortunate position to pull the towel up again. Next to her, crouched the statuette of a leopard, ready to spring down at the top drawer of filing cabinet labeled A-AH. My innocence interpreted this as the victim's last, despairing cry. Beyond the leopard was a naked, muscular gentleman, who sat, looking down, with his chin on his fist and his elbow on his knee. He seemed utterly miserable. Some time later, I learned about these statuettes. The headmaster had placed them where they would face delinquent children, because they symbolized to him the whole of life. The naked lady was the Venus of Milo. She was Love. She was not worried about the towel. She was just busy being beautiful. The leopard was Nature, and he was being natural. The naked, muscular gentleman was not miserable. He was Rodin's Thinker, an image of pure thought. It is easy to buy small plaster models of what you think life is like. I had better explain that I was a frequent visitor to the headmaster's study, because of the latest thing I had done or left undone. As we now say, I was not integrated. I was, if anything, disintegrated; and I was puzzled. Grownups never made sense. Whenever I found myself in a penal position before the headmaster's desk, with the statuettes glimmering whitely above him, I would sink my head, clasp my hands behind my back and writhe one shoe over the other. The headmaster would look opaquely at me through flashing spectacles. "What are we going to do with you?" Well, what were they going to do with me? I would writhe my shoe some more and stare down at the worn rug. "Look up, boy! Can't you look up?" Then I would look up at the cupboard, where the naked lady was frozen in her panic and the muscular gentleman contemplated the hindquarters of the leopard in endless gloom. I had nothing to say to the headmaster. His spectacles caught the light so that you could see nothing human behind them. There was no possibility of communication. "Don't you ever think at all?" No, I didn't think, wasn't thinking, couldn't think--I was simply waiting in anguish for the interview to stop. "Then you'd better learn--hadn't you?" On one occasion the headmaster leaped to his feet, reached up and plonked Rodin's masterpiece on the desk before me. "That's what a man looks like when he's really thinking." I surveyed the gentleman without interest or comprehension. "Go back to your class." Clearly there was something missing in me. Nature had endowed the rest of the human race with a sixth sense and left me out. This must be so, I mused, on my way back to the class, since whether I had broken a window, or failed to remember Boyle's Law, or been
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late for school, my teachers produced me one, adult answer: "Why can't you think?" As I saw the case, I had broken the window because I had tried to hit Jack Arney with a cricket ball and missed him; I could not remember Boyle's Law because I had never bothered to learn it; and I was late for school because I preferred looking over the bridge into the river. In fact, I was wicked. Were my teachers, perhaps, so good that they could not understand the depths of my depravity? Were they clear, untormented people who could direct their every action by this mysterious business of thinking? The whole thing was incomprehensible. In my earlier years, I found even the statuette of the Thinker confusing. I did not believe any of my teachers were naked, ever. Like someone born deaf, but bitterly determined to find out about sound, I watched my teachers to find out about thought. There was Mr. Houghton. He was always telling me to think. With a modest satisfaction, he would tell me that he had thought a bit himself. Then why did he spend so much time drinking? Or was there more sense in drinking than there appeared to be? But if not, and if drinking were in fact ruinous to health--and Mr. Houghton was ruined, there was no doubt about that--why was he always talking about the clean life and the virtues of fresh air? He would spread his arms wide with the action of a man who habitually spent his time striding along mountain ridges. "Open air does me good, boys--I know it!" Sometimes, exalted by his own oratory, he would leap from his desk and hustle us outside into a hideous wind. "Now, boys! Deep breaths! Feel it right down inside you--huge draughts of God's good air!" He would stand before us, rejoicing in his perfect health, an open-air man. He would put his hands on his waist and take a tremendous breath. You could hear the wind, trapped in the cavern of his chest and struggling with all the unnatural impediments. His body would reel with shock and his ruined face go white at the unaccustomed visitation. He would stagger back to his desk and collapse there, useless for the rest of the morning. Mr. Houghton was given to high-minded monologues about the good life, sexless and full of duty. Yet in the middle of one of these monologues, if a girl passed the window, tapping along on her neat little feet, he would interrupt his discourse, his neck would turn of itself and he would watch her out of sight. In this instance, he seemed to me ruled not by thought but by an invisible and irresistible spring in his nape. His neck was an object of great interest to me. Normally it bulged a bit over his collar. But Mr. Houghton had fought in the First World War alongside both Americans and French, and had come--by who knows what illogic?--to a settled detestation of both countries. If either happened to be prominent in current affairs, no argument could make Mr. Houghton think well of it. He would bang the desk, his neck would bulge still further and go red. "You can say what you like," he would cry, "but I've thought about this--and I know what I think!" Mr. Houghton thought with his neck.
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There was Miss Parsons. She assured us that her dearest wish was our welfare, but I knew even then, with the mysterious clairvoyance of childhood, that what she wanted most was the husband she never got. There was Mr. Hands--and so on. I have dealt at length with my teachers because this was my introduction to the nature of what is commonly called thought. Through them I discovered that thought is often full of unconscious prejudice, ignorance and hypocrisy. It will lecture on disinterested purity while its neck is being remorselessly twisted toward a skirt. Technically, it is about as proficient as most businessmen's golf, as honest as most politicians' intentions, or--to come near my own preoccupation--as coherent as most books that get written. It is what I came to call grade-three thinking, though more properly, it is feeling, rather than thought. True, often there is a kind of innocence in prejudices, but in those days I viewed grade-three thinking with an intolerant contempt and an incautious mockery. I delighted to confront a pious lady who hated the Germans with the proposition that we should love our enemies. She taught me a great truth in dealing with grade-three thinkers; because of her, I no longer dismiss lightly a mental process which for nine-tenths of the population is the nearest they will ever get to thought. They have immense solidarity. We had better respect them, for we are outnumbered and surrounded. A crowd of grade-three thinkers, all shouting the same thing, all warming their hands at the fire of their own prejudices, will not thank you for pointing out the contradictions in their beliefs. Man is a gregarious animal, and enjoys agreement as cows will graze all the same way on the side of a hill. Grade-two thinking is the detection of contradictions. I reached grade two when I trapped the poor, pious lady. Grade-two thinkers do not stampede easily, though often they fall into the other fault and lag behind. Grade-two thinking is a withdrawal, with eyes and ears open. It became my hobby and brought satisfaction and loneliness in either hand. For grade-two thinking destroys without having the power to create. It set me watching the crowds cheering His Majesty the King and asking myself what all the fuss was about, without giving me anything positive to put in the place of that heady patriotism. But there were compensations. To hear people justify their habit of hunting foxes and tearing them to pieces by claiming that the foxes liked it. To hear our Prime Minister talk about the great benefit we conferred on India by jailing people like Pandit Nehru and Gandhi. To hear American politicians talk about peace in one sentence and refuse to join the League of Nations in the next. Yes, there are moments of delight. But I was growing toward adolescence and had to admit that Mr. Houghton was not the only one with an irresistible spring in his neck. I, too, felt the compulsive hand of nature and began to find that pointing out contradiction could be costly as well as fun. There was Ruth, for example, a serious and attractive girl. I was an atheist at the time. Grade-two thinking is a menace to religion and knocks down sects like skittles. I put myself in a position to be converted by her with an hypocrisy worthy of grade three. She was a Methodist--or at least, her parents were, and Ruth had to follow suit. But, alas, instead of
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relying on the Holy Spirit to convert me, Ruth was foolish enough to open her pretty mouth in argument. She claimed that the Bible (King James Version) was literally inspired. I countered by saying that the Catholics believed in the literal inspiration of Saint Jerome's Vulgate, and the two books were different. Argument flagged. At last she remarked that there were an awful lot of Methodists, and they couldn't be wrong, could they--not all those millions? That was too easy, said I restively (for the nearer you were to Ruth, the nicer she was to be near to) since there were more Roman Catholics than Methodists anyway; and they couldn't be wrong, could they--not all those hundreds of millions? An awful flicker of doubt appeared in her eyes. I slid my arm around her waist and murmured breathlessly that if we were counting heads, the Buddhists were the boys for my money. But Ruth had really wanted to do me good, because I was so nice. She fled. The combination of my arm and those countless Buddhists was too much for her. That night her father visited my father and left, red-cheeked and indignant. I was given the third degree to find out what had happened. It was lucky we were both of us only fourteen. I lost Ruth and gained an undeserved reputation as a potential libertine. So grade-two thinking could be dangerous. It was in this knowledge, at the age of fifteen, that I remember making a comment from the heights of grade two, on the limitations of grade three. One evening I found myself alone in the school hall, preparing it for a party. The door of the headmaster's study was open. I went in. The headmaster had ceased to thump Rodin's Thinker down on the desk as an example to the young. Perhaps he had not found any more candidates, but the statuettes were still there, glimmering and gathering dust on top of the cupboard. I stood on a chair and rearranged them. I stood Venus in her bath towel on the filing cabinet, so that now the top drawer caught its breath in a gasp of sexy excitement. "A-ah!" The portentous Thinker I placed on the edge of the cupboard so that he looked down at the bath towel and waited for it to slip. Grade-two thinking, though it filled life with fun and excitement, did not make for content. To find out the deficiencies of our elders bolsters the young ego but does not make for personal security. I found that grade two was not only the power to point out contradictions. It took the swimmer some distance from the shore and left him there, out of his depth. I decided that Pontius Pilate was a typical grade-two thinker. "What is truth?" he said, a very common grade-two thought, but one that is used always as the end of an argument instead of the beginning. There is still a higher grade of thought which says, "What is truth?" and sets out to find it. But these grade-one thinkers were few and far between. They did not visit my grammar school in the flesh though they were there in books. I aspired to them, partly because I was ambitious and partly because I now saw my hobby as an unsatisfactory thing if it went no further. If you set out to climb a mountain, however high you climb, you have failed if you cannot reach the top. I did meet an undeniably grade-one thinker in my first year at Oxford. I was looking
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over a small bridge in Magdalen Deer Park, and a tiny mustached and hatted figure came and stood by my side. He was a German who had just fled from the Nazis to Oxford as a temporary refuge. His name was Einstein. But Professor Einstein knew no English at that time and I knew only two words of German. I beamed at him, trying wordlessly to convey by my bearing all the affection and respect that the English felt for him. It is possible--and I have to make the admission--that I felt here were two grade-one thinkers standing side by side; yet I doubt if my face conveyed more than a formless awe. I would have given my Greek and Latin and French and a good slice of my English for enough German to communicate. But we were divided; he was as inscrutable as my headmaster. For perhaps five minutes we stood together on the bridge, undeniable grade-one thinker and breathless aspirant. With true greatness, Professor Einstein realized that my contact was better than none. He pointed to a trout wavering in midstream. He spoke: "Fisch." My brain reeled. Here I was, mingling with the great, and yet helpless as the veriest grade-three thinker. Desperately I sought for some sign by which I might convey that I, too, revered pure reason. I nodded vehemently. In a brilliant flash I used up half of my German vocabulary. "Fisch. Ja Ja." For perhaps another five minutes we stood side by side. Then Professor Einstein, his whole figure still conveying good will and amiability, drifted away out of sight. I, too, would be a grade-one thinker. I was irreverent at the best of times. Political and religious systems, social customs, loyalties and traditions, they all came tumbling down like so many rotten apples off a tree. This was a fine hobby and a sensible substitute for cricket, since you could play it all the year round. I came up in the end with what must always remain the justification for grade-one thinking, its sign, seal and charter, I devised a coherent system for living. It was a moral system, which was wholly logical. Of course, as I readily admitted, conversion of the world to my way of thinking might be difficult, since my system did away with a number of trifles, such as big business, centralized government, armies, marriage.... It was Ruth all over again. I had some very good friends who stood by me, and still do. But my acquaintances vanished, taking the girls with them. Young women seemed oddly contented with the world as it was. They valued the meaningless ceremony with a ring. Young men, while willing to concede the chaining sordidness of marriage, were hesitant about abandoning the organizations which they hoped would give them a career. A young man on the first rung of the Royal Navy, while perfectly agreeable to doing away with big business and marriage, got as rednecked as Mr. Houghton when I proposed a world without any battleships in it. Had the game gone too far? Was it a game any longer? In those prewar days, I stood to lose a great deal, for the sake of a hobby.
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Now you are expecting me to describe how I saw the folly of my ways and came back to the warm nest, where prejudices are so often called loyalties, where pointless actions are hallowed into custom by repetition, where we are content to say we think when all we do is feel. But you would be wrong. I dropped my hobby and turned professional. If I were to go back to the headmaster's study and find the dusty statuettes still there, I would arrange them differently. I would dust Venus and put her aside, for I have come to love her and know her for the fair thing she is. But I would put the Thinker, sunk in his desperate thought, where there were shadows before him --and at his back, I would put the leopard, crouched and ready to spring.

A Cow That Could Never Get Up N’more
by James Herriot I could see that Mr Handshaw didn't believe a word I was saying. He looked down at his cow and his mouth tightened into a stubborn line. `Broken pelvis? You're trying to tell me she'll never get up n'more? Why, look at her chewing her cud. I'll tell you this, young man -- me dad would've soon got her up if he'd been alive today.' I had been a veterinary surgeon for a year now and I had learned a few things. One of them was that farmers weren't easy men to convince -- especially Yorkshire Dalesmen. And that bit about his dad. Mr Handshaw was in his fifties and I suppose there was something touching about his faith in his late father's skill and judgement. But I could have done very nicely without it. It had acted as an additional irritant in a case in which I felt I had troubles enough. Because there are few things which get more deeply under a vet's skin than a cow which won't get up. To the layman it may seem strange that an animal can be apparently cured of its original ailment and yet be unable to rise from the floor, but it happens. And it can be appreciated that a completely recumbent milk cow has no future. The case had started when my boss, Siegfried Farnon, who owned the practice in the little Dales market town of Darrowby, sent me to a milk fever. This suddenly occurring calcium deficiency attacks high yielding animals just after calving and causes collapse and progressive coma. When I first saw Mr Handshaw's cow she was stretched out motionless on her side, and I had to look carefully to make sure she wasn't dead. But I got out my bottles of calcium with an airy confidence because I had been lucky enough to qualify just about the time when the profession had finally got on top of this
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hitherto fatal condition. The breakthrough had come many years earlier with inflation of the udder and I still carried a little blowing-up outfit around with me (the farmers used bicycle pumps), but with the advent of calcium therapy one could bask in a cheap glory by jerking an animal back from imminent death within minutes. The skill required was minimal but it looked very very good. By the time I had injected the two bottles--one into the vein, the other under the skin--and Mr Handshaw had helped me roll the cow on to her chest the improvement was already obvious, she was looking about her and shaking her head as if wondering where she had been for the last few hours. I felt sure that if I had had the time to hang about for a bit I could see her on her feet. But other jobs were waiting. `Give me a ring if she isn't up by dinner time,' I said, but it was a formality. I was pretty sure I wouldn't be seeing her again. When the farmer rang at midday to say she was still down it was just a pinprick. Some cases needed an extra bottle -- it would be all right. I went out and injected her again. I wasn't really worried when I learned she hadn't got up the following day, but Mr. Handshow, hands deep in pockets, shoulders hunched as he stood over his cow, was grievously disappointed at my lack of success. `It's time t'awd bitch was up. She's doin' no good laid there. Surely there's summat you can do. I poured a bottle of water into her lug this morning but even that hasn't shifted her.' `You what?' `Poured some cold water down her lug'ole. Me dad used to get `em up that way and he was a very clever man with stock was me dad.' `I've no doubt he was,' I said primly. `But I really think another injection is more likely to help her.' The farmer watched glumly as I ran yet another bottle of calcium under the skin. The procedure had lost its magic for him. As I put the apparatus away I did my best to be hearty. ‘I shouldn't worry. A lot of them stay down for a day or two--you'll probably find her walking about in the morning.' The phone rang just before breakfast and my stomach contracted sharply as I heard Mr Handshaw's voice. It was heavy with gloom. `Well, she's no different. Lyin' there eating her 'ead off, but never offers to rise. What are you going to do now?' What indeed, I thought as I drove out to the farm. The cow had been down for fortyeight hours now -- I didn't like it a bit. The farmer went into the attack immediately. `Me dad allus used to say they had a worm in the tail when they stayed down like this. He said if you cut tailend off it did the trick.' My spirits sagged lower. I had had trouble with this myth before. The insidious thing was that the people who still practised this relic of barbarism could often claim that it
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worked because, after the end of the tail bad been chopped off, the pain of the stump touching the ground forced many a sulky cow to scramble to her feet. `There's no such thing as a worm in the tail, Mr Handshaw,' I said. `And don't you think it's a cruel business, cutting off a cow's tail? I hear the RSPCA had a man in court last week over a job like that.' The farmer narrowed his eyes. Clearly he thought I was hedging, `Well, if you won't do that, what the hangment are you going to do? We've got to get this cow up somehow.' I took a deep breath. `Well, I'm sure she's got over the milk fever because she's eating well and looks quite happy. It must be a touch of posterior paralysis that's keeping her down. There's no point in giving her any more calcium so I'm going to try this stimulant injection.’I filled the syringe with a feeling of doom. I hadn’t a scrap of faith in the stimulant, but I just couldn't do nothing, I was scraping the barrel out now. I was turning to go when Mr Handshaw called after me, `Hey, Mister. I remember summat else me dad used to do. Shout in their lugs. He got many a cow up that way. I'm not very strong in the voice -- how about you having a go?' It was a bit late to stand on my dignity. I went over to the animal and seized her by the ear. Inflating my lungs to the utmost I bent down and bawled wildly into the hairy depths. The cow stopped chewing for a moment and looked at me inquiringly, then her eyes drooped and she returned contentedly to her cudding. `We'll give her another day,' I said wearily. `and if she's still down tomorrow we'll have a go at lifting her. Could you get a few of the neighbours to give us a hand?' Driving round my other cases that day I felt tied up inside with sheer frustration. Damn and blast the thing. what the hell was keeping her down? And what else could I do? This was 1938 and my resources were limited. Thirty years later there are still milk fever cows which won't get up but the vet has a much wider armoury if the calcium has failed to do the job. As I expected, the following day brought no change and as I got out of the car in Mr. Handshaw's yard I was surrounded by a group of his neighbours. They were in festive mood, grinning, confident, full of helpful advice as farmers always are with somebody else's animals. There was much laughter and leg-pulling as we drew sacks under the cow's body and a flood of weird suggestions to which I tried to close my ears. When we all finally gave a concerted heave and lifted her up, the result was predictable; she just hung there placidly with her legs dangling whilst her owner leaned against the wall watching us with deepening gloom. After a lot of puffing and grunting we lowered the inert body and everybody looked at me for the next move. I was hunting round desperately in my mind when Mr. Handshaw piped up again. `Me dad used to say a strange dog would allus get a cow up.'
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There were murmurs of assent from the assembled farmers and immediate offers of dogs. I tried to point out that one would be enough but my authority had dwindled anyway and everybody seemed anxious to demonstrate their dogs' cow-raising potential. There was a sudden excited exodus and even Mr. Smedley the village shopkeeper pedalled off at frantic speed for his border terrier. It seemed only minutes before the byre was alive with snapping, snarling curs but the cow ignored them all except to wave her horns warningly at the ones which came too close. The flash-point came when Mr. Handshaw's own dog came in from the fields where he had been helping to round up the sheep. He was a skinny hard-bitten little creature with lightning reflexes and a short temper. He stalked, stifflegged and bristling, into the byre, took a single astounded look at the pack of foreigners on his territory and flew into action with silent venom. Within seconds the finest dog fight I had ever seen was in full swing and I stood back and surveyed the scene with a feeling of being completely superfluous. The yells of the farmers rose above the enraged yapping and growling. It seemed to me that all the forces of black magic had broken through and were engulfing me and that my slender resources of science had no chance of shoring up the dyke. I don't know how I heard the creaking above the din-- probably because I was bending low over Mr. Reynolds in an attempt to persuade him to desist from his tail rubbing. But at that moment the cow shifted her position slightly and I distinctly heard it. It came from the pelvis. It took me some time to attract attention-- I think everybody had forgotten I was there--but finally the dogs were separated and secured with innumerable lengths of binder twine, everybody stopped shouting, Mr. Reynolds was pulled away from the tail and I had the stage. I addressed myself to Mr. Handshaw. `Would you get me a bucket of hot water, some soap and a towel please.' He trailed off, grumbling, as though he didn't expect much from the new gambit. My stock was definitely low. I stripped off my jacket, soaped my arms and pushed a hand into the cow's rectum until I felt the hard bone of the pubis. Gripping it through the wall of the rectum I looked up at my audience. `Will two of you get hold of the hook bones and rock the cow gently from side to side.' Yes, there it was again, no mistake about it. I could both hear and feel it -- a looseness, a faint creaking, almost a grating. I got up and washed my arm, `Well, I know why your cow won't get up -- she has a broken pelvis. Probably did it during the first night when she was staggering about with the milk fever. I should think the nerves are damaged too. It's hopeless, I'm afraid.' Even though I was dispensing bad news it was a relief to come up with something rational.
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Mr. Handshaw stared at me. `Hopeless? How's that?' `I'm sorry,' I said, `but that's how it is. The only thing you can do is get her off to the butcher. She has no power in her hind legs. She'll never get up again. That was when Mr. Handshaw really blew his top and started a lengthy speech. He wasn't really unpleasant or abusive but firmly pointed out my shortcomings and bemoaned again the tragic fact that his dad was not there to put everything right. The other farmers stood in a wide-eyed ring, enjoying every word. At the end of it I took myself off. There was nothing more I could do and anyway Mr. Handshaw would have to come round to my way of thinking. Time would prove me right. I thought of that cow as soon as I awoke next morning. It hadn't been a happy episode but at least I did feel a certain peace in the knowledge that there were no more doubts. I knew what was wrong; I knew that there was no hope. There was nothing more to worry about. I was surprised when I heard Mr. Handshaw's voice on the phone so soon. I had thought it would take him two or three days to realize he was wrong. `Is that Mr. Herriot? Aye, well, good mornin' to you. I'm just ringing to tell you that me cow's up on her legs and doing fine.' I gripped the receiver tightly with both hands. `What? What's that you say?' `I said me cow's up. Found her walking about byre this morning, fit as a fiddle. You'd think there'd never been owt the matter with her.' He paused for a few moments then spoke with grave deliberation like a disapproving school-master. `And you stood there and looked at me and said she'd never get up n'more.' `But... but...' `Ah, you're wondering how I did it? Well, I just happened to remember another old trick of me dad's. I went round to t'butcher and got a fresh-killed sheep skin and put it on her back. Had her up in no time -- you'll 'ave to come round and see her. Wonderful man was me dad'. Blindly I made my way into the dining-room. I had to consult my boss about this. Siegfried's sleep had been broken by a 3 AM calving and he looked a lot older than his thirty-odd years. He listened in silence as he finished his breakfast, then pushed away his plate and poured a last cup of coffee. `Hard luck, James. The old sheep skin eh? Funny thing -- you've been in the Dales over a year now and never come across that one. Suppose it must be going out of fashion a bit now but you know it has a grain of sense behind it like a lot of these old remedies. You can imagine there's a lot of heat generated under a fresh sheep skin and it acts like a great hot poultice on the back --really tickles them up after a while. And if a cow is lying there out of sheer cussedness. She'll often get up just to get rid of it.’ `But damn it, how about the broken pelvis? I tell you it was creaking and wobbling
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all over the place!' `Well, James, you're not the first to have been caught that way. Sometimes the pelvic ligaments don't tighten up for a few days after calving and you get this effect.' `Oh God,' I moaned, staring down at the tablecloth. `What a bloody mess I've made of the whole thing.' `Oh, you haven't really.' Siegfried lit a cigarette and leaned back in his chair. `That old cow was probably toying with the idea of getting up for a walk just when old Handshaw dumped the skin on her back. She could just as easily have done it after one of your injections and then you'd have got credit. Don't you remember what I told you when you first came here. There's very fine dividing line between looking a real smart vet on the one hand and an immortal fool on the other. This sort of thing happens to us all, so forget it, James.' But forgetting wasn't so easy. That cow became a celebrity in the district. Mr. Handshaw showed her with pride to the postman, the policeman, corn merchants, lorry drivers, fertilizer salesmen. Ministry of Agriculture officials and they all told me about it frequently with pleased smiles. Mr. Handshaw's speech was always the same, delivered, they said, in ringing, triumphant tones: `There's the cow that Mr. Herriot said would never get up n'more.' I'm sure there was no malice behind the farmer's actions. He had put one over on the young cleverpants vet and nobody could blame him for preening himself a little. And in a way I did that cow a good turn: I considerably extended her lifespan because Mr. Handshaw kept her long beyond her normal working period just as an exhibit. Years after she had stopped giving more than a couple of gallons of milk a day she was still grazing happily in the field by the roadside. She had one curiously upturned horn and was easy to recognize. I often pulled up my car and looked wistfully over the wall at the cow that could never get up n'more.

The Art of the (American) Essay
by Joyce Carol Oates Here is a history of America told in many voices. It’s an elliptical tale, or a compendium of tales, of the American twentieth century by way of individual essays that, fitting together into a kind of mobile mosaic, suggest where we’ve come from, and who we are, and where we are going. In his probing, provocative “The Creation Myth of Cooperstown,” Stephen Jay Gould asks: “Why do we prefer creation myths to evolutionary stories?” The more we know of history, of both the natural and the civilized worlds, the more we understand that our tangled lives are ever evolving, and that our culture, far from being timeless, is a living expression of Time. The essay, in its directness and intimacy, in its first-person authority, is the ideal
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literary form to convey such a vision. By tradition essays have been categorized as formal or informal; yet it can be argued that all essays are an expression of the human voice addressing an imagined audience, seeking to shift opinion, to influence judgment, to appeal to another in his or her common humanity. Even the most artfully composed essay suggests a naturalness of discourse. As our precursor Montaigne advised, “We must remove the mask.” The essays in this volume have all been written by writers who have published at least one collection of essays or nonfiction. Not only did this principle allow the editors a reasonable means of limiting selections, it is an acknowledgment that writing is a vocation, not merely an avocation. In a historical overview of a century virtually teeming with talent, I wanted to honor those writers who have made writing their life’s work. I didn’t see my role as one to reward the lucky amateur who writes a single good essay, then disappears forever. Better to search for little-known but excellent essays by, for instance, writers of historical significance like John Jay Chapman, Jane Addams, Edmund Wilson. Most of the essays are “informal”; but this isn’t to suggest that they are innocent, unmediated utterances lacking the stratagems of art. Even Mark Twain’s “Corn-pone Opinions,” delivered in the author’s characteristic forthright voice, is driven by a passionate intellectual conviction regarding the gullibility of mankind and the tragic consequences of this gullibility. My general theme in the assemblage of this volume has been a search for the expression of personal experience within the historical, the individual talent within the tradition (to paraphrase T. S. Eliot). My preference was always to essays that, springing from intense personal experience, are nonetheless significantly linked to larger issues, even if, as in the case of James Thurber and S. J. Perelman, these issues are viewed playfully. The emotion I felt when beginning to read most of the essays gathered here was one of great excitement and anticipation; even, at times, a distinct visceral thrill. As an editor, I am primarily a reader. I could not countenance including essays out of duty’s sake that, in fact, I found deadly dull. For the many essays considered for this volume, the majority of which ultimately had to be excluded, I was the ideal reader: I wanted to like what I read, and I was committed to reading the entire essay with sympathy. If you will substitute “literature” for “poetry” in this famous remark in a letter of Emily Dickinson’s, you have my basic criterion for the work included in The Best American Essays of the Century: “If I read a book [and] it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” And what powerful openings in certain of these exemplary essays: We are met to commemorate the anniversary of one of the most terrible crimes in history—not for the purpose of condemning it, but to repent of our share in it. --John Jay Chapman, “Coatesville”(1912) The knowledge of the existence of Devil Baby burst upon the residents of Hull House one day when three Italian women, with an excited rush through the door,
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demanded that he be shown to them. --Jane Addams, “The Devil Baby at Hull-House”(1916) Of course all life is a process of breaking down, but the blows that do the dramatic side of the work – the big sudden blows that come, or seem to come, from outside – the ones you remember and blame things on and, in moments of weakness, tell your friends about, don’t show their effect all at once. There is another sort of blow that comes from within – that you don’t feel until it’s too late to do anything about it, until you realize with finality that in some regard you will never be as good a man again. --F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Crack-Up”(1936) The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. --Vladimir Nabokov, “Perfect Past”(1950) On the twenty-ninth of July, in 1943, my father died. On the same day, a few hours later, his last child was born. Over a month before this, while all our energies were concentrated in waiting for these events, there had been, in Detroit, one of the bloodiest race riots of the century. --James Baldwin, “Notes of a Native Son”(1955) The decaying, downtown shopping section of Memphis—still another Main Street— lay, the weekend before Martin Luther King’s funeral, under a siege. --Elizabeth Hardwick, “The Apotheosis of Martin Luther King”(1968) We were all strapped into the seats of the Chinook, fifty of us, and something, someone was hitting it from the outside with an enormous hammer. How do they do that? I thought, we’re a thousand feet in the air! --Michael Herr, “Illumination Rounds”(1977) We tell ourselves stories in order to live. --Joan Didion, “The White Album”(1978) Of course there are crucial distinctions between the art of the essay and the art of prose fiction, yet to the reader the immediate experience in reading is an engagement with that mysterious presence we call voice. Reading, we “hear” another’s speech replicated in our heads as if by magic. Where in life we sometimes (allegedly infrequently) fall in love at first sight, in reading we may fall in love with the special, singular qualities of another’s voice; we may become mesmerized, haunted; we may be provoked, shocked, illuminated; we may be galvanized into action; we may be enraged, revulsed, and yet! – drawn irresistibly to
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experience this voice again, and again. It’s a writer’s unique employment of language to which we, as readers, are drawn, though we assume we admire the writer primarily for what he or she “has to say.” For consider: how many intelligent, earnest, right-minded commentators published essays on such important subjects as racial conflict in twentiethcentury America, social and personal disintegration in the thirties, morality, democracy, nostalgia-for-a-vanishing-America; class struggle, civil rights, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Vietnam War, the mystical experience of nature, ethnic diversity, various American “myths” – and how few of these are worth rereading, let alone enshrining, in this new century. To be an editor is so massive an undertaking, committed to reading with sympathy countless essays of high worth and distinction published in the most prestigious journals of their era, beginning in about 1900 and sweeping through the decades, is to experience first-hand that quickening of dread, which Nabokov calls mere “common sense,” in the realization of human mortality. So many meritorious voices, so much evidence of American good will and wisdom, and so many fallen by the wayside! There were times when I felt as if I were indeed standing at the edge of an abyss, entrusted with rescuing pages of impeccable prose being blown past me into oblivion, preserving what I could, surrendering all the rest. (Those excellent essayists of a bygone time John Muir, Randolph Bourne, and John Jay Chapman are preserved here; surrendered to the exigencies of space limitations are John Burroughs, George Santayana, Joseph Wood Krutch, Ellen Glasgow, and others listed in the Appendix.) My belief is that art should not be comforting; for comfort, we have mass entertainment, and one another. Art should provoke, disturb, arouse our emotions, expand our sympathies in directions we may not anticipate and may not even wish. Art should certainly aspire to beauty, but there are myriad sorts of beauty: the presentation of a subject in the most economical way, for instance; a precise choice of language, of detail. There is beauty in the calibrated ugliness of the opening of William Gass’s meditation on suicide and art, “The Doomed in Their Sinking,” because it is so finely calibrated; there is beauty in the eloquent, elegiac expression of hurt, rage, and despair in James Baldwin’s “Notes of a Native Son,” because it is eloquent and elegiac, in the service of art. That staple of traditional essay collections, the unhurried musings of a disembodied (Caucasian, male, privileged) consciousness, is missing here, except for its highest, most lyric expression in E. B. White’s classic “Once More to the Lake” and its total transmogrification in Edward Hoadland’s powerful “Heaven and Nature”—which is about neither heaven nor nature. (Hoagland, one of the few American writers who has forged a brilliant career out of essays, is our Chopin of the genre. Though best known for such nature essays as “The Courage of Turtles,” “Red Wolves and Black Bears,” and “Earth’s Eye,” in the tradition of Thoreau, Hoagland is equally memorable as a recorder of startling, confessional utterances of a kind the very private Thoreau would not have dared.) Though there are deeply moving essays in the nostalgic/musing mode by such fine writers as White, James Agee, Eudora Welty, and John Updike, I have given more space to what might be called a radical expansion of this
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familiar genre, essays that have the power of personal nostalgia yet are not sentimental, and in which private contemplation touches on crucial public issues, as Zora Neale Hurston’s “How It Feels to Be Colored Me,” Richard Wright’s “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow,” Baldwin’s “Notes of a Native Son,” Loren Eiseley’s “The Brown Wasps,” N. Scott Momaday’s “The Way to Rainy Mountain,” Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” Richard Rodriguez’s “Aria: A Memoir of a Bilingual Childhood,” and others. If you begin Edmund Wilson’s “The Old Stone House” presuming it to be another nostalgic lament for a vanishing America, you will be shocked by the author’s conclusion: And what about me? As I come back in the train, I find that –other causes contributing –my depression of Talcottville deepens. I did not find the river and the forest of my dream – I did not find the magic of the past… I would not go back to that old life if I could: the civilization of northern New York – why should I idealize it? – was too lonely, too poor, too provincial. Similarly, Donald Hall’s “A Hundred Thousand Straightened Nails” is both a sympathetic portrait of an older relative of the writer’s and a devastating critique of the romance of American rural eccentricity, the stock material of how many homespun reminiscences in the Norman Rockwell mode: [Washington Woodward] worked hard all his life at being himself, but there were no principles to examine when his life was over… The life that he could recall totally was not worth recalling; it was a box of string too short to be saved. Apart from being first-rate reportage, Joan Didion’s “The White Album” can be seen as a radical variant of the genre of nostalgia as will, in which the essayist positions her intimate, interior life (“an attack of vertigo and nausea does not seem to me an inappropriate response to the summer of 1968”) within the larger, wayward, and “poorly comprehended” life of our culture circa 1966-1978, with the defiant conclusion “writing [this] has not yet helped me to see what it means”: the antithesis of the traditional essay, which was organized around a principle, or epiphany, toward which it confidently moved. So too Michael Herr’s “Illumination Rounds,” from Dispatches, is appropriately ironically titled, for little is finally illuminated in this account of a young American journalist’s visit to Vietnam in the midseventies, at the height of that protracted and tragic war; the techniques of vividly cinematic fiction writing are here employed in the service of the author’s vision, but there is, conspicuously, no “moral” – no “moralizing.” This is the art of the contemporary essay, or memoir: a heightened, trompe l’oeil attention to detail that allows the reader to see, hear, witness, as if a first hand, what the essayist has witnessed. Though this is “informal” writing, there is no lack of form. Postmodernist strategies of fragmentation and collage have replaced that of exposition, summary, and argument.

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For all their diversity, essays tend to fall into three general types: those that present opinions primarily, and have been written to “instruct”; those that impart information and knowledge; and those that record personal impressionistic experiences, especially memories. These categories often overlap, of course, as in the outstanding essays named above, and in recent years, judging from the annual series The Best American Essays, from which essays in this volume published since 1985 have been taken, the genre has evolved into a form closely akin to prose fiction and prose poetry, employing dialogue, dramatic scenes, withheld information, suspense. The essay of opinion, of which Montaigne (1533-1592) was an early, highly influential master, was for centuries the quintessential essay. Here, you find no dialogue or dramatic scenes, only a rational, reasoning voice. Such an essay is an argument, often couched in conversational terms; its intention is to instruct, to illuminate, to influence. Except for editorial and op-ed pages of newspapers, in which they appear in miniature form, and in a very few general-interest magazines like Harper’s and the Atlantic, such essays are not much favored today. In our egalitarian culture we tend to feel, rightly or wrongly, that an essayist’s opinion is only as good as his or her expertise, and in such uncharted areas as ethics, morals, and general wisdom, whose opinion should be taken more seriously than anyone else’s? In the past, however, the gentlemanly art of opinion-offering was commonplace; Ralph Waldo Emerson is the North American master of this form. With the publication of “Nature” in 1836, Emerson’s prestige and influence through the whole of the nineteenth century was incalculable. Here was a brilliant aphoristic-philosophical mind expressed in an elegantly idiosyncratic language. Henry David Thoreau, Emerson’s younger contemporary, combines strong opinions with a wealth of observed information and firsthand experience in a crystalline, poetic prose, and for this reason seems to us more modern, and far more accessible, than Emerson. There is a rich such subcategory of American essays, the confrontation of nature by a refined, fastidiously observing consciousness, that has descended to us from Thoreau; I would have dearly liked to include more practitioners of this sort but had room for only John Muir, Rachel Carson, Loren Eiseley, Annie Dillard, and Gretel Ehrlich. (But all these essays are gems.) In general, our patience tends to wear thin when we’re confronted with sermonizing in its many forms; I most often encountered such essays among those published in the first four or five decades of the century, when magazines seemed to have unlimited space for rambling, genial prose by men with nothing especially urgent on their minds apart from platitudes of nature and morality. Who were the readers of these essays, I wondered. The more elusive the subject, the more verbose the style, as in two fascinating masterpieces of ellipsis, indirection, and irresolution by Henry James at his most baroque, “Is There a Life after Death?” (1910) and “Within the Rim” (1915). (“Is There a Life after Death?” was initially included in this volume, and then reluctantly excluded; then included again, and finally excluded. A longtime admirer of Henry James, I wanted badly for him to be represented, but the essay is, one
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might say, “Jamesian,” and long, and could hardly be justified as among the best of the century. And “Within the Rim,” on the apparent theme of war, is even more abstruse.) Yet for all their unfashionableness, the opinion essays included here are, I think, excellent, and will repay the sort of close, sympathetic reading required for prose that isn’t immediately gripping and specific. Henry Adams’s “A Law of Acceleration,” from the classic The Education of Henry Adams, is a bravura work of astonishing intellectual abstraction; written nearly one hundred years ago, it strikes a disturbingly contemporary note in its somber contemplation of a mechanistic universe reduced to a series of “relations” and mankind itself reduced to “Motion in a universe of Motions, with an acceleration… of vertiginous violence.” With the authority of science, Adams says, history has no right to meddle, since science “now lay in a plane where scarcely one or two hundred minds in the world could follow its mathematical processes.” Fittingly, William James’s famous “The Moral Equivalent of War” was written in the same year, 1910, as Henry James’s “Is There a Life after Death?” Though William James is a far more lucid prose stylist than his younger brother, both brothers are concerned with profound questions of life and death; William James broods upon the future of civilization itself in a prophetic work that looks ahead to Freud’s late, melancholic Civilization and Its Discontents (1930). What is history but a bloodbath? “The horrors make the fascination. War is the strong life; it is life in extremis; war-taxes are the only ones men never hesitate to pay, as the budgets of all nations show us.” John Jay Chapman, once considered an essayist of nearly Emerson’s stature, is not much read today, yet his passionate meditation upon a notorious lynching that took place in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, in 1911 transcends its time and tragic circumstances. The two most influential literary essays of the twentieth century are perhaps T.S. Eliot’s “Tradition and the Individual Talent” (“The emotion of art is impersonal”) and Robert Frost’s “The Figure a Poem Makes” (“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader”); each gains from being read in conjunction with the other. Sui generis is Gertrude Stein’s “What Are Master-pieces and Why Are There So Few of Them,” itself a masterpiece of polemics, an argument that convinces by sheer repetition: … One has not identity [when] one is in the act of doing anything. Identity is recognition, you know who you are because you and others remember anything about yourself but essentially you are not that when you are doing anything. I am I because my little dog knows me but, creatively speaking the little dog knowing that you are you and your recognizing that he knows, is what destroys creation. H.L. Mencken’s “The Hills of Zion” is, like many of Mencken’s essays and columns, a passionate repudiation of evangelical Christianity and anti-intellectualism. This is sermonizing disguised as social satire, zestful in its accumulation of damning details; one can see why the young Negro Richard Wright was so impressed by Mencken’s example, seeing the older white man as “fighting, fighting with words… using words as a weapon… as one
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would use a club.” Katherine Anne Porter’s “The Future Is Now” is an almost purely cerebral opinion piece, less compelling perhaps than Porter’s elegantly composed short stories, but gracefully argued nonetheless, while “Artists in Uniform,” one of Mary McCarthy’s most anthologized essays, smoothly combines her satirical gifts with her passion for intellectual discourse. Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp” is both opinion essay and cultural criticism of a high order; Adrienne Rich’s dramatically fragmented “Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying” might be defined as an essay of opinion in a unique, poetic form. Essays by Alice Walker, Richard Rodriguez, N. Scott Momaday, and Cynthia Ozick advance arguments by means of an accumulation of memoirist detail, and each presents us with the wonder of how, in Ozick’s words, “a writer is dreamed and transfigured into being.” And essays that seem to be primarily concerned with the imparting of information and description, like Loren Eiseley’s “The Brown Wasps,” Tom Wolfe’s “Putting Daddy On,” Elizabeth Hardwick’s “The Apotheosis of Martin Luther King,” Lewis Thomas’s “The Lives of a Cell,” Annie Dillard’s “Total Eclipse,” among others, contain arguments of subtlety and insight. Saul Bellow’s “Graven Images” is a meditation in the author’s characteristic ironic mode on photography as a violation of personal dignity and privacy and the “revolutionary transformation” of a world that no longer honors such values. John McPhee’s wonderfully original “The Search for Marvin Gardens” makes of the popular American board game an allegory of capitalist adventure, and rewards us with the unexpected discovery of the secluded middle-class bastion Marvin Gardens, the security-patrolled “suburb within a suburb” that is one’s reward for winning the game. The earliest essay in the anthology, Mark Twain’s “Corn-pone Opinions,” is a superbly modulated argument that begins with an engaging portrait of a young black slave (this is the Missouri of Twain’s childhood, in the 1850s) and proceeds to a ringing denunciation of cultural chauvinism that is as relevant to our time as it was to Twain’s: Broadly speaking, there are none but corn-pone opinions. And broadly speaking, corn-pone stands for self-approval. Self-approval is acquired mainly from the approval of other people. The result is conformity. By which Twain means that deathly conformity that leads to an acceptance of slavery, lynchings, white bigotry, and injustice in a nation constituted as a democracy. Twain’s essay strikes a chord that resounds through the anthology: the ever-shifting, ever-evolving issue of race in America. It can’t be an accident that the essays in this volume by men and women of ethnic minority backgrounds are outstanding; to paraphrase Melville, to write a “mighty” work of prose you must have a “mighty” theme. And what mightier, what more challenging and passionate theme for both writer and reader than how it feels to be of minority status in America, from the time of W.E.B. Du Bois in the first decade of the century to our contemporaries Maya Angelou, N. Scott Momaday, Maxine Hong Kingston, Alice Walker, Richard Rodriguez, and Gerald Early? For historical reasons obviously having
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to do with slavery, the experience of blacks in America has been significantly different from that of other minorities, and this fact is reflected in the essays included here. W.E.B. Du Bois’s “Of the Coming of John,” from The Souls of Black Folk (1903), is a chillingly prophetic work that traces the intellectual and spiritual evolution of a seemingly ordinary black boy from southeastern Georgia who is sent north to be educated in a Negro school, returns after seven years to his hometown so thoroughly changed that he seems more foreign to his former relatives and neighbors than a Georgian white man would be, and is given advice by the kindly white Judge: “… You and I both know, John, that in this country the Negro must remain subordinate, and can never expect to be the equal of white men. In their place, you people can be honest and respectful; and God knows, I’ll do what I can to help them. But when they want to reverse nature… by God! we’ll hold them under if we have to lynch every Nigger in the land.” Zora Neale Hurston in “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” (1928) defines herself very differently from Du Bois’s tragic protagonist, partly because she has been raised in a “colored town” in Florida, Eatonville. Her defiance strikes us as courageous, and touching: At certain times I have no race, I am me… Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company! It’s beyond me. Richard Wright’s “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow: An Autobiographical Sketch,” the preface to Wright’s 1938 collection of novellas, Uncle Tom’s Children, would become a section of his heralded Black Boy (1945). Wright’s education in Jim Crow “wisdom” begins ironically with a beating his mother gives him for having dared to fight with white boys, and carries him into a prematurely cynical adolescence; it’s a vision of the American South contiguous with that of New York City in the 1940s experienced by Langston Hughes. Perhaps the preeminent essayist of the American twentieth century is James Baldwin, and it seems fitting that Baldwin wrote his most powerful and influential nonfiction works, Notes of a Native Son, Nobody Knows My Name, and The Fire Next Time, at about midcentury. Baldwin was a natural master of a kind of nonfiction narration we associate with the most engaging fiction, in which personal, familial experience is linked with a larger social and political context that enhances it as myth. Like his mentor Richard Wright, James Baldwin was a poet of irony; his bitterness and rage at social injustice was so finely distilled, his use of language so impassioned and fluent, he made of the most tragically debased materials a world of startling beauty. Baldwin’s is a secular mystical vision that seems to us quintessentially American: All of my [newly deceased] father’s texts and songs, which I had decided were meaningless, were arranged before me at his death like empty bottles, waiting to hold
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the meaning which life would give them for me. This was his legacy: nothing is ever escaped… The dead man mattered, the new life mattered; blackness and whiteness did not matter; to believe they did was to acquiesce in one’s own destruction. Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated and this man was an immutable law. This is the vision of Martin Luther King, Jr., expressed in his historic 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail”: “One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly… and with a willingness to accept the penalty.” Robert Atwan, who has been an invaluable series editor for the highly regarded The Best American Essays since its inception in 1986, assisted me tirelessly and with inspiration in our months-long effort of sifting through any and all essays that were possibilities for this anthology. We have been limited, or, one might say, assisted, in our selections only since 1986, being obliged to choose essays from the series anthology after that date; before 1986, we had no restrictions. Our decision to reprint essays only by writers who have published nonfiction books helped to limit our search, as did our exclusion of journalism, excepting unique reportage like Hemingway’s “Pamplona in July” and Michael Herr’s “Illumination Rounds.” We hoped to avoid prose fiction in essay form, though such prose pieces as W.E.B. Du Bois’s “Of the Coming of John” and Langston Hughes’s “Bop” certainly employ fictional techniques; we excluded literary criticism – though some of our finest writers, like Randall Jarrell, Jacques Barzun, and Lionel Trilling, have excelled in it – and footnote-laden academic essays for a limited readership, even by Hannah Arendt. Much as I wanted to include Henry James, as I’ve noted above, I could not justify reprinting a long, convoluted skein of words that few readers would read. Nor could I include another major twentiethcentury writer, Willa Cather, whose available essays were simply inappropriate, and lengthy. Of Norman Mailer’s nonfiction work, “The Fight” would have been my choice for this volume, but it’s book length (and has already appeared in The Best American Sports Writing of the Century); other essays of Mailer’s, like “The White Negro,” controversial in their time, are badly dated today. Gay Talese, a brilliant practitioner of what has come to be known as New Journalism, has written no “essays” per se. William Carlos Willams, Ralph Ellison, John Hersey, Wallace Stegner, Barbara Tuchman, Gore Vidal, most painfully William Faulkner: these important writers had no single appropriate essay. Faulkner in particular seems to have had little aptitude, or perhaps inspiration, for the essay form. Of contemporary essayists there are so many – so very many! – Who might well be included here, it isn’t possible to list their names except in the Appendix. Quite apart from the numerous memoirs of high quality being written today, and published to much acclaim, this is a remarkably fruitful era for the personal essay. The triumph, one might say, of the mysterious pronoun “I.” It was the aim of the editors to tell a more or less chronological story of America as
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the century unfolded, with representative essays from each decade, as we have done; yet, the reader will note, the traumatic experiences of World War II, vividly described by William Manchester in “Okinawa: The Bloodiest Battle of All,” does not appear in the forties but decades later, in 1987; and numerous other essays, stimulated by memory and meditation, have been written years after the occasion of their subjects. The ideal essay, in any case, is as timeless as any work of art, transcending the circumstances of its inception. It moves, as Robert Frost says of the ideal poem, from delight to wisdom, and “rides on its own melting,” like ice on a hot stove.

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On the Morning after the Sixties
by Joan Didion I am talking here about being a child of my time. When I think about the Sixties now I think about an afternoon not of the Sixties at all, an afternoon early in my sophomore year at Berkeley, a bright autumn Saturday in 1953. I was lying on a leather couch in a fraternity house (there had been a lunch for the alumni, my date had gone on to the game. I do not now recall why I had stayed behind), lying there alone reading a book by Lionel Trilling and listening to a middle-aged man pick out on a piano in need of tuning the melodic line to "Blue Room." All that afternoon he played "Blue Room" and he never got it right. I can hear and see it still, the wrong note in "We will thrive on /Keep alive on", the sunlight falling through the big window, the man picking up his drink and beginning again and telling me, without ever saying a word, something I had not known before about bad marriages and wasted time and looking backward. That such an afternoon would now seem implausible in every detail -- the idea of having had a "date" for a football lunch now seems to me so exotic as to be almost czarist -- suggests the extent to which the narrative on which many of us grew up no longer applies. The distance we have come from the world in which I went to college was on my mind quite a bit during those seasons when not only Berkeley but dozens of other campuses were periodically shut down, incipient battlegrounds, their borders sealed. To think of Berkeley as it was in the Fifties was not to think of barricades and reconstituted classes. "Reconstitution" would have sounded to us then like Newspeak, and barricades are never personal. We were all very personal then, sometimes relentlessly so, and at that point where we either act or do not act, most of us are still. I suppose I am talking about just that: the ambiguity of belonging to a generation distrustful of political highs, the historical irrelevancy of growing up convinced that the heart of darkness lay not in some error of social organization but in man's own blood. If man was bound to err, then any social organization was bound to be in error. It was a premise which still seems to me accurate enough, hut one which robbed us early of a certain capacity for surprise. At Berkeley in the Fifties no one was surprised by anything at all, a donnee which tended to render discourse less than spirited, and debate nonexistent. The world was by definition imperfect, and so of course the university. There was some talk even then about IBM cards, but on balance the notion that free education for tens of thousands of people might involve automation did not seem unreasonable. We took it for granted that the Board of Regents would sometimes act wrongly. We simply avoided those students rumored to be FBI informers. We were the generation called "silent," but we were silent neither, as some thought, because we shared the period's official optimism nor, as others thought, because we feared its official repression. We were silent because the exhilaration of social action seemed to many of us just one more way of escaping the personal, of masking for a while that dread
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of the meaningless which was man's fate. To have assumed that particular fate so early was the peculiarity of my generation to identify with adults. That most of us have found adulthood just as morally ambiguous as we expected it to be falls perhaps into the category of prophecies self-fulfilled: I am simply not sure. I am telling you only how it was. The mood of Berkeley in those years was one of mild but chronic depression, against which I remember certain small things that seemed to me somehow explications, dazzling in their clarity, of the world I was about to enter: I remember a woman picking daffodils in the rain one day when I was walking in the hills. I remember a teacher who drank too much one night and revealed his fright and bitterness. I remember my joy at discovering for the first time how language worked, at discovering, for example, that the central line of HEART OF DARKNESS was a postscript. All such images were personal, and the personal was all that most of us expected to find. We would make a separate peace, we would do graduate work in Middle English, we would go abroad. We would make some money and live on a ranch. We would survive outside history, in a kind of idee fixe referred to always, during the years I spent at Berkeley, as "some little town with a decent beach." As it worked out I did not find or even look for the little town with the decent beach. I sat in the large bare apartment in which I lived my junior and senior years (I had lived awhile in a sorority, the Tri Delt house, and had left it, typically, not over any issue but because I, the implacable "I", did not like living with sixty people) and I read Albert Camus and Henry James and I watched a flowering plum come in and out of blossom and at night, most nights, I walked outside and looked up to where the cyclotron and bevatron glowed on the dark hillside, unspeakable mysteries which engaged me, in the style of my time, only personally. Later I got out of Berkeley and went to New York and later I got out of New York and come to Los Angeles. What I have made for myself is personal, but is not exactly peace. Only one person I knew at Berkeley later discovered an ideology, dealt himself into history, cut himself loose from both his own dread and his own time. A few of the people I knew at Berkeley killed themselves not long after. Another attempted suicide in Mexico and then, in a recovery which seemed in many ways a more advanced derangement, came home and joined the Bank of America's three-year executive training program. Most of us live less theatrically, but remain the survivors of a peculiar and inward time. If I could believe that going to a barricade would affect man's fate in the slightest I would go to that barricade, and quite often I wish that I could, but it would be less than honest to say that I expect to happen upon such a happy ending.

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College Pressures
William Zinsser Dear Carlos: I desperately need a dean's excuse for my chem midterm which will begin in about 1 hour. All I can say is that I totally blew it this week. I've fallen incredibly, inconceivably behind. Carlos: Help! I'm anxious to hear from you. I'll be in my room and won't leave it until I hear from you. Tomorrow is the last day for... Carlos: I left town because I started bugging out again. I stayed up all night to finish a take-home make-up exam & am typing it to hand in on the 10th. It was due on the 5th. P.S. I'm going to the dentist. Pain is pretty bad. Carlos: Probably by Friday I'll be able to get back to my studies. Right now I'm going to take a long walk. This whole thing has taken a lot out of me. Carlos: I'm really up the proverbial creek. The problem is I really bombed the history final. Since I need that course for my major I... Carlos: Here follows a tale of woe. I went home this weekend, had to help my Mom, & caught a fever so didn't have much time to study. My professor... Carlos: Aargh! Trouble. Nothing original but everything's piling up at once. To be brief, my job interview... Hey Carlos, good news! I've got mononucleosis. Who are these wretched supplicants, scribbling notes so laden with anxiety, seeking such miracles of postponement and balm? They are men and women who belong to Branford College, one of the twelve residential colleges at Yale University, and the messages are just a few of the hundreds that they left for their dean, Carlos Hortas --often slipped under his door at 4 A.M.--last year. But students like the ones who wrote those notes can also be found on campuses from coast to coast--especially in New England and at many other private colleges across the country that have high academic standards and highly motivated students. Nobody could doubt that the notes are real. In their urgency and their gallows humor they are authentic voices of a generation that is panicky to succeed. My own connection with the message writers is that I am master of Branford College. I live in its Gothic quadrangle and know the students well. (We have 485 of them.) I am privy to their hopes and fears--and also to their stereo music and their piercing cries in the dead of night ("Does anybody ca-a-are?"). If they went to Carlos to ask how to get through tomorrow, they come to me to ask how to get through the rest of their lives. Mainly I try to remind them that the road ahead is a long one and that it will have more unexpected turns than they think. There will be plenty of time to change jobs, change careers, change whole attitudes and approaches. They don't want to hear such liberating
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news. They want a map--right now--that they can follow unswervingly to career security, financial security, Social Security and, presumably, a prepaid grave. What I wish for all students is some release from the clammy grip of the future. I wish them a chance to savor each segment of their education as an experience in itself and not as a grim preparation for the next step. I wish them the right to experiment, to trip and fall, to learn that defeat is as instructive as victory and is not the end of the world. My wish, of course, is naive. One of the few rights that America does not proclaim is the right to fail. Achievement is the national god, venerated in our media--the million-dollar athlete, the wealthy executive--and glorified in our praise of possessions. In the presence of such a potent state religion, the young are growing up old. I see four kinds of pressure working on college students today: economic pressure, parental pressure, peer pressure, and self-induced pressure. It is easy to look around for villains--to blame the colleges for charging too much money, the professors for assigning too much work, the parents for pushing their children too far, the students for driving themselves too hard. But there are no villains; only victims. "In the late 1960s," one dean told me, "the typical question that I got from students was `Why is there so much suffering in the world?' or `How can I make a contribution?' Today it's `Do you think it would look better for getting into law school if I did a double major in history and political science, or just majored in one of them?" Many other deans confirmed this pattern. One said: "they're trying to find an edge--the intangible something that will look better on paper if two students are about equal." Note the emphasis on looking better. The transcript has become a sacred document, the passport to security. How one appears on paper is more important than how one appears in person. A is for Admirable and B is for Borderline, even though, in Yale's official system of grading, A means "excellent" and B means "very good." Today, looking very good is no longer good enough, especially for students who hope to go on to law school or medical school. They know that entrance into the better schools will be an entrance into the better law firms and better medical practices where they will make a lot of money. They also know that the odds are harsh. Yale Law School, for instance, matriculates 170 students from an applicant pool of 3,700; Harvard enrolls 550 from a pool of 7,000. It's all very well for those of us who write letters of recommendation for our students to stress the qualities of humanity that will make them good lawyers or doctors. And it's nice to think that admission officers are really reading our letters and looking for the extra dimension of commitment or concern. Still, it would be hard for a student not to visualize these officers shuffling so many transcripts studded with As that they regard a B as positively shameful. The pressure is almost as heavy on students who just want to graduate and get a job. Long gone are the days of the "gentleman's C," when students journeyed through college with a certain relaxation, sampling a wide variety of courses--music, art, philosophy,
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classics, anthropology, poetry, religion--that would send them out as liberally educated men and women. If I were an employer I would rather employ graduates who have this range and curiosity than those who narrowly pursued safe subjects and high grades. I know countless students whose inquiring minds exhilarate me. I like to hear the play of their ideas. I don't know if they are getting As or Cs, and I don't care. I also like them as people. The country needs them, and they will find satisfying jobs. I tell them to relax. They can't. Nor can I blame them. They live in a brutal economy. Tuition, room and board at most private colleges now comes to at least $7,000, not counting books and fees. This might seem to suggest that the colleges are getting rich. But they are equally battered by inflation. Tuition covers only 60 percent of what it costs to educate a student, and ordinarily the remainder comes from what colleges receive in endowments, grants, and gifts. Now the remainder keeps being swallowed by the cruel costs--higher every year--of just opening the doors. Heating oil is up. Insurance is up. Postage is up. Health-premium costs are up. Everything is up. Deficits are up. We are witnessing in America the creation of a brotherhood of paupers--colleges, parents, and students, joined by the common bond of debt. Today it is not unusual for a student, even if he works part time at college and full time during the summer, to accrue $5,000 in loans after four years--loans that he must start to repay within one year after graduation. Exhorted at commencement to go forth into the world, he is already behind as he goes forth. How could he not feel under pressure throughout college to prepare for this day of reckoning? I have used "he," incidentally, only for brevity. Women at Yale are under no less pressure to justify their expensive education to themselves, their parents, and society. In fact, they are probably under more pressure. For although they leave college superbly equipped to bring fresh leadership to traditionally male jobs, society hasn't yet caught up with this fact. Along with economic pressure goes parental pressure. Inevitably, the two are deeply intertwined. I see many students taking pre-medical courses with joyless tenacity. They go off to their labs as if they were going to the dentist. It saddens me because I know them in other corners of their life as cheerful people. "Do you want to go to medical school?" I ask them. "I guess so," they say, without conviction, or "Not really." "Then why are you going?" "Well, my parents want me to be a doctor. They're paying all this money and..." Poor students, poor parents. They are caught in one of the oldest webs of love and duty and guilt. The parents mean well; they are trying to steer their sons and daughters toward a secure future. But the sons and daughters want to major in history or classics or philosophy--subjects with no "practical" value. Where's the payoff on the humanities? It's not easy to persuade such loving parents that the humanities do indeed pay off. The intellectual
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faculties developed by studying subjects like history and classics --an ability to synthesize and relate, to weigh cause and effect, to see events in perspective--are just the faculties that make creative leaders in business or almost any general field. Still, many fathers would rather put their money on courses that point toward a specific profession--courses that are pre-law, pre-medical, pre-business, or, as I sometimes heard it put, "pre-rich." But the pressure on students is severe. They are truly torn. One part of them feels obligated to fulfill their parents' expectations; after all, their parents are older and presumably wiser. Another part tells them that the expectations that are right for their parents are not right for them. I know a student who wants to be an artist. She is very obviously an artist and will be a good one--she has already had several modest local exhibits. Meanwhile she is growing as a well-rounded person and taking humanistic subjects that will enrich the inner resources out of which her art will grow. But her father is strongly opposed. He thinks that an artist is a "dumb" thing to be. The student vacillates and tries to please everybody. She keeps up with her art somewhat furtively and takes some of the "dumb" courses her father wants her to take--at least they are dumb courses for her. She is a free spirit on a campus of tense students--no small achievement in itself--and she deserves to follow her muse. Peer pressure and self-induced pressure are also intertwined, and they begin almost at the beginning of freshman year. "I had a freshman student I'll call Linda," one dean told me, "who came in and said she was under terrible pressure because her roommate, Barbara, was much brighter and studied all the time. I couldn't tell her that Barbara had come in two hours earlier to say the same thing about Linda." The story is almost funny--except that it's not. It's symptomatic of all the pressures put together. When every student thinks every other student is working harder and doing better, the only solution is to study harder still. I see students going off to the library every night after dinner and coming back when it closes at midnight. I wish they would sometimes forget about their peers and go to a movie. I hear the clacking of typewriters in the hours before dawn. I see the tension in their eyes when exams are approaching and papers are due: "Will I get everything done?" Probably they won't. They will get sick. They will get "blocked." They will sleep. They will oversleep. They will bug out. Hey Carlos, help! Part of the problem is that they do more than they are expected to do. A professor will assign five-page papers. Several students will start writing ten-page papers to impress him. Then more students will write ten-page papers, and a few will raise the ante to fifteen. Pity the poor student who is still just doing the assignment. "Once you have twenty or thirty percent of the student population deliberately overexerting," one dean points out, "it's bad for everybody. When a teacher gets more and more effort from his class, the student who is doing normal work can be perceived as not
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doing well. The tactic works, psychologically." Why can't the professor just cut back and not accept longer papers? He can, and he probably will. But by then the term will be half over and the damage done. Grade fever is highly contagious and not easily reversed. Besides, the professor's main concern is with his course. He knows his students only in relation to the course and doesn't know that they are also overexerting in their other courses. Nor is it really his business. He didn't sign up for dealing with the student as a whole person and with all the emotional baggage the student brought along from home. That's what deans, masters, chaplains, and psychiatrists are for. To some extent this is nothing new: a certain number of professors have always been self-contained islands of scholarship and shyness, more comfortable with books than with people. But the new pauperism has widened the gap still further, for professors who actually like to spend time with students don't have as much time to spend. They also are overexerting. If they are young, they are busy trying to publish in order not to perish, hanging by their finger nails onto a shrinking profession. If they are old and tenured, they are buried under the duties of administering departments--as departmental chairmen or members of committees--that have been thinned out by the budgetary axe. Ultimately it will be the students' own business to break the circles in which they are trapped. They are too young to be prisoners of their parents' dreams and their classmates' fears. They must be jolted into believing in themselves as unique men and women who have the power to shape their own future. "Violence is being done to the undergraduate experience," says Carlos Hortas. "College should be open-ended: at the end it should open many, many roads. Instead, students are choosing their goal in advance, and their choices narrow as they go along. It's almost as if they think that the country has been codified in the type of jobs that exist--that they've got to fit into certain slots. Therefore, fit into the best-paying slot. "They ought to take chances. Not taking chances will lead to a life of colorless mediocrity. they'll be comfortable. But something in the spirit will be missing." I have painted too drab a portrait of today's students, making them seem a solemn lot. That is only half of their story; if they were so dreary I wouldn't so thoroughly enjoy their company. The other half is that they are easy to like. They are quick to laugh and to offer friendship. They are not introverts. They are unusually kind and are more considerate of one another than any student generation I have known. Nor are they so obsessed with their studies that they avoid sports and extracurricular activities. On the contrary, they juggle their crowded hours to play on a variety of teams, perform with musical and dramatic groups, and write for campus publications. But this in turn is one more cause of anxiety. There are too many choices. Academically, they have 1,300 courses to select from; outside class they have to decide how much spare time they can spare and how to spend it. This means that they engage in fewer extracurricular pursuits than their predecessors
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did. If they want to row on the crew and play in the symphony they will eliminate one; in the '60s they would have done both. They also tend to choose activities that are self-limiting. Drama, for instance, is flourishing in all twelve of Yale's residential colleges as it never has before. Students hurl themselves into these productions--as actors, directors, carpenters, and technicians--with a dedication to create the best possible play, knowing that the day will come when the run will end and they can get back to their studies. They also can't afford to be the willing slave of organizations like the Yale Daily News. Last spring at the one-hundredth anniversary banquet of that paper--whose past chairmen include such once and future kings as Potter Stewart, Kingman Brewster, and William F. Buckley, Jr.--much was made of the fact that the editorial staff used to be small and totally committed and that "newsies" routinely worked fifty hours a week. In effect they belonged to a club; Newsies is how they defined themselves at Yale. Today's student will write one or two articles a week, when he can, and he defines himself as a student. I've never heard the word Newsie except at the banquet. If I have described the modern undergraduate primarily as a driven creature who is largely ignoring the blithe spirit inside who keeps trying to come out and play, it's because that's where the crunch is, not only at Yale but throughout American education. It's why I think we should all be worried about the values that are nurturing a generation so fearful of risk and so goal-obsessed at such an early age. I tell students that there is no one "right" way to get ahead --that each of them is a different person, starting from a different point and bound for a different destination. I tell them that change is a tonic and that all the slots are not codified nor the frontiers closed. One of my ways of telling them is to invite men and women who have achieved success outside the academic world to come and talk informally with my students during the year. They are heads of companies or ad agencies, editors of magazines, politicians, public officials, television magnates, labor leaders, business executives, Broadway producers, artists, writers, economists, photographers, scientists, historians--a mixed bag of achievers. I ask them to say a few words about how they got started. the students assume that they started in their present profession and knew all along that it was what they wanted to do. Luckily for me, most of them got into their field by a circuitous route, to their surprise, after many detours. The students are startled. They can hardly conceive of a career that was not pre-planned. They can hardly imagine allowing the hand of God or chance to nudge them down some unforeseen trail.

An Environment You Can Live With
Michael Cusack
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Sybil Adelman, a writer, loves the freedom that working at home gives her. Yet she knows that, for some, the home environment has its drawbacks. "Joseph Heller wrote his first novel, Catch 22, in seven years while holding down a full-time job," she says. "He knew if he had tried working at home, it would have taken him 22 years to write Catch 7." To be fully productive, she realizes, many people need the pressures and routines of office life. What work environment is essential to you--and to your interests and ambitions? Your response to that question, career specialists say, may be your key to job satisfaction. The six different job environments profiled on the next five pages will suggest several answers. They'll give you a chance to "try on" job environments before you have to choose one. Fast-Paced and Crowded Could you be at your best in a crowded, hectic work environment? If so, the trading floor of a stock or commodity exchange could be the place for you. "Maybe in time I'll wear out," says Jeff Weiss, a floor trader in the New York Corporate Bond Market. "Right now, I love it. I love the excitement, the crowds, the tension, the incredible pace, and the risks." Three years out of college, Weiss routinely makes million-dollar deals trading bonds for a major brokerage house. "You can't let it overawe you," he says. "A trader may lose a few hundred thousand dollars on some deals, but he's got to go on." In the world of finance--one of today's fastest growing fields--trading floors are the frontlines. Millions of corporate shares, bonds, and options are bought and sold each day on trading floors around the world. Until the mid-1970s, the center of attention on a trading floor was the "big board," which displayed sales prices. Beneath the board, brokers' floor representatives milled around "trading posts." There they traded shares in certain types of companies--utilities at one post, industrials at another, and so on. The brokers' "floor reps" were helped by "sideliners," associates who worked in booths around the trading floor. Using hand signals, members of the trading crowd sent messages to their sideliners, who then phoned them to home offices and customers. Today, clusters of computer terminals have replaced the "big board," and networks of computers have taken over much of the sideliners' work. But trading floors are busier than ever--thanks to the same computers, which have quickened the pace of trading. Yet some things never change. Traders still conduct much of their business with hand signals. Is it any wonder that the trading floor experience has been called "basic training for high finance"? Many floor reps end up in less hectic areas of the securities industry, managing other people's money, advising investors, and selling securities to individuals.
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Cozy and Convenient Thanks to the computer revolution, more and more Americans are able to escape commuting to nine-to-five jobs. Would you like to be one of them? Some jobs--freelance writing and art, for example, or telephone sales and consulting services--have been home-based for a long time. In recent years, however, personal computers, high-speed printers, electronic copiers, and phone-answering machines have greatly expanded the opportunities for working at home. Among the newer alternatives: advertising, financial advice, engineering design, and clerical services. What does it take to start a home-based business? First, you need a skill you can sell--as an accountant, an engineer, a writer, or a computer keyboarder, to name a few. Second, you should know enough about computer and related equipment to make the best possible use of them. Third, you will need entrepreneurial skills--the ability to sell your services. That ability demands both drive and self-discipline--two musts if you are to overcome the many distractions that can derail a home worker. The home work environment has lots of advantages. For one thing, you're your own boss, and you can usually control your time. For another thing, you'll have more time with you family. That's often a plus for men and women with young children. "It's like the old days, when family and work were integrated," explains Bill Friesma, a home-based computer consultant in the Chicago area. Working at home has some drawbacks, too. You might earn less than you would as a salaried employee elsewhere, and you might be without such company-paid benefits as health and life insurance, sick leave, and paid vacations. Moreover, some people need the social stimulation and structure of an office. Are you that type of person? If not--and if you have the drive and self-discipline to work alone--you may want to consider the option of working at home. Close to Nature Want to work among living things in an outdoor environment? Then forestry may be the career for you. Be prepared, however, to work long hours, often alone, in all kinds of weather. Most foresters, forestry technicians, and rangers thrive under those conditions. Their employers are, in the main, government agencies and lumber companies, and their work involves managing forests that are used for everything form recreation to logging. The job isn't all physical. There's a lot of brainwork involved in keeping track of the complex relationships among plants, soil, water, animals, and people. Foresters also have to plan and oversee the planting, protection, and harvesting of trees.
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It's not really a lonely profession. Team projects abound. To protect trees from insects, disease, fire, flood, pollution, and human abuse, foresters must work with other professionals. Among them: biologists, hydrologists (experts on water flow), soil conservationists, and wildlife managers. Foresters also work with technicians, as well. technicians mark and measure trees, watch for signs of disease or insect infestations, and test soil and water samples. Rangers add their talents by working to prevent forest fires. And they keep watch for changes that can push nature's delicate balance out of whack. The ranger's job is especially important in forest regions open for recreation. Many foresters have begun setting up their own businesses. Some, like Priscilla and Arthur Woll of Rixeyville, Virginia, provide forestry evaluations and advice for small woodlot owners, farmers, and local governments. Others, like Joe Deden of Minneapolis, Minnesota, work for local forest resource centers--nonprofit advisory groups. "We run classes and give advice on forest management goals," Deden explains. Recently, jobs in forestry and related areas have been increasing. Job openings are filled quickly, despite the field's relatively low salaries. No doubt that's because, for thousands of Americans, working in the great outdoors is the only compensation that counts. Inside a Pressure Cooker Some job environments are so stressful it makes you wonder why people take them on. These aren't environments of occasional danger or great physical exertion. Instead, stressful environments are like pressure cookers--demanding alertness, awesome responsibility, and frequent decision making. Daily triumphs in such a work environment are seldom applauded or even noticed. Yet a single mistake can result in censure and disgrace. Where are these pressure-cooker jobs? Hospitals have a lot of them, especially in emergency rooms and intensive-care units. Newspaper pressrooms are great stressgenerators. As a pressure center, however, nothing beats the control tower of a busy airport. Air traffic controllers are the guardians of the airways. They keep track of planes in the areas they are assigned, and they regulate airport traffic. Their top concern is safety, but they must also find ways to shorten delay on landings and takeoffs. The pressure of the job has increased in recent years, according to the U.S. General Accounting Office, because of an acute shortage of experienced controllers. Many controllers also complain that they have to rely on overtime pay to make ends meet. Such pressures worry supervisor Michael Connor, a controller in the St. Louis, Missouri, region. "Overtime will have to be reduced soon," he says. "There are just so many six-day weeks in a person." Alone in front of a radar console, each air traffic controller has to be alert and ready to make instant life-and-death decisions.
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There's great competition for most high-stress jobs, despite their apparent drawbacks. Why? Good pay is often a lure, but it's rarely the main attraction. The biggest reward, say people who take these jobs, is the satisfaction of learning and doing difficult work. For some, the high-stress environment is itself a lure. So is the feeling of doing a job that directly benefits society. That's a feeling that people who control air traffic, provide medical care, and struggle to meet daily deadlines learn to enjoy. Excitement--AND a Dash of Danger Many thousands of workers thrive in hazardous environments, where they pit themselves against physical danger. Some assemble skyscrapers high above the ground. Others explore--and photograph--life under the sea. Still others live on floating platforms far out at sea, drilling for oil on the ocean floor. And thousand fight fires--some as part of bigcity fire departments, others in special units trained to control forest fires. One way to fight a wildfire on a range or in a forest is from the air. Observers in planes or helicopters can spot the fire. They can also determine which way and how fast it is moving. The planes usually drop water and chemical retardants on the fire and, in wilderness areas, fly in fire fighters called "smokejumpers." If possible, hovering helicopters lower fire fighters to the ground. Otherwise, the smokerjumpers must parachute from aircraft. On the ground, they battle the flames, repair fire damage, and take steps to prevent the fire from restarting. It's a difficult, dirty, and dangerous job. Mary Barr, a pilot with the Forest Service's Aviation Branch, recalled her days of fighting fires from the air. "It was--and-- is--a hazardous job. I was often flying through heavy smoke over steep terrain." The Forest Service gives pilots, spotters, and aerial fire fighters several weeks of intensive training in fire-fighting tactics and the use of air-delivered equipment. The smokejumpers also receive parachuting, rescue, and survival training. Until recently, most aerial fire fighters were employed by the U.S. Forest Service, but that's changing. Faced with traffic-choked streets, city and county governments have begun using aerial fire-fighting techniques. Helicopters have proved effective for fire-fighting and rescue operations in high-rise buildings and at the sites of major disasters. Fire fighters and rescue workers will always remain in moderate demand, labor experts say. In the years to come, the skills needed for these jobs are likely to increase dramatically. Hi-Tech Teamwork Are you a team person? Are you at your best as part of a small, tightly knit group of
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dedicated workers? If so, the future may hold more for you than you think. High technology, some predicted, would make teamwork a thing of the past. That's happening in those areas of business and data processing where one person and a computer can replace a team of workers. But, elsewhere, teamwork is very much alive. High technology has led to a new type of teamwork in a number of fields, including advertising, scientific research, engineering design and testing, architecture, and space and ocean exploration. Through computer networking, scientists, engineers, and technicians at different locations--often thousands of miles apart --can work on the same project at once. They can exchange ideas, try out different designs, and test their results. Examples? An engineering team can now design and try out a robot system, a new manufacturing process, or an entire factory--before it is built. An architectural team can do the same with a building or a bridge. A medical team can simulate a dangerous operation before performing it on a patient. Of course, computer-assisted team effort doesn't end with investigation and simulation. It now usually continues into actual design, manufacturing, and testing. "CADCAM --computer-aided design and manufacture--is breaking down barriers between traditional design and manufacturing functions," explains Dr. Prakash Rao, an engineering manager at General Electric. "Interdisciplinary teams and engineers follow a product from concept to production. Everything is interconnected like the threads of a spider's web." Sometimes, a computer-aided effort can extend beyond production. A team that produces robots may use them to explore space and ocean depths. For hi-tech teamwork, the future seems limitless.

History Hijacked
by Charles Krauthammer IT TOOK MORE THAN A YEAR, BUT IN THE END COMMON sense and fear of Congress prevailed: the Smithsonian Institution canceled the exhibit it had planned at Washington’s National Air and Space Museum to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. The exhibit, whose theme was American vengefulness and Japanese suffering in World War II, had led outraged veterans’ groups to engage in endless negotiations with the curators to produce a script of at least minimal dignity and respect for history. My reading of the exhibit script last August led me to a different conclusion. I figured that with curators who could describe the Pacific war thus: “For most Americans ... it was a
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war of vengeance. For most Japanese, it was a war to defend their unique culture against Western imperialism.” There was no point in negotiating. You don’t amend such tendentious anti Americanism. You kill it. You scrap the 600-page commentary and follow the advice of General Paul Tibbets, pilot of the plane that dropped the bomb: display the restored Enola Gay in reverent silence, with only a few lines explaining what it did and when. Last week Smithsonian secretary Michael Heyman did exactly that. No doubt alarmed by the fact that 81 Congressmen had written in protest and that hearings were being planned on this exhibit and perhaps other trash-America exhibits at Smithsonian museums, he announced that Air and Space would display the Enola Gay with only a simple explanation of its mission and a video memoir of the crew. It was a victory for good sense. It was marred, however, by the way Heyman justified the cancellation. He claimed that in principle it was a mistake to combine a historical commemoration with historical analysis. This in itself is a dubious proposition, but Heyman compounded the damage with his elaboration that “veterans and their families... were not looking for analysis, and frankly, we did not give enough thought to the intense feelings such an analysis would evoke.” The idea that the men who stormed Iwo Jima and withstood the Kamikazes are creatures too tender to tolerate analysis of the war they fought is more than patronizing. it is intellectually dishonest. The vets would have welcomed analysis of the Pacific war that was minimally accurate, that gave due attention to Japanese depredations and American sacrifice, that was not corrupted by such revisionist nonsense as the suggestion that we might not have dropped the bomb on Nazi Germany because Germans are white. The issue is not that veterans cannot stand analysis but that the analysis offered by the Smithsonian was a disgrace. And not the first such disgrace. Four years ago, the National Museum of American Art produced an exhibition of America’s westward expansion that mined every artifact for evidence of white racism and rapacity. Former Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin called the show “perverse, historically inaccurate, destructive.” These exhibits are not accidents. They reflect the extent to which the forces of political correctness and historical revisionism, having captured the universities, have now moved out to dominate our museums and other institutions of national culture. The Republican revolutionaries in Congress have bravely pledged to put a stop to this. They promise, for example, to eliminate such federally subsidized beachheads of the academic left as the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. (The NEA, you will remember, funded Piss Christ and the Mapplethorpe show. The NEH, more recently, helped fund U.S. history standards that contained 19 references to Joe McCarthy and McCarthyism, and not one to Robert E. Lee or Thomas Edison or the Wright brothers.) The endowments’ grantees of progressive and independent vision live, of course, at the teat of the taxpayer, a parasitism the new Congress promises to end.
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These promises will soon be broken. Even revolutionaries don’t like to be called philistines. There is already talk of compromise. Congress will probably make a few symbolic cuts and declare victory. It will have achieved nothing. As soon as this storm passes, the grass will grow back. Conservatives on the Hill seem unable to make the principled argument that while government ought not to police the arts and the humanities, government has absolutely no obligation to subsidize the academic left or, as with the Enola Gay, offer it the platform of the country’s most revered national institutions. Academics and artists have every right-- and every commercial incentive--to outrage the bourgeoisie and undermine its values and history. Bourgeois society, on the other hand, has no obligation to collaborate in its own undermining. Why can the vaunted revolutionaries of the new Congress not make that simple case? The Enola Gay affair has given the American people a rare glimpse into the corruption of our institutions of national culture. Perhaps our timid revolutionaries will use the upcoming hearings on this fiasco to show some courage: call cultural corruption by its name and cut off the subsidy. Not cut--cut off. Zero out. Let heads, and agencies, roll.

Political Correctness
by John Taylor The origins of the phrase “politically correct” are obscure. Some trace it to Mao Tsetung, who, in one of the thoughts in his little Red Book,” asked, Where do correct ideas come from?” In 1975 Karen DeCrow, then the president of the National Organization for Women, told critics that NOW was moving in an intellectually and politically correct direction.” But it has also been claimed that the term appeared as early as the 1960s to refer in an ironic or derisive manner to people who tailored their views to fit prevailing political fashions. Whatever its origins, the phrase “politically correct” acquired a new vogue in the late 1980s when it began to be used, first on college campuses and later by the media, as a pejorative term to describe a loose collection of feminists, Marxists, multiculturalists, and deconstructionists together with their assorted left-wing positions on race, sexual orientation, gender, class, the environment, and related issues. It was considered politically correct, for example, to recycle newspaper, to oppose the wearing of fur coats, to decry American capitalism and consumerism, to abhor the pernicious influence of advertising and television, to support a woman’s right to an abortion, to use the term “African-American” instead of “black.” On a larger scale, politically correct thinking included the view that
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American history is primarily a narrative of exploitation and oppression, and that Americans ought to celebrate the ‘otherness” or “difference” of the women, homosexuals, and ethnic groups who had long been denied a voice by the white males who traditionally controlled Western society. The most controversial feature of politically correct behaviour, however, was an inclination to suppress, or at least vociferously condemn, books and viewpoints and even social activities that, regardless of how innocuous, were believed to be racist or sexist. A professor at Harvard, for example, was forced to cancel a screening of a film he had assigned his class because one character was a black maid, which some students considered demeaning to all blacks. Also at Harvard, a dean denounced dining hall workers for holding a “Back to the Fifties” party because segregation had still existed during that decade. More seriously, students at the University of Northern Colorado successfully demanded that the school withdraw a speaking invitation to Linda Chavez, a Hispanic member of the Reagan administration, because Chavez opposed affirmative action and believed immigrants should be encouraged to speak English. Drawing the Battle Lines. By 1990 political correctness had become the focus of a national debate. Newspaper articles, magazine cover stories, books, radio and television talk shows, and numerous academic panels discussed the merits and dangers of PC, to use the shorthand that became popular on college campuses. Neoconservative critics such as Roger Kimball, author of Tenured Radicals, attributed the phenomenon to “radicals” who came of age in the 1960s, had now reached positions of power on college campuses, and were using those positions to indoctrinate students with their own left-wing political agenda. Certain professors admitted as much. “I see my scholarship as an extension of my activism,” said Annette Kolodny, a former Berkeley radical who had become dean of the humanities faculty at the University of Arizona. The neoconservatives were joined in their attack by traditional scholars who maintained that politically correct professors and administrators were depriving students of the opportunity to grapple with civilization’s greatest thinkers by substituting, in the name of multiculturalism or cultural diversity, the works of inferior female and minority writers for those of “dead white males” like Aristotle and Freud. Furthermore, claimed the traditionalists, many of whom had joined an organization called the National Association of Scholars that advanced their views, proponents of politically correct attitudes minimized and at times totally rejected the cultural and political accomplishments of Western civilization. Finally, by branding anyone who disagreed with them a racist or sexist, the politically correct were inhibiting debate and infringing on academic freedom. Advocates of cultural diversity, however, responded that the incidents cited by conservatives and traditionalists were isolated and unrepresentative, or else that the complaints of the students were justified. The neoconservatives and traditionalists, they argued, were simply dismayed by the erosion of their long-held monopoly of the university
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power. While pretending to defend intellectual rigour and the preeminence of the great books, they were in fact merely trying to preserve their own cultural and political supremacy. The attack on diversity is a rhetorical strategy by neoconservatives who have their own political agenda,” explained Catharine Stimpson, dean of the graduate school of Rutgers. New People on Campus. The growth of the movement for cultural diversity on college campuses directly corresponds to the changing demographics of American universities. In 1960, 94% of all college students were white and 63% were male. By 1991, 55% of all college students were women, and 20% were nonwhite or Hispanic. These new groups have demanded courses that explore their interests and histories, and consequently more universities have instituted programs in black studies, Hispanic studies, women’s studies, and, most recently, gay studies. Such “multicultural” programs began to compete with traditional departments for the university’s resources, creating tensions that were exacerbated in the late ’80s by the decline of those resources in a period of recession and by other general social problems. Feminists were drawing attention to the phenomenon of date rape, and the threat of AIDS had made gay activists more militant. At the same time, colleges were witnessing an increase of incidents motivated by racial or sexual hatred. These ranged from graffiti and physical attacks to “slave auctions” at fraternity houses and the T-shirts reportedly worn by students at Syracuse University that said, “Club Faggots, Not Seals.” Advocates of cultural diversity tended to attribute the racial and sexual incidents on college campuses to a “backlash” by threatened white males. in an effort to curb these incidents, institutions like Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Wisconsin created codes of conduct to penalize students for cruel or insensitive behaviour. While these codes were well intentioned, they were derided by their critics for enforcing politically correct thought. A student at the University of Michigan who made a joke about homosexuals was required to attend sensitivity sessions and to publish an article in the school newspaper titled “Learned My Lesson.” Conservatives and traditionalists, for their part, believed that the separatist movements at many universities--illustrated by the demands for black dorms, for Native American student centres, for special student groups for lesbians of colour--had created a dangerous and divisive fixation with race and gender. If you sensitize people from day one to look at everything in terms of race and sex, eventually they will see racism and sexism at the root of everything,” said Alan Kors, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania. But to the proponents of multiculturalism, racism and sexism were in fact at the root of, if not everything, then most of the social problems in the United States. And it was the job of the schools to expose the pervasiveness of this racism and sexism. “Intellectual and educational oppression... has characterized the culture and institutions of the United States and the European-American world for centuries,” declared a 1989 report by a task force on
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curriculum revision for the New York State Board of Education. It is difficult for us to see and overcome racism and sexism because we are all a part of the problem, i.e., we are all the progeny of a racist and sexist society,” a draft report on race and gender enrichment” at Tulane University said. Asserting this assumption even more rigidly, a professor at Brandeis wrote in an academic publication that she begins a course by announcing, It is not open to debate whether a white student is racist or a male student is sexist. He/she simply is.” Negotiating a Mine Field. Given such unyielding attitudes, it is no surprise that the actual discussion of race relations in college history classes became highly explosive. Teachers who sought to bring different points of view into the classroom almost invariably exposed themselves to charges of racism. Stephan Thernstrom, a history professor at Harvard, was accused of racism for, among other things, asking a class to consider the arguments against affirmative action. Feeling that it had become impossible to discuss the subject of race relations with any objectivity, Thernstrom decided to stop teaching the course. Similarly, Reynolds Farlcy, a scholar on race relations at the University of Michigan, dropped a course after he was accused of racial insensitivity for reading Malcolm X’s description of himself as a pimp and a thief and for discussing the Southern defense of slavery. Given the climate at Michigan,” Farley told one reporter, “I could be hassled for anything I do or don’t say in that class.” By the fall of 1990, opposition to some of the more extreme manifestations of political correctness could be seen. Today, routinized righteous indignation has been substituted for rigorous criticism,” declared Henry Louis Gates, a prominent black literature professor. Certain professors and administrators argued that the university ought to emphasize what students have in common rather than dwelling constantly on difference.” At the same time, they said, students and professors needed to acknowledge the role of Western civilization in advancing the principle of individual rights that made it possible for those “of difference” to be treated equally. In a speech to incoming students at Yale, Donald Kagan, dean of the college, urged them to make Western culture the focus of their undergraduate education, pointing out that the West has “asserted the claims of the individual against those of the state” and created “ tolerance and respect for diversity unknown in most cultures.” Interviewed after the speech by a reporter for their school newspaper, however, some students said they found the speech “paternalistic,” “racist,” and “Fascist.”

Shocked and Horrified
by Noam Chomsky Like all Americans, on Tuesday, 9-11, I was shocked and horrified to watch the WTC
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Twin Towers attacked by hijacked planes and collapse, resulting in the deaths of perhaps up to 10,000 innocent people. I had not been that shocked and horrified since January 16, 1991, when then President Bush attacked Baghdad, and the rest of Iraq and began killing 200,000 people during that “war” (slaughter). This includes the infamous “highway of death” in the last days of the slaughter when U.S. pilots literally shot in the back retreating Iraqi civilians and soldiers. I continue to be horrified by the sanctions on Iraq, which have resulted in the death of over 1,000,000 Iraqis, including over 500,000 children, about whom former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has stated, their deaths “are worth the cost”. Over the course of my life I have been shocked and horrified by a variety of U.S. governmental actions, such as the U.S. sponsored coup against democracy in Guatemala in 1954 which resulted in the deaths of over 120,000 Guatemalan peasants by U.S. installed dictatorships over the course of four decades. Last Tuesday’s events reminded me of the horror I felt when the U.S. overthrew the government of the Dominican Republic in 1965 and helped to murder 3,000 people. And it reminded me of the shock I felt in 1973, when the U.S. sponsored a coup in Chile against the democratic government of Salvador Allende and helped to murder another 30,000 people, including U.S. citizens. Last Tuesday’s events reminded me of the shock and horror I felt in 1965 when the U.S. sponsored a coup in Indonesia that resulted in the murder of over 800,000 people, and the subsequent slaughter in 1975 of over 250,000 innocent people in East Timor by the Indonesian regime, with the direct complicity of President Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. I was reminded of the shock and horror I felt during the U.S. sponsored terrorist contra war (the World Court declared the U.S. government a war criminal in 1984 for the mining of the harbors) against Nicaragua in the 1980s which resulted in the deaths of over 30,000 innocent people (or as the U.S. government used to call them before the term “collateral damage” was invented—“soft targets”). I was reminded of being horrified by the U.S. war against the people of E1 Salvador in the 1980s, which resulted in the brutal deaths of over 80,000 people, or “soft targets.” I was reminded of the shock and horror I felt during the U.S. sponsored terror war against the peoples of southern Africa (especially Angola) that began in the 1970s and continues to this day, and has resulted in the deaths and mutilations of over 1,000,000. I was reminded of the shock and horror I felt as the U.S. invaded Panama over the Christmas season of 1989 and killed over 8,000 in an attempt to capture George H. Bush’s CIA partner, now turned enemy, Manuel Noriega. I was reminded of the horror I felt when I learned about how the Shah of Iran was installed in a U.S. sponsored brutal coup that resulted in the deaths of over 70,000 Iranians from 1952-1979. And the continuing shock as I learned that the Ayatollah Khomani, who
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overthrew the Shah in 1979, and who was the U.S. public enemy for the decade of the 1980s, was also on the CIA payroll while he was in exile in Paris in the 1970s. I was reminded of the shock and horror that I felt as I learned about the how the U.S. has “manufactured consent” since 1948 for its support of Israel, to the exclusion of virtually any rights for the Palestinians in their native lands resulting in ever worsening day-to-day conditions for the people of Palestine. I was shocked as I learned about the hundreds of towns and villages that were literally wiped off the face of the earth in the early days of Israeli colonization. I was horrified in 1982 as the villagers of Sabra and Shatila were massacred by Israeli allies with direct Israeli complicity and direction. The untold thousands who died on that day match the scene of horror that we saw last Tuesday. But those scenes were not repeated over and over again on the national media to inflame the American public. The events and images of last Tuesday have been appropriately compared to the horrific events and images of Lebanon in the 1980s which resulted in the deaths of tens of thousand of people, with no reference to the fact that the country that inflicted the terror on Lebanon was Israel, with U.S. backing. I still continue to be shocked at how mainstream commentators refer to “Israeli settlers” in the “occupied territories” with no sense of irony as they report on who are the aggressors in the region. Of course, the largest and most shocking war crime of the second half of the 20th century was the U.S. assault on Indochina from 1954-1975, especially Vietnam, where over 4,000,000 people were bombed, napalmed, crushed, shot and individually “hands on” murdered in the “Phoenix Program” (this is where Oliver North got his start). Many U.S. Vietnam veterans were also victimized by this war and had the best of intentions, but the policy makers themselves knew the criminality of their actions and policies as revealed in their own words in “The Pentagon Papers,” released by Daniel Ellsberg of the RAND Corporation. In 1974 Ellsberg noted that our Presidents from Truman to Nixon continually lied to the U.S. public about the purpose and conduct of the war. He has stated that, “It is a tribute to the American people that our leaders perceived that they had to lie to us, it is not a tribute to us that we were so easily misled.” I was continually shocked and horrified as the U.S. attacked and bombed with impunity the nation of Libya in the 1980s, including killing the infant daughter of Khadafi. I was shocked as the U.S. bombed and invaded Grenada in 1983. I was horrified by U.S. military and CIA actions in Somalia, Haiti, Afghanistan, Sudan, Brazil, Argentina, and Yugoslavia. The deaths in these actions ran into the hundreds of thousands. The above list is by no means complete or comprehensive. It is merely a list that is easily accessible and not unknown, especially to the economic and intellectual elites. It has just been conveniently eliminated from the public discourse and public consciousness. And for the most part, the analysis that the U.S. actions have resulted in the deaths of primarily civilians (over 90%) is not unknown to these elites and policy makers. A conservative number for those who have been killed by U.S. terror and military action since World War II
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is 8,000,000 people. Repeat—8,000,000 people. This does not include the wounded, the imprisoned, the displaced, the refugees, etc. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated in 1967, during the Vietnam War, “My government is the world’s leading purveyor of violence.” Shocking and horrifying. Nothing that I have written is meant to disparage or disrespect those who were victims and those who suffered death or the loss of a loved one during this week’s events. It is not meant to “justify” any action by those who bombed the Twin Towers or the Pentagon. It is meant to put it in a context. If we believe that the actions were those of “madmen,” they are “madmen” who are able to keep a secret for 2 years or more among over 100 people, as they trained to execute a complex plan. While not the acts of madmen, they are apparently the acts of “fanatics” who, depending on who they really are, can find real grievances, but whose actions are illegitimate. Osama Bin Laden at this point has been accused by the media and the government of being the mastermind of Tuesday’s bombings. Given the government’s track record on lying to the American people, that should not be accepted as fact at this time. If indeed Bin Laden is the mastermind of this action, he is responsible for the deaths of perhaps 10,000 people— a shocking and horrible crime. Ed Herman in his book The Real Terror Network: Terrorism in Fact and Propaganda does not justify any terrorism but points out that states often engage in “wholesale” terror, while those whom governments define as “terrorist” engage in “retail” terrorism. While qualitatively the results are the same for the individual victims of terrorism, there is a clear quantitative difference. And as Herman and others point out, the seeds, the roots, of much of the “retail” terror are in fact found in the “wholesale” terror of states. Again this is not to justify, in any way, the actions of last Tuesday, but to put them in a context and suggest an explanation. Perhaps most shocking and horrific, if indeed Bin Laden is the mastermind of Tuesday’s actions; he has clearly had significant training in logistics, armaments, and military training, etc. by competent and expert military personnel. And indeed he has. During the 1980s, he was recruited, trained and funded by the CIA in Afghanistan to fight against the Russians. As long as he visited his terror on Russians and his enemies in Afghanistan, he was “our man” in that country. The same is true of Saddam Hussein of Iraq, who was a CIA asset in Iraq during the 1980s. Hussein could gas his own people, repress the population, and invade his neighbor (Iran) as long as he did it with U.S. approval. The same was true of Manuel Noriega of Panama, who was a contemporary and CIA partner of George H. Bush in the 1980s. Noriega’s main crime for Bush, the father, was not that he dealt drugs (he did, but the U.S. and Bush knew this before 1989), but that Noriega was no longer going to cooperate in the ongoing U.S. terrorist contra war against Nicaragua. This information is not unknown or really controversial among elite policy makers. To repeat, this is not to justify any of the actions of last Tuesday, but to put it in its
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horrifying context. As shocking as the events of last Tuesday were, they are likely to generate even more horrific actions by the U.S. government that will add significantly to the 8,000,000 figure stated above. This response may well be qualitatively and quantitatively worse than the events of Tuesday. The New York Times headline of 9/14/01 states that, “Bush And Top Aides Proclaim Policy Of Ending States That Back Terror” as if that was a rational, measured, or even sane option. States that have been identified for possible elimination are “a number of Asian and African countries, like Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, and even Pakistan.” This is beyond shocking and horrific-it is just as potentially suicidal, homicidal, and more insane than the hijackers themselves. Also, qualitatively, these actions will be even worse that the original bombers if one accepts the mainstream premise that those involved are “madmen,” “religious fanatics,” or a “terrorist group.” If so, they are acting as either individuals or as a small group. The U.S. actions may continue the homicidal policies of a few thousand elites for the past 50 years, involving both political parties. The retail terror is that of desperate and sometimes fanatical small groups and individuals who often have legitimate grievances, but engage in individual criminal and illegitimate activities; the wholesale terror is that of “rational” educated men where the pain, suffering, and deaths of millions of people are contemplated, planned, and too often, executed, for the purpose of furthering a nebulous concept called the “national interest.” Space does not allow a full explanation of the elites’ Orwellian concept of the “national interest,” but it can be summarized as the protection and expansion of hegemony and an imperial empire. The American public is being prepared for war while being fed a continuous stream of shocking and horrific repeated images of Tuesday’s events, and heartfelt stories from the survivors and the loved ones of those who lost family members. These stories are real and should not be diminished. In fact, those who lost family members can be considered a representative sample of humanity of the 8,000,000 who have been lost previously. If we multiply by 800-1000 times the amount of pain, angst, and anger being currently felt by the American public, we might begin to understand how much of the rest of the world feels as they are continually victimized. Some particularly poignant images are the heart wrenching public stories that we are seeing and hearing of family members with pictures and flyers searching for their loved ones. These images are virtually the same as those of the “Mothers of the Disappeared” who searched for their (primarily) adult children in places such as Argentina, where over 11,000 were “disappeared” in 1976-1982, again with U.S. approval. Just as the mothers of Argentina deserved our respect and compassion, so do the relatives of those who are searching for their relatives now. However we should not allow ourselves to be manipulated by the media and U.S. government into turning real grief and anger into a national policy of
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wholesale terror and genocide against innocent civilians in Asia and Africa. What we are seeing in military terms is called “softening the target.” The target here is the American public and we are being ideologically and emotionally prepared for the slaughter that may commence soon. None of the previously identified Asian and African countries are democracies, which means that the people of these countries have virtually no impact on developing the policies of their governments, even if we assume that these governments are complicit in Tuesday’s actions. When one examines the recent history of these countries, one will find that the American government had direct and indirect influences on creating the conditions for the existence of some of these governments. This is especially true of the Taliban government of Afghanistan itself. The New York Metropolitan Area has about 21,000,000 people or about 8% of the U.S. population. Almost everyone in America knows someone who has been killed, injured or traumatized by the events of Tuesday. I know that I do. Many people are calling for “revenge” or “vengeance” and comments such as “kill them all” have been circulated on the TV, radio, and email. A few more potentially benign comments have called for “justice.” This is only potentially benign since that term may be defined by people such as Bush and Colin Powell. Powell is an unrepentant participant in the Vietnam War, the terrorist contra war against Nicaragua, and the Gulf war, at each level becoming more responsible for the planning and execution of the policies. Those affected, all of us, must do everything in our power to prevent a wider war and even greater atrocity, do everything possible to stop the genocide if it starts, and hold those responsible for their potential war crimes during and after the war. If there is a great war in 2001 and it is not catastrophic (a real possibility), the crimes of that war will be revisited upon the U.S. over the next generation. That is not some kind of religious prophecy or threat, it is merely a straightforward political analysis. If indeed it is Bin Laden, the world must not deal only with him as an individual criminal, but eliminate the conditions that create the injustices and war crimes that will inevitably lead to more of these types of attacks in the future. The phrase “No Justice, No Peace” is more than a slogan used in a march, it is an observable historical fact. It is time to end the horror. In a few short pages it is impossible to delineate all of the events described over the past week or to give a comprehensive accounting of U.S. foreign policy. Below are a few resources for up to date news and some background reading, by Noam Chomsky, the noted analyst. The titles of the books explain their relevance for this topic. For the most current information see http://www.commondreams.org/. For information on how the media distorts the news see http://www.fair.org/. For excellent links on the Middle East see http://alawda.org/newyork/links.html.

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For background reading by Noam Chomsky see: Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (with Ed Herman) Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel and the Palestinians Deterring Democracy

An American
by Peter Ferrara “There was a report that someone in Pakistan had published in a newspaper there an offer of a reward to anyone who killed an American, any American. So I just thought I would write to let them know what an American is, so they would know when they found one. An American is English… or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian or Greek. An American may also be African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Australian, Iranian, Asian, or Arab, or Pakistani, or Afghan. An American is Christian, or he could be Jewish, or Buddhist, or Muslim. In fact, there are more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan. The only difference is that in America they are free to worship as each of them choose. An American is also free to believe in no religion. For that he will answer only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God. An American is from the most prosperous land in the history of the world. The root of that prosperity can be found in the Declaration of Independence, which recognizes the Godgiven right of each man and woman to the pursuit of happiness. An American is generous. Americans have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need. When Afghanistan was overrun by the Soviet army 20 years ago, Americans came with arms and supplies to enable the people to win back their country. As of the morning of September 11, Americans had given more than any other nation to the poor in Afghanistan. An American does not have to obey the mad ravings of ignorant, ungodly cruel, old men. American men will not be fooled into giving up their lives to kill innocent people, so that these foolish old men may hold on to power. American women are free to show their beautiful faces to the world, as each of them choose. An American is free to criticize his government’s officials when they are wrong, in his or her own opinion. Then he is free to replace them, by majority vote. Americans welcome people from all lands, all cultures, all religions, because they are
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not afraid. They are not afraid that their history, their religion, their beliefs, will be overrun, or forgotten. That is because they know they are free to hold to their religion, their beliefs, their history, as each of them choose. And just as Americans welcome all, they enjoy the best that everyone has to bring, from all over the world. The best science, the best technology, the best products, the best books, the best music, the best food, the best athletes. Americans welcome the best, but they also welcome the least. The national symbol of America welcomes your tired and your poor, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, the homeless, the tempest tossed. These in fact are the people who built America. Many of them were working in the twin towers on the morning of September 11, earning a better life for their families. So you can try to kill an American if you must. Hitler did. So did General Tojo and Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung, and every bloodthirsty tyrant in the history of the world. But in doing so you would just be killing yourself. Because Americans are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, is an American. So look around you. You may find more Americans in your land than you thought there were. One day they will rise up and overthrow the old, ignorant, tired tyrants that trouble too many lands. Then those lands too will join the community of free and prosperous nations. And America will welcome them.

Speedway
by Paul Fussell The violent death of driver Gordon Smiley at Indianapolis in May, only a week after the violent death of driver Gilles Villeneuve in Belgium, started a cascade of objections to motor racing, most of them based on the assumption that human beings are rational creatures, despite evidence to the contrary pouring in at the same time from the south Atlantic. In Time, Tom Callahan deplored the whole Indy enterprise: "Some 450,000 people," he wrote, "will perch or picnic at the Speedway on Sunday. Nobody knows how many of them are ghouls spreading their blankets beside a bad intersection." This reprehension of ghoulishness was attended by four gruesome color photographs intended specifically to gratify the ghoul in all of us. At the same time. Frank Deford was setting off his anti-Indy blast in Sports Illustrated, finding the race not a sport but a mere hustling of automotive products. ("The drivers at Indy look much less like athletes than like a lot of congested billboards"). He concluded that among the spectators lurk a significant number of "barbarians." George Vecsey, in the sports pages of The New York Times, suggested that the Indy race is becoming too dangerous to be regarded as a sport. "I can see accidents," he
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said, "on the Long Island Expressway." Were these people right? Is the Indy 500 a sporting event, or is it something else? And if something else, is it evil or benign? Although the automotive industry moved to Detroit early in this century, Indianapolis is still a motor city, swarming with car washes and auto-parts stores, and the sign on the road into town from the airport, WELCOME TO INDIANAPOLIS: CROSSROADS OF AMERICA, seems to imply that you're entering a place best reached by car. Here, nobody walks. One day I walked two and a half miles along Sixteenth Street to the Speedway, and in that one hour found myself literally the only person not in an automobile. Returning a few hours later, I was still the only walker, with the exception of a man who accosted me and tried to borrow sixty-two cents. To a Northeasterner, Indianapolis seems at first to be a strangely retrograde repository of piety and patriotism. When I arrived, an editorial in the only paper in town was raising a populist voice in a call for school prayer, and a front-page box offered “today's Prayer,” just above “today's Chuckle.” After a short sojourn in Indianapolis one is no longer surprised at the imperious sign in the store window, GO TO CHURCH SUNDAY. Catholics wishing to arrive at the race very early Sunday morning, like everyone else, have their needs taken care of by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, which has ruled that they may fulfill their holy Sunday obligation "by attending Mass the evening before." Indianapolis seemed to me the sort of place where President Reagan expects no one to guffaw when he asserts that someone or something is "in my prayers." In fact, the president would love the place. Driving to the Speedway, the motorist passes a billboard advertising (of course) cars, but shouting also GOD BLESS AMERICA. At the Speedway, even at qualifying trials weeks before the race, the national anthem is played at every opportunity, and the official program offers odd, vainglorious ads like one inserted by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers: "PRIDE--Pride helped build America into the greatest nation on earth." "Naptown" is what many locals call Indianapolis, and it does seem a somnolent place. Although it's a city and not a town, it's hard not to think of the Hoosier Booth Tarkington and those long, warm, sleepy afternoons when Penrod and Sam found nothing whatever to do. As I experienced the slowness of the Indianapolis pace--every transaction seems to drag on interminably, every delay welcomed with friendly patience-- I began to wonder whether speed and danger were not celebrated there one day a year just for the sheer relief and the novelty of it, just because on all other days life was so safe and predictable and slow. But friendly as well, it must be said. An elderly man flushing the urinal next to mine at the Speedway Motel, astonished at the noisy vigor of the flush, turned to me and, although we'd not been introduced, kindly made me the audience for his observation, "Gawd, the suction on that son of a bitch! If you dropped it in there, you'd really lose it!" Ron Dorson, an
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authority on the anthropology of Indy, observes that although "in most public social settings... it is considered socially deviant for strangers to approach one another," at the Speedway things are different. There, "it becomes perfectly acceptable to engage total strangers in conversation about lap times, automotive technology Speedway management, or race-driver intrigue." There's something of pioneer individualism lingering in this friendliness, and on race Sunday, when you see the infield crowded with campers, tents. trailers, and recreational vehicles, their occupants cooking and drawing water and cajoling children and making love in the friendliest fashion, you realize what the Indy setting really is. It's an early-nineteenth-century American pioneer campsite surrounded, as if fortuitously, by an early-twentieth-century two-and-a-half-mile track. And you almost begin to wonder if it's not the camping out, that primeval American ceremony of innocence, rather than the race and its hazards, that has drawn these crowds here. I'd say the people can be divided into three social classes: the middles, who on race day tend, in homage to the checkered flag, to dress all in black and white and who sit in reserved seats: the high proles, who watch standing or lolling in the infield, especially at the turns, "where the action is"; and the uglies, the overadvertised black-leathered, beer-sodden, potheaded occupiers of that muddy stretch of ground in the infield at the first turn, known as the Snake Pit. These are the ones who, when girls pass, spiritlessly hold up signs reading SHOW US YOUR TITS. The uglies are sometimes taken to be the essence of Indy, and they are the people who, I think, Frank Deford has in mind when he speaks of "barbarians." But they are not the significant Indy audience. The middle class is, all those people arriving at the Speedway in cars bearing Purdue and Indiana State stickers. The middles are privileged to participate in an exclusive social event, the classy pit promenade. Beginning three hours before the start, anyone who can wangle a pit pass strolls slowly up and down in the space between the pits and the track proper, all dressed up and watched enviously, he imagines, by some tens of thousands of his social inferiors in the stands. On race morning in Indianapolis this is the stylish place to be, a place where one wouldn't dare show oneself unshaven or in dirty clothes. Many spandy-clean black-and-white getups are to be seen there, including trousers with two-inch black-and-white squares. Even though the social tone is compromised a bit by the presence of representatives of the press that's how I got there, the thing struck me as comparable with some of the great snob social operations of the world, like appearing in or near the royal box at Ascot or nodding to welldressed friends while strolling slowly down the Champs Elysees. But this promenade was for middle-class people. The upper-middle class is not to be found at Indy. If you're the sort of person drawn to Forest Hills, or the Test Matches at Lord's, or the Americas Cup Races in Newport, you're not likely to be seen at the Speedway. From the outset, devotees of auto racing have felt anxieties about its place on the class-status ladder. Is motor racing on a par with cockfighting and mud wrestling, or up
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there with football and perhaps even badminton? The surprise registered by an Indianapolis paper after the 1912 race speaks volumes, socially: "There has been no better-mannered gathering in Indianapolis. ... There was no pushing, no crowding, no profanity, no discourtesies." When the Chief Steward issues the portentous injunction, "Gentlemen, start your engines," we may feel that the first word insists a bit too much. Presumably, if women drivers were to become a regular feature in the Indy, the formula would have to include "Ladies and..." Janet Guthrie, who has been on the premises, and has so far been the only woman to participate (three times), says: "I think that racing's image needs all the help it can get. It has traditionally been a lowbrow image." Before being killed in the Austrian Grand Prix in 1975, Mark Donohue, who had graduated not just from college but from Brown, raced at Indy and sensed what an anomaly he was there. "I was considered different from the other drivers," he said. "I had gone to college, I was articulate, and I didn't swear a lot." The sense that racing will naturally sink proleward unless rigorously disciplined is what one takes away from a reading of the rule book promulgated by the United States Auto Club, the official supervisor of Indy racing. Cars are not to bear "undignified names," "improper language or conduct" is forbidden, and everything must be neat and clean at all times, just the way a gentleman would want it: "Appearance: cars, crews, and all pit personnel whose appearance detracts from the character of the program may be excluded." A similar aspiration to respectability seems to be partially responsible for euphemisms that abound at Indy. Just as the self-conscious middle class may remark that someone has "passed away" (sometimes "over"), the Indy public-address announcer will inform the spectators that "We have a fatality." Instead of saying there's been a terrible smash-up on the third turn, he'll say. "We have a yellow light." A car never hits the wall, it "gets into" it, or even "kisses" it, and speakers aspiring to even greater tastefulness might observe that the driver has "visited Cement City". Driver Danny Ongais, badly injured in a crash in 1981, spoke of it this year not as the crash or even the accident but as the "incident." Everywhere there is the gentleman's feeling that if you pretend something has not happened, it has not. Thus the rule prohibiting cars to add oil during a race. Adding oil would publicly acknowledge, as racing journalist Terry Reed points out, " that a car is blowing (or leaking) its original supply on the track, making the course even more hazardous." Almost immediately after Gordon Smiley's body nauseatingly stained the wall, it was repainted, white and pure. Now his tire marks on the third turn run oddly into a clean expanse of white. Actually in order to understand precisely how male Indy is, you have only to scrutinize the famous Borg-Warner trophy, awarded annually to the winner. On top is a silver male figure ten inches tall, signaling the finish of a race by vigorously deploying a checkered flag, despite the curious fact that he's stark naked and exhibiting a complete set of realistic genital organs, instead of what we might expect, a cache sexe consisting maybe of a windblown bit of fabric. There he stands, quite undraped--unlike, say, the modest figure in
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front of Rockefeller Center--proclaiming for all to see the ideal maleness toward which Indy aspires. The ideal whiteness, too. Indy, as Ron Dorson says, is "a show staged by white people for a white audience." Blacks are so rare among the spectators that you notice them specifically, and of course there are no black drivers, nor threat of any. (There was once a Jewish driver, Mauri Rose, but that's another story.) At a local cocktail party I broached the black topic as politely as I could and was told by one lady that blacks abjured the race because you had to sit for hours in the hot sun, and, as is well known, blacks can't bear to sit in the sun. Phoned for his views, the local NAACP spokesman fulminated, asserting that the situation is a scandal but that all black representations have been ineffective. Once Indy is over, and the Speedway emptied for another year, you see a lot of blacks there, working for a week to clear away the 6 million pounds of litter the crowd leaves (together with odd leftbehinds like sets of teeth and, each time, two or three cars inexplicably abandoned forever in the infield). The combined weight of the litter suggests the size of the crowd, estimated (since the Speedway does not issue a precise count) at around 400,000. And the size of the crowd suggests one other thing that's being celebrated. A name for it would be gigantism. It is the biggest of everything, "the largest single-day sporting event in the world," as local publicity says. And, as Roger Penske adds, for the drivers it's "the biggest race in the world to win"; both the purse and the publicity are the largest. There is more press coverage--over 4,000 media people are there--than of any similar event. So gigantic is the track that a spectator can see only a tiny segment of it. Thus the public-address announcer is indispensable, performing over (naturally) "the world's largest public-address system" to tell you what you're seeing. This means that every event is mediated through language: "We have a yellow light." The Indy public-address and radio announcers have always become public personages, even stars, and young Paul Page, who succeeded Sid Collins as the radio "Voice of the Indianapolis Five Hundred," is as famous there as, say, George Steinbrenner in New York. It's not just the announcing that makes Indy so curiously a language event. It's the advertising, the sight of grown men proud to be walking around in caps that say VOLVOLINE or GOODYEAR. The cars themselves, plastered with decals (CHAMPION, DIEHARD, STP), have been called, by somewhat heavy wits, "the world's fastest billboards." Officially, Indy is a celebration of "progress" in the motor-car and rubber-tire industries, a testing ground for improvements destined to make their way into your passenger car. Unofficially, it's a celebration of the charm of brand names, of their totemic power to confer distinction on those who wear, utter, or display them. You achieve vicarious power by wearing the right T-shirt or cap and thus allying yourself with successful enterprises like BUDWEISER or GATORADE. By the use of "legible clothing," as Alison Lurie calls it, you fuse your private identity with external commercial success, redeeming
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your insignificance and becoming, for the moment, somebody. Even the lucky wearers of the coveted pit passes are allowed to feel this sort of power, for the badges, not content to be merely what they are, are also little ads for CHEVROLET CAMARO. A person who couldn't read (a real "barbarian," maybe) would get very little out of Indy. Obviously there's much more going on here than is commonly imagined by the "Eastern press," and there's certainly more going on than an overpowering desire to see someone killed. There is a powerful and, in my view, benign element of ritual purgation about Indy, and the thing purged are precisely such impurities as vulgarity, greed, snobbery, and sadism. The events just preceding the race, presented always in the same order and with the same deliberate, ample tuning, are enough to hint at this ritual element. It is a Sunday morning, a time once appropriated for rituals of purgation. When I asked why the race was run on Sunday despite protests from the local Baptists about profaning the Sabbath, and the inconvenience of closed liquor stores, I was told that Monday, a holiday, was always available as a rain date. But the race seems to gravitate to Sunday for deeper reasons. If you come to understand that Indy has something more to do with Memorial Day than coincidence, you also realize that there's some evanescent ritual meaning in the event's occurring at the moment recognized as the division between spring and summer. For Dan Gerber, listening as a boy annually to the Voice of the Indianapolis Five Hundred meant-release. "It meant school was getting out and I could get sunburned and go fishing and spend three months on Lake Michigan." For me, likewise, as an adult, as far away I used to listen stretched out in the sun on that weekend, it meant school was out: university was over for that year, I'd finally turned the grades in, no more pressure, no more anxiety about treating someone unfairly until we resumed in the fall. Indy, says the man who for years has commanded the corps of 600 ushers, "is spring tonic to me." I know what he means. As with a great many contemporary experiences, the meaning of Indy is elusive because it won't fit familiar schemes of classification. The rationalist, trying to make sense of its competitive elements, concludes that news about it belongs on the sports page. But then Warner Wolf, the TV sports commentator, appalled by the destruction of Villeneuve and Smiley, argues that racing's not a sport at all and indignantly defames it as merely a thing about machines. Although there probably is a legitimate sport called "motor sport," indulged in largely by amateurs, Wolf is right in perceiving that what takes place at Indy is not a sport. The true nature of Indy is in its resemblance to other rituals in which wild, menacing, nonhuman things are tamed. I'm thinking of the rodeo and the bullfight. Subduing beasts that, unsubdued, would threaten man--that's the ritual of rodeo, and, with some additional deepening of the irrational element, of the bullfight as well. Just like at Indy, you can get hurt trying to subdue wild horses, killed trying to dominate bulls. Virility, cojones figure in each of these as the little
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silver man indicates they do at Indy. Warner Wolf is also right when he notes that Indy is a thing about machines, but it's about machines only the way rodeos would be about broncos if no men were there to break them and bullfights about toros if no toreros were there to command them. Indy enacts the ritual taming and dominating of machines, emphasizing the crucial distinction between man and machine, the one soft and vulnerable but quick with courage and resource, the other hard and threatening but cold and stupid. The cars are at Indy so that men can be shown to be capable of dominating them, and the wonder and glory of the dominators is the point. Indy is thus a great Sunday-morning proclamation of the dignity of man, and no number of discarded chicken bones or trampled beer cans can change that. Like former Sunday-morning rituals, Indy insists that people are worth being saved. Do some people, regardless, come to see drivers killed? Probably, but as irrelevant a tiny number of the sick as those who enjoy seeing a bullfight ruined by the bullfighter's being gored. If you see someone die at Indy, you are seeing that the machine has won, and that's opposed to everything the ritual is saying. A longtime student of the race, Sam Posey, seems to get the point when he addresses the pleasure spectators take in identifying themselves with the driver-tamer of the machine. When things go wrong and the crowd sees a driver killed, he says, "They are terribly shocked and extremely depressed. They wish they had not been there." What the spectator wants to see -- needs to see? --is the machine crashing, disintegrating, wheels flying off, and in the end the man springing out and waving "I'm okay," "Because that's the moment of the greatest thrill," says Posey. "That's when man has conquered the machine. The machine has bitten back, but the man jumps out laughing and therefore the spectator's dream of immortality is confirmed." Immortality: hence, value, and value much longer lasting than the value conferred on congeries of steel, aluminum, and rubber by the mere age of the machine.

Rest in Pieces
by David Owen "Rest in Pieces." one of the strangest and most weirdly fascinating persuasive essays you are ever likely to read, appeared among the regular columns at the back of Harper's magazine, among book and film reviews and travel commentary. The section in which the piece appeared was perversely titled "Appetites." My wife recently told me she intends to donate her body to science. I found the
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proposition ghoulish. even though it would relieve me (I intend to survive her) of the expense of disposal. I said that I was determined to have a more traditional send-off: a waterproof, silk-lined, air-conditioned casket priced in the sports car range, several acres of freshly cut flowers, a procession of aggrieved schoolchildren winding slowly through some public square, a tape-recorded compilation of my final reflections, and, local ordinances permitting, an eternal flame. But after a bit of research. I have come around to her point of view. Two powerful human emotions--the fear of death and the love of bargains-inexorably conflict in any serious consideration of what to do with an expired loved one. all the more so if the loved one is oneself. Most people secretly believe that thinking about death is the single surest method of shortening life expectancy. On the other hand, the appeal of the bargain intensifies when a third (though essentially unheard - of) emotion--the desire to do good for its own sake--is injected into the discussion. If after one is entirely through with it, one's body can be put to some humane or scientific use, enabling life to be preserved or knowledge to be advanced, can one in good conscience refuse? And yet, the mortal coil recoils. "No freezing in the winter. No scorching in the summer." Such are the advantages of booking space in an aboveground burial condominium, according to a flver I received not long ago. Printed across the bottom of the page was this disclaimer: "We sincerely regret if this letter should reach any home where there is illness or sorrow, as this certainly was not intended." In other words, if this information has arrived at one of the rare moments in your life when it would actually be of immediate use, please ignore it. That the funeral business is filled with smoothies, crooks, and con men has been well known since at least 1963, when Jessica Mitford published her classic exposè. The American Way of Death. Mitford's book is required reading for all mortals. Fit-A-Fut and Ko-Zee, she revealed, were the trade names of two styles of "burial footwear," the latter model described by its manufacturer as having "soft, cushioned soles and warm, luxurious slipper comfort, but true shoe smartness." The same company also sold special postmortem "pantees" and "vestees," enabling funeral directors to gouge a few extra dollars out of any family that could be dissuaded from burying a loved one in her own underwear. Twenty years later, the death industry is unchanged in almost every particular except cost. Mitford found that the average funeral bill, according to industry figures, was $708. When I visited a local mortuary to price a simple burial for a fictitious ailing aunt, the director rattled off a list of probable charges that added up to more than $5,000, flowers and cemetery plot extra. His estimate included $110 for hauling her body two blocks to his establishment and $80 for carrying it back out to the curb. Pallbearing is a union job in New York City; family members can't lay a hand on a coffin without getting a waiver from the local. ("If they drop the casket, pal," a Teamsters spokesman told me, "you're gonna be in
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trouble.") Hairdresser, $35. Allowing "Auntie" (as he once referred to her) to repose in his "chapel" for one day--something he told me was mandatory, despite the fact that I said I didn't want a memorial service and that no relatives would be dropping by -- would be $400. The largest single charge we discussed was for the casket. He used the word "minimum" as an adjective to describe virtually any model I expressed an interest in that cost less than $1,500. The single wooden coffin in his showroom was "very" minimum ($1,100). The whole genius of the funeral business is in making you believe you're buying a refrigerator or a sofa or even a car instead of a box that will be lowered into the ground and covered with dirt. Since there are no real criteria, other than price, for preferring one such box to another, you end up doing things like sticking your hands inside a few models and choosing the one with the firmest bedsprings. "Women seem to like the color coordination," my Charon said in reference to a 20-gauge steel model (I think it was called the Brittany) with a baby-blue interior. Since the women he was talking about are dead, that word "seem" is positively eerie. Cremation is becoming a fairly popular choice among people who think of themselves as smart shoppers. The funeral industry has responded to this trend by subtly discouraging its customers from considering cremation and by making sure that cremation is very nearly as expensive as burial in a box. A pamphlet called "Considerations Concerning Cremation," published by the National Funeral Directors Association, Inc., and distributed by morticians, pretends to be evenhanded but is actually intended to horrify its readers. "Operating at an extremely high temperature [a cremation oven] reduces the body to a few pounds of bone fragments and ashes in less than two hours. ... Most of the cremated remains are then placed in an urn or canister and carefully identified." This last sentence is the funeral director's equivalent of "Most newborn babies are then sent home with their proper mothers." Earth burial, in contrast, is "a gradual process of reduction to basic elements." If the funeral business dislikes cremation, it positively abhors the donation of bodies to medical schools, because in such cases the opportunities for profiteering are dramatically reduced--though not, to be sure, eliminated. There is virtually nothing you can do, short of being disintegrated by Martians in the middle of the ocean, to keep a funeral director from claiming a piece of the action when you die. Once again, a pamphlet tells the story: "... essential to avoid the possibility of disappointment... more bodies available than the maximum required... rejection is permitted by state law... you can expect your funeral director to be of assistance...." One almost wishes one could die tomorrow, the sooner to savor the pleasure of taking one's business elsewhere. Ernest W. April, associate professor of anatomy at Columbia University's College of Physicians & Surgeons, is the man in charge of superintending Columbia's supply of cadavers. Dr. April shares his office with Rufus, a huge red dog who wandered into his yard
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one day and doesn't like to be left alone. Also in Dr. April's office are some skulls, an oldfashioned radio, a human skeleton a spine, a paperback book with a picture of a skull on it, some more skulls, a few microscopes, some big bones on a shelf, and a small plastic bone on the floor (for Rufus). "Most medical students look forward to receiving their cadaver," Dr. April told me. "Once they have their cadaver they are from their point of view. in medical school. It's something tangible. There's anticipation, trepidation. In the first laboratory exercise, the students basically come up and meet the cadaver, almost as if it were a patient." As at all medical schools. Columbia's cadavers are donated. Prospective benefactors eighteen years of age and older fill out anatomical bequeathal forms and return them to the university. Hours, days, weeks, months, or years pass. "When the Time Comes," as one brochure puts it, the donor's survivors call the medical school's department of anatomy. "Within the greater metropolitan area." the brochure says. "arrangements for removal of the body can be made by the medical college. Alternatively, the family may engage a local funeral director to deliver the unembalmed body to the medical college at the address on the cover." Medical schools almost always require unembalmed bodies because ordinary cosmetic embalming, the kind sold at the funeral homes, turns skin to the consistency of old shoes and doesn't hold off deterioration for more than a few days. Medical school embalming, on the other hand, is designed for the ages. "We've had some specimens that we've kept for over twenty years," one professor told me. "It's almost like the Egyptians." Donated cadavers are stored in a refrigerated room until they're needed. Columbia has about 200 students in each class. The ideal student-cadaver ratio is four to one (which means "every two people get one of everything there's two of," a medical student explains). Contrary to what the funeral directors imply, Columbia, like many schools, has fewer bodies than it would like and so must assign five students to each. Ratios as high as eight to one are not unheard of. If the donor consents beforehand, a cadaver bequeathed to one institution may be transferred to another with greater need. New Jersey, for some reason, attracts almost as many cadavers as it does medical students and occasionally ships extras to New York. (That's extra cadavers, not extra medical students.) People who don't like the idea of being dissected by students at all can specify on their bequeathal forms that their bodies are to be used only for research. "If a person donates his remains for biomedical education and research," Dr. April says, "there's a moral obligation on our part to utilize the body on this premises if at all possible, and only for that purpose. The only exception is that we occasionally do make material that has been dissected available to art students because, going back to the time of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, and Michelangelo, artists have had a real need to know and understand anatomy." Subscribers to public television, among others, should find this prospect irresistible: a chance to benefit science and the arts.
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When Columbia's anatomy courses end, the cadavers are individually cremated and buried in a cemetery plot the university owns. All of this is done at the university's expense. (In comparison with funeral home rates, the cost of picking up, embalming, storing, cremating, and burying each cadaver is estimated by medical school officials at about $400.) If the family desires, the uncremated remains can be returned at the end of the course, as long as the family asks beforehand and agrees to cover any extra costs. Nearly all medical schools operate donation programs much like Columbia's. All you have to do is call up the anatomy department at the nearest medical school and ask what the procedure is. A group called the Associated Medical Schools of New York, based at Manhattan's Bellevue Hospital, oversees donations to a dozen or so institutions around the state, including the New York College of Podiatric Medicine and the New York University School of Dentistry. You might think that a podiatry school and a dental school could happily share cadavers, but no school will take less than a whole body. I sent away for donation information from dozens of medical schools and state anatomical boards. Studying the resulting avalanche of brochures has given me more than a week of intense reading pleasure, making me feel at times like a young girl poring over brides' magazines in hopes of discovering the perfect honeymoon. Comparison-shopping for a place to send one's corpse, like all consumer activities, quickly becomes a joy independent of its actual object. There are many factors to consider. For example, I knew an elderly man who pledged his body to Harvard. When he died last year, his wife contacted a local funeral home to make the arrangements and was told that it would cost about $1,000 above and beyond the standard fee paid by Harvard. When the widow properly balked (all they had to do was drive the corpse fifty miles), the mortician supplied an eight-page letter justifying his charge. Among other problems, he wrote, was "the possibility that a body may be rejected by the Medical School." This conjures up unwanted images of admissions committees, and obliquely suggests that if my friend had aimed a little lower in the first place, the problem might never have arisen. Medical schools do reserve the right not to honor pledges. All schools turn down bodies that have been severely burned, for obvious reasons. Other requirements vary. Pennsylvania rejects bodies that are "recently operated on, autopsied, decomposed, obese, emaciated, amputated, infectious, mutilated or otherwise unfit." Contagious diseases are particularly worrisome; anatomists keep a careful watch for Jakob-Creutzfeldt disease, a slow-acting virus that kills not only the occasional medical student but also cannibals who dine on the brains of their victims. All schools, as far as I can tell, accept bodies from which the eyes and thin strips of skin have been removed for transplantation. Removal of major organs, however, is almost always unacceptable, which means that organ donors (see below) generally can't also be cadaver donors. The state of Pennsylvania is more lenient in this regard. Most other schools want their cadavers intact, although the University of Kansas will
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accept bodies from which no more than "one extremity has been amputated." Stanford's brochure is full of high-sentence and King Jamesian resonances, the sort of prose selective colleges use to dishearten the hoi polloi. One section lists five grounds for rejection each beginning with the phrase "The Division of Human Anatomy will not accept ..." One thing the Division of Human Anatomy will not stand for is "the body of a person who died during major surgery," which sounds like the medical equivalent of refusing to cross a picket line. The section concludes, "In summary, the Division of Human Anatomy reserves the right to refuse any body which is, in the opinion of the Division. unfit for its use." "Chances are, you have a long and healthy life to live. But a lot of other people don't ... " This strangely comforting thought comes from a pamphlet called "The Gift of Life." published by a Cleveland outfit called Organ Recovery, Inc. Since there's usually no way to tell whether your organs or your whole body will be more useful until When the Time Comes, the wisest course is to promise everything to everyone and leave it to the experts to sort things out later. Organ donation has been given a lot of publicity in recent years. Drivers licenses in most states now have tiny organ-pledge forms on the back. These forms don't have much legal meaning. At New York's Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, for instance, no one will remove an organ (or cart away a cadaver to a medical school) unless the next of kin give their consent. You could die with an organ-donor card in every pocket, and another one pasted on your forehead, and still no one would touch you if your current or separated but not divorced spouse, son or daughter twenty-one years of age or older, parent, brother or sister twenty-one years of age or older, said no. Prince Charles carries a donor card; but if he dropped dead (God save the King) at Presbyterian, someone would have to get permission from Lady Di before removing anything. If you want to be an organ donor, carrying a card is much less important than making sure your relatives know your wishes. No matter how thorough you are about clearing the way, however, the chances are slim that your heart, liver, kidneys, or lungs will ever be transplanted into somebody else. Only about one percent of all the people who die are potential kidney donors, for instance, and kidneys are actually removed from only one in five of these. The reason is that a suitable organ donor is that rarest of individuals, a person in marvelous health who is also, somehow, dead. Major organs for transplantation have to be removed while the donors' hearts are still beating, which means that all major - organ donors are brain-dead hospital patients on artificial respiration. The ideal donor is a young man who has played a game of basketball run a few miles, and then had a safe dropped on his head. Many people say they can't stand the thought of being dissected; much better, they say, to be fussed over by a funeral director and eased into a concrete vault, there to slumber intact until awakened by choirs of angels. But death is death, and every body, whether lying
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on a dissection table, baking in a crematorium, or "reposing" in a $10,000 casket, undergoes a transformation that doesn't lend itself to happy contemplation. In terms of sheer physical preservation, a medical school cadaver is vastly more enduring than the recipient of even the costliest ministrations of a funeral director. No casket ever prevented anyone from following the road that Robert Graves described in Goodbye to All That: "The colour of the faces changed from white to yellow-grey, to red, to purple, to green, to black, to slimy." The transformation takes hours, days. Morticians sew corpses' lips together, bringing the needle out through a nostril. Lips are pinned to gums. Eyes are covered with plastic patches, then cemented shut. Orifices are plugged. To prevent loved ones from belching, howling, or worse as the accumulating gases of deterioration escape through any and all available exits, funeral home employees press hard on the abdomen immediately before and after family "viewings." Makeup is slathered on. Abdomens are drained. Leaks are patched. Unsightly lumps and bulges are trimmed away. The trouble with death is that all the alternatives are bleak. It isn't really dissection that appalls; it's mortality. It may be gross to be dissected, but it's no less gross to be burned or buried. There just isn't anything you can do to make being dead seem pleasant and appealing. And barring some great medical breakthrough involving interferon, every single one of us is going to die. We should all swallow hard and face the facts and do what's best for the people who will follow us. Which is why you would think that doctors, who spend their entire lives swallowing hard and facing facts, would be the eagerest anatomical donors of all. But they are not. Of all the people I interviewed for this article--including several heads of anatomical donation programs, a number of medical students, physicians, even the chief medical examiner of New York--only one of them, Ernest W. April, had pledged any part of his body to scientific study or transplantation. And April is a Ph. D., not an M.D. "I don't know of any medical student who is going to give his body," a medical student told me. Do doctors know something? Does it, maybe, hurt? Of course not. Every profession lives in secret horror of its own methods. Most reporters I know can't stand the idea of being interviewed. But society would crumble if we weren't occasionally better than those who believe themselves to be our betters. Morbid humor at their expense is one thing future cadavers worry about. Medical schools are aware of this and take great pains to keep jokes to a minimum. Still. a certain amount of horsing around is inevitable. Michael Meyers, the man who played Ali McGraw's brother in Goodbye, Columbus and went on to become a physician, described some dissection hijinks in a book called Goodbye Columbus, Hello Medicine. "By the second week of gross anatomy." Meyers wrote, "it was interesting to notice which members of the class really rolled up their sleeves and dug in (no pun intended--although one group of
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students did nickname their cadaver `Ernest,' so they could always say they were `digging in Ernest')..." and so on and so on. This is a level of comedy that I do not, to be perfectly frank, find intimidating. And a cadaver donor who wanted to have the last laugh could arrange to have an obscene or hilarious message ("Socialized Medicine/") tattooed across his chest. Beat them to the punchline. Humorous tattoos don't seem to be grounds for rejection, even at Stanford. As for dissection itself, it's about what you would expect. "You work through the text," says a young woman just beginning her residency, "and by Halloween you've gotten to the hands. Well, we had a girl in our group who wanted to be a surgeon, and she did the most amazing thing. She dissected off the skin in one piece. It was like a glove. It was beautiful. And then there was mine. It looked like someone had been cracking walnuts. Little flecks, you know? And then this graduate student comes up and says, `Have you found the recurrent branch of the medial nerve?' And I start looking through my pile..." A first dissection, like a sexual initiation, is likely to be a botched job: long on theory and good intentions, short on practical knowhow. Results improve with practice, but early impressions linger. No wonder medical students don't like the idea of being dissected. For many of them, anatomy class is their first real experience of death. Maybe it's a good thing if physicians develop, right from the beginning, an overpowering abhorrence of cadavers. We are all better served if our physicians devote their energies to keeping us from turning into the things they hated to dissect in medical school. Anatomy classes, in a sense, trick gradegrubbing premeds into developing something like a reverence for human life. Donating one's body is an act of courage, but it's not a martyrdom. Medical students may not immediately comprehend the magnitude of the gift, but so what? I confess I sort of like the idea of one day inhabiting the nightmares of some as yet (I hope) unborn medical student. And if my contribution means that my neighborhood mortician will go to bed hungry, shuffling off to his drafty garret in the Fit-A-Fut coffin shoes I decided not to buy, then so much the better. Dying well is the best revenge.

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Do not Read This!
Inscribe on a wall at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York. better known as the morgue, are the words TACEANT COLLOQUIA EFFUGIAT RISUS HIC LOCUS EST UBI MORS GAUDET SUCCERERE VITA. I make this out as. "If you have any sense at all, you won't go downstairs and look at the bodies." But my Latin is weak and my curiosity is strong and I went down anyway. I peered into an autopsy room through a tiny window in the door and came to the conclusion that death is a condition suffered by many young black men, a few old white men, and no women at all. After I had seen much more than enough, my guide took me upstairs to the true object of my visit: Room 601, the morgue museum. In planning the disposal of your body, don't overlook this little-known option. The morgue museum is not one of New York's better-known attractions. Indeed, it is usually open only to medical students, police academy cadets, and other aspirants to professions that require a solid grounding in morbidity. I was just a humble tourist, but they let me in anyway. The morgue museum is the Helmsley Palace of final resting places, an elite repository of the bizarre whose requirements for admission are strict but exactly opposite to those of the anatomical donation programs. If you leave a pretty corpse. you don't stand a chance of ending up here. But if you play your cards right--or wrong. I suppose--some extremely interesting part of you could conceivably be immortalized in an institution that, though it isn't the Louvre, is at any rate the most creative waste of taxpayers money I've ever encountered. The museum's collection is not quite up to date, modern life being what it is, and families being hesitant to put their loved ones on display. But there is still plenty to look at including. A scorched bathtub in which a great many people were incinerated by someone; empty cans of inflammable liquids; a helpful display identifying several hundred charred bone fragments belonging to the victims. The blocked esophagus of a young boy who defeated his brother in a contest to see which of them could swallow the largest unchewed piece of meat. A number of broken safety harnesses worn by window washers who fell to their deaths. The fetus of a cyclops with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. Part of the skull of someone who committed suicide by stabbing himself in the head with a pair of scissors; the entry would is clearly visible along with evidence of several halfhearted attempts; the scissors. Some tattoos, in a jar. The private portions of sex-crime victims. A pillow through which bullets were fired in the murder of someone.
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A barbell that fell from an eighth - floor apartment window onto a pedestrian's head, killing him. A photograph of a man who died after sitting on a broken drinking glass; the glass he sat on, still stained with blood. A bra and girdle worn by a transvestite suicide at the time of his death. An eight-pound heart that belonged to a man who used to complain of chest pains. A scalp. The false eyelashes of a dead transvestite; the curling iron used to groom them. A postcard-sized color photograph of a fifty-eight-year -old Filipino man who had an enormous, deformed, parasitic human fetus growing out of his back; he refused an operation to remove it. Various mummified infants. An incomprehensible but apparently ribald cartoon about the autopsy of a beautiful young woman. The silicone inserts of a dead transsexual. The face of an air-crash victim, literally blown off in the explosion. A book belonging to an air-crash victim, with the victim's nose bone embedded in it. A piece of skin with shark bites on it. A sign (not an exhibit) promoting the sale of a book called Where Death Delights ($12.50). Some charred fingertips. A window gate attached to a 700-volt transformer, used by an apartment dweller to protect his domain; the shoe of a burglar who tried to enter the window, was electrocuted, and hung upside down in the building's air shaft for several hours until he was discovered; photographs from his autopsy. A large photograph of a dead man slumped on a bed with a bullet wound in his head. On a windowsill above the bed is a sign that says, "STOP WORRYING You'll Never Get Out of This World Alive."

Florence from Neither Here Nor There
by Bill Bryson, 1997 I went on the world’s slowest train to Florence. It limped across the landscape like a runner with a pulled muscle, and it had no buffet. At first it was crowded, but as afternoon gave way to evening and evening merged into the inkiness of night, there were fewer and
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fewer of us left, until eventually it was a businessman buried in paperwork and a guy who looked as if he was on his way to an Igor look-alike competition and me. Every two or three miles the train stopped at some darkened station where no train had stopped for weeks, where grass grew on the platforms and where no one got on and no one got off. Sometimes the train would come to a halt in the middle of nowhere, in the black countryside, and just sit. It would sit for so long that you began to wonder if the driver had gone off into the surrounding fields for a pee and fallen down a well. After a time the train would roll backwards for perhaps thirty yards, then stop and sit again. Then suddenly, with a mightly whoomp that made the carriage rock and the windows sound as if they were about to implode, a train on the parallel line would fly past. Bright lights would flash by – you could see people in there dining and playing cards, having a wonderful time, moving across Europe at the speed of a laser – and then all would be silence again and we would sit for another eternity before our train gathered the energy to creep onwards to the next desolate station. It was well after eleven when we reached Florence. I was starving and weary and felt that I deserved any luxury that came my way. I saw with alarm, but not exactly surprise, that the restaurants around the station were all closed. One snack bar was still lighted and I hastened to it, dreaming of a pizza the size of a dustbin lid, drowning in mushrooms and salami and olive oil, but the proprietor was just locking up as I reached the door. Dejected, I went to the first hotel I came to, a modern concrete box half a block away. I could tell from the outside that it was going to be expensive, and it contravened all my principles to patronize a hotel of such exquisite ugliness, especially in a city as historic as Florence, but I was tired and hungry and in serious need of a pee and a face-wash and my principles were just tapped out. The receptionist quoted me some ludicrous figure for a single room, but I accepted with a surrendering wave and was shown to my room by a 112-year-old porter who escorted me into the world’s slowest lift and from whom I learned, during the course of our two-day ascent to the fifth floor, that t he dining-room was closed and there was no room service – he said this with a certain smack of pride – but that the bar would be open for another thirtyfive minutes and I might be able to get some small snackstuff there. He waggled his fingers cheerfully to indicate that this was by no means a certainty. I was desperate for a pee and to get to the bar before it shut, but the porter was one of those who feel they have to show you everything in the room and required me to follow him around while he demonstrated the shower and television and showed me where the cupboard was. ‘Thank you, I would never have found that cupboard without you,’ I said, pressing thousand-lire notes into his pocket and more or less bundling him out the door. I don't like to be rude, but I felt as if I were holding back the Hoover Dam. Five more seconds and it would have been like trying to deal with a dropped fire hose. As it was I only barely made it, but oh my, the relief. I washed my face, grabbed a book and hastened to the lift. I could
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hear it still descending. I pushed the Down button and looked at my watch. Things weren’t too bad. I still had twenty-five minutes till the bar closed, time enough for a beer and whatever snacks they could offer. I pushed the button again and passed the time by humming the Waiting for an Elevator Song, puffing my cheeks for the heck of it and looking speculatively at my neck in the hallway mirror. Still the elevator didn’t come. I decided to take the fire stairs. I bounded down them two at a time, the whole of my existence dedicated to the idea of a beer and a sandwich, and at the bottom found a padlocked door and a sign in Italian that said IF THERE IS EVER A FIRE HERE, THIS IS WHERE THE BODIES WILL PILE UP. Without pause, I bounded back up to the first floor. The door there was locked, too. Through a tiny window I could see the bar, dark and cosy and still full of people. Somebody was playing a piano. What’s more, there were little bowls of peanuts and pistachios on each table. I’d settle for that! I tapped on the door and scraped it with my fingernails, but nobody could hear me, so I bounded up to the second floor and the door there was unlocked, thank goodness. I went straight to the lift and jabbed the Down button. An instant later the Up light dinged on and the doors slid open to reveal three Japanese men in identical blue suits. I indicated to them, as best I could in my breathless state, that they were going the wrong direction for me and that my reluctance to join them had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor or anything like that. We exchanged little bows and the door closed. I pushed the Down button again and immediately the doors popped open to reveal the Japanese men. This was repeated four times until it dawned on me that I was somehow cancelling out their instructions to ascend, so I stood back and let them go away. I waited a full two minutes; caught my breath, counted my remaining traveller’s cheques, hummed the Elevator Song, glanced at my watch – ten minutes till closing! – and pushed the Down button. Immediately the doors opened to reveal the Japanese men still standing there. Impulsively I jumped in with them. I don’t know if it was the extra weight that kick-started it or what but we began to rise, at the usual speed of about one foot every thirty seconds. The lift was tiny. We were close enough together to be arrested in some countries and as I was facing them, all but rubbing noses, I felt compelled to utter some pleasantry. ‘Businessmen?’ I asked. One of them gave a small, meaningless bow from the shoulders. ‘In Italy on business?’ I elaborated. It was a stupid question. How many people go on holiday in blue suits? The Japanese man bowed again and I realized he had no idea what I was saying. ‘Do you speak English?’ ‘Ahhhr… no,’ said the second man, as if not certain, swaying just a tiny bit, and it dawned on me that they were all extremely drunk. I looked at the third man and he bowed before I could say anything.
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‘You guys been to the bar?’ A small uncomprehending bow. I was rather beginning to enjoy this one-way conversation. ‘You look like you’ve had a few, if you don’t mind me saying so. Hope nobody’s going to be sick!’ I added jauntily. The elevator crept on and eventually thudded to a halt. ‘Well, here we are, gentlemen, eighth floor. Alight here for all stations to Iwo Jima.’ They turned to me in the hallway and said simultaneously, ‘Buon giorno.’ ‘And a very buon giorno to you,’ I riposted, jabbing button number one anxiously. I got to the bar two minutes before it shut, though in fact it was effectively shut already. An over-zealous waiter had gathered up all the little dishes of nuts and the pianist was nowhere to be seen. It didn’t really matter because they didn’t serve snacks there anyway. I returned to my room, rummaged in the mini-bar and found two tiny foil bags containing about fourteen peanuts each. I searched again, but this was the only food among the many bottles of soft drinks and intoxicants. As I stood eating the peanuts one at a time, to make the pleasure last, I idly looked at the mini-bar tariff card and discovered that this pathetic little snack was costing me $4.80. Or at least it would have if I’d been foolish enough to tell anyone about it.

To K – Mart from A Walk in the Woods
by Bill Bryson, 1997 Now here’s a thought to consider. Every twenty minutes on the Appalachian Trail, Katz and I walked further than the average American walks in a week. For 93 per cent of all trips outside the home, for whatever distance or whatever purpose, Americans now get in a car. That’s ridiculous. When we moved to the States one of the things we wanted was to live in a town, where we could walk to the shops and post office and library. We found such a place in Hanover, New Hampshire. It’s a small, pleasant college town, with a big green, leafy residential streets, an old-fashioned main street. Nearly everyone in town is within an easy level walk of the centre, and yet almost no-one walks anywhere ever for anything. I have a neighbour who drives 800 yards to work. I know another – a perfectly fit woman – who will drive 100 yards to pick up her child from a friend’s house. When school lets out here, virtually every child (except for four bitching kids with English accents) gets picked up and driven from a few hundred yards to three-quarters of a mile home. (Those who live further away get a bus.) Most of the children sixteen years or older have their own cars. That’s ridiculous, too. On average the total walking of an American these days – that’s walking of all types: from car to office, from office to car, round the supermarket and shopping malls –
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adds up to 1.4 miles a week, barely 350 yards a day. At least in Hanover we can walk. In many places in America now, it is not actually possible to be a pedestrian, even if you want to be. I had this brought home to me the next day in Waynesboro, after we had got a room and treated ourselves to an extravagant late breakfast. I left Katz at a launderette (he loved doing laundry, for some reason – loved to read the tattered magazines and experience the miracle of stiff, disgusting clothes emerging from big machines fluffed and sweet-smelling) and set off to find some insect repellent for us. Waynesboro had a traditional, vaguely pleasant central business district covering five or six square blocks, but, as so often these days, most retail businesses had moved out to shopping centres on the periphery, leaving little but a sprinkling of banks, insurance offices and dusty thrift stores or secondhand shops in what presumably was once a thriving downtown. Lots of shops were dark and bare, and there was nowhere I could find to get insect repellent, but a man outside the post office suggested I try K-mart. ‘Where’s your car?’ he said, preparatory to giving directions. ‘I don’t have a car.’ That stopped him. ‘Really? It’s over a mile, I’m afraid.’ ‘That’s OK.’ He gave his head a little dubious shake, as if disowning responsibility for what he was about to tell me. ‘Well, then what you want to do is go up Broad Street, take a right at the Burger King and keep on going. But, you know, when I think about it, it’s well over a mile – maybe a mile and a half, mile and three-quarters. You walking back as well?’ ‘Yeah.’ Another shake. ‘Long way.’ ‘I’ll take emergency provisions.’ If he realized this was a joke he didn’t show it. ‘Well, good luck to you,’ he said. ‘Thank you.’ ‘You know, there’s a cab company around the corner,’ he offered helpfully as an afterthought. ‘I actually prefer to walk,’ I explained. He nodded uncertainly. ‘Well, good luck to you,’ he said again. So I walked. It was a warm afternoon, and it felt wonderful – you can’t believe how wonderful – to be at large without a pack, bouncy and unburdened. With a pack you walk at a tilt, hunched and pressed forward, your eyes on the ground. You trudge; it is all you can do. Without, you are liberated. You walk erect. You look around. You spring. You saunter. You amble. Or at least you do for four blocks. Then you come to a mad junction at Burger King and discover that the new six-lane road to K-mart is long, straight, very busy and entirely without facilities for pedestrians – no sidewalks, no zebra crossings, no central refuges, no
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buttons to push for a WALK signal at lively intersections. I walked through gas station and motel forecourts, across restaurant car parks, clambered over concrete barriers, crossed lawns, and pushed through neglected ranks of privet or honeysuckle at property boundaries. At bridges over creeks and culverts – and goodness me how developers love a culvert – I had no choice but to walk on the road, pressed against the dusty railings and causing less attentive cars to swerve to avoid me. Four times I was honked at for having the temerity to proceed through town without benefit of metal. One bridge was so patently dangerous that I hesitated at it. The creek it crossed was only a reedy trickle, narrow enough to step across, so I decided to go that way. I slid and scampered down the bank, found myself in a hidden zone of sucking grey mud, pitched over twice, hauled myself up the other side, pitched over again, and emerged at length streaked and speckled with mud and extravagantly decorated with burrs. When I finally reached the K-mart Plaza I discovered that I was on the wrong side of the road and had to dash through six lanes of hostile traffic. By the time I crossed the car park and stepped into the air conditioned, Muzak-happy world of K-mart I was as grubby as if I had been on the trail and trembling all over. The K-mart, it turned out, didn’t stock insect repellent.

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Planet Reagan by William Rivers Pitt
Ronald Reagan is dead now, and everyone is being nice to him. In every aspect, this is appropriate. He was a husband and a father, a beloved member of a family, and he will be missed by those he was close to. His death was long, slow and agonizing because of the Alzheimer’s Disease which ruined him, one drop of lucidity at a time. My grandmother died ten years ago almost to the day because of this disease, and this disease took ten years to do its dirty, filthy, wretched work on her. The dignity and candor of Reagan’s farewell letter to the American people was as magnificent a departure from public life has any that as been seen in our history, but the ugly truth of his illness was that he lived on, and on, and on. His family and friends watched as he faded from the world of the real, as the simple dignity afforded to all life collapsed like loose sand behind his ever more vacant eyes. Only those who have seen Alzheimer’s Disease invade a mind can know the truth of this. It is a cursed way to die. In this mourning space, however, there must be room made for the truth. Writer Edward Abbey once said, “The sneakiest form of literary subtlety, in a corrupt society, is to speak the plain truth. The critics will not understand you; the public will not believe you; your fellow writers will shake their heads.” The truth is straightforward: Virtually every significant problem facing the American people today can be traced back to the policies and people that came from the Reagan administration. It is a laundry list of ills, woes and disasters that has all of us, once again, staring apocalypse in the eye. How can this be? The television says Ronald Reagan was one of the most beloved Presidents of the 20th century. He won two national elections, the second by a margin so overwhelming that all future landslides will be judged by the high-water mark he achieved against Walter Mondale. How can a man so universally respected have played a hand in the evils which corrupt our days? The answer lies in the reality of the corrupt society Abbey spoke of. Our corruption is the absolute triumph of image over reality, of flash over substance, of the pervasive need within most Americans to believe in a happy-face version of the nation they call home, and to spurn the reality of our estate as unpatriotic. Ronald Reagan was, and will always be, the undisputed heavyweight champion of salesmen in this regard. Reagan was able, by virtue of his towering talents in this arena, to sell to the American people a flood of poisonous policies. He made Americans feel good about acting against their own best interests. He sold the American people a lemon, and they drive it to this day as if it was a Cadillac. It isn’t the lies that kill us, but the myths, and Ronald Reagan was the greatest myth-maker we are ever likely to see. Mainstream media journalism today is a shameful joke because of Reagan’s deregulation policies. Once upon a time, the Fairness Doctrine ensured that the information we receive – information vital to the ability of the people to govern in the manner intended – came from a wide variety of sources and perspectives. Reagan’s policies annihilated the Fairness Doctrine, opening the door for a few mega-corporations to gather journalism unto themselves. Today, Reagan’s old bosses at General Electric own three of the mostwatched news channels. This company profits from every war we fight, but somehow is trusted to tell the truths of war. Thus, the myths are sold to us. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat are all tainted because Reagan battered down every environmental regulation he came across so corporations could improve their bottom line. Our leaders are wholly-owned subsidiaries of the corporations that were made all-powerful by Reagan’s deregulation craze. The Savings and Loan scandal of Reagan’s time, which cost the American people hundreds of billions of dollars, is but one example of Reagan’s decision that the foxes would be fine guards in the
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henhouse. Ronald Reagan believed in small government, despite the fact that he grew government massively during his time. Social programs which protected the weakest of our citizens were gutted by Reagan’s policies, delivering millions into despair. Reagan was able to do this by caricaturing the “welfare queen,” who punched out babies by the barnload, who drove the flashy car bought with your tax dollars, who refused to work because she didn’t have to. This was a vicious, racist lie, one result of which was the decimation of a generation by crack cocaine. The urban poor were left to rot because Ronald Reagan believed in ‘self-sufficiency.’ Because Ronald Reagan could not be bothered to fund research into ‘gay cancer,’ the AIDS virus was allowed to carve out a comfortable home in America. The aftershocks from this callous disregard for people whose homosexuality was deemed evil by religious conservatives cannot be overstated. Beyond the graves of those who died from a disease which was allowed to burn unchecked, there are generations of Americans today living with the subconscious idea that sex equals death. The veneer of honor and respect painted across the legacy of Ronald Reagan is itself a myth of biblical proportions. The coverage proffered today of the Reagan legacy seldom mentions impropriety until the Iran/Contra scandal appears on the administration timeline. This sin of omission is vast. By the end of his term in office, some 138 Reagan administration officials had been convicted, indicted or investigated for misconduct and/or criminal activities. Some of the names on this disgraceful roll-call: Oliver North, John Poindexter, Richard Secord, Casper Weinberger, Elliott Abrams, Robert C. Mcfarlane, Michael Deaver, E. Bob Wallach, James Watt, Alan D. Fiers, Clair George, Duane R. Clarridge, Anne Gorscuh Burford, Rita Lavelle, Richard Allen, Richard Beggs, Guy Flake, Louis Glutfrida, Edwin Gray, Max Hugel, Carlos Campbell, John Fedders, Arthur Hayes, J. Lynn Helms, Marjory Mecklenburg, Robert Nimmo, J. William Petro, Thomas C. Reed, Emanuel Savas, Charles Wick. Many of these names are lost to history, but more than a few of them are still with us today, ‘rehabilitated’ by the administration of George W. Bush. Ronald Reagan actively supported the regimes of the worst people ever to walk the earth. Names like Marcos, Duarte, Rios Mont and Duvalier reek of blood and corruption, yet were embraced by the Reagan administration with passionate intensity. The ground of many nations is salted with the bones of those murdered by brutal rulers who called Reagan a friend. Who can forget his support of those in South Africa who believed apartheid was the proper way to run a civilized society? One dictator in particular looms large across our landscape. Saddam Hussein was a creation of Ronald Reagan. The Reagan administration supported the Hussein regime despite his incredible record of atrocity. The Reagan administration gave Hussein intelligence information which helped the Iraqi military use their chemical weapons on the battlefield against Iran to great effect. The deadly bacterial agents sent to Iraq during the Reagan administration are a laundry list of horrors. The Reagan administration sent an emissary named Donald Rumsfeld to Iraq to shake Saddam Hussein’s hand and assure him that, despite public American condemnation of the use of those chemical weapons, the Reagan administration still considered him a welcome friend and ally. This happened while the Reagan administration was selling weapons to Iran, a nation notorious for its support of international terrorism, in secret and in violation of scores of laws. Another name on Ronald Reagan’s roll call is that of Osama bin Laden. The Reagan administration believed it a bully idea to organize an army of Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet Union. bin Laden became the spiritual leader of this action. Throughout the entirety of Reagan’s term, bin Laden and his people were armed, funded and trained by the United States. Reagan helped teach Osama bin Laden the lesson he lives by today, that it is possible to bring a superpower to its knees. bin Laden believes
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this because he has done it once before, thanks to the dedicated help of Ronald Reagan. In 1998, two American embassies in Africa were blasted into rubble by Osama bin Laden, who used the Semtex sent to Afghanistan by the Reagan administration to do the job. In 2001, Osama bin Laden thrust a dagger into the heart of the United States, using men who became skilled at the art of terrorism with the help of Ronald Reagan. Today, there are 827 American soldiers and over 10,000 civilians who have died in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, a war that came to be because Reagan helped manufacture both Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. How much of this can be truthfully laid at the feet of Ronald Reagan? It depends on who you ask. Those who worship Reagan see him as the man in charge, the man who defeated Soviet communism, the man whose vision and charisma made Americans feel good about themselves after Vietnam and the malaise of the 1970s. Those who despise Reagan see him as nothing more than a pitch-man for corporate raiders, the man who allowed greed to become a virtue, the man who smiled vapidly while allowing his officials to run the government for him. In the final analysis, however, the legacy of Ronald Reagan – whether he had an active hand in its formulation, or was merely along for the ride – is beyond dispute. His famous question, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” is easy to answer. We are not better off than we were four years ago, or eight years ago, or twelve, or twenty. We are a badly damaged state, ruled today by a man who subsists off Reagan’s most corrosive final gift to us all: It is the image that matters, and be damned to the truth.

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