Friday night lights

My advanced-communications students have their final exam tonight – a Friday night! I made the exam short and, if not sweet, at least not sour. I have not met these students in person before; I taught this course online for the first time this semester; it will be good to see their faces.

It will be good just to go outside in the sunshine. For almost three weeks I’ve been holed up at home, nursing an abscess in my jaw and whining about it insufferably. (If you complain about the same thing at least three times in the same hour, you are no longer complaining; you are *whining*. My personal definition.) The jaw feels a bit better today and, as I said, there is sunshine out there.

Poem

There is a sweetness in your eyes / that makes me want to give up gambling and yoga – the opening lines of “RENOUNCE,” by Jonathan Mayhew, part of his erudite and entertaining “bad poems” series.

Scott Brown

Scott-Brown-1100x733

He really was one of the best.

Don Rickles

No one has ever made me laugh so hard.

Sharing a friend

Sharing a friend demands profound courtesy. Enough so that it never shows, or rarely.

Self-driving cars

Almost nothing is more personal, in the modern world, than the choices one makes while driving. People hardly recognize how often they improvise behind the wheel, how tickled they are by banners at Target, or by memories fortified driving toward some surprising point.

Saying something nice

This New York Times feature on former Commentary magazine editor Norman Podhoretz reminded me of much I loathed this man back in my English Major undergraduate days at the University of Buffalo. In his essay “The Know-Nothing Bohemians,” Podhoretz had written of my literary heroes Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg that their “worship of primitivism and spontaneity is more than a cover for hostility to intelligence; it arises from a pathetic poverty of feeling as well.”

Indeed, he wrote, they and their friends in the so-called Beat Generation wished to “kill the intellectuals who can talk coherently, kill the people who can sit still for five minutes at a time, kill those incomprehensible characters who are capable of getting seriously involved with a woman, a job, a cause.” What a prick.

I was surprised – dismayed, really – at how the years had changed my opinion of this now very old man. I was a long-time professional editor looking at him as an editor, not a young writer looking at him as some literary critic. Here was a man who attracted a very large roster of superb authors to his magazine. It is hard for me to name an equal from his generation. As an editor with most of his career as one behind him, I now find his achievement astonishing.

My comment for the New York Times: “Norman Podhoretz was a very fine editor indeed if judged by the cast of writers he attracted to the pages of Commentary. It seems even by his own accounting, though, that he was far less successful as a friend.” This measured tone might have nauseated me in my youth.