Thursday, April 23, 2009


Photo from the official web site of the author (cited below).

If you know me – even moderately well – you know I love to write…

by Charlie Leck

Oh, how I love to write and how fortunate I am to be in a situation where I can spend all the rest of my days writing and that’s what I fully intend to do. Readership? Forget the question. It honestly doesn’t matter. What matters to me is that I put words down on paper as well as I possibly can.

I read a wonderful account this week of writers who are productive in their elderly years. One of my favorites, Gabriel García Márquez, introduced to me by one of our children, continues to write for hours each day even at the age of 82. Why he was asked? Essentially, his answer was that he wants to.

I’ve found I can’t really write each day, however, unless I read each day. Reading is nutritional. It provides the energy and fuel that allows me to write.

I am very drawn to satire – not comedic satire, mind you, but real, honest, biting and witty satire. I'd like to write good satire. A friend of mine told me to forget it.

“Satire,” he told me, “requires subtly. You are about as subtle as an anvil dropped on a blacksmith’s foot.”

I guess he’s correct.

I read a wonderfully satirical piece this week in the New York Times – in the Education Life section – by Walter Kirn. I’m sure it was satirical. Gosh, I hope it was.

“I could never go back there (Minnesota) now. It bothered me that I’d ever even lived there, knowing that people here on the great coast (people like me – the new emerging me) had been laughing at us all along. But what troubled me more was the dawning realization that had I not reached Princeton, I might never have discovered this; I might have stayed a rube forever.”
That’s I. I’m a Minnesota rube. I’m the guy the little bastards back at Princeton laugh at. Oops! Sorry! Let’s rewrite that… “I’m the guy at whom the little bastards back at Princeton laugh.” Yet, even I know that this Princeton graduate should have used the pronoun "I" in the above paragraph and not "me." It's "(people like I (am) -- the new emerging I)..."

“Have you thoroughly analyzed the poetry of Wallace Stevens?”

“I’ve thoroughly read Robert Bly.”

The little bastards titter quite loudly and look at each other with flushed cheeks.

“How about Proust?”

Well, I admit to them I’ve not read Proust, but I boldly boast that I’ve read all of Gabriel García Márquez. Isn’t that good enough?

Titter! Titter!

Princeton is such a long way from Minnesota. During my senior year in high school I went to Princeton for the high school debate championships. I and my partner got soundly beat – drummed really – and finished in an embarrassing sixth place position. Never mind that it was out of over 100 high schools. It was humiliating.

I was never cut out of Princeton cloth. I’m a country boy. Now, a Minnesota boy

Kirn writes:

“And, for me, profoundly enlightening. Who knew that serious art could be like this? Who would have guessed that the essence of high culture would turn out to be teasing the poor saps who still believed in it? Certainly no one back in my home state, Minnesota.

“I decided that it was time to leave behind the sort of folks I’d been raised around and to stand with the characters who’d clued me in.”
Thanks, Mr. Kirn, for the good writing – as long as you’re being satirical.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word satire derives from the “Latin satura, sitira, perhaps from (lanx) satura of mixed ingredients,….” I like that well enough. The big, credible book lists “wit” as a synonym. It defines satire as “a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn” or “tenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly.”

Britannica refers to a Samuel Johnson definition that calls it a “censure of wickedness or folly.” It further says that “wherever wit is employed to expose something foolish or vicious to criticism, there satire exists…”

Yeh, Kirn’s LOST IN MEDIOCRACY – THE EDUCATION OF AN OVER ACHIEVER was satire – and it wasn’t a censure or ridicule of me or Minnesota. Good stuff!

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