Monday, November 07, 2011

Ave, Malcolm!

My thanks to Malcolm for linking to this reminiscence by Neal B. Freeman about William F. Buckley. As a teacher who does a lot with writing, I found the following of interest:

It was a humbling experience to be edited by Bill Buckley. I still have the original of the first editorial I wrote for National Review. We used Royal typewriters in those days to pound out copy on yellow foolscap: Here and there, one of my black words peeks through a blaze of red ballpoint ink. It was his conceit that if you couldn't write, you couldn't think; and that if you couldn't think, you were unlikely to prosper in his friendship.
(italics added)

I'd call it an axiom of modern society: if you can't write, you can't think. And if you can't think, you sure as hell can't write. This may be why so many students at our tutoring center like math and hate writing: writing requires more thinking. Not to say that math doesn't require one to think, but math-- especially from grade school through high school-- is more an object of convergent learning, wherein there are objective truths and clearly right or wrong answers; writing, by contrast, begins with convergent learning and rapidly moves into the domain of divergent learning: taming the wild horse of logic doesn't mean you rest on your laurels: you've got a whole country to explore while seated on that horse, and though it sounds paradoxical, the paths you follow will be the ones you make.



Elisson said...

How delightfully profound... and right on the money.

Malcolm Pollack said...

Thanks Kevin,

I liked this passage:

I obtained excerpts of Bill's interview with the FBI on the occasion of my appointment to a federal position. At the end of such field investigations, the agent typically asks an omnibus, fanny-covering question: Would I, candidate Freeman, be likely to embarrass the administration? Replied witness Buckley, under oath: "I should think that the reverse is much more likely."

Kevin Kim said...

Thanks, gentlemen. Someone else wrote an interesting comment, but I deleted it because that person failed to read the comments policy, and attempted to publish anonymously. NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS, PLEASE!

A brief version of my comments policy sits right above the comments field. Can't miss it. (Or maybe you can...?)

Anonymous said...

Addofio here. I have the feeling the one you deleted was mine. Which I " signed" at the end of the comment. I don't use Blogger's "identity" automated stuff because every time I've tried it, it gives me intense frustration and grief. But I do "sign" all my comments, at beginning or end--that time, it was at the end.

Kevin Kim said...


I normally see the signature on your comments, but this comment definitely didn't have anyone's signature on it. Apologies if it was indeed your comment. (It voiced agreement with the notion that "if you can't think, you can't write," but disagreed with the vice versa. In my defense, I was at pains to label this an axiom of modern society, in which writing is ubiquitous.)