creative nonfiction 135.302: how many of you can really talk?

Friday, January 13, 2012

There comes that time, in advance of teaching semesters, that I sit apart from machines and noise and dwell.  That time is now.  My work at the University of Pennsylvania begins on Tuesday.  I'll retreat to a familiar room and wait for the students to find me. 

In preparing for that class today, I came across a page I'd torn from a June 2011 issue of Vanity Fair.  Christopher Hitchens was well advanced in his trial with malignant cancer by then, his physical voice nearly gone.  But he was still wrestling with ideas, still persistently, insistently promulgating them.  It seems just right to open this year's class with his words:
To my writing classes I used later to open by saying that anybody who could talk could also write.  Having cheered them up with this easy-to-grasp ladder, I then replaced it with a huge and loathsome snake:  "How many people in this class, would you say, can talk?  I mean really talk?"  That had its duly woeful effect.  I told them to read every composition aloud, preferably to a trusted friend.  The rules are much the same:  Avoid stock expressions (like the plague, as William Safire used to say) and repetitions.  Don't say that as a boy your grandmother used to read to you, unless at that stage of her life she really was a boy, in which case you have probably thrown away a better intro.  If something is worth hearing or listening to, it's very probably worth reading.  So, this above all:  Find your own voice." 
Rest in peace, Christopher Hitchens.


Melissa Sarno said...

Pretty sure I can not *really* talk.

But I'd like to listen in on your class! :)

Becca said...

Oh yes, to be a fly on the wall in your classroom.
Or better yet - a student :)

"Really" talking is rare. Sometimes when I'm able to have a real conversation of ideas with another person, I find myself getting so excited about it I trip over my own ideas in my haste to express them!

  © Blogger templates Newspaper II by 2008

Back to TOP