The other day a reader took exception to the writing style of two of the columnists he sees in his Sunday paper and since one of them is me the paper’s Executive Editor to whom he sent his email sent it on to me. Here’s what it said:
“I HAVE NOTICED YOUR FEMALE COLUMNISTS CAN ONLY WRITE ABOUT THEMSELVES, THEIR FAMILIES OR CUTESY THINGS THEIR CHILDREN OR RELATIVES SAY OR DO OR A ‘WHAT I DID LAST SUMMER’ ESSAY. THEIR WRITINGS ARE FILLED WITH ‘I , ME, MY, WE, ETC.’, IN OTHER WORDS A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE COLUMN WITH AN EXCESSIVE USE OF PERSONAL PRONOUNS.”
(In other words people and their darn families! Who cares about that?)
“IT IS VERY EASY TO TALK OR WRITE ABOUT YOURSELF” he went on. “ARE NOT COLUMNS SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT THINGS? IDEAS? EVENTS? FAR-AWAY-PLACES? OPINIONS OR CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM? THESE REQUIRE THOUGHT!”
(And, well, he may be right there and the idea realm is a good place to start so how about Intelligent Design for today, kids? Or perhaps Should Form Follow Function? Or, Benevolent Despotism: an Oxymoron or Our Future?)
“LET THIS BE A CHALLENGE,” this reader wound up. “CAN MS. X (as I will call her) OR MS. MAROTTA WRITE A COLUMN WITH MAYBE JUST ONE OR TWO PERSONAL PRONOUNS AND NOT ABOUT THEMSELVES?”
Can we? I have no doubt. Will I? Today anyway? Not likely. On my writing agenda today I seem to have (a) an account of the bird the flew in our house and lived here undetected until the cat Abraham found him this morning; (b)something so sad I heard at the wake I went to yesterday that stayed with me all night and kept me from sleeping; and (c) a description of me falling face first, all dressed up, into the cargo bin of my minivan.
As to the ‘Should I?’ part, a Seventh Grade girl named Danielle wrote to the National Society of Newspaper Columnists last March, asking about what it’s like to have as your job the pouring of talk into a tall skinny word-funnel for the newspaper. I said I’d love to be the one to answer her and what I wrote I used as my column that week. It’s is still on the NSNC website if you’d like to read it. It’s serious and I stand by it. But if I were the kind of person who enjoyed sassing back I might to “Two words for you Mr. Z who thinks people aren’t interested in reading about other people: Reality TV.”