14 December 2011

Well [Spoken] Wednesdays: the Simmons edition

I only took one class with Tracy Simmons, then-head of the Hillsdale journalism department: Prose Style. It was a thoughtful, practical course that I very much appreciated. Furthermore, Tracy's brusque cynicism and unabashed snobbery were great fun when taken in small doses (i.e. twice weekly for a single semester). I think I couldn't have handled any more . . . but my writing benefited immensely from that one semester with him.

And here is the marginalia of Professor Tracy Simmons.


“People who go through a core curriculum tend to be humbler.”
“I look at style as the great preservative of literature.”
“Bad usage gets into the air.”
“I don’t wear legible clothing.”
“Time can play little tricks on us.”
“It’s not just the thought that counts.”
“If I’d had the Mr. Rogers experience, I might be a happy man today.”
“There are some things so stupid that only people who have gone to school can say them.”
“I happen to know that there are women in the world. And for the record, I’m glad of it.”
“The prostitution analogy bothers me.”
“Sociology has walked in the door and squatted in the corner.”
“Everyone should be a P.G. Wodehouse reader. It’ll save you from despair.”
“Much of style is an act of courtesy.”
“Between aesthetics and politics, I choose aesthetics almost every time.”
“You should cultivate the same habits on the third Scotch as in the lecture hall.”
“I think I’m driven more by the beauty than the truth of things.”
“Then there’s eros. That’s love with glands.”
“Justice is abstract. Hanging is not.”
“The adult mind is supposed to become more subtle.”
“There’s nothing like a quiet room.”
“You have to earn cynicism.”
“Just take this for the prejudicial statement it is. . .”
“I’m used to being a culinary blockhead.”
“There are a lot of books out there that started as magazine articles.”
“This is an example of someone being classically drunk.”
“I have a musical imagination.”
“Let’s ruin this sentence!”
“This is stupid male day, and I’m in charge.”
“I don’t like sepulchral rooms.”
“What the hell world have you been living in?”
“The Amtrak is not exactly the Orient Express.”
“Disagree intelligently.”
“I approach the blogging world with horror, because it’s a world without editors.”
“I am not a virtuous man, but I haven’t missed a deadline since 1982.”
“We allow our heroes to get away with all sorts of things.”
“Make the economy leap!”
“There will always be a place for more falling-in-love stories.”
“It’s the self-satisfied people who never improve.”
“You never graduate from poetry.”
“That might sound good over the second drink. No, make that the third.”
“Everyone’s supposed to be a hero these days.”
“That’s the theory: get more readers with less text.”
“Well, we talked about girlfriends too. Trivial things.”
“Is this the best you?”
“A long complex sentence needs to justify itself.”
“If it’s a news item, to heck with the voice.”
“I often see myself as a garden badly in need of weeding.”
“The older you get, the more you should feel your ignorance.”
“I have seven volumes to live.”
“I grew up around a lot of advice-givers.”
“People who are always waiting for the moment to stop are in a bad place.”
“OK, end of profound reflection.”

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