It has come to our, that is to say my, attention, that some readers have been speaking of these indolent essays, which seem unable to decide whether they are imitations or parodies of early E.B. White (or perhaps late William Safire?), as EDITORIALS. We, that is to say I, were, that is to say was, shocked. An ‘editorial’ is something that a group of grey old men hammer out at a committee meeting. It is printed on the left-hand side of the ‘editorial page’ of the NYTimes, for example, and is never read by any living soul. The prose style descends directly from Roman imperial epigraphic convention, but the verve and wit has been drained out of it somewhere along the way.
No, dear friends, these little essaylets merely aspire to embalm a few gestures, dunk a few pigtails in inkwells (fortunately with the advance of tonsorial fashion, that is no longer a sexist thing to do), and spread a few rumors. They represent the opinion of no one other than the author, and they do not always represent his opinion very well. If they were truly well received, the sign would be that they would be joined on the net and in print by other pieces of commentary, innuendo (thickly veiled, of course), and observation: contributions of such will be welcomed with an effusiveness that might embarrass the weak of stomach. Seriously. (Of course not all of them will be printed or e-distributed: this is not a chat list, and if editors can’t crumple something up once in a while and throw it away, they aren’t editors.) We also encourage replies to reviews from authors, and are delighted to have a throbbing fax from Simon Goldhill to appear in the next issue.
Now readers of the e-version who noticed our, that is to say my, use of the word ‘endogamy’ last month will be amused to learn that the paragraph in which it occurred was judged by wise and sober men and women to be too strong (‘a bit too close to the bone’) for entombment in the archaic hard copy version of BMCR, though it was precisely that paragraph that drew the kindest comments by e-mail from persons who might reasonably be thought to have been alluded to in its lines. Well, one never know, do one? (A grammatical solecism in the preceding sentence, now appearing for the third time in these comments I believe, was detected and corrected by a correspondent who prefers to be acknowledged as ‘Eustace Tilley’.)
Those classicists who did not stay at home to read ancient scholiasts in the manner of your humble and obedient servant have returned to the fray from Chicago, wiser and bolder, but the curious thing (to an editor of a book review journal) is that no one seems to have heard who won the Goodwin prize for best book of the year. I leave it to others to determine the significance of that ignorance, but cheerfully offer a year’s free subscription to e-BMCR for the first reader who writes in to tell us which book won. If we reviewed it, we’ll reprise the review on e-mail. The rooting around the office is that it will be one of the titles reviewed by . . . well, perhaps I’d better not say by whom.
Alaruming reports of economic dire straits continue to be heard (two classics departments reportedly to be closed, a major national university putting a hiring freeze on the books for the year—I emphasize that these are uncorroborated rumors, so I will not mention the institutions; even if untrue, the abundance of such rumors is a point of interest in itself), and today’s mail brought a handsome mailing to all Yale alumni, looking for all the world like an official publication but proving on closer examination to have been paid for by the Yale employees’ union, detailing aspects of the financial excitements in those purlieus. This news leaves me torn, because ever since baseball took Bart Giamatti from academe, I’ve been rather hoping that George Steinbrenner would find a nice quiet university presidency somewhere, but I’m not quite sure New Haven is the place.
A friend writes: ‘Today brought a fresh issue of the Harvard Magazine. In addition to a disappointing inaugural address by Rudenstine (no eloquence, lots of cliche; Bok was much much better) there was an ad on pg. 78 from a group of advertisers from Academic Travel Abroad to TIAA-CREF (in alphabetical order). I quote the relevant portions of the ad exactly as printed:
Thank you. Thank you.
da mi basia mille, diende centum, dien mille altera, die secunda centum, Diende usque altera millem, diende centum. Catullus, 87-54 B.C.
Now this issue includes a long wearisome statement by Charlie Segal on the modern study of Classics. Now where was he when Harvard needed him?’
(Another correspondent notes that the advertisement in question was expressing thanks from Harvard Mag itself to its advertisers, so it’s not a question of hands bleared, smeared with toil smudging a page of their OCT.)
Well, our semester begins next week, and they’re letting me teach freshmen this term, so I’m in a good mood, and trust that these reviews from vol. 2 no. 7 (still volume 2 because the hard copy did just get into print in time for the convention) will find our subscribers similarly chuffed.