Since today is a day of rest -- no posts either for my Memoir or for Formal Methods in Political Philosophy -- I thought I would take a few moments to talk about what it has been like these past six weeks and more, writing and posting, posting and writing.
In the glory days of Grossinger's, Jewish families would save up and take the train to Liberty, New York where they would eat, dance, swim, play shuffleboard, and escape from the heat, the noise, the congestion, and the tedium of the Lower East Side. Since even a weekend was expensive, parents would pressure their children to take advantage of every opportunity the resort offered. Grossinger's hired tummlers, whose job was to pep things up by making noise when there was a moment of silence or start people doing jumping jacks if they sat down to rest. Out of this world came the expression "I'm dancing as fast as I can," which captures the frenetic pursuit of amusement that dominated the brief vacations. Well, all I can say is that for six weeks, I have been writing as fast as I can. I am now four weeks ahead of myself with the Memoir, so when Susie and I go to Paris in June for a three week stay, I hope to be able to continue posting.
The response to my Memoir, thanks in large part to Brian Leiter, has been extraordinary -- far beyond my expectations or even my hopes. Old friends and former students have written emails with their memories of times past. Folks have checked in from Europe, from Australia, from Canada, and from every part of the United States. Some of you have corrected my faulty memory. Others have supplemented it. The result is a collective oral history, something quite unlike traditional oral histories.
In the past, I have written alone and then sent a book out into the world to find its audience, but now I am posting each installment almost as soon as I write it. I am reminded of a wonderful story about Charles Dickens, many of whose novels were serialized as he wrote them. It is said that he stopped into a London shop one day and overheard two ladies chatting about his latest novel. They were wondering what would happen next, and Dickens realized, with a start, that he had no idea, because he had not yet written it.
There is, of course, a limit to my memoir. Inexorably, I am advancing from the past to the present, at which point I will, perforce, stop. At my present rate, I imagine that will happen some time late this summer. What will I do then? my wife wants to know. I have no idea. Sufficient unto the day, as my father liked to say. For now, I can only thank all of you for the encouragement you have given me and the generosity of your responses. I have not felt so alive in twenty years.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
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"Thank you for sharing," a phrase which has less than flattering connotations, usually, but not so in this case!
I am wondering if you are inventing a new form of literature for the 21st century, updating the serialization of Dickens and Alcott, complete with audience interaction and response.
So much for your "day of rest." :-)
Perhaps when you reach the present day, you can continue to post stories and memories. You wouldn't have to do it in a linear, chronological sequence. A linear structure would be appropriate for the printed memoir, but for the blog, you could continue posting, as your readers send you their memories and those remembrances recall your own. It's hard enough to revive everything about a given year or person in a single pass. A continuing oral history, of your life and of philosophy, would find many more stories and be a joy to read.
I am actually beginning to get some ideas for continuing this after I get to the present, including an interesting suggestion from Andrew Levine, but more of that anon. Right now, I am trying to exoplain the reduction of compound lotteries to simple lotteries clearly, for my other blog.
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