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From the Editor

Tom Absher told me this week that he has lost his zest for posting his poems with us. It strikes him that it's too much like giving a reading to an empty room.  He's right that it's discouraging not to get response, even though declining to respond is clearly the reader's right. But his feeling raises, for me, the question why we write in the first place. And when I think about it, I see that writing has many uses. Hermione Lee, the biographer of Virginia Woolf says that one of the reasons her subject wrote was that writing, for her, served as a sedative against anger, agitation, and apprehension. It's a sentiment I share. In these times, when I see what leading politicians have been effecting in the nation -- my nation -- my head might explode if I didn't find some way to speak about it, even if my speaking is like a scream in a lonely forest. Still, politics is not the whole of life and if you give yourself to it wholly, you're likely to feel hollowed out.

Among many there's an opinion that it would be foolish to write for no readers at all. I understand the feeling but I don't agree with it. Readers are a complement to writing, an important and enriching complement, but they are not an essential.

At any rate, I'm grateful to Tom for the poems he did share with us.   I thought they were good.

In May, I'm going off to Scotland to lead a group along the first part of the route Johnson and Boswell took during their tour in 1773.  There have been quite a few changes over the past 233 years so we can't expect to find all the places they did. Slain Castle, for example, up the coast from Edinburgh, where Johnson and Boswell stayed in great luxury, is now a ruin with scarcely any of the walls standing. So, I think we'll probably skip it. But the landscape in some places will be almost as it was and that will give us a sense of companionship with the two great travelers.

I've been reading a diverting little book from 1982, by Israel Shenker, titled In the Footsteps of Johnson and Boswell: A Modern Day Journey Through Scotland. A quarter century ago, Shenker, a former reporter for the New York Times, had more time to devote to the route than we will. He was able to schedule interviews with scholars and book collectors who had quite a bit to say about conditions in 1773. By contrast, we'll have to take our chances for good conversation and it will be interesting to see how many of the modern Scots have heard of the once famous pair.

Shenker, by the way, became so enamored of Scotland during his project that he pulled up stakes in America and moved to Scotland to live for good. I don't guess that will happen to any of us. But if it does, I'll find a way to let you know.

I'm not sure yet how the trip will affect the schedule for the Harvard Square Commentary. We may have to have a double issue just before I go. But, I'll let you know about that also.



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