by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
November 13, 2002
OLD COLUMNS HAUNT CANDIDATE
SEATTLE, Wash. -- My Princeton friend and financial advisor, Sam Arnold, of the firm of Smith Barney, Paine Webber, no less solicitous of my journalistic than of my fiscal welfare, sent me a piece from the New York Times recently.
David Kocieniewski, under the dateline of Plainsboro, N.J., wrote on 14 October about the ennui suffered by the New Jersey Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate over some columns that he had written for the West Windsor-Plainsboro Chronicle, now defunct.
Forrester was one of the few Republican candidates who did not win in the recent elections, but whether his defeat can be attributed to his columns is not clear.
Be that as it may, there are elements of his story that give me pause, since I am, for my sins, also a columnist.
For one thing, Forrester is said to have been an unpaid columnist. Unpaid!???
Doctor Samuel Johnson, the author of the great 18th Century English dictionary that bears his name, and the subject of the biography by James Boswell, who set a standard to which all subsequent biographers, including me, have aspired and failed, said:
"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money."
Forrester is said to have written (gratis) nearly 200 columns. Topics included Mother's Day, ice cream, and Mr. Forrester's having to kill a shrew in his bathtub.
The New York Times, typically, is mute on the question whether the shrew was a member of the family Soricidae, related to the moles, and distinguished by a long, pointed snout, or an ill-tempered, scolding woman, (quite possibly, given the inclinations of a columnist, especially one who writes for nothing, a relative.)
But just suppose I finally gave in to the impetuous demands of the numerous lucidly rational and optimistic readers of Ink Soup and agreed to run for the post of CG (Columnist General). Would I be ashamed or embarrassed by the columns that have appeared for years in this far from - never to be, please God - defunct newspaper?
Well, yes. And no. Frankly, I wish I'd never written that piece proposing that Florida be detached from the mainland - I meant even more detached than it already is - and sent floating out into the Caribbean, where its notorious incapacity to determine who and how many voted for whom and how often might never be noticed, might even be seen as a form of political machismo.
I am not happy, either, about the piece in which I saluted Martha Stewart as the domestic goddess of the United States, keeper of the hearth and home, the very Druidess of Dash.
Or the piece about Bing Crosby as a pedophile priest, with Barry Fitzgerald in the background going, "Fer the luv of Pete, me boy...!" Bing: "Not Pete ... Mike."
Or the one... . But you get the point.
Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.