Point of View: Agreeably Yours

    I bought two books at the recent Amagansett Library book fair — a nice clean copy of Bartlett’s for my office, which I will proceed to mark up, and “Rapid Italian for Students and Tourists,” which better provide pretty rapid results indeed, for my wife and I are talking about going to Italy in September, even though the dollar’s worth about 70 cents over there.
    “Maybe Little Italy would be better,” I said the other night, “or Sam’s.”
    Everybody’s always making a connection between the national deficit and household budgets. To make the comparison exact, I’m going to mint my own specie then and issue bonds and notes — so that we can vacation in Italy — backed, of course, by the full faith and credit of the Graveses.
    “I got the Bartlett’s,” I said to Mary, “because it will help me with my column.”
    The next day I dipped into it and went immediately to Dr. Samuel Johnson, who said that an essay was “a loose sally of the mind, an irregular indigested piece; not a regular and orderly composition.”
    Well, the hell with him. It says in my book on Montaigne that “the English were happy to let a writer go on about himself, so long as he did it agreeably,” and “very few English essays after the early 17th century were philosophically rigorous stabs of thought on important topics; almost all were delightful rambles about nothing in particular.”
    So there. If it’s nothing in particular you’re craving you’ve come to the right place.
    Which reminds me when the ice cream truck came by the other night, making a joyful sound that even I could hear, I rushed out, stepping back 60 or so years in time to order a Creamsicle.
    “I liked Toasted Almond too,” said Mary.
    “Wait, wait!” I said, running back out onto the lawn. But he was gone.
    “Life admits not of delays,” said Dr. Johnson. “When pleasure can be had, it is fit to catch it. . . .”
    I would stop here except I think I owe you a bit more, even considering the continuing repressed state of the economy, which has forced all of us here to trim our sails, as it were. When first hired, I was told, when I asked how long this column should be, that a page and a half would be about right. And I’ve written a page and a half ever since. Periodically, I’ve done it blindfolded, as a test, and have seen on removing the veil, and hitting “wcb,” that I usually come in at around 450 words. This by way of apologizing for the 317-word count of two weeks past, which I made up for by writing a 618-word one the week following.
    We’re at 466 now, so I must hurry and finish with Dr. Johnson’s story of an old tutor who told his students that when they reread their compositions (as I often do) and came across a passage that they thought was particularly fine (as I often do) to strike it out.


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