Conversations with the morning paper | Bleader

  • Gandhi
“Journalism of the highest order,” said A.E. Eyre. He slapped the Tuesday New York Times onto the table. It was opened to the op-ed page and the headline “Falser Words Were Never Spoken.”

The readout immediately caught my eye: “Reader beware: inspiring quotations are often fudged.”

Surely, not your own, I said.

“Mine are authentic,” said Eyre, puffing up a bit, “and I’m prepared to issue notarized certificates to that effect.

“But, “he continued, “the bumper sticker wit of the competition withers under close inspection. So says the Times.”

The article, by Brian Morton, an east coast pedagogue, was persuasive. Thoreau had not said “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.” Gandhi had not said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

What they’d actually said was longer, more nuanced, subtler.

“Windier, you mean,” said Eyre. “I’ve been saying for years that Gandhi was no snappy quipster and no one listened. Believe me, this article is only the tip of the iceberg. Before the scandal runs its course Bartlett’s will have to clean house.”

There are sure to be a lot of empty pages in the next edition, I told Eyre, unless they come up with some new quotations whose provenance they can trust.

My friend Eyre’s lifelong ambition has been to join the immortals collected in Bartlett’s. Undeterred by the academy’s unceasing disregard, Eyre continues to compose zingers, few of which he has an opportunity to share with anyone but myself. And as a hack journalist, I have a tin ear for epigrammatics of Eyre’s high order. He deserves a more tutored audience.

If Bartlett’s could choose just one nugget of wisdom from your oeuvre, I inquired, what would be your choice?

Eyre thought a bit. “I believe my remarks prepared for the 1995 graduating class of the Juilliard School of Music found me at the top of my game. That’s when I wrote, ‘If the world makes you a pariah, make yourself a Murray Perahia.’ Regrettably, I was not asked to address that graduating class, despite submitting my text to Juilliard in advance. So another initiative came a cropper.”

And we all missed out on a good one, I said.

“Then again,” Eyre went on, speaking less to me than to the ages, “I’ve always been proud of ‘There is no i in golf.’”