March 5, 1995

REAL EMOTION falls back on cliché. In times of sorrow as well as times of joy, you think thoughts and feel emotions that every single human being has felt since we qualified for the name.

You read William Shakespeare and you think, "Didn't the guy have any original thoughts? This stuff is clichés from beginning to end." And then you realize that he said what we all need to say and he said it so well that we took his words and just plugged them in and forgot all about the author.

Lyrics to songs, the sappier and more sentimental the better. Hackneyed phrases, time-worn words. That's what you frame your thoughts around because they say what you need to say so well that you just pick them up and use them.

These pieces that I've written draw deeply from that well of language that really says what I need to say except that somebody else has beaten me to the punch, so I just take their words and work with them and play off them and change them around a little bit, because these are the tools ready to my hand and I'd be a fool not to use them.

This is serious business and I have no time to try to be original. I feel a deep communion with all those fellow sufferers. All those old men who once were young men, all those atoms of dust that once were a living, breathing human being like myself. All that pain and sorrow and joy that's been preserved and passed on in words to help me when I needed help more than I've ever needed help before.

You take your comfort where you can get it, both from the living and from the dead. It may be that your best friends died twenty-five hundred years before you were born.


Those Old Guys, They Stole All Our Best Lines (March 5) Though I have not been able to find the exact source, my memory is that it was said by the type designer Frederick W. Goudy, in reference to type designers of ages gone past.


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Those Old Guys, They Stole All Our Best Lines
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