I was thumbing through a volume of bathroom literature the other day when I came across this quote from W.H. Auden:
“Someone says: ‘Whom do you write for?’
“I reply: ‘Do you read me?’
“If they say ‘yes,’ I say, ‘Do you like it?’
“If they say ‘No,’ then I say, ‘I don’t write for you.’”
This quote, from a 1972 Paris Review interview, about a year before Auden’s death, speaks to me now.
I’ve noticed this site has picked up readers beyond Canada and the United States – in South Africa, Turkey, Britain and Hong Kong.
Who are you? How did you find me?
The same goes for every reader who has not contacted me on the site, on email, or Twitter.
My nephew Brian in Portland, Oregon – a rabbi who dispenses “wisdom biscuits” on his website, Religion-Outside-the-Box – recently posted a complimentary comment on thebeckerfiles. He followed it up with a similarly kind email.
I replied: Thanks, Brian. Means a lot.
In my experience, writers/journalists need to hear praise of their work, since there is not much financial reward – or, in this case, none.
Taking the time to pay a compliment for good work seems to have fallen out of fashion. Not sure why.
He replied: I recently put out a piece called “Silent Compliments” because I was noticing how few compliments I was getting on things. So, I’m working on that Gandhi thing of BEING the change and forcing myself to GIVE compliments.
So, with a nod to Brian — and Gandhi — thanks to pal Judy for coming up with the headline that still makes me laugh: The Great Wall of Flackery.
In early September, I wrote a piece headlined Fear and Thievery on the Campaign Trail ’15, about the Canadian federal parties soaking news outlets tagging along on the leaders’ campaigns.
In response, I received a one-line email from a former colleague, a media honcho in Ottawa: Looks like you’re having fun writing this.
I replied: Fun?
For me, anyway, writing is hard work – especially when there is no $$$ to soothe the psyche.
The easy part is finding things to write about. All I have to do is read, watch and listen.
Would appreciate you forwarding my stuff to anybody who might give a damn.
When I was teaching journalism to post-graduate students at Humber College in Toronto, I told every class on the first day: “If you can make a living doing anything else, run for your life.”
On the last day of class each school year, I told my departing students: “I’ve told you enough times that this business is fucked. I’m counting on you to save it.”
I had a conversation not long ago with one of those students, who is now at a major news organization in Canada.
I asked whether his old gang from Humber, all now working in the media, was put off by my criticism of their business.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “Everybody knows how bad it is.”
I reminded him I posted my first piece on Bastille Day and asked: When do you all plan to storm the fortress and overthrow the numbskulls at the top.
My pal Cameron in B.C., a former TV news director, sent me an email last Thursday, as details were gushing from that campus shooting in Oregon:
What is with the funereal music track on Newsworld over shooting stills?
CBC now imposing mood on stories. Soon they will attempt to add facts on the basis that ‘it might have happened’ this way.
Who are the fuckin’ bobbleheads responsible for this grotesque twist on reporting with a camera?
I replied: Best was the sad music while Carole MacNeil read sad tweets from unidentified people somewhere on Earth.
Then she threw to some “reporter” in the newsroom who said “on the ground” 30 times in 30 seconds and said “Rosenberg” instead of Roseburg.
I would have started recording this shit – and writing it – but need a break from critiquing CBC atrocities. Too easy.
I did tweet my key points. Have no clue whether anyone read them.
Should I use a hashtag? Isn’t “#” a number sign? Don’t telephone recordings call “#” a pound sign?
An update on the story: Blue Jays’ announcers promote the mute button.
As I told Pal Hal in an email:
I believe I’ve trained myself to hear Buck and Pat as background noise – not pay attention to the words.
Of course, now I don’t understand what Linda – or anyone else – is saying either.
A friend forwarded the following message to me:
I’m loving Becker’s blog, but something doesn’t sit quite right about ending every post with the blurb about how he’s trying to sell his book.
I’m falling in love with the Becker of the entries – he’s still palpably surly enough that if that was what you liked about Becker, you’d find stuff to enjoy, but also very funny and surprisingly sweet and sensitive.
It’s not that he’s shilling his book – it’s just something about the way it’s shoehorned in at the end of every piece, it feels beneath the dignity of the guy writing the pieces.
I read the posts, I think, “This guy is a badass.” I read the tag, I think, “This guy is sad and frustrated that no one is paying him to write right now.”
You’re right: “This guy is sad and frustrated that no one is paying him to write right now.”
All of the wonderful Paris Review interviews can be found here.