If a person thinks he can write that’s probably because somebody in the family does or somebody tells him he can. In my case, it was the latter and the culprit was my 8th grade English teacher, Miss Tuttle. She was young, dark haired, skinny and energetic, and she wore makeup in a way that you noticed Also, I remember the girl’s giggling at how she dressed; that was because they said she went to France every year and bought stuff over there.
She read something that I wrote and told me I had talent as a writer and that I wrote like Winston Churchill. Given my mother’s England background, I knew who he was, though I didn’t know he had written any books. Miss Tuttle’s way of encouraging my talent was to make me come in at lunch and diagram sentences on the blackboard to get my grammar down. It did help, I guess, though I really learned grammar by taking Roman. Years later I learned that Miss Tuttle was a graduate of Columbia Teacher’s College and had for much of her adult life an ongoing correspondence with Bertrand Russell.
Who knows? Maybe Miss Tuttle was a “leftist” because she was the only teacher I ever had—aside from a couple of lectures as an undergraduate—who lectured to us and had us read stuff about the labor movement. She told us about the Haymarket Massacre and how our government had held a show trial and put to death perfectly innocent anarchists. Really pretty heady stuff for me; maybe brick layers had a sort of history too and perfectly appropriate stuff too to teach the kids of working class people, which we were really.
But I think we all thought we were middle class, or middle class in the making, like those people on TV. So issues of class that have become more important to me as I have aged were pretty much written out of existence, just like Orwell says in 1984. The people in charge write the histories and the histories that suit the middle class and their employers, the elite capitalist class, are middle class histories, human interest histories, when most of human history has been of inhuman interest only, about goddamn forces that squash people like bugs.
I was reading a labor history and I find it amazing that as recently as 60 years ago or so an actual president could run for office and say stuff like:
For too many of us the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people’s property, other people’s money, other people’s labor-other people’s lives. For too many of us life was no longer free; liberty no longer real; men could no longer follow the pursuit of happiness.
That was FDR talking in the 1930’s; and in light of today’s politics of delusion and denial, you have to wonder how anybody running for President today could fucking talk like that and still win.