I come from the sort of family in which, at the age of ten, I was told I must always say hoi polloi, never the hoi polloi, because hoi meant the, and two the’s were redundant — indeed something only hoi polloi would say.
My daughter is seven, and some of the other second-grade parents complain that their children don’t read for pleasure. When I visit their homes, the children’s rooms are crammed with expensive books, but the parent’s rooms are empty. Those children do not see their parents reading, as I did every day of my childhood. By contrast, when I walk into an apartment with books on the shelves, books on the bedside tables, books on the floor, and books on the toilet tank, then I know what I would see if I opened the door that says ‘PRIVATE–GROWNUPS KEEP OUT’: a child sprawled on the bed, reading.
Muses are fickle, and many a writer, peering into the voice, has escaped paralysis by ascribing the creative responsibility to a talisman: a lucky charm, a brand of paper, but most often a writing instrument. Am I writing well? Thank my pen. Am I writing badly? Don’t blame me blame my pen. By such displacements does the fearful imagination defend itself.