An Inclusive Litany


Letter to the editor, the Boston Globe, June 29, 1998. Patricia Smith had been fired from her position as columnist after her editors discovered she had been fabricating sources and writing entire columns containing pure fiction. Given its numerous errors of syntax, there's the distinct chance that this letter, too, is a hoax.
Tonight is hot and humid. I cannot sleep. Instead, I lie awake and think about Patricia Smith. As a no-name, underpaid, small-town New Hampshire columnist, and teacher of writing for the past nine years, I should, perhaps, feel like gloating. Aha, I should sneer, look what happened to the famous writer in the big newspaper.

Instead, I feel a tremendous sense of sadness and loss.

Patricia Smith is a gifted writer. I frequently brought her columns to my college writing class as examples of beautiful and clear writing. To my students, I pointed out her brilliant introductions, stressed her use of vivid examples, acknowledged her poignant metaphors and word choices.

But in the end, as I know as a teacher and as a writer, it is the truth that is most difficult for writers to write. Why? I'm not sure. In this day and age, we have this sense that our individual opinions and our personal thoughts are the truth. However, as the old masters of literature—those like Chaucer and Shakespeare—have taught us it is through the stories we see and the voices we hear that we can get a glimpse of the truth.

For nine years I have only retold the stories I've seen in small towns. I've only remembered the voices that held on to my heart and written about those. No, I will never be famous, nor now do I want to be. As I've learned from Patricia Smith's errors, I only want to seek the truth. That, I believe, is more valuable than anything fame can offer us. And it is more than enough.

—Lorraine Lordi
Londonderry, N.H.

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