Magnum opus

At my retirement reception very recently, a colleague I’ve known since Junior High School quoted a quip of mine he remembers from, I believe, an 8th grade math class. “Do you remember that?” he pressed me.

He violated lawyer rule #1: If you don’t know the answer, don’t ask the question.

Well, I’m pretty scrupulous so I admitted that I did not remember it, and then, in lawyerly fashion, made him even more crestfallen by doing what we tell clients not to do in depositions: I volunteered that “your reminder has failed to refresh my memory about it,” (“refreshing memory” being a lawyerly tool whose merits and abuses I’ll not discuss).

Gosh, after all, it was just a smart-ass quip (not the slick toothbrush by that name), amounting to “thank you, but I’m too proud to say it that way” — and it was 56 years ago to boot!

Two authors I tend to read, though, quote themselves a lot: Rod Dreher and Ryan T. Anderson.

With Dreher, it’s especially easy to understand why. He has a brutal writing schedule and blogs prolifically. Having really thought through a topic for a book like the Benedict Option, why should he repeatedly need to paraphrase himself? It’s less a matter of egotism than of efficiency (with a bit of book promotion to boot).

With Anderson, whose recent career has been methodically demolishing the day’s leading sexual dogmas (his latest major title is *When Harry Became Sally,” a tome on trangender mania), I sometimes wonder if it’s more “How long, O Lord, how long, must I go back and wallow in this nonsense!”—like a conscientious censor after a day of screening blue movies.

A third author, none of whose books I’ve read, though I’ve read, audited and watched many interviews, does the same thing for, I think, a more narcissistic reason. That author is Camille Paglia.

I admire the heck out of her, my approximate contemporary, but recently noticed her ability to quote, say, some cutting quip she uttered sotto voce in grad school 45+ years ago is really a marvel. She must have been rehearsing that as part of her iconoclast persona ever since! Her persona is her magnum opus, I think, but she’s got some legitimate academic chops or my name is Rube.

Dreher and Anderson are quoting their recent works. We’ll see if they’re quoting those works in another 30-45 years. I intend to continue enjoying all three of these stimulating “friends,” uncertain, however, that I’ll be quoting them many years hence.

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