Standing in my father’s library as a teenager, I opened Dorothea Brande’s slender 1934 book Becoming a Writer. I read:
“Do you believe in God? Under what aspect (Hardy’s “President of the Immortals,” Wells’s “emerging God”?)
“Do you believe in free will or are you a determinist? . . .
“Do you think the comment “It will all be the same in a hundred years” is profound, shallow, true or false?”
Suffice it to say, these and other questions in her quaint quiz stumped me as a kid. And not just because her examples were, even then, dated. But Brande (1893–1948) gave me the sense that knowing or groping toward Truth is pretty much writers’ job description. This starts as personal truth, offered to all to test against theirs. Trying to figure out bedrock truths appears to be simply a human task.
A friend, recalling my rookie reporter apprenticeship under his wing 36 years ago, called bullshit on such assertions.
“It reminds me of several conversations we had, with you tortured by the Meaning of Life and humanity’s Big Questions and my saying why should it have meaning? I was more concerned about whether the fish were biting or whether there was good barbecue or beer somewhere.”
Okay, I’ve got an itch, hard to scratch. Yet I know my mentor’s method is to exaggerate his way to truth. I’m a lot older now, and, while still puzzled, do finally know one or two things for sure.