In what will be my first article for Patch, let me start with the caveat that as a journalist I am known for being irreverent.
I lived in New Canaan for over three decades (1954 - 1986) and wrote a book that was never sold in town: Unforgettable New Canaanites (NY: chelCpress, 2012). It could and still can only be bought online. Similarly, you can’t buy Radiance, A Novel by Phil Kenney (a practicing Oregon psychotherapist, New Canaan High School Class of 1967.
In one of my Patch articles let’s discuss why Fairfield County booksellers are foolishly considering staying afloat by turning to web donors.
Of my eight books, Gossip From Across the Pond (NY:chelCpress, 2005) was a collection of my columns in G&L Humanist, a United Kingdom journal, columns written from 1996 through 2005. Following is an example of my irreverence.
The spring 1998 column tells how the composer of Four Saints in Three Acts (1928), Virgil Thomson, was gay and had a distaste for religion. In college Thomson was introduced to and supplied with drugs by a Mormon who had rationalized in a 1918 doctoral dissertation that peyote was not technically a drug, that it allowed one to reach up to the “higher power” and “exalted state” that Jesus the Christ had attained. Who was the Mormon? None other than the church founder’s grandson, Dr. Frederick Madison Smith, who himself became the President of the religious group.
Where to document the above? Read Anthony Tommasini’s Virgil Thomson: Composer on the Aisle (W. W. Norton, 1997).
In The New York Times Magazine (11 August 2013), Chuck Klosterman’s "The Ethicist" column published my letter in which I wrote for his advice on an ethical matter . . .
One of my neighbors complained to my co-op board’s management firm, claiming I allow my cat to exercise unsupervised in the hallway — a blatant lie. Without hearing my side, the board declared that no cats could be in the hallway, supervised or not.
Is it ethical for me to never again speak to the person who lied about my cat? W. S., New York
. . . and he responded:
First of all, I love the concept of a cat “exercising unsupervised,” even if it never actually happened. Second, I don’t see the ethical conflict in your quandary. A normal person talks to his neighbors (particularly if a neighbor initiates the conversation), but it’s not a moral obligation unless the neighbor is in some kind of immediate danger. If your despised neighbor stops you in the hallway and desperately says, “I need your help,” you can’t walk away on account of your cat’s unjust persecution.
But most of the time, day-to-day conversations aren’t that intense; most of the time, you can freeze out whomever you like, for whatever reason you see fit. Friendliness is a virtue, but not a moral requirement. This behavior, however, will have its own set of discomfiting consequences. “I don’t know about that guy in 6-C,” your neighbors may gossip as you wordlessly skulk about the building. “He seems like an oversensitive recluse. Also, I heard that his cat has really gained weight.”
Reactions, over 95% favorable, are coming in from four continents. SAVE TICO groups are forming. In Bangkok, it’s Mee ìt-sà-rà Teekoh! Already, “calling hours” have been arranged for a New York City professional journalist; for Drew University’s Classics Department chairman in Madison, New Jersey,;and for a professor of ethics and philosophy from St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York, all three reasoning that the time for solace is before, not after, one’s death, whether for animals or for humans.
My next artcle will discuss problems that townspeople overlooked about their children’s teachers during my three-decade residence. Also, I’ll see if readers know that the wife of one of our nation’s presidents, who lived in town, pronounced her husband’s first name “Wurr’n,” which is how my own Iowa parents pronounced mine until one of my paramours (a 3-time Tony nominee) said I am WAH-wren.