Dear Michael,

It’s being bruited about the Street that, in the Great Game of Liberal Education (a bruising, no-holds-barred affair), you have to be and are the go-to guy – a guy whose literary bravura recalls the shock and awe of the Bores’ War. (Granted, down on Wall the bar isn’t set very high. To get a financial writer to pound out his penny’s worth of bedraggled dredgings, you first have to drag him, kicking and screaming, from his bowling on the Green.)

As for Liberal Education per se (the giant undercover operation that cloaks the dagger of Fundamental Transformation), I wish you’d have mentioned the pivotal role that Critical Studies play as Liberal Education’s barragemen. Their critical mission: “research and destroy.” If you would be kind enough to take the stand:

“Critical Studies of what, precisely?”

“The old bag.”

(“Order in the court! The caliph will remove the titterers.”)

“The old bag, sir?”

“Western, quote, civilization.”

“The clerk will note your quoted ‘civilization’. What other civilizations does Critical Studies critically study?”

“Offhand I can’t think of one.”

“Does it critically study Marxism?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Progressivism, perhaps?”

“What for? Progressivism is settled science.”

“Oh, settled science; like global warming, systemic racism, and homophobia.”

“And xenophobia. Correct.”

“No further questions. Ladies and gentlemen and LGBTAs of the jury, if Western civilization is the only game in town, sooner or later it’s bound to get bagged, and freedom (a uniquely Western marker) will be headed down the one-way Autobahn to Serfia – or you can take the Disorient Express.”


At your service, and you can pay me, should I return. As we speak I’m boarding the chopper assigned to whirr me to the aid of a failed state of seriousness: “Cultivating the Educated Imagination.” Highbrow bumpkins have, for years, been buying that bumper crop of syllables celebrated and carted to market by vanity’s fair: the College (!) of Letters. As children we were told not to step in the muddle. Alas, we must.

Imagination isn’t the bon mot, taste is: IT can be cultivated OR educated (both amount to the same thing). Imagination is the stuff that dreams are made on, and dreams, like babies in early Hollywood movies, aren’t planned, they happen. Can a bad dream be aborted? (Find me that clinic.)  But fear not: in Wes’s decidedly wildlife preserve, imagination is an endangered species; with luck you might catch the merest glimpse of it.

But have no fear of catching it in the English Department. That benighted knighthood of letters cannot imagine that star-crossed lovers are stare-crossed lovers; that Prince Hal’s companion Poins is puns; that The Merry Wives’ besotted Bardolph is the Delphic bard; that the “lean and hungry look” of the “very dangerous” Cassius can be found in Joseph’s reading of Pharaoh’s dream, and darned if the plotter of Caesar’s assassination isn’t the playwright writing said playwright into the plot. Here’s how Cassius’ future victim reads him: “He reads much, / He is a great observer, and he looks / Quite through the deeds of men.” If that is not the Delphic Bard himself, my name is Mike the Ripper. Doll Tearsheet… “Ho ho, I know a country matter when I see one.” Ho ho, when you see one, let me know – Doll Tearsheet is dull tercet. Meanwhile the literati fail to read Miranda’s “brave new world” as her “brief new world” – of letters. (Literati, good grief!) You’ve heard it said that “Brevity is the soul of wit,” but unto you I say that “Brevity is the seal of wit.” You’ve heard it said, “The play’s the thing,” but unto you I say “The play’s the thane.” Yours truly’s final reading amounts to a bad day for Saint Bartholomew: you’ve heard it muttered, “cruel as the sea,” but unto you I say ‘tis “cruel as the See.” Alas, my ghost…

“Your ghost? Is that what I am, some white sheet thrown over Banquo? If that’s all I mean to you, you aren’t the only haunt in town.”

“Name another.”

“The Allbritton Center. Those writers would be popping corks if I took it upon myself to pop in.”

“That less-than-zestful nestful popping their corks? That IS a tickle. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad their fraternity has its own house; it keeps the beggars, who bag more awards and honors than readers, off the streets. Of course any one of them could use your formidable gifts to advantage. And though you have been, are, and always shall be the love of my life…”

“I’ll thank you to keep your hand off my thigh.”

“I’m sorry you were spooked by my ‘ghost’; forget I ever said it.”

“My strong suit is remembering; forgetting, not so much.”

“Then get thee to a frat house. I hope you can hold your ambrosia; those frat boys…What are you waiting for?”

“Your confession.”

“To what?”

“Your addiction.”

“Addiction? I’m clean as a whistle: no demon rum, I don’t do drugs…”

“You do letters.”

“Well, yes, when duty calls.”

“When duty calls. ‘If it be aught toward the general good, / Set honor in one eye and death i’th’ other’ – I’ve heard it all before.”

“I’ll dry out; as soon as the ink on this letter dries, I’ll check into Letter Writers Anonymous.”

“AND I’ve heard all THAT before.”

“I promise.”

“Your promises aren’t worth the papyrus they’re crayoned on. Look at me.”

“You never looked lovelier.”

“Your hand.”


“This is your muse you’re schmoozing; she isn’t some milk maid or saucer-eyed college kid you’re accustomed to jolly. You men of letters are all alike: all solemn vows the night before, and nowhere to be found the morning after.”

“I’m different, I’m not like all the others.”

“THAT old Trojan war horse! Why should I believe you?”

“Because you’re too far along the trail to be deriding the only writer, unique as a unicorn, whose readings aren’t clueless.”

“And while you were reading, your muse was…”

“…shrieking, ‘Don’t take the booby trap at his word!’”

“Thanks for the shout-out, Bubby; you’ll wake the dead.”

“I’m not THAT good.”

“But good enough to have won this hand; I can’t have it bandied about that a protégé of mine couldn’t punch his way out of a letters bag; my sisters would laugh me off Mount Helicon. I guess I’m stuck with you.”

“Stiff upper lip; think of Zeus and country. Now what would you have me do with this here suspended epistle?”

“You’re asking ME? I’m not your Mistress Quickly.”

“You misconstrue me.”

“I misconWHAT you?”

“The ‘t’ in epistle is silent.”

“The ‘t’ in epistole is not.”

“You realize that’s all Greek to me.”

“All Greek to you, who’d sworn on the River Styx that you were a fluent Hellenist? Oh, you men of letters are all such liars! Is there ANYTHING you’ll not say to take advantage?”

“Dry your tears, for cryin’ out loud.”

“I don’t suppose you have a hanky…”

“I don’t SUPPOSE I have an epistle!”

“And now you’re turning cranky. Nobody likes a cranky letter writer. And a philanderer.”


“That word would be all Greek to you. Allow me to translate: you’re dating my sister Clio.”

“Who isn’t? She’s dated every body and every thing.”

“You vile THING, you needn’t proclaim it.”

“My roiled mouse, you’re just being jealous. Clio and I are just good friends; with her it’s strictly Platonic.”

“And with her amusing sister it’s strictly something else. Remind me to change my name to Circe.”

“You want me to wallow.”

“Circe would have the squealer wallow, and THAT will clean up his act. I tell you, they sure don’t make ’em like they used to.”

“Here it comes: our fathers were heroes, their fathers were golden demigods, and we’re cast iron. I’ve heard it all before.”

“You barbarian Marduk…”


“…you coiled cad…”

“My friends call me Pytho.”

“…you stone-bellied Cronus…”

“That’s heavy. For sure, come Judgment Day I’ll have a lot to answer for.”

“…my hottie ADORED me.”

“Your hottie?”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“I’m feeling left out in the cold. That I can understand.”

“For cryin’ out loud, take back your hanky. And get to your call of duty’s bottom line. Then both of us can get back to…

“…the minotaur’s maze.”

“‘The minotaur’s maze’…a beguiling avenue, I must say. Why aren’t you writing?”

“I lost my thread.”

“He lost his thread. Alas!”

“Oh yes. Alas….”

“Amazing. Unique as a unicorn, no less.”

Alas, dear Michael, my muse has barely scratched the surfeit, for there is more of life at play in the words of that dead white male than is dreamt of in your race- and class- and gender-grading credentialed dons’ philosophy. “Is that a fact?” Along with one or two others you’d gladly inter with my bones:

Students caught doing (not pushing) drugs aren’t shown the door. You must be looking to turn a blind eye to more. A College of Social Studies major, his eardrums punctured by three straight years of Marxist ax-grinding, switches his major. Now in med’ school, he’s learning to save, one life at a time, the world your let’s-start-over-ism has zero use for.

And, for the first time in 18 years, the Argus spiked my submission. Why? The editors wouldn’t say, so I’ll say: I’d threatened to cut the umbilical cord of the most connected lobby on High Street. I speak of the family’s connection: that of Godfather Roth with his “marginalized” proteges (his and Karl Marx’s: those “alienated” masses). As for those who maybe weren’t feeling marginalized, their godfather made them feel they should. Thus, if words mean anything (a big “if” here in Jargonesia), they were SELF-marginalized – a term I’d introduced in my last submission, the one the Argus, not daring to bare some leg, refused to run.

Toeing the line (read: towing your line), your proteges besieged the Wesleyan Student Assembly with alarming sound bites (“Systemic racism’s epidemic; we’ll have you quarantined if you’re caught with it.”), prevailing upon it to slash over half the Argus’ funding and channel the money into its “marginalized” competitors’ pockets. And what’s to keep the WSA, responding to a second alarm, from cutting off ALL the Argus’ funding?

The loyal alums, is what. Should that routinely submissive donor base rubber band its billfold over your proteges’ amateurishly camouflaged cash grab (But what do I know? I thought your femiNazi occupation of all-male fraternity turf was a land grab.), YOU’D be feeling the heat. Getting the Old Grads into the game is how the Argus should be playing it. (“Does anyone in this locker room know how to play this game?”)

What’s that you say? “My hands are clean; I can’t be telling the Argus what not to run.” Thus sprach (I’m musing) the man who’s got the Board-given right to expel any student he catches beyond the pale in a frat house branded “all-male”; the man whose skillset has included speaking softly while riding roughshod over his charges, so many bullied clods on San Juan hill. OF COURSE you can’t be “telling” – omerta was the word among the godfathers I have known. In any event, their bite was worse than their bark, but I’ll never tell.

P.S. Just caught your glandiose performance in CLEAN HANDS MIKE. A star is born.


— Martin Benjamin ’57

  • NT

    Welcome back, Martin. Missed you.

  • Bob

    I don’t get it but I still enjoyed reading this. Strange that.


    Goats are like mushrooms: If you shoot a duck, I’m afraid of toasters.

  • ben

    oh for sure man

  • dave miller’s domme

    Martin Benjamin ’57 2016