Bly v. Hall

I’m listening to a fabulous conversation between Robert Bly and Donald Hall, the debut of Garrison Keillor’s “Literary Friendships” series. I know these two, because they were the pet luminaries on the Bennington campus when I did my MFA there. I loved how cranky they were with each other and how their five decades of friendship, which began at Harvard, has mellowed to near perfect acceptance and affection for each other, without either giving an inch on what he believes and what he believes is ridiculous in the other. “He gets everything wrong,” Hall is saying on the show, “and I get everything right.” They are scrapping even now, leaving no room for Garrison to interject the next sage question. They are laughing about pouring beer on each others heads.

Bly always irritated me with his Luddite pontifications against the internet, and now he’s at it again, decrying how writers these days send e-mails to each other instead of letters on paper. And they delete the messages! Horrors! Well, actually, the messages are probably gently piling up on the writers’ hard drives, and the back and forth in words is performing the exact same role that Bly’s and Hall’s thousands of letters served: to connect and challenge and support. Good for Garrison for thinking up this way of highlighting the un-solitary part of the writing life.

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