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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My A- for "Gross Illiteracy." (Alternate title: "Playing to a Tough Crowd")

There follows a Facebook conversation I have had over the past 18 months with my high school classmate author Lois Borkan Morris. [Posted with Lois' permission.]
May 12, 2010

 I hope this note finds you well and still thrilled with life. You can read about mine at the link below.

Your admirer and friend,


May 14, 2010
Hi. Your present and immediate future life sound exciting, speaking of thrilled with life. After your note last year about your brother (at Penn), I was about to counter with a bit of bragging about my outrageous radical activist criminal attorney sister, Susan Jordan...but then she died. Now, nearly a year later, I'm beginning to research a memoir about her, her career, our relationship. Much about the 60s, 70s, decisions made and life courses taken. Like there we were in Chicago August 1968, where she was in law school and I had returned to be married to my future ex-husband. Comes the day of the Democratic Convention and she's in the riot and I'm at a bridal shower.

And going back just a handful of years from that, to 1963, there I am writing you a letter in code, Jack Kennedy gets killed, life changes. And keeps changing.

Be well and enjoy your journeys. May we all. //L

July 19, 2011
  • Lois wrote: "And more: Duncan, how does the current government of and younger generation in Romania deal with the, uh, unpleasant realities of the past?"

    There are clearly visible scars in the demeanor of older Romanians, who are still quite reserved and formal in their modes of behavior and communication. Younger college-age (and just beyond) Romanians seem to me to be enjoying their European-hood, are ultra-modern users of the Internet and social media, and are doing a lot of travel in Western Europe. But still, they are pretty down on their country. They find that Romania, and Romanians are denigrated by their Italian "cousins," and that hurts their self-images. (I heard reports of beaches in Italy that had banned Romanians. The Romanians blame their expatriate "gypsies" for this image, but suffer nevertheless from the discrimination.)

    Male Romanians tend to be pessimistic. "Those in power are the former Communists, and until they die, things will never really change," is an oft-heard remark. The young men seem to buy into this thesis. They have not learned to take charge in a representative democracy, which can be done by a small minority that votes as a swing-vote block. (Witness Youth in electing B.O. here, and the Tea Party today in giving him fits.) The bureaucracy is huge and lacks a service attitude. The people exist to serve the government, rather than vice-versa.

    Female Romanians in the university town I lived in
    (Cluj) seem far better-adjusted then do men. They really take care of themselves, and they like to be noticed and appreciated by men. Of course, their beauty and charm are not lost on us auslanders, and many end up marrying foreigners and moving abroad. In general, the women evince self-confidence to a much greater degree than do Romanian men.
Those are my personal observations/opinions. Nothing more.

Thanks for asking!

July 20
  • So interesting, and so different from the Chinese, who make no comments about their government in public or private, as far as I can tell (when I'm drunk in China I understand every word). The younger generation is SO techno and Western-cool. And they're so into money. The older (our) generation that I've met--mostly in the arts--seem wistful. The bad old days were better for the artist than the profit-makes-perfect era.

    I've never traveled in eastern Europe, though when I was ed-in-chief for Arthur Frommer publishing, I wrote a guide to Romania in one of our newsletters, info culled from the tourist office in NY. I got more kudos from readers for that than for guides to countries I've been to. Hmm.

    Are you returning to Romania? //L
July 21
  • Yes, I will go back to Romania every chance I get. I love many people there, and it is a beautiful country, especially in Transylvania. Have you seen my photos from there, both in FB and in my blog?

    Doing Utmost, Never Caving, Always Nimble
July 21
  • Yes, I've seen the great photos. Are you going back to teach next semester? But you are coming to the reunion, right?

    Thanks for the book plug, by the way...
July 22
  • Dear LBM:

    No thanks needed. Tian/Morris is a great book. A page-turner about opera, of all things! (I have long loved a good biography, and this one I could not put down.)

    Yes, I am planning to come to the reunion, where I will attempt to give you a belated hug. Gay Weake and I are to be co-hosting the nearly blind and still beloved Uncle Joe McCloskey, if, as he puts it, he is "still around come October."

    I am to be teaching for my New Hampshire university in the fall, but only online MBA courses, so I will be free to accept my daughter's invitation to accompany her to Buenos Aires in September [a trip we decided to postpone for a year], and to fly to Budapest for an accreditation visitation scheduled for the week before our reunion. I hope to go to Europe a week or so early so that I can visit friends in Cluj, which is only a six-hour bus ride from Budapest
    [a trip recently completed].
Finally, I hope you saw my "then" in "seem better-adjusted then do men" as a typo. I would have circled it in a student's paper. ;-)

July 25
  • So glad you liked the book, Duncan. What an interesting job to write someone's memoir who didn't remember the context of what was going on around him, because he was a child, and whose childhood I researched, finding details that at first he fought me on, such as the specific actions the Red Guard took against named teachers at the middle schools he went to (oh I do love research).

    I remember Mr. McCloskey with great respect and affection. I had him for English senior year, I think it was. Were you in class with me?

    Buenos Aires (good opera city, btw), Budapest, Cluj, Chicago--eek, but surely advernturous.

    I have given you an A- minus for your then/than mixup--or I would have in junior year English at NT, where Mr. Jensen (who also taught German) had a list of Gross Illiteracies. But since the advent of email and texting and all that, your personal suffering will suffice. 


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