Ave Atque Vale
An email conversation about the news of the day.
May 9 2002 1:58 PM

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Dear Alex,

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A few months ago, I recall, you reviewed (in the New York Times Book Review) Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens and Letters to a Young Lawyer by Alan Dershowitz. How about Letters to a Young Free-Lance Writer? In highly abbreviated form, I would offer the following advice to a young person who wishes to enter this prestigious and remunerative line of work.

1. How to Get Started: Write an article and send it to an editor. If it gets printed, send that editor another article; if not, send that article to another editor.

2. How to Become a Columnist: First, find something to say. Then keep on saying it.

3. Book Reviewing" You need only actually read the book if you are going to give it a pasting. (I hear that even this rule is routinely violated these days.)

4. Don't let anything evade your eyes—plagiarize! (Actually, the term "plagiarize" is seldom used anymore, having been replaced by the verb "to ambrose.")

5. Recycle—it's the law!

Perhaps you have something to add to this list, Alex. In any case, I have enjoyed our correspondence. I would like to thank Amanda Gilbertson for posting a link to a Web site explaining New Zealand's electoral system, and I would like to apologize to "Bosochima" for giving away the ending of the movie Hollywood Ending. To the rest of those who took the time to post messages in "The Fray": I'll see you in hell.

Best,
Jim

P.S.: One final correction. The analysis of the one-word joke "Kalamazoo" did not come from Noam Chomsky; rather, it was furnished by Nim Chimpsky, a linguistically gifted chimpanzee belonging to Professor Herbert Terrace of the Columbia University psychology department.

Jim Holt writes the "Egghead" column for Slate. He also writes for The New Yorker and the New York Times Magazine. Alexander Star is a writer who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. This fall, he will begin editing the "Ideas" section of the Boston Globe.

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