I’ve just barely begun Malcolm Muggeridge’s autobiography, Chronicles of Wasted Time, and I made myself set it down. I needed to write this down before I moved on, since by moving on I would have greatly increased the chance this would never get recorded.
The writing is fabulous. It gives me hope: He was a journalist by training and vocation, but his prose is nevertheless deep.
Although I am a journalist by training and (former) trade, I realized before I finished my bachelor’s that it wasn’t the field for me. Still, having worked in the field, there are a few aspects of journalism that resonate with the core of who I am. Muggeridge states this one better than I ever have:
My years of journalism have, in any case, inculcated in my a strong and, as I consider, on the whole salutory resistance to rereading or reconsidering anything done earlier than yesterday. With a few special exceptions, I have had no wish to renew acquaintance with my past writings, whether published or unpublished. Even when they have been reissued, I have not cared to revise them, or, if the truth be told, read them. That mysterious saying Let the dead bury their dead applies, as far as I am concerned, with particular force to words, which exist like insects in the tropics, buzzing briefly round a hurricane lamp and then piling up in dead heaps on the ground.
I have felt this way about my own writing for as long as I can recall having an opinion on the matter. Certainly I haven’t reached a point in my life when my writings are being reissued, but the idea still holds. I know working journalists who do not act in this way, but I have trouble understanding that course of action.
Note: The title of this post also, as you could probably guess, came from the book. The first sentence of the first chapter begins like this: “We communicators — vendors of words to use St. Augustine’s expression …” Such grand terminology!