William Safire: The Life of a Writer – by Judy Bachrach – Obit Magazine
A friend sent me this William Safire Obit today – I wasn’t aware he had died, and reading it set off a whole memory train.
My mom, Jean Andersen, who died in 2004, was a huge William Safire fan – not of his politics (she moved further and further left as she aged) so much as of his writing and of his unyielding and often irritable passion for the English language.
The two of them, Willam Safire and my mother, were soulmates in that regard – both of them dearly loved the language, were appalled at any ill-use of it, and were the staunchest defenders of grammatical purity and syntactical clarity.
I remember her reading snippets of his NY Times columns to me over the decades, always with a kind of relieved glee (finally! someone else on the side of the angels!) and always nodding in complete complete agreement. Understand: my mother was more than capable of an extended rant on the sad state of proof-reading in the world of modern newspapers; she had a special disdain for failures to spot the improper use of the apostrophe.
So, as I read Safire’s obituary, and thought about him and my mom, I realized how much I owe them both. She (and later he) called out, supported and honed my own love of language, and my passion for expressing myself as well and clearly as possible, from my earliest years. Certainly I’ve been inspired and encouraged to a high standard in my use of language by many other people (my brother Kurt, for instance, and my partner Jeff) but my mother influenced me most, and she introduced me to Safire as an influence, as well.
Thanks, mom, and thanks, Mr. Safire.