* Note that the playback function may entail lengthy delays where the writer cogitated. We do try to jump to the point at which composing began, but there is the occasional writer who types a letter and then stops for five minutes. Hang in there.

David Lehman

We asked David Lehman to write on the following:

[T]here was endless talk about "healing," and of the "courage" that it had taken for Ford to excuse his former boss from the consequences of his law-breaking. You may choose, if you wish, to parrot the line that Watergate was a "long national nightmare," but some of us found it rather exhilarating to see a criminal president successfully investigated and exposed and discredited. And we do not think it in the least bit nightmarish that the Constitution says that such a man is not above the law. Ford's ignominious pardon of this felonious thug meant, first, that only the lesser fry had to go to jail. It meant, second, that we still do not even know why the burglars were originally sent into the offices of the Democratic National Committee. In this respect, the famous pardon is not unlike the Warren Commission: another establishment exercise in damage control and pseudo-reassurance (of which Ford was also a member) that actually raised more questions than it answered. The fact is that serious trials and fearless investigations often are the cause of great division, and rightly so. But by the standards of "healing" celebrated this week, one could argue that O.J. Simpson should have been spared indictment lest the vexing questions of race be unleashed to trouble us again, or that the Tower Commission did us all a favor by trying to bury the implications of the Iran-Contra scandal. Fine, if you don't mind living in a banana republic.

-- Christopher Hitchens

"He lost touch with reality," said Saad Hadi, a journalist who was involved in the production of Saddam's novels. "He thought he was a god who could do anything, including writing novels."

[In addition to a novel called Be Gone Demons!] Saddam published three equally bad volumes between 2000 and his downfall.

To begin with, distinguished writers were asked to improve Saddam's yarns. Mujiba al-Anizi, whose husband, Sami, contributed to his first novel, Zabibah and the King, recalled how he was summoned from his job one morning and told he had three days to produce a book from the president's notes.

"Sami normally came home and kissed his children goodnight," recalled Mrs al-Azizi. "But that evening he just stood in the hallway sweating. He said 'our uncle' had given him a special task."

Two months later, just as 250,000 copies of Zabibah and the King were being anonymously distributed, Mr al-Anizi came home, walked into the kitchen, drank a jug of water and fell down dead. His widow believes he was killed on the president's orders to hush up his role in the book.

The Telegraph

The one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing.

-- James Brown

Wisdom and love have nothing to do with each other. Wisdom is staying alive, survival. Youíre wise if you donít stick your finger in the light plug. Love -- youíll stick your finger in anything.

-- Robert Altman

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