A candidate's stupid remark and a writer's triumph 

A candidate's stupid remark and a writer's triumph

You know what really chafes us this week at the Indy? No, not the ear-splitting silence of the corporate mainstream news over Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign, which is packing arenas from Seattle’s Key Arena to New York’s Madison Square Garden with 10,000 to 15,000 bodies at $10 a pop. And no, it’s not the decision to ban Nader from an auditorium for viewing the presidential debates under threat of arrest, which reeks of censorship worse than the “Wake Up with Slobodan Milosevic!” morning show.

What really gets our goat is the recent dearth of quotable quotes coming from Montana’s Election Day hopefuls. Where are the un-P.C. Burnsian quips about nose rings, ragheads, and Montana’s uninsured? Where’s our “Read my lips” or “We begin bombing in five minutes?” Oh, Quaylian potatoe, wherefore art thou?

One bright spot on an otherwise dim quotation quotient was last month’s gem by Elaine Sollie Herman, Republican candidate for state Superintendent of Public Instruction. When asked at a candidates’ forum in Billings how she would discipline troublemakers in the state’s public schools, Herman replied, “I’m going to give every teacher a gun and a holster and tell them to line up and shoot them. I really wanted to say that really bad. I have for a year, and I’ve never said it in public before.”

Her faux pas, aside from a callous disregard for the public’s lack of humor about school violence? The redundant use of the word “really” twice in one sentence. She should have said, “I wanted to say that really badly. Hey, spelling and grammar counts for school administrators, too.

Just when you were probably starting to think, “Adjunct liberal arts faculty, who needs ‘em?” or, “creative writing: harumph, why don’t you go out and get yourself some real life skills?” comes along evidence that long hours in front of the machine pays off, UM does attract talent, the creative writing program is alive and kicking, and there is one more person in this town who can flat out write.

October’s issue of Atlantic Monthly contains a story called “Unraveled,” written by first-year UM MFA student Liza Ward. In addition to publishing the story of their former intern in the front of the magazine, the editors ran a brief bio and a photo; they described the “dark whimsy” of the story as well as its “cut glass prose.” But they do neglect to mention the wicked sense of humor.

Liza is a native of Brooklyn and is enjoying her experience away from the city. She credits a teacher at Middlebury College in Vermont for pointing the way west for her and recommending the creative writing program at UM. Liza does admit that being published adds some additional pressure to her schoolwork. “I don’t want to be asking, ‘Was that one story just an accident?’” she says. But, so far none of the kids at school have picked on her for being famous, or at least published. She is currently at work on a collection of short stories and looking forward to ski season.

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