Shirley Tilghman’s “70 Years Of Creative Writing” (President’s Page, Feb. 24) brought back fond memories from what was without question a highlight of my experience at Princeton. It wasn’t just the impressive roster of writers — Joyce Carol Oates, Russell Banks, and Edmund Keeley were there then — but also the warm atmosphere at 185 Nassau and the strength of the student writers.
Among novelists-in-residence, my personal favorite was the late William Humphrey (Home From the Hill, The Ordways), who could be brusque one moment, warm and funny the next, but a terrific teacher always. Humphrey taught the curse of a wasted word, the beauty of a just-right metaphor, and what he considered the crutch of “writer’s block.” (Just put some words on the page, he’d tell us; wait a while, look them over, and then change them; that, Humphrey would say, is called editing.)
I recently met a friend who had been in those sessions (it doesn’t seem right to call them “classes”), and we agreed that the experience — from dropping off the old mimeographs of your short fiction to hearing a fine author point out your own gifts and weaknesses — was among the more memorable of our college years.