Friday, October 15, 2010

Writer Couples

Writers often admire writer-couples (poets Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon always come to my mind first) and imagine the couple sitting at a long wooden desk working simultaneously on their writing and periodically reading something aloud.

Perhaps because I’m an only child, but I always thought that scenario - where each writer worked in the same genre - would include a little jealousy and some arguments over word-choice and, optimistically, fame.

My husband Hans Noel is a writer, although not a creative writer. He started as a journalist and after receiving a Ph.D. in political science at UCLA, he teaches at Georgetown University. I imagine that my circle might categorize his writing as “non-fiction,” but of course it is more academic than the phrase suggests. He is a scientist who researches and shares his results in academic journals with clear, precise and interesting writing.

Do we write together? Yes, in a sense. We work in separate offices, but we share most of our work with each other and ask for feedback. We are both each other’s greatest fans, but we also value the work and offer the helpful criticism that we can. We are not experts in each other’s fields, but there are usually reasons why an outsider’s view is helpful. For example, as a poet, I don’t want my poems to only be read by other poets. I hope that they are accessible to a larger audience.

I can read through my husband’s work, although I will admit that I don’t understand all of the nuances. (He is a much better reader of poetry than I am of political science.) His recent article, however, is one geared towards a larger audience. “Ten Things Political Scientists Know that You Don’t” shares and explains surprising details about the news and what journalists, and eventually voters, should know.

My favorite section is, “Most People Do Not Have Strong Political Opinions.” No, it isn’t my favorite section just because when I read the New York Times or listen to NPR I nod my head in agreement. It is because Hans is right, even if we don’t like to admit it for fear of sounding ill-informed. We, the general consumers of news and voters who rely on our parties to lead our government, don’t need to know every detail about politics. Of course we should have some awareness, but we should also remember that a successful society divides the labor that it takes to run our land, from politics to art to everything else.

The article is in The Forum, published by Berkeley Electronic Press. You’ll probably have to login for free as a guest to read it.

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