McGILL DAILY NOVEMBER
One Hundred Crumbs
by Donald Kingsbury
Professor Holcomb always teaches Chemistry 11 but otherwise things occasionally change
around this University. Back in '51, when I was a freshman, the big change was the
introduction of 100C, bless the English Department. Not that the course hadn't existed
before in embryonic form. I remember the earlier edition well. Certainly it was thriving
in '48 during my Dawson College Binge while I was going thru Holcomb's Chem-11 with a
grand average of zero, and writing my English compositions atop the tavern tables in Saint
Jean with a gallon of ale in my belly and the Boulais Bus Song ringing in my ears. But in
'51 they named the composition course 100C and made it a real fascinating adventure in
creative writing by adding a May exam. Progress.
1.2 I think I
can offer you an authoritative opinion on the course seeing as I am one of these here
master craftsmen of the English language, a distinction which I can claim because it so
happens that I sell the stuff I make with my little ole typewriter. You
don't never catch me getting my grammer rules out of a book; I'm one of the guys what
makes the rules. And knock off telling me I write the lousy prose; I'm a good
writer. The last manuscript I conjured up for one of the top hundred markets in the States
was received with such delight by the editor (John W. Campbell Jr.) that he wrote an
editorial about me in which he mentioned my name 31 times (I counted
them). This was because he got an avalanche of mail in response to the piece. If you
don't like me, the guys what pay the bills do, and them's the guys what counts.
Now having established my credentials as an authority on the English language I offer you
my authoritative opinion; 100C stinks!
In the first place they try to teach you grammer. Grammer, yet. From the pinnacle of my
success I offer all aspiring young writers -- and especially freshmen -- these pearls, of
wisdom; a mastery of grammer will not give you a mastery of the English language, indeed
such knowledge is superfluous.
Nobody can kill a sentence better than a grammerian. If you don't believe me just read a
few of the sentences in your grammer book used to illustrate the correct usage of the word
"whom," or some other such nonsense. Gems of horse manure.
Grammerians teach you foolishness. You can't write a sentence without a verb.
Baloney. You can't write a sentence that ends in a proposition; but what could be
more poignant than: "She stood there with nothing on." And don't never let
them catch you using no double negative. (Triple negatives are okay, tho, due to the
fact that three negatives make a negative.) They'll even try to tell you that
grammerian is spelt grammarian.
You don't even need grammer to pass the exam. I'm a shining example. I didn't
never buy the book, and still don't know any more parts of speech than the noun, verb, and
participle(?), but I went thru the exam on my good left ear and came out with a 79.
Believe me, your ears will help you master English far more than any grammer book ever
Now we come to the compositions -- ghaaa! You poor freshmen saps, wait till you see the
next assignment. It's going to be worse than the last one. It always is. How
intelligent people can think up those boring topics, I'll never know. And you have
to write on them, yet! Let me tell the English Department something they ought to
have sensed -- no illiterate type freshman ever learns to write by writing on a topic he
couldn't care less about. Watch him as he takes those papers back. He glances at
the density of red marks and never looks at the paper again. That he did a bad job
doesn't interest him because he didn't care whether he was saying anything in the first
I started writing I wrote about things I liked, about things I wanted to communicate to
people. Believe me, that's when a rejection slip or a red mark hurts. That's
when your head aches with revising, replotting. That's when you learn something.
And you've got nowhere till you've mangled at least 100,000 words and torn your
heart out trying to get them straight. I've been thru half a million words and
enough rejection slips to paper my wall with. I still have plenty to learn.
Could 500 words on some inane topic every couple of weeks for six months teach anybody to
write? Don't make me laugh.
To The English Department
Has it ever occurred to the English Department that a man can love and appreciate
literature, yet be a clumsy fool with a pen in his hands? We don't expect every
music lover to be a musician nor every art lover to be an artist; why should we expect
every educated man to be able to write? I know the effort that goes into
dominating one's language, and consequently I know that the English Department's ambition
to make writers of all of us is fantasy. A college student just cannot afford the time to
learn to write unless he seriously entertains the thought of becoming an author of some
But bear up to it ye suffering freshmen -- 100C won't poison you, it's just so much sand
that, tho it tastes awful bad, is eliminated too fast to do any real damage to your