Feeling gratitude for newspaper family, assignments


This is my last week as the books editor of The Palm Beach Post.

It has been a great run, and a long one — 24 years. Books haven’t been the only job I’ve done, but it’s by all odds the best.

Professionally, I know that this is the right move at the right time. I’ve written 13 books, but I’d like to write a batch more, and the best way to do that is to clear the table of other responsibilities while I still have sufficient energy and mental clarity.

At the same time, I’m going to continue my allegiance to the arts in South Florida and elsewhere. I expect you’ll be seeing and hearing from me in one venue or another. In short, I’m not retiring and never will — my ambition for my death used to involve getting shot by a jealous husband, but I’ve reset that to being found slumped over my keyboard at a suitably great age.

Personally, I have a feeling of terrible presumptive loss. This newspaper has been the family I found, and I hope I did my fair share of nurturing. As with any family, there are people in need of strangling, but the vast majority have been emotionally sustaining and professionally stimulating.

A friend of mine who left journalism five years ago told me that he felt slightly stupider after leaving; that without the camaraderie and cynical abrasion of the city room he felt his mental acuity fall away slightly.

I haven’t even left yet, but I know exactly what he means. A good newspaper is full of cranks — crabby, compulsive, energetic, often hilarious people for whom the only sin is boredom. There is no such thing as a good journalist who’s dull, and I’ve been privileged to work with some great ones, which translates to endless entertainment.

To the joy of the people, add to that the abiding privilege of the job of journalism — to see people, famous and obscure alike, at their best and worst and to have as your portfolio to write about it with as much candor as you can. It’s like getting paid to go to college for 40 years; it’s the best job in the world.

One of the profound things you learn as you go through life is that experiences don’t always affect you in the way you might expect. After 24 years in my job, 26 years at the Post, now that its time to leave my main emotion isn’t sadness, it’s gratitude — for the enduring friendships, for getting paid to read books and look at art and tell people what I thought. And gratitude as well for everyone who took the time to read and write me, and yes, that includes the frustrated grammarians whose souls writhe at a split infinitive. (I happen to like split infinitives …)

Writing is a message in a bottle that’s sent out into the world. If you’re lucky, your message gets read. I’ve been singularly lucky in that my messages met with a smart public who cared about the word, and I hope that will continue to be the case for a long time to come.

So to all my friends on shore. … To those who laughed with me; to those who found something of value in what I wrote …

Thank you.


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