MALCOLM WELLS has been my pen pal for many years, though on occasion we have lived 3,000 miles apart as well as ten. We have rarely -- if ever -- talked on the telephone.
He always writes in longhand. I've never known him to use a typewriter and I know he will never get involved with computers. We should all be as smart. The portrait, right, of a distant ancestor, was sent to me pasted onto a postcard.
The card, below, is a watercolor sent as a postcard from Portugal. I've received hundreds of others -- well, many, let's say -- on every conceivable subject from Presidential politics to nubile women in bikinis. The letter , above, left, is typical, commenting on photographing people in direct sunlight (that's me) and how to disguise a mobile home.
Once, after I protested the dropping of his weekly column from the Cape Cod Times printed on the Letters to the Editor page, he sent a postcard with a drawing of three electric fans. In formal script, he lettered:
"We the fans of the late Malcolm Wells, I mean the late column of Malcolm Wells, would like to thank you for the warm sentiments you expressed in yesterday's Cape Cod Times. Sincerely, The Fans.
He also sent letters to the editors. One of my favorites was Keep it Short, as follows: "Most American students cannot write well enough to make themselves understood," according to a report in the [Boston] Globe on [December] 4.
The report went on to say that the average secondary-school teacher, who sees 150 kids a day, has time to pay no more than passing attention to all the written work that students are required to submit.
From the length of the homework assignments I've seen lately, it seems that the average teacher could solve both problems by requiring of each student not a lengthy report but a short paragraph.
Why teach kids to be bores? Quantity isn't quality. Let them learn to say it clearly, in as few words as possible. Then maybe they'll be ready to tackle those three-pagers.