Way back in 2007 I noted my discovery of Charles Wright, which has blossomed into a hungry devotion. So it was a treat to read David Skeel’s recent interview with Wright in Books & Culture. I particularly enjoyed the snippet where they discuss Wright’s one-time colleague at UVa, Richard Rorty. (I’ve read Wright’s poem “Reading Rorty and Paul Celan One Early Morning in June” as an opening to my course in Philosophy of Language.) Almost as an aside, Wright describes a lovely picture of quiet presence:
Dick was a man of few words out loud. But he could write like a dream, and he obviously was one of the great philosophers of our time. I think I only stood next to him two times. My favorite Rorty moment was early on when both of us had younger children–they must have been 13 and 14. We went to a Fourth of July function at Jack Levinson’s house, and the kids were playing out in the yard. I can’t remember whether I was sitting on the steps and Dick came up and sat down next to me, or whether Dick as on the steps. But I said, Hi, and he said, Hi. And that was it for a half hour. For half an hour. And about halfway through–no, after about five minutes, I guess; you know, it’s very uncomfortable not to speak–I suddenly understood that there are those of us who are happiest when we can sit next to somebody and not feel constrained to make small talk. Dick had very little small talk and a lot of large talk.