Lately I’ve been editing an essay I wrote a couple of years ago about joining a fraternity and hazing. I cringed when I saw that it was over 24,000 words. So I’ve been hacking away at it with a machete trying to get it down to about 3,000.
HYPOTHETICAL EDITOR #1: What in tarnation is this idiot babbling about?
HYPOTHETICAL EDITOR #2: Why do we keep accepting these essays all tattered up by dull blades?
I took a breather from the editing jungle and glanced at a civil war book when I discovered that before the Gettysburg Address a man named Edward Everett spoke for over two hours. He was a prominent orator, politician, and former president of Harvard that was actually the person selected to make the main “address.” Lincoln was invited at the last minute and the organizers were surprised that he not only accepted, but “wished to say a few words.”
“Dedicatory Remarks by the President of the United States” was near the bottom of the program.
CITIZEN VISITING LINCOLN: “Abe, you gonna’ talk at that there ceremony?”
LINCOLN: “I don’t know. I want to.”
CITIZEN: “You the President, I reckon you probably should say sumpin.”
Everett’s first line was 52 words. His total speech, which he memorized, was over 13,000. He was an expert on antiquity and spoke at length about ancient funeral rites in Athens. Lincoln’s speech was 270 words. Two minutes vs. two hours.
There’s an important point to be made here, about something or other. But since this is a blog, I’m just going close with the fact that Everett had a kidney ailment that required a nearby tent with a pot for him to pee in. Two hours is a long time to hold a pee.
Now it’s time to drink more coffee and get back to editing my essay. I wonder if I can get one of those pots? It could save me a lot of time as I cut words like “superfluous.”
HYPOTHETICAL EDITOR #3: Is this another essay from that pot-pissing windbag?