By Stephen Dunn
Anyone who begins a sentence with, “In all honesty … ”
is about to tell a lie. Anyone who says, “This is how I feel”
had better love form more than disclosure. Same for anyone
who thinks he thinks well because he had a thought.
If you say, “You’re ugly” to an ugly person — no credit
for honesty, which must always be a discovery, an act
that qualifies as an achievement. If you persist
you’re just a cruel bastard, a pig without a mirror,
somebody who hasn’t examined himself enough.
A hesitation hints at an attempt to be honest, suggests
a difficulty is present. A good sentence needs
a clause or two, interruptions, set off by commas,
evidence of a slowing down, a rethinking.
Before I asked my wife to marry me, I told her
I’d never be fully honest. No one, she said,
had ever said that to her. I was trying
to be radically honest, I said, but in fact
had another motive. A claim without a “but” in it
is, at best, only half true. In all honesty,
I was asking in advance to be forgiven.
Stephen Dunn came into national prominence when his eleventh book, Different Hours, won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize. Born in Forest Hills, New York, Dunn took a degree from Hofstra University in History and English in 1962 and was a key player on the school’s greatest-ever basketball team; he later earned a MA in Creative Writing from Syracuse University. His accessible work conveys its insights through quiet reflections on everyday events and central human dilemmas.
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