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Letters to the Editor

Kiss and tell
Tricia Shore's first-person account of her relationship with the late Tim McLaurin [First Person, "A Class, A Kiss, and A Doubt," Oct. 23] was as confused as she appears to have been when she knew him and apparently still is. As one of Tim's closest friends, one who spent countless hours with him over many years, I wondered what was she trying to say and, more important, why was she saying it? Was she implying that he was an imperfect human being? Part of Tim's enduring charm was that, unlike most people, he readily admitted his shortcomings both in person and in his writings. He attracted media attention without trying because he was interesting to reporters in ways that most writers, even more accomplished ones, never are.

Why did she want the world to know that he kissed her once when she, despite being married, seemingly spent as much time in his presence as possible? Who cares? Tim also attracted women like candles attract moths, and I saw him treat all of them with respect. And I know for a fact that he never cheated in marriage although he had at least scores of opportunities.

So Tim was an easy grader--so what? He encouraged all his students, male as well as female, even those with minimal writing skills, in part because of his own humble origins, because he always tried to spare people's feelings and because he wanted to accentuate the positive. To suggest that ulterior motives led him to tell women they were "good writers" is to dishonor the honorable dead.

Generous with his money, scant possessions and time to a fault, Tim had great natural talent as a writer--talent that never reached its full flowering because of poor health. And he endured an ungodly amount of physical and emotional pain over 13 years without complaint and while helping others, children and adults, endure the pain of their own illnesses. Not once did I see him do--or hear him say--anything ignoble. His children adored him. On balance, he was magnificent, and he was one of the few heroes those of us who loved him will ever know.

-DAVID WILLIAMSON, CHAPEL HILL

I am puzzled by Tricia Shore's essay about Tim McLaurin [First Person, Oct. 23], published in last week's Independent. What is her point, other than an attempt to damage the reputation of a fine man and valuable writer? and why would The Independent publish this essay at a time when his family still mourns his recent death? What actually happened here, anyway? An abortive attempt at a kiss between two friends whose marriages were both on the rocks, an attempt which was never repeated. Is this really such a big deal, especially considering that the friendship continued long afterward?

As a longtime teacher in the excellent creative writing program at NCSU, I especially resent Ms. Shore's assertion that Tim gave her an undeserved A due to this incident. I'm sure Tim gave her an A because he thought she'd earned it. Grading in creative writing courses is arbitrary at best; hard work, workshop participation, and in-depth evaluation of others' writing are also factors in grading--as is the teacher's individual taste and orientation. A few classes in a university setting are not really any indication that a person should or should not "be a writer." It takes a lot more than grades, honey, or kisses either one.

Tim had what it takes, and this is why his work spoke to so many people, and this is why he is so sincerely mourned. I share Ms. Shore's opinion of Robbie Knott, incidentally, a wonderful person and an extraordinary teacher--when she died, I established the Robbie Knott Fellowship in her memory. It is awarded every year to a student in N.C. State's graduate English program. I believe in giving people the respect in death that they earned in life. Robbie Knott is sincerely missed in Tompkins Hall, and Tim McLaurin is sincerely missed, too. Let us honor their memory.

-LEE SMITH, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, N.C. STATE UNIVERSITY

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