Summary and Personal Response: “On Becoming a Writer” Naomi Cranfield Prof. Denise Ogden ENG 115 28 October 2012 Summary and Personal Response: On Becoming a Writer Mr. Russell Baker is a professional writer whose writings have earned him the Pulitzer Prize on more than one occasion. The excerpt “On Becoming a Writer” came from his memoir “Growing Up” (Baker, 1982). In this section of his memoirs, Mr. Baker is explaining that pivotal moment in his life when he realized he wanted to become a writer.
Russell (1982) says that he had “been bored by everything associated with English courses”. He had dreaded having to write compositions, and knew that they were not acceptable writings. He didn’t like having to read the classics and said that it was “as deadening as chloroform”. He had an English teacher, Mr. Fleagle, who at first seemed to be straitlaced and puritanical. From his first impression of this teacher, he expected yet another year of monotony and boredom. Then one day his class had been given an assignment to write an informal essay.
Russell had been given a list of topics to choose from for writing his essay. He took home this list and ignored it until the night before it was due. The topic that Mr. Baker chose to write about was “The Art of Eating Spaghetti”. He chose this topic because it was the one that stood out the most to him. It reminded him of an occasion when his family was eating spaghetti and the comical opinions of how to do it were making everybody laugh. It was at that moment that he actually had an epiphany.
There was something he really wanted to evoke into his writing, particularly for himself. He started writing with the intentions of rewriting another version for his teacher. However by the time he finished writing the original he had no time to “compose a proper, respectable essay” for class. Mr. Baker had to turn in the original essay. He was sure that he was going to fail that lesson. When his English teacher had finished grading the class’s essays, he returned all but Mr. Baker’s. Young Russell Baker just knew that he was in trouble. All of sudden Mr.
Fleagle caught the attention of Russell and the rest of the class and proceeded to read out loud Russell’s essay. Everybody was enthralled and pleasantly amused with the essay to include Mr. Fleagle. That was when Russell Baker knew he wanted to be a writer. I believe that the purpose of this writing is so that Mr. Baker can share his experiences with his audience and to inform them of how it came to be that he wanted to become a writer. The genre of Mr. Baker’s writing is a literacy narrative, because he is describing his thoughts on how he believed that he truly became a writer.
I think that Mr. Baker’s audience could possibly student writers, English students, and maybe even followers of his columns. The tone that he uses in this writing might be one of satisfaction. He started out explaining his frustration with his English composition but then towards the end he was proud and satisfied with what he had accomplished. My response to this writing is, as a student who is currently taking an English composition class right now, I do get very easily frustrated with having to write.
I find it difficult to find a topic that interests me to the point of wanting to just let my words flow. I have a desire to be able to write something that will catch the reader’s attention and keep it but I have such a hard time with it. I also can relate to Mr. Baker’s point of view that sometimes it takes something so simple as a family dinner to bring to mind a whole slew of interesting and amusing ideas. References: Baker, R. (1982) Growing up: On becoming a writer. New York, NY: Don Congdon Associates
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