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The Wit and Wisdom of Vardis Fisher

A Selection of 45 Newspaper Columns
compiled and edited by T. Roberts Fisher




Vardis Fisher, whom many consider Idaho's greatest writer, was also one of the most prolific writers of his or any generation. In addition to his 38 books covering every subject from poetry to historical fiction, he wrote regular newspaper columns and editorials over a period spanning 27 years. From 1941 to 1946, Fisher wrote for The Statesman [in Boise, Idaho] while employed as a member of its Editorial Board. Always controversial, he eschewed "political correctness" and tolerated no abridgement of his first amendment rights. In the middle of 1946, embroiled in a dispute over what he regarded as attempts to censor his columns, Fisher transferred his column to The Statewide, a weekly Idaho newspaper. He never wrote for The Statesman again, although he subsequently wrote for many of the smaller Idaho newspapers including the Weiser American, the Gooding Leader, The Intermountain and Alameda Enterprise, and the Eastern Idaho Farmer. At the time of his death in 1968 he was still writing a regular column for the Eastern Idaho Farmer.


In 1994, Vardis Fisher's widow, Opal Holmes Fisher, died in Boise. Her house contained a treasure trove of Vardis Fisher materials including books, manuscripts, letters, and scrapbooks of newspaper columns covering the period 1941-1968. My brother Grant and I were entrusted with the monumental task of sorting through all this material and I assumed temporary custody of the scrapbooks, primarily because I wanted to read them myself. I found them to be funny, provocative, sometimes far-sighted and inspiring, sometimes petty and myopic, but more than any other body of material they seemed to give insight into who Vardis Fisher was and what he believed.  This compilation represents my attempt to select a representative cross-section of these columns which can be read in a couple of hours by others who are also interested in learning more about Vardis Fisher.


Each column has been given a heading which includes the date of the column, the newspaper which published it, and a title.  Where an appropriate title was included with the original column, this title has been retained.  Some columns were printed with no titles [or under generic titles, such as "Vardis Fisher Says"] or with unwieldy headings which did not seem to describe the material very well.  I suspect that these were the work of newspaper editors, since Vardis Fisher was very good at assigning titles to his work.  In these case, I have taken the liberty of furnishing a title of my own.  For the convenience of the reader, the columns are grouped under broad general categories in the Table of Contents.


The columns themselves are unedited, except for the correction of obvious typographical errors.  In the selection, I have tried to paint an accurate portrait, giving a feeling for the tremendous range of subjects about which Fisher wrote,  while resisting the temptation to make him appear more wise or far-sighted than he actually was.  This, he would not have wanted.  Had he lived today, he would undoubtedly classify himself as a political conservative--he certainly believed that the solution to most social problems lay in individuals taking more responsibility for their own actions, and distrusted government intervention of any sort. Yet he was also a strong advocate of minority and women's rights long before such advocacy was even "politically correct." As such, he defies categorization except to say that he was an uncompromising seeker of truth, and did not hesitate to go wherever the search took him.


T. Roberts Fisher is the youngest son of Vardis Fisher.

Copyright T. Roberts Fisher, 1997

Words in square brackets [like this] have been added by the staff of Boise State University.




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