A writer writes to one person. His/her so-called audience is in fact a single soul. The specific system of words, images, rhythms, phrases that the writer molds and remolds have as their goal the most complete satisfaction of this one reader he/she has in mind. A writer without this goal—a person who reads what has been written just for him/her—does not exist. "This book's purpose," writes Ludwig Wittgenstein in the preface to Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, "is achieved if it gave pleasure to one person who read and understood it." The achievement of that purpose is at the heart of any writing act.

Now that we have established this understanding (that every writer has a reader in mind), we can turn to the popular and award-winning Seattle P-I columnist Robert L. Jamieson Jr. and ask: Who is his one reader?

Like all writers, Jamieson has an ideal subject for his work, a reader who loses none of his linguistic and critical moves. Each sentence written by Jamieson means everything to this imagined person. But what kind of person picks up the newspaper on a Tuesday or Thursday or Saturday, turns to the page that runs Jamieson's column, and finds himself/herself addressed directly? Who says: "Robert is speaking to me. It is really me he is addressing. I'm the one who is activated by these sentences. I'm the one who has arrived just in time to be satisfied by his tone, metaphors, and word patterns."

What kind of person is this reader who is called/hailed/interpellated into being by Jamieson's column? How do they see the world? Where are they in the city? Judging from the column, this person (certainly a man) doesn't get out much but likes to be transported, on a mental magic carpet, to the more dicey parts of the city. A typical opening for the column: "Let's go to the scene of the crime." Or: "I'm sitting at a table at Sugar's on Aurora Avenue North in Shoreline. The clock lumbers toward 1 a.m. Friday, and the joint is not jumping." Or: "[I'm in] the Shell station in Tukwila as the clock edged to 3 a.m." Or: "Twenty-Third Avenue crosses East Union Street near the heart of the Central Area. Welcome to one of the most notorious intersections in Seattle."

Jamieson's reader knows that some places in Seattle are not safe at all and so greatly appreciates the risk he takes to report from these local hot spots. "It's Friday night, just after 10:45. Yellow police tape ribbons a block of Pine Street at Second and Third. A white sheet drapes over a man who has been fatally shot in front of a shoe store. His body lies twisted and wedged between the curb and a silver Kia."

Jamieson's reader is a reasonable man. When he reads, "I'd say that's a wise allocation of limited police resources," he thinks to himself: "Yes, I have to agree with you, Jamieson. This is a wise allocation of police resources." The reader also shares with the writer a Washingtonian (as in Booker T. Washington) work ethic: "Work hard, take advantage of opportunity, and refuse to let unfortunate circumstances—a tough boss, poverty, or racism—become excuses."

Jamieson's reader, however, is not conservative. Instead of condemning the morally low practice of prostitution, the reader is liberal (reasonable) enough to see the same good that Jamieson sees in it: "With escort rates between $200 and $300 an hour, I now believe an independent escort is hardly exploited financially—though this line of work could leave psychological scars."

Jamieson's reader is all about the importance of a good education. Nothing scandalizes him more than teens who know nothing about American history. The decay of the education system is the decay of society: "There are no excuses for parents skipping out on parent-teacher meetings but showing up at every basketball or football game. Numerous Seattle public school principals tell me that happens, and it shows out-of-whack priorities. Don't parents know education is liberating?"

But what the reader enjoys most is the sermonic in Jamieson. Those frequent moments when the column dissolves into a music-loud black American church:

"This is where drugs and cash change hands out in the open, protesters take to the streets for justice, and bullets too often fly.

"This is where a football star found trouble, a Seattle mayor was beaten in daylight, and just this week, a life was stolen." At this point, the reader wants to stand and say: "Tell it like it is, Robert."

(The color of Jamieson's reader changes: If he is in a room with white people, he is black; if he is in a room with black people, he is white.)

Though moved by Jamieson's bursts of sermonic eloquence, the reader advocates moderation. We must not forget that while at Stanford, Jamieson studied and admired the ancient Greeks. And what the Greeks cast suspicion on were the passions. The art of life was the art of finding the middle course through it. Jamieson's reader is suspicious of any form of excessive behavior that does not have as its end a public good.

Out of the four million or so people in the Seattle area, Jamieson's reader believes his moral, social, and politic position is at the midpoint of this population. Jamieson's reader is our man in the middle. recommended