Dear Richard Schmitt

Dear Richard Schmitt, You probably remember me as Linda Alcoff’s older son. I remember visiting your home by the pond a lot when we lived in Providence. Now I am a father and a producer at the TV show Democracy Now! I’m writing you because for years in college (and for a few years afterward when I still lived in Syracuse) I had a solid political library that served as a major resource to activists all around me. Your book, an Introduction To Marx And Engels: A Critical Reconstruction, was destroyed. I don’t mean bent or stained. I mean destroyed and replaced and destroyed and replaced more than any other text. Kids would come over and say that their roommate read it and they wanted to read it next. I’d come home and one of my various roommate’s friends would be curled up on the couch, reading it, oblivious to us. There were a few other books that did well (the usual suspects you could guess, Chomsky and Zinn et al), but I never understood why your book never garnered greater acclaim. It’s a really great book and it helped a lot of people understand a lot of stuff. I saw that you were friends on Facebook with mom and I just wanted to share that. Sam

11/16/11, 8:25 PM


Richard Schmitt

Well, Sam, you are obviously the same sweet person I knew a long time ago. It is really good to write and tell me that my book has been useful to you and your friends. Unless you are a really famous writer, who goes on book tours, you don’t really know what happens to the stuff you write–except how many copies the publishers sells–which does not tell you what you want to know. So a letter like yours is really great to have. Thanks so much? What are you up to? I am still teaching at the local State College near my house. Many bright people who work very hard to get a poor education, but who are often fun to talk to. Richard

We’ve had a lot of loss in the last few months. It’s difficult, the fleeting nature of our existence. My dad just texted me that Richard Schmitt passed away. I was always told that he was a great teacher and mentor to my mom, but my memories are of picking berries at his home and going out on a canoe. I couldn’t have been older than third grade when my family would go up to stay with his family, we had like no money then and it felt like this magical place. Then when I was in college, like I wrote to him, his book became incredibly popular at my house. “You should tell him,” my mother counseled and she was right. It’s a great book. You should read it.