Mar. 6, 1998

Lending Out Books

by Hal Sirowitz


Today's Reading: "Lending Out Books" by Hal Sirowitz from MY THERAPIST SAID, published by Crown (1998).

ASPIRIN was patented on this day in 1899 by the chemist Felix Hoffmann. He found a way to take the pain-killing ingredient that people had used for centuries in the willow tree and other plants and stabilize it and manufacture it cheaply.

LOUISA MAY ALCOTT, the author of Little Women, died on his day in 1888, Boston - overcome with grief after returning just a few hours earlier from her father's funeral.

Verdi's opera LA TRAVIATA was premiered on this date in Venice, 1853. The title means "a woman who has been led astray." Despite having terminal consumption, the woman sings long and beautifully throughout the opera. The story is based on a real person, who the French writer Alexandre Dumas dramatized in a play that inspired Verdi.

It's the anniversary of the ALAMO, in 1836. Texas had been in a war for independence from Mexico for about a year, when 187 Texans holed up at the old Alamo mission in San Antonio refused General Sam Houston's orders to abandon it for safer ground. Several thousand Mexican troops bombarded the Alamo for 12 days, then on March 6 swarmed over the wall and killed everyone inside except a few women and children. Davy Crockett was one of those who died, having just arrived from Washington where he'd been serving as a Congressman.

The poet ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING was born on this day in 1806, near Durham, England, the eldest of 11 children. She was her father's favorite and he forbid her ever to marry. But in 1844 she published a collection of poems that the young poet Robert Browning liked; he wrote her a letter and they struck up a friendship and later a courtship, and two years later they eloped and fled to Italy. There she wrote about her devotion to Robert in a series of poems called Sonnets from the Portuguese, published in 1850.

It's the birthday of MICHELANGELO, born in a little village in Tuscany called Caprese, 1475. His mother died early so the boy was sent to live with the family of a nearby stonemason who raised him till he was about 10. In his late 20s he carved a statue of the dead Christ in the arms of the Madonna, the Piet‡; he delivered it himself in a handcart to the Vatican and overheard someone say that anyone so young couldn't have done anything so beautiful; the next day he came back and chiseled his name into it ÷ the only work he ever signed. He called himself a sculptor, and said "painting is my shame." Nevertheless, the pope ordered him to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It took him four years of lying on his back at the top of a 65-foot scaffold, working mostly in the summers so the paint and fresh plaster could dry before dripping down on him.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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