Mar. 13, 1998


by Stephen Dunn


Today's Reading: "Tucson" by Stephen Dunn from LOOSESTRIFE: POEMS, published by W.W. Norton & Company (1996).

It's the birthday of the writer JANET FLANNER, born in Indianapolis, 1892. She moved to France in 1922 to become a writer and for 50 years filed a report every other week for The New Yorker signing it GENET. Her first editor, Harold Ross, told her "I'm not paying you to tell me what you think. I want to know what the French are thinking," so in not one of her hundreds of articles did Flanner ever used the pronoun "I." She combed Paris and all of France for her material, and the weekend before deadline would hole herself up in a tiny writing room and work around the clock.

TSAR ALEXANDER II was killed on this day in 1881, in St. Petersburg, Russia. Assassins had been after him since the 1860s when he emancipated the Russian serfs, but he'd always escaped. The narodniki, a radical group, had been gunning for him for two years and finally found him on a St. Petersburg street. They threw a pair of small home-made bombs at him: the first exploded harmlessly; and as he stood in the street asking questions about it, they threw another which killed him.

In 1781, an hour or so after midnight, the English musician and amateur astronomer William Herschel made THE FIRST SIGHTING OF THE PLANET URANUS at his home in Bath. This was the first planet to be discovered since prehistoric times the others up until then, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, had all been visible to the naked eye, and everybody simply thought that was all there was. Herschel used a small six-and-a-half inch telescope and at first thought Uranus was a comet, but later firmed up his findings and announced it as the solar system's seventh planet.

It's the birthday of the English chemist and clergyman JOSEPH PRIESTLEY, in 1733. When he wasn't preaching, he loved to work in his lab, and there he discovered ammonia, sulphur dioxide, and oxygen.

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




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