May 8, 1998

The Firl in the Next Room

by Reed Whittemore


Today's Reading: "The Girl in the Next Room" by Reed Whittemore from FEEL OF ROCK: POEMS OF THREE DECADES, published by Dryad Press (1982).

It's the birthday in 1952 of playwright BETH HENLEY, who was only 29 years old when she won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for the comedy Crimes of the Heart. She was born in Jackson, Mississippi, and went to school to become an actress and only started writing plays because she didn't want to take the set design and lighting courses; play-writing was the only course left.

It's the anniversary of V-E DAY, 1945, "Victory in Europe." The previous day the Germans had signed surrender papers in France, but the Soviet leader, Josef Stalin, refused to recognize the document, so another was drawn up and signed by the Soviets and the Germans in Berlin on May 8 which stipulated that all hostilities cease at 12:01 a.m., May 9. About two-thirds of the entire adult American population was tuned in to the radio when President Truman (on his birthday) went on the air and declared "V-E Day."

It's the birthday in Glen Cove, Long Island, 1937, of novelist and short story writer THOMAS PYNCHON, author of the 1973 fantasy Gravity's Rainbow, which won the National Book Award. His first job after getting an English degree from Cornell was as a technical writer for Boeing Aircraft in Seattle; he did that for two years, then left to write full-time, turning out his first novel, V., in 1963.

It's the birthday of jazz pianist MARY LOU WILLIAMS, in Atlanta, 1910, who started playing when she was three -- her mother pushing the pedals of the family's pump organ while Mary Lou picked out tunes. By the time she was six, she was earning $20 a night playing at neighborhood parties. In the 1930s she wrote for the big bands of Benny Goodman, Jimmie Lunceford and Duke Ellington; tunes like ""Roll 'Em," "Camel Hop," and "What's Your Story, Morning Glory." In the '40s Dizzy Gillespie had a hit with her song, "In the Land of Oo-Bla-Dee."

HARRY TRUMAN was born on this day in 1884 in the little southwestern Missouri town of Lamar, the son of a mule trader and farmer. Before he started in politics, he tried careers as a bank clerk, a postmaster, a partner in a lead mine and oil-prospecting business, in a men's clothing store -- nearly all of which failed. He made it to Washington on the strength of the Kansas City Democratic machine, and became FDR's vice-president in 1944. Truman became president in April 1945 when FDR died of a brain hemorrhage. The country didn't expect much of Truman -- but he turned out to be a decisive leader: he ordered the atomic bomb dropped on Japan; sponsored the Marshall Plan in Europe; and sacked General MacArthur at the height of the Korean War. He said "I discovered that being President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed." He was re-elected in 1948.

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




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