May 15, 1998

Song: The Summer People

by Reed Whittemore


Today's Reading: "Song, the Summer People" from THE FEEL OF ROCK, by Reed Whittemore, published by Dryad Press.

It was on this day in 1940 that NYLON STOCKINGS went on sale for the first time. All the companies that manufactured them agreed to start selling them on the same day because they knew demand would be high: nylons were cheaper than silk stockings and more sheer, too.

It's the birthday in Augusta, Georgia, 1930, of the Pop artist, JASPER JOHNS. He grew up in South Carolina and moved to New York in the 1950s. In 1954 he started making a series of paintings of the American flag, and went on to include things like targets, maps, and Arabic letters on his canvases, which he painted using a technique called "encaustic" mixing hot beeswax with the paint. He became well known for gluing things like brooms and spoons and rulers on his paintings.

It's the birthday in Indian Creek, Texas, 1890, of KATHERINE ANNE PORTER, author of the 1962 novel, A Ship of Fools, and short stories that earned her the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award in 1966. She wrote fast: a short story often came out in an evening, a novella might take a week, and when she wrote she lived on oranges and coffee in a rented room, and rarely made revisions.

The poet EMILY DICKINSON died on this day in 1886, in the Amherst, Massachusetts house where she'd spent nearly her entire life. She was 55. During the Civil War she'd developed eye trouble and had to go live in Cambridge to get treatment for a few months. And when she returned to Amherst, she never traveled again; after the late 1860s never left the family property.

It's the birthday of EMILY FOLGER, in Ironton, Ohio, 1858, who with her husband Henry Folger founded the great Shakespeare archive in Washington, D.C., the Folger Library. Henry was head of the Standard Oil Company from 1911 to 1928, and in their spare time, he and Emily collected manuscripts and artwork, even furniture associated with Shakespeare. When Henry died in 1930, Emily oversaw the construction and management of the Folger Shakespeare Library, including nearly 100,000 pieces they donated to it. The library now has about a quarter-million books, many of them from the 16th and 17th centuries.

It's the birthday in Syracuse, New York, 1856, of the creator of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, FRANK BAUM. He came from a wealthy family, but lost the family fortune in the 1880s and moved out to Aberdeen, South Dakota where he tried running a drug store and then a newspaper, both of which failed, so he moved on to Chicago, tried newspapering again and buying and selling pottery, which also failed. In 1897 he came out with his book, Mother Goose In Prose and in 1900 he published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. He wrote more Oz books in the next decade, and disappointed his readers in 1910 by saying The Emerald City of Oz was the last one he'd write. But in 1914 he picked up the series again, and turned out one Oz book a year till he died in 1919.

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




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
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