Jul. 20, 1998

Summer Morning

by Charles Simic


Today's Reading: "Summer Morning" by Charles Simic from DISMANTLING THE SILENCE, published by George Brazilier.

THE EAGLE LANDED ON THE MOON on this day in 1969, at 4:17 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, Jr. were inside, while Michael Collins orbited in the command module Columbia. Seven hours later Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon.

A BOMB PLOT TO KILL HITLER was carried out on this day in 1944. One of his highest-ranking military officers, Klaus Schenk, set a briefcase bomb under a meeting table at Hitler's headquarters. The bomb went off as Hitler was leaning over the table looking at some papers. He was only about six feet away from the blast, but was unhurt because the table itself – made of thick, heavy oak – absorbed most of the impact. Schenk and about 1,000 other conspirators were immediately rounded up and shot.

It's the birthday in Providence, Rhode Island, 1933, of novelist CORMAC McCARTHY, author of All the Pretty Horses, which won the 1992 National Book Award, followed by The Crossing two years later, and Cities of the Plain that came out just a few weeks ago – a trilogy about young cowboys in west Texas and their adventures across the border in Mexico. McCarthy grew up outside of Knoxville, Tennessee and started writing novels in the 1960s with The Orchard Keeper. This and his other books – Child of God, Outer Dark, Blood Meridian – all got rave reviews from the critics but failed to sell well, in part because McCarthy refuses to give interviews, do publicity tours, or talk at all about his work.

Mark Twain's book INNOCENTS ABROAD was published on this day in 1869. It was his second book and within a year sold over 70,000 copies, and it remained his best-selling book during his life. It was a travel book that began as a series of letters written for a San Francisco paper.

It was on this day in 1715, in London, that THE RIOT ACT went into effect. Reading someone the riot act back then was done only by the police and was meant to squash political rebellion. By law, if 12 or more people were assembled and disturbing the peace, a constable was required to yell at them: "Our sovereign lord the king chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves and peaceably to depart to their habitations, preventing tumults and rioutous assemblies. God save the king."

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