Jun. 19, 2001

Tuesday, 19 June 2001
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Poem: "Hell," by David R. Slavitt from Falling from Silence: Poems (Louisiana State University Press).


Hell is very much like heaven except
that the furniture there has somehow been misarranged,
a pipe in a wall is leaking (the plumber again
has failed to show up), and the freezer compressor is shot
so that food is defrosting, and where is that serviceman?

Such trivial things! Surely, the great-souled and wise
seem not to mind, while we, other and lesser
(but honest about our feelings)...do we know better?
And must we keep still? Don't we have the right to complain?
But where is a pen that works? And where are my glasses?

It's the birthday of author Salman Rushdie, born to an affluent Muslim family in Bombay, India, in 1947. He was educated in England, and he worked as a freelance advertising copywriter for 10 years before publishing Midnight's Children in 1981, which won him the Booker Prize.

It's the birthday of Tobias Wolff, born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1945. He joined the army when he was 18, and learned Vietnamese. He was sent to Vietnam in 1967, and afterward, he studied hard to gain admittance to Oxford University. He wrote for the Washington Post, and then began writing fiction. His first book was In the Garden of the North American Martyrs, published in 1981. Tobias Wolff said: "You could say that all my characters are reflections of myself, in that I share their wish to count for something, and their utmost confusion as to how this is supposed to be done."

It's the birthday of the film critic Pauline Kael, born in Petaluma, California, in 1919. She was raised on a farm by her father, a Polish Jew, who loved going to the movies. She went to college at the University of California at Berkeley, and published her first movie review in the magazine City Lights. She contributed to dozens of magazines while she ran an art-film theater in Berkeley, and broadcast reviews on the radio. In 10 years, though, she made less than $2,000 reviewing films. She moved to New York City and freelanced for Life, Mademoiselle, and McCalls magazines and began an association with the New Yorker in 1968. She stayed there until she retired, in 1991, at the age of 72. Pauline Kael said: "The first prerogative of an artist in any medium is to make a fool of himself."

It's the birthday of the novelist and short-story writer Laura Z. Hobson, born in New York City in 1900. She is famous for her second novel, which came out in 1947, titled Gentleman's Agreement.

It's the birthday of novelist Elizabeth Seifert, born in Washington, Missouri, in 1898. She was the author of more than 80 novels, most of which have female doctor protagonists, and which enabled her to support her family and her husband, a disabled veteran.

It's the birthday of mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal born in Clermont, France, in 1623. He invented a digital calculator, studied hydrodynamics, invented the syringe, and developed the principle for the hydraulic press. "Pascal's principle" in physics states that if a fluid at rest in a closed container has pressure applied, the amount of pressure applied is applied equally to all parts of the fluid and the walls of the container. He once said: "The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of."

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




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