Thursday

Aug. 2, 2001

A Bookmark

by Thomas Disch

THURSDAY, 2 AUGUST 2001
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Poem: A Bookmark, by Tom Disch from Yes, Lets!: New and Selected Poems (Johns Hopkins University Press).

A Bookmark

Four years ago I started reading Proust.
Although I'm past the halfway point, I still
Have seven hundred pages of reduced
Type left before I reach the end. I will
Slog through. It can't get much more dull than what
Is happening now: he's buying crepe-de-chine
Wraps and a real, well-documented hat
For his imaginary Albertine.
Oh, what a slimy sort he must have been—
So weak, so sweetly poisonous, so fey!
Four years ago, by God!—and even then
How I was looking forward to the day
I would be able to forgive, at last,
And to forget Remembrance of Things Past.

It's novelist Beverly Coyle's birthday in Miami, 1946. She started off as a professor at Vassar, writing scholarly works on the poet Wallace Stevens. After being accidentally given a creative writing course to teach, she became interested in writing fiction. She said she noticed that her students very rarely wrote stories with a strong sense of place; so as an experiment, she started writing about her own growing up in small-town Florida in the 1950s. Her books include In Troubled Waters, The Kneeling Bus, and Taken In.

It's the birthday in Lima, Peru, 1942, of writer Isabel Allende. In her late teens, she started working as a journalist in Chile, but turned to writing fiction in her 30s. In 1973 her uncle, the Chilean president Salvadore Allende Gossens, was assassinated. She fled to Venezuela, and then began The House of the Spirits. Other novels followed, one about every other year: Of Love and Shadows, Eva Luna, and The Infinite Plan.

It's the birthday in 1935, Oneonta, New York, of writer Mitchell Smith, author of two series of books: the Buckskin Westerns that came out in the 1980s written under the pen name Roy Lebeau (including the novel Trigger Spring), and the thrillers Sacrifice, Stone City, and Reprisal.

It's poet Stephen Sandy's birthday, in Minneapolis, 1934, whose collection Roofs was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1971. He's also the author of the 1988 collection Man in the Open Air and 1992's Thanksgiving Over the Water.

It's the birthday in New York, 1924, of writer James Baldwin, who grew up in Harlem and spent some of his teen years as a revivalist preacher, then later put those experiences in his first book, the semi-autobiographical novel Go Tell It on the Mountain, published in 1953. When he was in his 20s he moved to Paris, where he completed his essay collection, Notes of a Native Son.

It was on this day in 1921 that Enrico Caruso died at the Hotel Vesuvio in Naples; he was only 48. He died of peritonitis and sepsis after receiving several operations. The king of Italy allowed the funeral to be held in the Basilica of San Francesco di Paola in Naples, which was normally reserved for royalty.

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