Aug. 22, 2001
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Poem: "Condolence," by Dorothy Parker from The Poetry and Short Stories of Dorothy Parker (Penguin Putnam).
They hurried here, as soon as you had died,
Their faces damp with haste and sympathy,
And pressed my hand in theirs, and smoothed my knee,
And clicked their tongues, and watched me, mournful eyed.
Gently they told me of that Other Side
How, even then, you waited there for me,
And what ecstatic meeting ours would be.
Moved by the lovely tale, they broke, and cried.
And when I smiled, they told me I was brave,
And they rejoiced that I was comforted,
And left, to tell of all the help they gave.
But I had smiled to think how you, the dead,
So curiously preoccupied and grave,
Would laugh, could you have heard the things they said.
It's the birthday of E. (Edna) Annie Proulx, born in Norwich, Connecticut (1935). She became a novelist after many years of fishing, hunting, and foraging for food in backwoods Vermont, a life that suited what she calls "my fondness for harshness." She supported herself as a freelance journalist, churning out "tedious nonfiction," including such books as Sweet and Hard Cider and The Complete Dairy Foods Cookbook. Her first novel, Postcards (1992) won the PEN/Faulkner Award; her second, Shipping News (1993), won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Her most recent titles are the novel Accordion Crimes (1996) and the collection Close Range: Wyoming Stories (1999).
It's the birthday of science fiction writer Ray (Douglas) Bradbury, born in Waukegan, Illinois (1920). His books include the story collections Dark Carnival (1947) and The Martian Chronicles (1950; filmed in 1966; TV miniseries made in 1980), and the novels Dandelion Wine (1957), Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962), and Fahrenheit 451 (1953), about a future Earth civilization where all printed reading material is bannedfilmed in 1966 by François Truffaut, starring Julie Christie and Oskar Werner.
It's the birthday of blues singer and guitarist John Lee Hooker, born in Clarksdale, Mississippi (1917). His songs include "Tupelo," "Birmingham Blues," and "I'm in the Mood" (1951). His guitar style, widely copied, was cited as a major influence for both the Rolling Stones and the Animals.
It's the birthday of photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, born in the village of Chanteloup, near Paris (1908). He was imprisoned by the Germans during WWII, but escaped the labor camps and joined the French resistance. After the war he became a photographer. He liked using a tiny camera because it gave his work more spontaneity, but also allowed him to be less visible. He covered the bright chrome parts of his camera with black tape to make it less obvious; sometimes he hid it under a handkerchief.
It's the birthday of epigrammist Dorothy Parker, born in West End, New Jersey (1893). She wrote for Vanity Fair (1918-20) and The New Yorker (1927-33), and was a member of the Algonquin Round Table, dazzling wits, who included Robert Benchley, James Thurber, and George S. Kaufman. Her poems were collected as Not So Deep as a Well (1936); her short story collection was called Here Lies (1939). Dorothy Parker said, "Men seldom make passes/At girls who wear glasses," and "Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words."
It's the birthday of cartoonist George Herriman, born in New Orleans (1878). He wrote a comic strip called "The Dingbat Family" that was so popular he did a spin-off of it based on the family pets, Krazy Kat and Ignatz. The strip's main theme was unrequited love. Kat loved Ignatz, but the mean-spirited mouse did nothing but create havoc for the devoted cat. "Krazy Kat" was the first comic strip drawn and written for adults.
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