Sep. 12, 2001


by D. H. Lawrence

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Poem: "Piano," by D.H. Lawrence from The Complete Poems of D.H. Lawrence (Viking/Penguin Press).


Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.

In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.

So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.

It was on this day in 1876 that the first workable typewriter was sold to customers. The machine was invented by Christopher Sholes, of Milwaukee, who sold the patent to Remington & Sons, the gunsmiths, in 1874. The earliest Remington typewriters only had capital letters, and since the typing took place underneath the cylinder, the typist had to lift the carriage to see what he'd done. Mark Twain bought one and was the first author to submit a typed manuscript to a publisher.

It's the birthday of Michael Ondaatje, born in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka (1943). He wrote a book called Running in the Family, a fictionalized account of life in Ceylon. He moved with his mother to England when he was 11 and then to Canada in 1962, where he settled in Toronto. He is known most widely for his novel The English Patient, which won the Booker Prize in 1992. His most recent novel was Anil's Ghost (2000).

It's the birthday of novelist and short story writer Kristin Hunter, born in Philadelphia (1931), known for her satirical portrayal of race relations in the black ghetto. Her novel, The Landlord (1966), concerns the reforming of a young rich white slumlord by an eccentric collection of tenants living in a building he owns. Kristin Hunter, who said: "I marvel at the many ways we, as black people, bend but do not break in order to survive. This astonishes me, and what excites me I write about. Every one of us is a wonder. Every one of us has a story," and "Read all you can 'till you're 20, live all you can 'till you're 30, and write all you can after that.

It's the birthday of singer George Jones, born in Saratoga, Texas (1931), who started making records in 1955 with the song Why, Baby, Why:

I caught you honky-tonkin' with my best friend
The thing to do was leave you but I should've left then
Now I'm too old to leave you but I still get sore
When you come home feelin' for the knob on the door.

It's the birthday of Henry Louis Mencken, in Baltimore (1880), who wrote for the Baltimore Sun for most of his life, and also for two magazines, The Smart Set, and American Mercury, which he and George Nathan founded in 1924. Mencken was famous in the 20s and 30s for his merciless lampoons of American middle-class culture, or what he called the American "Booboisie."

It's the birthday of Charles Dudley Warner, born in Plainfield, Massachusetts, (1829), a friend of Mark Twain's and best known today for his collaboration with Twain, in 1873, on the book The Gilded Age.

It's the birthday of the publisher Alfred Knopf, in New York City (1892). He toured Europe after college and was impressed by the quality of the physical books produced there and came back to New York determined to be a publisher, and in 1915, when he was 23, along with his wife, Blanche Wolfe, he started Alfred A. Knopf, Publisher.

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