Sep. 21, 2001

The Jungle Husband

by Stevie Smith

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Poem: "The Jungle Husband," by Stevie Smith from Collected Poems of Stevie Smith (New Directions).

The Jungle Husband

Dearest Evelyn, I often think of you
Out with the guns in the jungle stew
Yesterday I hittapotamus
I put the measurements down for you but they got lost in the fuss
It's not a good thing to drink out here
You know, I've practically given it up dear.
Tomorrow I am going alone a long way
Into the jungle. It is all grey
But green on top
Only sometimes when a tree has fallen
The sun comes down plop, it is quite appalling.
You never want to go in a jungle pool
In the hot sun, it would be the act of a fool
Because it's always full of anacondas, Evelyn, not looking ill-fed
I'll say. So no more now, from your loving husband, Wilfred.

It's the birthday of novelist and short story writer Stephen (Edwin) King, born in Portland, Maine (1947). When King was three years old, his merchant seaman father allegedly went out to get a pack of cigarettes and never returned. King started writing short stories at the age of eight, and continued through high school and college. After graduating from the University of Maine, he sold his first short story to a mass-market men's magazine. In 1971, King began teaching high school English classes in Hampden, Maine. He wrote two novels that were rejected for publication; then in 1973, Doubleday and Company offered a $2,500 advance for his third effort, Carrie. The book was an immediate success, and was made into a film in 1976. Carrie was the first of more than 50 King novels that blend horror, the macabre, fantasy, and science fiction. Some of his most famous works include The Shining, The Stand, and Misery. In the year 2000, King, who has sold over a hundred million copies of his terrifying tales, wrote On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Stephen King, who said: "Naturally, I'll try to terrify you first, and if that doesn't work, I'll try to horrify you, and if I can't make it there, I'll try to gross you out. I'm not proud..." and, "People want to know why I do this, why I write such gross stuff. I like to tell them that I have the heart of a small boy ... and I keep it in a jar on my desk."

It's the birthday of publisher Sir Allen Lane, born in Bristol, England (1902). When Lane was 17, he was apprenticed to his uncle, John Lane, at the Bodley Head publishing company. Six years later, when his uncle died, Lane became managing editor. In 1935, the company was approaching bankruptcy. It was Lane's idea to issue titles by well-known authors in well-produced paperback books that were to be sold at six pence apiece—about twelve cents American. He named the new company Penguin Books. He chose the name, he said, because it "had an air of dignified flippancy and was easy to draw in black and white." Penguin's best-selling reprint came in 1960, when Lane decided to publish an unabridged version of D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterly's Lover. There followed a much-publicized court case, which eventually held that the novel was neither obscene nor corrupting. Penguin sold more than 3 million copies of the book.

It's the birthday of novelist, sociologist, and historian H. G. (Herbert George) Wells, born in Kent, England (1866). At the age of 18, Wells won a scholarship to study biology, which he did for three years, and then became a science teacher. The start of his literary career began with the publication of The Time Machine. This was followed by a series of science fiction novels, including The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds. These were all turned into movies.

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