Nov. 8, 2001

a song with no end

by Charles Bukowski

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Poem: "a song with no end," by Charles Bukowski from The Night Torn With Mad Footsteps (Black Sparrow Press).

a song with no end

when Whitman wrote, "I sing the body electric"

I know what he
I know what he

to be completely alive every moment
in spite of the inevitable.

we can't cheat death but we can make it
work so hard
that when it does take

it will have known a victory just as
perfect as

It's the birthday of artist and playwright Peter Weiss, born near Potsdam, Germany (1916). Weiss, who was half Jewish, was forced to flee Germany with his family in 1934. After traveling around Europe for several years, they settled in Sweden. Weiss studied art in both London and Stockholm, and had his first art exhibition in 1936. In the 1950s, he turned to writing plays and films; at the same time he taught painting at Stockholm's People's University. In 1964, he wrote the play that would earn him an international reputation as a playwright. It was called The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade. The play, which pits the Marquis de Sade, the spirit of anarchy and self-indulgence, against Jean-Paul Marat, an idealist who believed that the end justifies the means, deals with the conflict of individuality versus the need for revolution. Weiss' next play was The Investigation (1965).

It's the birthday of novelist Margaret Mitchell, born in Atlanta, Georgia (1900), whose one published novel became the best selling book in history, second only to the Bible. At an early age, Mitchell took an interest in stories of old Atlanta, and the Civil War battles that had been fought there. Her husband John Marsh encouraged her writing, and in 1922 she got a job as a feature writer for the Atlanta Journal. One of her assignments was a story about a Civil War general, Henry Benning. She became more interested in the story of his wife, who struggled through the war to keep the family plantation in operation. In 1926, Mitchell left her job at the newspaper and began to write a novel. It was a story set against the background of the Civil War; the main characters were Scarlett O'Hara, a beautiful, willful woman who struggles to keep her plantation, Tara, in operation; the love of her life; Ashley Wilkes, a serious, good-looking young man who marries Scarlett's friend Melanie Hamilton; and Rhett Butler, the glamorous rogue with whom Scarlett has a stormy, volatile relationship. The 1,037-page book was published in 1936. It immediately broke all sales records, and received the Pulitzer Prize in 1937. Mitchell could never quite understand her success. She wrote to one of her reviewers, "I pull the story apart in my mind and try to figure it all out . There's no fine writing, there are no grandiose thoughts, there are no hidden meanings, no symbolism, nothing sensational—nothing, nothing at all."

It's the birthday of author Abraham "Bram" Stoker born in Clontarf, Ireland (1847). He was the drama critic for the Dublin Mail. The actor Henry Irving, flattered by Stoker's glowing reviews, sought him out and the two soon became friends. In 1879, Stoker became Irving's manager, writing letters for him and accompanying him on his American tours. Stoker was 43 when he began writing novels. His first one, The Snake's Pass, was published in 1890. Although he later wrote many short stories and several books, including The Lady of the Shroud (1909) and The Lair of the White Worm (1911), Stoker's fame rests on his 1897 masterpiece, Dracula. There were other vampire stories that had been published in the 19th century, but none as detailed and as "modern" as Dracula. Dracula is the story of a Transylvanian vampire who comes to England and sucks the blood of innocent victims in order to keep himself alive.

In 1929 on this day, The Museum of Modern Art was opened in New York City. It was founded by three private citizens, Lillie P. Bliss, Mary Quinn Sullivan, and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, who were determined to make modern and contemporary art available to the public. It was the first museum to devote its programs and collections entirely to the modern movement. Its initial collection consisted of eight prints and one drawing.

In 1895 on this day, X-rays were discovered by physicist Wilhelm Röntgen. He conducted many more experiments in secret, and didn't release his findings until January of 1896. Within three weeks, X-rays were used to set the broken arm of a young boy in Dartmouth, New Hampshire. Roentgen received the first Nobel Prize for Physics in 1901.

In 1837 on this day, Mount Holyoke College was founded as the first college for women in the United States.

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