Thursday

Oct. 17, 2002

Now!

by Robert Browning

THURSDAY, 17 OCTOBER 2002
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Poem
: "Now!," by Robert Browning.

Now!

Out of your whole life give but a moment!
All of your life that has gone before,
All to come after it,--so you ignore,
So you make perfect the present,--condense,
In a rapture of rage, for perfection's endowment,
Thought and feeling and soul and sense-
Merged in a moment which gives me at last
You around me for once, you beneath me, above me-
Me-sure that despite of time future, time past, -
This tick of our life-time's one moment you love me!
How long such suspension may linger? Ah, Sweet-
The moment eternal-just that and no more-
When ecstasy's utmost we clutch at the core
While cheeks burn, arms open, eyes shut and lips meet!



It's the birthday of Arthur Asher Miller, born in New York (1915). He wrote Death of a Salesman (1949), which made a clean sweep of all the drama awards the year it opened, and The Crucible (1953). Reporters interviewed Miller's teachers at the height of his success, and none of them could remember him. His high school grades were so bad that he couldn't get into college, and he went to work in an auto-parts warehouse. One day he picked up a book called The Brothers Karamazov, which he thought was a detective story. Later he called it 'a great book of wonder'; he decided when he finished it that he would become a writer, and he talked his way into the University of Michigan. He won a contest there with a play he wrote in six days, and he knew writing plays was what he was meant to do. Arthur Miller, who said: "[The playwright] is one of the audience who happens to know how to speak."

It's the birthday of Nathanael West, born Nathan Weinstein in New York City (1903). He wrote Miss Lonelyhearts (1933), and The Day of the Locust (1939). His first novel, Miss Lonelyhearts, got good reviews but sold poorly, and when he managed to sell the film rights, he moved out to Hollywood, a place whose stock was rocketing up while the rest of the country foundered. He wrote screenplays, then published The Day of the Locust, a story about the characters who feed on the edges of Hollywood success like a plague of insects. The critics had a field day. West wrote to his friend Scott Fitzgerald, "So far the box score stands: Good reviews-fifteen per cent, bad reviews-twenty five per cent, brutal personal attacks-sixty percent." The night after Fitzgerald died, West went out for a drive with his new wife, ran into a vegetable truck, and was killed instantly. He said: "Forget the epic, the masterwork, leave slow growth to the book reviewers, you only have time to explode."

It's the birthday of Elinor Glyn, born on the isle of Jersey (1864). She wrote a series of risque novels for women around the turn of the century, including one which featured a scene on a tiger-skin rug.

It's the birthday of Shinichi Suzuki, born in Nagoya, Japan (1898). He's the man who developed the Suzuki Violin Method, a way of teaching very young children to play classical music by listening and imitating, the way they learn to speak. His father had a violin factory, and he and his brothers and sisters thought that violins were like boxes, that they were just toys; they never heard anybody play them. When Suzuki was seventeen he heard a recording of Mischa Elman and was flabbergasted. He took a violin home and started to teach himself to play it by listening to other recordings and trying to imitate them. He began to feel that it ought to be possible to teach anyone to play that way, and the little children he taught became proficient enough to make some listeners suspect he had gathered a bunch of prodigies together like a circus act. He felt strongly that he was not just tutoring musicians, but nurturing souls, and he encouraged his students to listen to other people as carefully as they listened to the notes on their violins.


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