Jun. 10, 2004
Poems: "June 10," by David Lehman, from The Evening Sun. © Scribner. Reprinted with permission.
"Cabbage Moths," by Charles Goodrich, from Insects of South Corvallis. © Cloudbank Books. Reprinted with permission.
The sun like whiskey and caffeine
goes right to your head
slowing you down then speeding you up
you spend one hour looking at three
hanging plants and ten minutes
reading the obits lamenting the man
(I knew him, we had Irish Coffee
one cold December night)
who had the ill fortune to die
on a day when somebody really famous
like the leader of a rock band
died and so his obituary was overlooked
and I am thinking of him today
I'd tip my cap to him if I were wearing one
but I'm not I'm standing here
unprotected in the sun
that has gone to my head like a song
To mate on the wing,
now that's a trick I want to learn—
hopped up on pheromones,
wings flapping impossibly fast ....
For that I'd take a spin
as an insignificant lepidoterid.
For that I'd give up
all my nature programs,
rock music, erotic poetry.
I'd even do
penance in the egg.
I'd crawl through adolescence on my belly
eating none of the food I love, eating nothing
but cabbage, cabbage, cabbage.
For that instant
of sudden weightlessness,
fluttering with my beloved on the verge
of a holy convulsion
I await my turn.
Literary and Historical Notes:
It's the birthday of fiction writer James Salter, born James Horowitz in New York City (1925). His novels include The Hunters (1956) and The Arm of Flesh (1961). He tried writing Hollywood screenplays in the 1960s, but he didn't like it and went back to writing novels. He said, "A film writer is very much like a party girl. While you're good-looking and still unlined, the possibilities seem endless. But your appeal doesn't last long and you're quickly discarded."
It's the birthday of children's author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, born in Brooklyn, New York (1928). He's best known as the author of the children's classic Where the Wild Things Are (1964).
It's the birthday of playwright Terence Rattigan, born in London (1911). He's the author of many plays, including French Without Tears (1936), Flare Path (1942) and The Winslow Boy (1946).
It's the birthday of novelist Saul Bellow, born in Lachine, Quebec, Canada (1915). He's been publishing fiction for over fifty years; he's written over 30 books, and he's published at least one novel each decade since the 1940s. His novels include The Adventures of Augie March (1954), Humboldt's Gift (1975) and Mr. Sammler's Planet (1970).
His first two novels, Dangling Man (1944) and The Victim (1947), sold fewer than 5,000 copies combined. He spent most of 1948 in France with his wife, hoping to gather material for a novel. But he grew depressed after a few months: His novel was going nowhere, he wasn't getting along with the French, and the weather was dreary. He decided to start writing a new novel, about a young man's adventures in Chicago just before the Great Depression. That novel became The Adventures of Augie March, and it was his first big success. The British writer Martin Amis recently called it "the Great American Novel" for its "fantastic inclusiveness, its pluralism, its qualmless promiscuity .... Everything is in here."
Last year, The Library of America published Bellow's first three novels in a volume called Novels, 1944-53, making him the first living author to be published by Library of America.
Bellow said, "There is only one way to defeat the enemy, and that is to write as well as one can. The best argument is an undeniably good book."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®