Feb. 13, 2006
Poem: "Antilamentation" by Dorianne Laux. Reprinted with permission.
Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook.
Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.
Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don't regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You've walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You've traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs
window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied
of expectation. Relax. Don't bother remembering
any of it. Let's stop here, under the lit sign
on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.
Literary and Historical Notes:
It's the birthday of novelist Georges Simenon, born in Liége, Belgium (1903). He's one of the most prolific writers of all time, best known for his detective novels featuring Inspector Maigret. He wrote over 400 books, which sold more than 1.4 billion copies from 1935 to 1997.He quit school when he was sixteen to take care of his ailing mother who died within the year. Then he worked at a bakery and a bookstore before getting a job at the local newspaper. He published his first novel when he was just seventeen years old. He later said, "I wanted to be not just myself, so young and insignificant, but all people, those of the land and of the sea, the blacksmith, the gardener, the bricklayer, and all those to be found on the different rungs of the ... social ladder."
He wrote spy stories, detective thrillers and romance novels, churning them out at a rate of at least ten pages per day. By the time he was twenty-five he was rich enough to have a chauffeur and own a yacht. He wanted to write serious fiction, too, and began submitting short stories to a literary magazine in Paris, but they were all rejected. One time, the writer Colette wrote him a note saying, "You are too literary. You must not be literary. Suppress all the literature and it will work." Simenon later said it was the most useful advice he'd ever gotten in his life.
Simenon began traveling throughout Europe on his yacht, gathering materials for novels. In 1930, he published his first Inspector Maigret novel, The Strange Case of Peter the Lett.
Simenon said, "What you have not absorbed by the time you reach the age of eighteen you will never absorb. It is finished. You will be able to develop what you have absorbed. You will be able to make something or nothing at all of it, but your time for absorption is over and for the rest of your life you will be branded by your childhood."
It's the birthday of religion historian Elaine Pagels, born in Palo Alto, California (1943). She wrote about early Christian heretics in her book The Gnostic Gospels (1979).
It's the birthday of journalist Lawrence Weschler, born in Van Nuys, California (1952). He's the author of Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder (1995), and Boggs: A Comedy of Values (1999) about an artist who specializes in drawing pictures of money.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®