Nov. 14, 2006
Poem: "Interlude" by Linda Pastan, from Queen of a Rainy Country. © W. W. Norton & Company. Reprinted with permission.
We are waiting for snow
the way we might wait for a train
to arrive with its cold cargo
it is late already, but surely
it will come.
We are waiting for snow
the way we might wait
to breathe again.
For only the snow
will release us, only the snow
will be a letting go, a blind falling
towards the body of earth
and towards each other.
And while we wait at this window
whose sheer transparency
is clouded already
with our mutual breath,
it is as if our whole lives depended
on the freezing color
of the sky, on the white
soon to be fractured
gaze of winter.
Literary and Historical Notes:
It's the birthday of cartoonist and author and William Steig, (books by this author) born in New York City (1907). He sold his first cartoon for $40 to The New Yorker when he was 23. It was a picture of one prison inmate telling another, "My son's incorrigible, I can't do a thing with him." It was 1930, the beginning of the Great Depression, and Steig's father had lost his job. Steig said, "I wanted to go to sea like Melville," but he earned $4,500 his first year as a cartoonist, supporting the family. He went on to publish more than 1,600 drawings for the magazine and 117 covers.
Today he's best known for his book Shrek! (1993) about an ugly green ogre who hears the prophecy of a witch that he will marry a princess even uglier than he. It was made into an animated movie in 2002. His last book was When Everybody Wore a Hat, a picture-book memoir about what it was like to be eight years old in 1916.
It's the birthday of humorist and essayist P.J. (Patrick Jake) O'Rourke, (books by this author) born in Toledo, Ohio (1947). He's known for his political humor in books such as Give War a Chance: Eyewitness Accounts of Mankind's Struggle Against Tyranny, Injustice, and Alcohol-Free Beer (1992) and Peace Kills: America's Fun New Imperialism, which came out in 2004. He wrote, "Wherever there's injustice, oppression, and suffering, America will show up six months late and bomb the country next to where it's happening."
It's the birthday of the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren (books by this author) born Astrid Ericsson on a farm near Vimmerby, Sweden (1907). She's the creator of Pippi Longstocking, a nine-year-old girl with no parents who lives in a red house at the edge of a Swedish village with her horse and her pet monkey, Mr. Nilsson. She has red pigtails, and she wears one black stocking and one brown, with black shoes twice as long as her feet. She eats whole chocolate cakes and sleeps with her feet on the pillow, and she's the strongest girl in the world.
On this day in 1851, Harper & Brothers published Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville (books by this author). The British publisher accidentally left out the ending of the book, the epilogue. This confused a lot of British readers, because without the epilogue there was no explanation of how Ishmael, the narrator, lived to tell the tale. It seemed like he died in the end with everyone else on the ship. The reviews from Britain were harsh, and costly to Melville. At the time, Americans deferred to British critical opinion, and a lot of American newspaper editors reprinted reviews from Britain without actually reading the American version with the proper ending. Melville had just bought a farm in Massachusetts, his debts were piling up, he was hiding them from his wife, and he was counting on Moby-Dick to bring in enough money to pay off his creditors. The book flopped, partly because of those British reviews. As a writer, Melville never recovered from the disappointment.
It's the birthday of one of the painters who helped invent Impressionism, Claude Monet, born in Paris (1840). He was one of the first painters to try painting outdoors, directly from nature. He and his friend Auguste Renoir later produced a series of paintings of bathers at a resort on the Seine River. They tried painting the bathers as quickly as they could, producing what Monet called "bad sketches," but that sketchy style became their signature. Some of those early bathing paintings survive today, and they still have beach sand embedded in the pigment.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®