Mar. 13, 2007


by David Kherdian

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Poem: "Thompsondale" by David Kherdian from Nearer the Heart. © Taderon Press. Reprinted with permission.


We will never leave the picnic
      at Thompsondale
      our mothers ever beautiful
      in their summer dresses
Our fathers with straw hats
      and colored suspenders
A blanket spread upon the meadow
      cane poles strung
      with bobbers dancing over
      the slow moving stream

The grapeleaves gathered
      in the basket
      will never be taken home
      the sandwiches will be eaten
      again and again
And clouds will gather and part
      the sun will rise and recede
      night will come
And then tomorrow again and again

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1891 that Henrik Ibsen's (books by this author) play Ghosts opened on the London stage. Ghosts was considered a controversial play because it contained details about incest and sexually transmitted diseases, and Ibsen refused to give his audiences the happy endings they were used to. The play had already been banned in St. Petersburg on religious grounds when it premiered in London.

Henrik Ibsen wrote in Act 2: "I almost think we're all of us Ghosts. ... It's not only what we have inherited from our father and mother that walks in us. It's all sorts of dead ideas, and lifeless old beliefs, and so forth. They have no vitality, but they cling to us all the same, and we can't get rid of them. Whenever I take up a newspaper, I seem to see Ghosts gliding between the lines. There must be Ghosts all the country over, as thick as the sand of the sea. And then we are, one and all, so pitifully afraid of the light."

It's the birthday of writer Janet Flanner, (books by this author) born in Indianapolis, Indiana (1892). Flanner studied at the University of Chicago, but after two years she was asked to leave by the college administration, because she was "a rebellious influence." So she moved back to Indianapolis and began writing for newspapers and making speeches in support of women's suffrage. She finally decided to move to New York City, where she said, "[I] wanted to learn to be the writer I had for 25 years already wished to be."

She didn't manage to become a literary success, but she became friends with a woman named Jane Grant, whose husband, Harold Ross, was then thinking about starting a magazine. In 1922, Flanner took a trip to Europe and decided to settle in Paris. She began writing letters home to her friend, Jane Grant, and Grant shared the letters with Harold Ross. By the time The New Yorker was getting off the ground in 1925, Harold Ross invited Flanner to contribute a letter to the magazine every two weeks. She would go on to write the "Letter from Paris" from October 10, 1925, until September 29, 1975.

At first Flanner just saw the magazine assignment as a way of making extra money while she wrote novels. But she eventually realized that the "Letter from Paris" was becoming her life's work. Her writings from Paris were collected in Men and Monuments (1957), two volumes of Paris Journal (1965 and 1971), and Paris Was Yesterday, 1925-1939 (1972). She also collected her profiles in An American in Paris: Profile of an Interlude Between Two Wars (1940).

It's the birthday of science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, (books by this author) born Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, in Tilden, Nebraska, (1911). He started out as a writer for pulp magazines, writing science fiction, fantasy, and Westerns. Then, in 1950, Hubbard published a book called Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, describing his theory that all psychological problems are caused by painful memories, and that people just needed to go through a therapeutic process called auditing, which would rid them of their negative associations. The process involved a person recounting painful memories while having a device called an "e-meter" applied to the skin. Hubbard claimed that this process could eliminate emotional problems, cure disease, and increase intelligence.

Despite the fact that many psychiatrists and medical professionals spoke out against the book as pseudo-science, it became a best-seller. Hubbard went on to found the Church of Scientology.

It's the birthday of English writer Sir Hugh Walpole, (books by this author) born in Auckland, New Zealand (1884). His first book was The Wooden Horse, which came out in 1909, and he published on average a book a year after from then until his death. He once wrote in his diary, "My hatred of revision and my twist towards abnormality spoil much of my work." But he was so prolific in his writing that he was knighted in 1937 for his services to literature.

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