Nov. 26, 2007

My Dream

by Ogden Nash

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Poem: "My Dream" by Ogden Nash, from The Best of Ogden Nash. © Ivan R. Dee, 2007. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

My Dream

Here is a dream.
It is my dream—
My own dream—
I dreamt it.
I dreamt that my hair was kempt,
Then I dreamt that my true love
unkempt it.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1864 that a math teacher in Oxford, England, named Charles Lutwidge Dodgson gave a book he'd written as a Christmas gift to his boss's daughter, a 12-year-old girl named Alice Liddell. The book was called Alice's Adventures Underground.

Dodgson (books by this author) had always preferred the company of children to adults, and he'd been spending time with Alice and her sisters since their mother had asked him to take some photographs of the family. Alice Liddell later wrote, "We used to go to his rooms ... to sit on the big sofa on each side of him, while he told us stories, illustrating them by pencil or ink ... drawing busily on a large sheet of paper all the time."

He'd come up with the idea for a story about Alice going down a rabbit hole in the summer of 1862, while taking the girls on a rowboat ride. Alice begged him to write it down, and so he did. But while writing the book, he was actually spending less and less time with the Liddell girls, partly because they were growing up and he didn't enjoy their company as much, and partly because their mother didn't like him. He hadn't seen Alice in months when he finally sent her the finished book on this day, two years after he'd first made up the story. He'd written the story by hand in a green leather booklet with his own illustrations in the margins. It was published as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in 1865 under Dodgson's pen name, Lewis Carroll.

It's the birthday of cartoonist Charles Schulz, (books by this author) born in St. Paul (1922), who created "Peanuts" and Charlie Brown, who never gets to kick the football, always gets his kite stuck in the tree, and never wins the love of The Little Red-Haired Girl. Schulz loved comics from an early age. His father bought six different newspapers every weekend and they would sit and read all the comics together. Schultz started drawing his own cartoons, but he got a C-plus in a correspondence art course, and his sketches were rejected by the staff of his high school yearbook. He couldn't sell any cartoons to the major magazines, and he was turned down as an animator for Disney because he had no experience. And then, he got drafted to fight in World War II when his mother was dying of cervical cancer. One of the last things she said to him was that if the family ever bought another dog, they should name it Snoopy.

When Schulz got back from the war, he began drawing a comic strip about children called "Li'l Folks," and when he sold it to a national syndicate they changed the name to "Peanuts." The first Peanuts strip appeared on October 2, 1950, and it showed a boy and a girl sitting on a curb, with Charlie Brown approaching from a distance. The boy says, "Here comes ol' Charlie Brown! Good ol' Charlie Brown. ... Yes, Sir." And then once Charlie Brown has passed by, the boy says, "How I hate him!"

In addition to Charlie Brown, "Peanuts" introduced the world to Linus, Schroeder, Lucy, Violet, and Snoopy, the dog. It became the most popular comic strip of all time, appearing in 2,600 newspapers and 75 countries, read by more than 335 million people everyday. Charles Schulz did all the drawing, inking, and lettering of his cartoons by himself, with no staff assistants. And he took almost no breaks in 50 years, even when his hand began to shake after he had heart surgery. He only decided to retire after he developed Parkinson's disease and was diagnosed with cancer. He died on February 12, 2000, the day before his last strip was set to run.

Charles Schulz said, "Most of us are much more acquainted with losing than we are with winning. Winning is great, but it isn't funny."

It's the birthday of the novelist Marilynne Robinson, (books by this author) born in Sandpoint, Idaho (1943), whose first novel, Housekeeping (1980), was nominated for the Pulitzer and won a PEN/Hemingway award for best first novel of the year. Robinson seemed to have come out of nowhere, and people couldn't wait to see what she would write next. But instead of writing another novel, she wrote a book of nonfiction about nuclear waste in England, and a collection of essays about philosophy and theology. She took a teaching job in Iowa and worked on the side as a deacon at her church. It took her more than two decades to write her second novel, Gilead, which came out in 2004, and it won the Pulitzer Prize. It's the story of a Congregationalist preacher named John Ames who knows he is dying of heart disease and wants to write down his life story for his 6-year-old son.

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