Wednesday

Oct. 29, 2008

A day in bed with Aunt Maud

by Elizabeth Smither

My dear high-foreheaded aunt, good
at sums and attentive to all that love
demands, loved a day in bed.

No illness drove her there, or fever
no drenched nightgown, twisted
but the bliss of a day in bed.

She lay, she slept, she reached out
a hand towards an improving book
she closed its covers on her day in bed.

She contemplated the plaster ceiling rose
and all the world that swam around it
a spider web from her day in bed.

She lay like someone in a shroud, proud
of her stretched toes, her spine
bearing not this day on her day in bed.

She took some rations, delicate things
and a jug of fresh-made squash
she dined daintily on her day in bed.

What did you get? the others asked.
A firmer view of the world, she said
through lying down on my day in bed

and love and anything you care to ask.
They never did. Away they sped
She contemplated them from her day in bed.

"A day in bed with Aunt Maud" by Elizabeth Smither from The Year of Adverbs. © Auckland University Press, 2007. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the anniversary of Black Tuesday, which happened in 1929 — the worst stock market crash in the history of the United States. The economy had been so good during the 1920s that people kept speculating in the markets, so stock prices were too high, much higher than the stocks themselves were worth. When they suddenly fell, it was a snowball effect. People had borrowed money to buy stocks, thinking that they could turn around and sell the stocks at a profit, and now they went bankrupt. On Black Tuesday, stock prices fell so fast that by the end of the day many companies couldn't sell their shares at any price.

Black Tuesday was the beginning of the Great Depression. By 1932, more than 100,000 businesses had failed and 13 million people had lost their jobs.

It's the birthday of the biographer James Boswell, (books by this author) born in 1740 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Boswell's father was a judge who insisted that his son study law. So James Boswell passed his bar exams in Scotland, but he didn't really like law and he didn't really like Scotland. Boswell loved gossip, drinking, and traveling, and he wanted to be in London, in the company of the rich and famous. So he went to London, and when he was 22 years old, he met his hero, the 53-year-old Samuel Johnson, in the back of a bookshop. They became good friends. Over the next 20 years, Boswell followed Johnson around, constantly taking notes. After Johnson died, Boswell spent years writing a biography of his friend. Finally, in 1791, The Life of Samuel Johnson was published. There had never been a biography like it before. Boswell filled his book with personal anecdotes and vivid descriptions, and a lot of quotes. It's still considered one of the greatest biographies ever written.

It's the birthday of the British novelist Henry Green, (books by this author) born Henry Yorke in Tewkesbury, England (1905). He went to Oxford, but he spent most of his time drinking, playing billiards, and going to movies. So he dropped out and went to work as a laborer in an iron foundry, and he used that experience to write his second novel, Living (1929). He kept writing, and 16 years later, he published his most famous novel, Loving (1945). It's an upstairs-downstairs story, about a fancy country home in Ireland, the stories of the people who live there, and the servants who work there.

It's the birthday of the children's poet and novelist Valerie Worth, (books by this author) born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1933. She's most famous for her "small poems," poems for children about everyday objects. She wrote many books in this vein, including Small Poems (1972). She said, "As a child, I was greatly attracted to 'smallness,' perhaps because throughout grade school I myself was the smallest in my class."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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