Jan. 12, 2009

Fair Warning

by Alden Nowlan

I keep a lunatic chained
to a beam in the attic. He
is my twin brother whom
I'm trying to cheat
out of his inheritance.
It's all right for me
to tell you this because
you won't believe it.
Nobody believes anything
that's put in a poem.
I could confess to
murder and as long as
I did it in a verse
there's not a court
that would convict me.
So if you're ever
a guest overnight
in my house, don't
go looking for
the source of any
unusual sounds.

"Fair Warning" by Alden Nowlan, from Alden Nowlan Selected Poems. © House of Anansi Press Limited, 1996. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Edmund Burke, (books by this author) born in Dublin (1729). His father was a Protestant lawyer and his mother was Catholic. Burke studied law at university, but when he gave it up to study literature, his father withdrew Edmund's allowance.

So Burke started writing in order to make some money. He became the assistant to the Secretary of Ireland, and then a Member of Parliament, representing the district of Bristol in the House of Commons. And he became a famous reformer. He opposed what he considered the tyranny of the British monarchy. He supported the American colonists' anti-British sentiments — he didn't think they should be granted full independence, but he thought that Britain should take a hands-off approach to America. He argued passionately against the Stamp Act, which was an effort by the British to fund their actions in America by taxing the colonists themselves.

Edmund Burke was famous for his passionate oratory, which one biographer described as "impressive rather than effectual." A critic wrote that "one of the paradoxes of Burke's career is the gap between his acknowledged eloquence admitted even by his firmest opponents and his habitual inability to persuade."

Edmund Burke said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

It's the birthday of the novelist Haruki Murakami, (books by this author) born in Kyoto, Japan (1949). He is considered one of Japan's most important contemporary writers, but he is heavily influenced by American culture, and has been criticized by some Japanese for being too Westernized. His characters are often intelligent introverts who get mixed up with mysterious women and conspiracies.

Murakami believes that to write well it is critical to be in good physical shape. He said in an interview, "I write weird stories. Myself, I'm a very realistic person. I wake up at 6 in the morning and go to bed at 10, jogging every day and swimming, eating healthy food. But when I write, I write weird."

His books include A Wild Sheep Chase (1982), The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (1995), and Kafka on the Shore (2005).

It's the birthday of Jack London, (books by this author) born in San Francisco (1876). His first big success was his novel The Call of the Wild (1903), about a dog he had known when he was living in the Klondike. It was a huge best-seller, and in 1905, London purchased 1,400 acres of land in Glen Ellen, California, and named it "Beauty Ranch." It's now a historic park.

Jack London made a lot of money, but he spent even more. He was an alcoholic, and he lost money on his ranch. His writing began to decline around 1909. He was suffering from kidney problems, and he self-medicated with morphine and died in 1914 from an overdose. Toward the end of his life, Jack London stooped to buying story plots from young writers like Sinclair Lewis, attempting to imitate his own earlier successes.

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




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