Mar. 19, 2009
Anniversary: One Fine Day
Who would sit through a plot as preposterous as ours,
married after years apart? Chance meetings may work
early in stories, but at operas, darling, in Texas?
A bachelor pilot, I fled Laredo for the weekend,
stopping at the opera from boredom, music I least expected.
Of all the zoos and honky-tonks south of Dallas,
who would believe I would find you there on the stairs,
Madame Butterfly about to start? When you moved
four years before, I lost all hope of dying happy,
dogfighting my way through pilot training, reckless,
in terror only when I saw the man beside you.
I had pictured him rich and splendid in my mind
a thousand times, thinking you married with babies
somewhere in Tahiti, Spain, the south of France.
When I saw the lucky devil I hatedonly your date,
but I didn't knowhe stopped gloating, watching you wave,
turned old and bitter like the crone in Shangri La.
Destiny happens only in plays and cheap movies
but here, here on my desk is your photo, decades later,
and I hear sounds from another room of our house,
and when I rise amazed and follow, you are there.
It's the birthday of novelist Philip Roth, (books by this author) born in Newark, New Jersey (1933). He grew up in a crowded neighborhood, and he loved listening to his neighbors' conversations. He said: "In warm weather, people sat on the stoops and on beach chairs in the driveways. ... You'd be sweating, trying to sleep, and you'd hear them, you'd hear their conversation all the time, and it would be very comforting."
He went to college in Pennsylvania, and then studied English literature at the University of Chicago, where he began to write short stories. His first book, Goodbye Columbus (1959), got good reviews. He made his name with Portnoy's Complaint (1969), about Alexander Portnoy, who has an obsession with sex. It was one of the best-selling books of the decade.
He went on to write many novels, most of them narrated by a fictional writer named Nathan Zuckerman, including American Pastoral (1997), I Married a Communist (1998), The Human Stain (2000), and Everyman (2006).
Philip Roth said: "I cannot and do not live in the world of discretion, not as a writer, anyway. I would prefer to, I assure you it would make life easier. But discretion is, unfortunately, not for novelists."
It's the birthday of the 14th chief justice of the United States, Earl Warren, born in Los Angeles (1891). He grew up in Bakersfield, California, where his father worked for the railroad company. His father was a Norwegian immigrant who was murdered during an armed robbery, and the identity of the assailant was never discovered.
Warren went to college at Berkeley, and then to law school there. He became a district attorney, and in 1942, he ran for governor of California as a Republican and defeated the incumbent Democrat. He was extremely popular. For the 1946 election, he won the primaries for the Republican, Democrat, and Progressive parties, so he basically ran unopposed. He was elected again in 1950.
In 1953, President Eisenhower appointed Earl Warren as chief justice. He led the Supreme Court to many landmark decisions, including Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which banned segregation in public schools; Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), which ruled that poor people are entitled to a free lawyer in all criminal cases; Miranda v. Arizona (1966), which required that a person being arrested be read his or her rights; and Loving v. Virginia (1967), which made interracial marriage legal across the country.
Warren retired from the Supreme Court in 1969. He said, "Everything I did in my life that was worthwhile I caught hell for."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®